Don’t Miss Your Opportunity!

Posted: July 2, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 14:15-24, “Don’t Miss Your Opportunity!”

One of the worst things my daughter could hear when she was little was that she had lost an opportunity.  It didn’t matter what the item/activity was, if she lost her opportunity, it was as if her world came tumbling down.  As for myself, I wasn’t much different.  As a child, I hated missing out on something, especially when I knew it was my fault that the opportunity passed me by.  As an adult, I realize that it’s impossible to take advantage of every opportunity, but there are still some you don’t want to miss: time spent with family, enjoying simple pleasures, etc.

Of course, the best opportunities come from the Lord.  Each day is a new chance to walk with Him in faithfulness & worship.  It’s a chance to know our Creator & Savior, and to walk in the Spirit-filled abundant life that He promises.  Those are opportunities we don’t want to miss!  Although for Christians, all of eternity will be spent in Jesus’ presence, this life is our one opportunity to be introduced to Him and know Him as our Savior.  If we let this chance pass us by, we won’t get another one.  So we want to know Him!  We want to respond to His invitation!

So why don’t more people do it?  Even as born-again Christians, why don’t more people desire to walk in closer intimacy with the Lord, getting to know Him better?  Why don’t we take advantage of the opportunities we have?  We procrastinate & make excuses.  Because the Lord is available every day, we push Him off to another day, always thinking that we can start tomorrow.  And as the cliché states: tomorrow never comes.  Sooner or later, opportunities stop coming around, and we wake up one day realizing what we’ve missed.  And when it comes to our relationship with God, that’s something that can have eternal consequences.

As Chapter 14 began, Jesus had been invited to a Sabbath meal that the home of a ruler of the Pharisees.  Where, we don’t know, but at the end of Chapter 13, Jesus was still mindful of His mission ahead of Him in Jerusalem, so surely this was in some town along the road.  The supper was actually a set-up, as the Pharisees and lawyers closely watched Jesus as a man with dropsy (edema/swelling) entered the room.  They wanted to see if Jesus would heal the man on the Sabbath, and this man was simply a tool to get Jesus to act – he was bait for the trap.  Of course, Jesus healed the man, not breaking the Sabbath law, but not caring about the legalistic traditions of men.  The lack of love among the Pharisees was evident, and Jesus gave some teaching to illustrate it.  What God desired from these men was humility and sincerity.  Exaltation would come in due time, if God gave it, but humility was needed in the present.  So was love.  God wanted them to care about those who were least & forgotten.  If the Pharisees served the least & the lost, then God would reward them in due time.  God would reward all of His people at the resurrection of the just – it would be a magnificent blessing.

All of that happened at one dinner.  So what happened during the rest of the time?  Another man spoke up, saying things that he may or may not have understood, and that gave Jesus the platform for some clarifying (and sobering!) teaching.  Everyone in the room was already participating in a great feast, but there was a better one coming: the banquet in the kingdom of God.  And just as Jesus had done on other occasions, He made it clear that not everyone will be there.  This time, Jesus gives a bit more insight as to why.  Many would be invited, but few would come.  If people missed out on God’s kingdom, it’s not because God didn’t invite them.  God gives the opportunity; they don’t take it.

Don’t miss your opportunity to be included in the kingdom of God!  Stop making excuses for yourself, and respond to the invitation of Christ!

Luke 14:15–24
15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

  • Jesus had given a sobering & convicting teaching about the need to show compassion to the least & forgotten among them (the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind), which was something the host of the supper had not done when he brought in the man with dropsy as bait for Jesus.  But if humble, sincere worshippers of God did so, inviting people like this to their feasts, demonstrating the compassion of God among them, then they could have the assurance that God would reward them with blessing at the future resurrection of the just.  It was in response to this that one of the other men at dinner spoke up with this exclamation of blessing. 
  • Who this person was, we aren’t told.  It’s possible that he was one of the Pharisees & lawyers in attendance, but Luke never says that those were the only other people invited to the dinner that day.  It could have been a local townsperson or a layman – we simply don’t know.  The possibility that it might have been a Pharisee or a lawyer is intriguing, considering the context.  Luke has shown increasing conflict between Jesus & the Pharisees, and it had come to light once more at this very dinner.  Their treatment of the man with dropsy demonstrated the fact that they were not humble, and that they had not invited people like the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind for the purpose of showing them compassion.  Thus the future blessing promised by God was not for the current people in the room!  Yet all of that was lost on this one man.  Apparently he believed he would be included in the future resurrection of the just.  He believed that he would be in the kingdom.  Even with all of the warnings that Jesus gave to the Pharisees, they still believed themselves assured of eternity, never once questioning their inclusion in the kingdom.  Jesus gave them all kinds of reason to question themselves, and they never did.
    • As Christians, we are called to examine ourselves to see if we are truly saved.  2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.”  Take the test: do you believe in Jesus?  Is He in you, i.e., in your life as your Lord & King?  If so, praise God!  If you pass the test, then you have assurance of life.  A born-again Christian (someone who trusts Jesus alone for eternal life, believing Him to be God who died for our sins at the cross and rose from the grave) has every reason to be assured of eternal life.  The apostle John wrote one of his letters to local Christians specifically that they might know that they had eternal life. (1 Jn 5:13)  A believing Christian as solid assurance of his/her salvation!  That said, there are many people who claim assurance that shouldn’t. Their faith isn’t in Jesus; it’s in a prayer they repeated when they were a kid.  Their faith isn’t in Jesus; it’s in a baptism they received as a baby.  Or their faith is in their church membership – their tithing record – their (false) belief that God would never allow anyone to go to hell, etc.  People like this might claim assurance, but God hasn’t promised them any.  Assurance is only promised to people who have current, abiding faith in Jesus.
    • Do you believe Jesus?  Are you clinging to Him for forgiveness & eternity?  Good!  Be assured of your salvation & eternal life, knowing that God will never let you go.  But if Jesus is an afterthought to you – if He has no place in your life, much as your God & king – then you have every reason to question your eternity.  And you should!  That questioning & examination may be the very thing that leads you to eternal life!
  • The man at the table didn’t question his faith, but apparently Jesus did.  That’s what led Jesus to respond with the following parable.  What the man said about the future kingdom was correct: the people who “eat bread” there (those who participated in the kingdom) would indeed be “blessed”!  They would be happy beyond measure!  But they needed to be there in the first place.  That’s something that needs to be made certain today, while we have the chance.
  • A supper prepared (16-17)

16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’

  • This sets up the entire event.  It would have sounded familiar to the people in the room at the time, for this was exactly what they were currently experiencing.  Someone had given a “great supper and invited many”…and they were all at the table!  They had each responded, and come.  That’s how they were all able to listen to Jesus at the moment.  So Jesus takes this very relatable concept and speaks of another supper – the best supper: the supper in the kingdom of God.  Luke doesn’t record Jesus coming right out and describing it that way, but considering the context that Jesus spoke this in response to the man’s exclamation, there’s little doubt that the kingdom of God was in view.  That was Jesus’ intent, and that’s how everyone else in the room would have interpreted it.
  • So a supper was prepared, people had been previously invited, and things were ready.  What was left to be done?  All anyone needed to do was show up.  Ancient feasts were little different than our own dinner parties today, in this regard.  If you invite people over for barbecue, you would have sent out invitations in advance, cooked all day (and likely all the previous night), and then expect people to show up at the invited time.  Today, we say “Dinner at 6,” but in ancient times, messengers were sent out to let people know when the time was ready.  Those invited would have known the day, if not the exact hour.  The point?  They should have been ready.  There was nothing unusual about the feast or the invitation – everything was proceeding exactly according to custom.
  • That’s when everything went wrong.  Vs. 18…
  • Excuses of the invited (18-20)

18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. …

  • How many “began to make excuses”?  “All.”  Keep in mind that all of them would have originally accepted the invitation to come.  Their RSVP would have been yes.  The servant of the master was going to the people who had previously committed to come to the feast, and it was only now that they refused.  And it was a 100% refusal rate!  This would have been incredibly insulting.
  • Be careful not to read the word “excuse” with a modern American context.  Today, we sometimes distinguish between “reasons” and “excuses.”  If someone misses work or school, we look for a good reason why they didn’t show; not a bunch of flimsy excuses.  We look for “I was in the hospital with a kidney stone,” vs. “The dog ate my homework.”  That’s not the idea here.  The word for “make excuses” is a verb that simply means “to ask to be released from an obligation.” (NIDNTT)  The word used in the parable has nothing to do with value/importance of the excuse; it refers to the request itself.  So when Jesus says that the people made excuses, He’s simply saying that they asked to decline the invitation, no matter what their reasoning was.  These people had previously said yes, but now they say no.
  • That being said, none of the reasons are good…

… The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

  • Excuse #1: the lazy landowner.  What kind of person buys a piece of property without seeing it first?  As a church, we recently purchased land, and you bet we looked really hard at that real estate before signing papers!  Yet this man didn’t.  He waited until after the transaction was done before he went to go walk the property.  And of course, it’s not as if this was even urgent.  If it waited this long, surely it could wait until the next day.  He may have been polite in his request to be excused, but it was a terrible reason not to come.
  • Excuse #2: the foolish farmer.  This guy was little different than the first.  Who would purchase livestock without first examining them?  Especially when speaking about this many!  A “yoke” would pair two animals together for the purpose of plowing, so this was a purchase of ten oxen.  That speaks of the wealth of this man.  Money can’t buy everything, including manners, and this person also refused to come.
  • Excuse #3: the rude groom.  The last example didn’t use the courtesies of the first two, but at least he’s a bit more honest.  He just doesn’t want to come, so he doesn’t.  Culturally speaking, a newlywed would have been excused from warfare, but not from social events.  Besides, the whole community would have recently celebrated the wedding of this man, and no doubt his bride would have been welcome (and even expected) at this new feast.
  • The parable only includes three refusals, but this sampling was enough to typify the rest.  All had refused to come to the dinner (that they had previously accepted!), and none of the excuses had any validity to them whatsoever.  There was no emergency – no urgency.  There was just a lack of grace, and an insulting indifference to the host who had made these preparations.  It’s no wonder he responds the way he does…
  • Response of the Master (21-24)

21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’

  • Was the master right to be angry?  You bet!  He had been profoundly insulted by his so-called friends & neighbors.  If he had been a king (as was the case in a similar parable spoken by Jesus in Mt 22), he would have been furious!  In that particular parable, the people who refused to come actually seized the king’s servants & killed them, and the king responded with the full wrath of his army. (Mt 22:7)  In the current parable, this seemed to be wealthy homeowner, but no different from the rest of the people currently in the house of the Pharisee ruler.  But it was insulting, nonetheless.  The master of the house was angry, and had every right to be.
  • So what did he do?  Did he throw away the food he originally prepared for his friends & neighbors?  Of course not!  He invited others to come.  Who did he invite?  The same list of people Jesus said to invite in vs. 13: “the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind.”  All the ones who originally had not received an invitation – the ones whom the rest of society forgot – those were the ones included by the master.  Those would now be his honored guests for the banquet.
  • And they weren’t all…

22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

  • Apparently the master had quite a large home!  The meal was huge, with no lack of food.  There was plenty of provision for all, and even when the servant gathered up all of the poor, etc., there was still room.  So what did the master do?  He invited even more.  This time, the invitation was given to complete strangers.  If the people who knew the homeowner wouldn’t come, then the invitation would be given to those who didn’t know him at all.
    • Without question, this parallels the gospel going out to the Gentiles.  Jesus was first sent to the Jews, being Himself a Jew.  He is the Son of David, the Hebrew Messiah, the fulfillment of all of the promises made to Abraham, Moses, and more.  All the original apostles were Jewish, and the church began in Jerusalem among the Jews.  Yet it didn’t stay there.  Why?  Because by & large the Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah, and they rejected those who came to believe in Him as the Messiah.  Thus the gospel proceeded out to the rest of the world, and came to people just like us.  We are the strangers in “the highways and hedges,” blessed to hear the good news of the Lord Jesus.  We have been invited to the wedding feast in the kingdom of God, and praise God for it!
    • Jesus knew the Jews would reject Him – that was foretold long ago in the Scriptures.  But thankfully, the Scriptures also speak of a day when the Hebrews finally respond to the invitation of God, and come to faith in Jesus as Messiah.  There will come a day when all Israel will be saved. (Rom 11:26)
  • How were the strangers on the highways and hedges to be brought?  The servant was told to “compel them to come in.”  The word translated “compel” can be misunderstood, either from it being too forceful, or too light-handed.  NKJV, ESV, NASB all render it “compel;” NIV, HCSB translate it as “make them.”  The NET & NLT renders it “urge,” which seems to fit this particular context far better.  One dictionary says of this word, that it means “to cause or compel someone in all the varying degrees from friendly pressure to forceful compulsion.” (TDNT)  IOW, it ranges from “please” to the point of a sword.  Context is absolutely key.  The context here is one of persuasion. (1) In this parable, the host is not a king, but a homeowner.  He doesn’t have the authority to send armies out with weapons for forced compulsion. (2) If the homeowner was prone to use force, he would have forced the original invited guests.  There was no reason to force strangers into his home, if he didn’t want to use force on his neighbors.  Thus, when the servant was told to “compel” the strangers, it meant that he was to go out & strongly urge & persuade people to come.
    • One theological aspect of this is that it demonstrates the manner in which the gospel goes forth.  God does not force anyone to become a Christian.  Not a single person will be in heaven who does not want to be there.  The invitation has gone out to the entire world, but if someone chooses to reject it, God has given them the freedom to do so.  With due respect to Calvinist theologians, the doctrine of Irresistable Grace is not easily defended, partly based on teaching such as this.  People can and do resist and reject the gospel of Jesus Christ and the grace of God.
    • That being said, it’s foolish to do so!  The gift offered by Jesus is so amazing & is priceless in its worth!  To be completely forgiven of every sin – to be given a new heart & new nature – to be set free from sin – to live in the power of God the Holy Spirit – to have the very person and presence of God within you – to have the guarantee of eternal life – to share in the everlasting inheritance of Christ Jesus, being made a child of the Living God – these things are wonderful!  There is nothing better that can be freely offered to anyone anywhere on the planet!  This is something that not only changes your life today, but changes your life for the next 10,000 years (and more!).  This is not something to refuse or to dismiss; this is something to gratefully receive & embrace.  So embrace it!
  • Embrace it while you have the opportunity, for the opportunity doesn’t last forever, as the men in the parable found out…

24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ”

  • How many had rejected the homeowner?  All.  How many would be forever refused by the homeowner?  All.  “None of those men” would eat the meal that had been originally prepared for them.  They had their opportunity, and they lost it.
  • Question: Does the opportunity to receive the gospel ever really pass us by?  It can.  Thankfully, anyone who still draws breath and has a beating heart still has the opportunity to be saved.  As the thief on the cross next to Jesus demonstrates, it is still possible for someone to have the assurance of eternal life even mere moments before death.  But, it takes ears that are willing to hear, and a heart ready to receive the truth.  And that’s something that isn’t guaranteed.  Hearts can easily grow hard to the invitation of God.  Ancient Pharaoh of Egypt had multiple face-to-face conversations with the premier prophet of the Hebrews, and saw with his own eyes the tangible manifestations of the power of Almighty God, and he still hardened his heart.  Even the Hebrew nation, newly freed from Egyptian slavery by incredible visible miracles, and was personally cared for by God in the wilderness with supernatural miracles taking place literally every morning – they still hardened their hearts and refused to walk in the grace of God, answering His invitation.  So yes, it’s possible for our opportunities to pass us by.  Just because we hear the gospel today and have our hearts soft to God’s invitation does not mean that it will be that way tomorrow, or next month, or next year, etc. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow; you only have today & this moment.  What work is God doing in your heart right now?  This is your opportunity to respond.  2 Corinthians 6:2b, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  This is the day.  If you know that God the Holy Spirit is calling you to Himself, today is the day you need to respond. 
  • What about for those who have already received Jesus as Lord & Savior?  What about those who are already assured of eating at the banquet table in the kingdom of God – is there anything here for us?  Absolutely!  Are you taking advantage of the opportunities you have with God right now, today?  We’ve been invited to know our Creator God, and we’ve been given the free opportunity to do so on a daily basis.  Do you do it?  When was the last time you prayed, other than a mealtime or church service?  When was the last time you read your Bible other than a Sunday morning?  Have you even read your Bible all the way through?  It’s God’s very word, given to us so that we would know Him better.  You hold an opportunity to know God in your hand…are you using it?  Or, put it in terms of service.  If you truly want to know the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, start serving God in some way.  Share the gospel, teach a class, break a sweat in physical service.  Those are opportunities God gives us to know Him…and those are all opportunities that easily pass us by.

Extra: How are we to compel?
Before we close, let’s take a few moments to look at the servant’s call to compel the people on the highways and in the hedges.  Out of the many applications that come out of this parable to born-again Christians, this one is probably the most obvious.  After all, we are the servants of King Jesus, and He has given us a command much like the homeowner gave to his servant.  In fact, our command has a name: the Great Commission.  Matthew 28:19–20, “(19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Jesus, being raised from the dead, was given all authority in heaven & on earth, and this is what He commanded His disciples (and thus, all His future disciples) to do.  As disciples, we are to make disciples.  We are to reproduce.  How do we do it?  We are to go, to baptize, and to teach.  Jesus presumes the going, though we are not to neglect it under the assumption that someone else will do it.  The teaching is what happens in times like these, when we’ve gathered together as a body to learn what God says in His word – it takes place in small groups – it takes place during one-on-one discipleship, etc.  The baptism takes place upon conversion, as people identify with Jesus in their newfound faith in Him.  But it’s what leads up to that conversion that is a challenge for many Christians: sharing the gospel.  This is the “compelling” part – this is the part where we go out to persuade others of the good news of Jesus Christ.

How do we compel others with the gospel?  For many Christians, we treat it the same way as the “going” – simply assuming that someone else will do it.  Yes, we may be saved & we believe in Jesus, but we don’t think we’re actually qualified to share Jesus with anyone else, so we just leave it to someone else to do.  Guess what?  If you’re born-again, you’re qualified.  If you’re saved, you’re that “someone else.”  You’re even already equipped, though perhaps you didn’t know it.  Think about it: how were you saved?  That’s your testimony.  Simply share that.  Paul’s testimony is recorded three times in the book of Acts: once as a narration, and twice in the process of Paul sharing his faith.  Apparently it was something he consistently returned to when he taught people about Christ.  We can do the same.  Think on how you came to faith.  There are three aspects: (1) Who you were before you met Jesus, (2) How you met Jesus, and (3) Who you became after you met Jesus.  It doesn’t need to be long & complicated – it certainly doesn’t need to glorify the past, building you up to be a “big” sinner.  It can be simple & to the point.  For example:

  • Before I met Christ, I didn’t have any real belief in God at all.  I didn’t care who He was or if He existed; I just wanted to live my own life.  I was apathetic to the whole thing.
  • One day I was unexpectedly confronted with the gospel, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was all real.  I knew that Jesus is alive, that He is God, and that I needed to surrender my life to Him.  I went from not caring, to caring deeply in the blink of an eye, and I desperately wanted to be saved.
  • I surrendered my life to the Lord, was forgiven of my sins, and God called me that night to the ministry.  I haven’t walked perfectly with the Lord, but I’ve always had the assurance that He is with me, and that I will be with Him in eternity. He has given me my purpose, my family, and my future promise.
  • Would you like to know how you can have that too? 

At that point, just follow it up with the gospel.  The outline provided by Evangelism Explosion is fairly simple to remember:

  • Heaven is a free gift.  It cannot be earned or deserved.
  • Man is a sinner.  He cannot save himself.
  • God is merciful & loving.  God is just & righteous.
  • Jesus is both God & Man.  He died on the cross & rose from the grave to pay the penalty for our sin & to purchase us a place in heaven.
  • Faith is needed to be saved.  (a) Not temporary faith or head-knowledge.  (2) Saving faith: trusting in Jesus alone for eternal life.

What happens next?  Give them the opportunity to respond.  Keep in mind we are supposed to persuade & compel; not sell.  You can’t make the decision for someone else to respond to the gospel, nor can we push it on someone who doesn’t want it.  It’s not your job to bring someone else to faith; we are only witnesses of Jesus, giving people the opportunity to hear of Him & know Him.

Conclusion:
This same opportunity was given to the people attending that supper with Jesus.  The people in the room were convinced that they were already bound for the kingdom of God, though they shouldn’t have been.  There was much reason for them to question their assumptions, and to examine their own relationship with God.  But it wasn’t too late…at least not for all of them.  They had all been invited to the kingdom, and many of them were refusing to come.  Soon they would miss out on their last opportunity, and it would be too late.  Whatever excuses they made, they were insufficient, and they would suffer the consequences in eternity.

But it wasn’t too late for everyone.  There was still time to respond, but they needed to do it while they still had the chance.

So do we.  We still have the opportunity to respond, so we need to do it!  For those of us who know that we are born-again Christians – for those of us who have examined our faith and have the steadfast assurance that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ – we have two things before us.

  • We need to take advantage of every opportunity we have to walk with our Lord & get to know Him better.  We need to stop putting off until tomorrow that which we can do today.  Today, you can pray.  Today, you can worship.  Today, you can read your Bible.  Today, you can share your faith – serve – pray with someone – help out the least & the forgotten – be the hands & feet of Jesus.  All of that you can do as God gives you the opportunity, so do it.  Don’t wait until the end of your life & say “I wish I would have ____.”  Serve the Lord now, while you have the chance.
  • Most pressing to the parable, go out with the gospel.  We are the ones to urge others to put their faith in Jesus.  We have been entrusted with the greatest news in the history of the world, and other people won’t know unless we tell them.  For as many churches that exist in Tyler, the vast majority of the people living here won’t walk through the doors.  For all the radio ministry that broadcasts over the airwaves, the vast majority of non-Christians won’t tune in at the right time.  We (the church) are the most effective evangelism force for the Lord Jesus, and yet we (by & large) aren’t doing it.  It’s estimated that less than 2% of Christians ever share their faith.  Let’s start bumping up that number!
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