A tale of three excuses

So, you’ve been invited to an event and they want to know if you are coming. What do you do? For me, the first thing I do is look at the date and try to figure out whether I’m available. Then I look at the event and decide whether I want to go.

If you’re free and you want to go the answer is easy, you reply ‘yes’. If you’re busy then everyone understands that and ‘no’ is ok. But what if you’re free, but don’t want to go? How do you respond then? How do you say ‘no’ without being rude?

Jesus told a story about a man who invited some people to a big banquet at his house.  Everyone had received the ‘save the date’ and now it was time for the big occasion. However, by the time the messenger came to tell them the feast was ready they’d decided they didn’t want to go and they needed a reason to save face.

The first replied that he had just brought a field and needed to go and see it. He’d probably seen it already before buying and it wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, but it seemed a polite way to say no.

The same is true with the other two replies we are told about. The second had just bought five pairs of oxen to use on his farm so he replied that he couldn’t come because he had to go and try them out. The third declined by saying he had just got married.

In one sense these sound like legitimate reasons not to go, but Jesus is clear in the way he tells the story that each one was an excuse and the real reason was that the people didn’t want to come. When the messenger returned with the answers his master was angry at the insult and told his servants to go into the streets and invite those they found there to come and fill his banqueting hall.

Whenever Jesus told a story he didn’t just tell it to entertain, he told it because he wanted to teach something. Therefore, it is always important to ask the question, ‘What does this mean?’

In this story Jesus was challenging people to think about how they were responding to God. Jesus taught that God was inviting people to become part of his kingdom, to have their sins forgiven and come to know him, and that they could do this by trusting in Jesus. This story would have made them think about whether they were accepting God’s invitation or saying ‘no’ even if they were doing it politely.

Now, that’s all well and good for then, but what about now? The Bible teaches that God is still making the same invitation today. He is still inviting people to be part of his kingdom, to be forgiven and come to know him by trusting in Jesus. That means that the challenge of the story is true today. It asks us to think about how we are responding to his invitation.

This month we will be looking at some of the stories that Jesus told in our Sunday morning services. Everyone is welcome.