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Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Parable of Excuses

Some insights into a parable of Jesus

 Luke 14:15 One of his fellow guests on hearing this said to him, "Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God." He replied to him, "A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, 'Come, everything is now ready.' But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, 'I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.' And another said, 'I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.' And another said, 'I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.' The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.' The servant reported, 'Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.' The master then ordered the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.'"

The context and its literal meaning

The context is that Jesus has been invited to eat at the house of a Pharisee and everyone was watching him carefully. Now they are probably watching him to catch him in something, but Jesus is so awesome and just makes so much sense when he talks I imagine that they don’t know what to do with themselves.

Luke 14:2-6   In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.  Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, "Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?"   But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him.  Then he said to them, "Who among you, if your son or ox  falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?"   But they were unable to answer his question.

After healing a man he gives two lessons before he gives the one we just mentioned.  First he talks about choosing places of honor when you are at a wedding, he says that you should choose the least place lest the place you have chosen has been reserved for someone else and you embarrass yourself. He ends with this:
Luke 14:11   For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Then he goes on to say to the host of the dinner – don’t have a dinner and feed those that can repay you, rather feed those that certainly can’t repay you.

So Jesus was already on a banquet / dinner theme before he gave the parable about the people with excuses.

Jesus’ parable is in the context of healing a crippled man, humbling yourself, and helping those who can’t help you in return. Then he gives this parable  which says this – look, God has given you the promise of this great feast if you but come to Jesus and believe in him, yet you are filled with excuses, therefore this feast will not be given to those who were particularly waiting for it, but to those who most desperately need it.

I also think that if we ask what does this parable have to do with the message of the Bible in Jesus’ day something is revealed. The three people that make excuses; the one who bought land, the one who bought oxen, and the one who got married; I think that these represent three phases of the Old Testament people.

The land represents the covenant with Abraham and how he was to receive the land of Canaan, the 5 oxen represent the covenant with Moses and the sacrifices God initiated with Israel in the desert, and finally the marriage represents the covenant that David had between himself and the people of Israel.

Now all of these great promises of God were signs of New Covenant. The land represented the promised land of heaven, the sacrifices represented the sacrifice of Christ and the marriage represented the marriage that Jesus would have with his bride – the church. These Old Testament things were only signs though and some people were clinging to the signs unable to let go when the reality came.

It would be like if you were traveling to a great state let’s say for example Kentucky but you weren’t in it yet and while you on your journey you saw a sign that said 20 miles to Kentucky, and there were people hugging the road sign and decorating it. Out of curiosity you stop and ask what is going on. They say that they have been taking care of this sign for several generations because they are excited about Kentucky. You then say that you are traveling that way and offer them a ride. Unfortunately they then turn on you and call you Satan because you are leaving the precious Kentucky sign. So you pick up some hitch hikers instead and take them to Kentucky. That is what Jesus is talking about.

Finally on a moral level I think the three people represent the three lusts that plague us all; as St. John says in 1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.
The man who buys the field is too proud to come because now he has power and he would rather plot out his fame with his new land than attend a silly dinner, even if it is put on by God.
The man who buys the oxen suffers from the lust of the eyes. He would rather look upon his new possessions than busy himself with a dinner part, even if he is invited by God.
The man who just got married is suffering from the lust of the flesh. He would rather please himself with his new wife than bother with a banquet put on by God.

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