Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” –Luke 14:12-24
Jesus kept having run-ins with the extra-good religious people. These people, who thought they weren’t that bad because they tried hard to keep all of God’s rules, didn’t realize that the sin deep down in their hearts had blinded them to the truth: that they were proud and arrogant and selfish and didn’t trust God. Jesus kept trying to show them this, but they didn’t want to hear it. Which I guess sort of makes sense: is that the kind of news you’d really want to hear?
This story is another story Jesus told to try to wake up these extra-good religious people. In this story, he compares heaven and the kingdom of God to a big party that a king is throwing. Jesus is the King throwing the biggest, best party (remember the water turned into wine?), and everyone is invited: all you have to do is come.
But, the story goes, the people that you’d expect to come to the party, instead didn’t want to go. One after another, they kept making excuses. “I’m sorry, I’m much too busy to take time off this week,” said one. “I just bought some new stuff, and I’d rather play with it,” said another. “No thanks,” said a third. “My family and friends are more important to me than your party.” Which is totally ridiculous: when a king throws a party, you know it’s going to be awesome. And if the king invites you, you’d better show up, because it’s an insult to the king to turn up your nose at his invitation. But these people all thought they had “better things to do” than go to the king’s party.
When the king heard that no one wanted to come to his party, he was angry. The reason he was angry was that it was obvious that all these people didn’t really care about the king at all. So instead, the king went out, and found all the beggars and poor people and sick people. “They’ll appreciate my party,” the king said. And they did—it was better than anything they could ever have imagined or hoped for. But the end of the story is sad: all the people who were originally invited to the party, but didn’t want to go, found themselves on the outside, wishing they could get in. But now it was too late.
Remember, this story is about Jesus and the invitation to be a part of his kingdom and enjoy his party forever. The invitation goes to everyone. In fact, did you know that you’re invited? That’s right: Jesus wants you to be a part of his kingdom. He wants you at his party. The way to accept his invitation and get into the party is to simply come to him: to come saying you’re sorry for the things you’ve done wrong, knowing that you can’t earn anything from Jesus, asking him to forgive you. For people who come empty-handed like that, the door to heaven is wide open. And you’ll get to join the party that lasts into eternity and gets better and better every day forever.
But if you decide that you’re too busy for Jesus, or that Jesus is okay but all the other stuff you love is a lot better, or you’re just not really impressed by Jesus or his invitation, the ending of your story is sad: the door to the party is closed. Jesus doesn’t let people into his heavenly party who don’t care about him, who don’t come to him for forgiveness, who don’t want to be part of his kingdom.
So which of the people in the story are you going to be like? The people who made excuses, and got shut out? Or the poor people who didn’t have anything, and got to come in and enjoy the never-ending party? Don’t be one of the people who make excuses because they love stuff more. The door is open, the invitation has your name on it: but you have to come to Jesus if you want to go in.