Evangelism is Discipleship
GO OUT INTO THE HIGHWAYS AND HEDGES AND COMPEL THEM part two
Intro: In part one of this message, the Lord Jesus outlined the common excuses people make in refusing the invitation of God. In a parable, a host prepared a great banquet and many from the community agreed to attend. But at the last minute, all at once they backed out of their commitments, colluding together to bring shame to the master of the party. Excuses offered were the usual suspects – they played the possessions card (“I have bought a field and need to see it”); they played the work card (“I have bought five yoke of oxen and must try them out”); they played the family card (“I have married a wife”). One conclusion we drew from the first half of the parable is that the greatest rivals to the kingdom of God are not resident evils like Satan or gross immorality or false religions, but rather common priorities like finances, jobs and family. We left off last week with the excuses being made to the master’s servant. We pick up there…The servant returns with bad news: instead of an entourage of happy guests, he has merely a handful of excuses. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, the host is the decisive figure in the story. He is the first mentioned. He is the last to speak. The fate of the banquet depends on him. He plans the dinner. He calls the guests, and when all is prepared he proclaims, “Come, for all things are now ready” (v.17). At this point an ordinary host would cut his losses and go with what he has. Not the master of this banquet! He is incensed and instantly dispatches the servant to find replacements. “Scour the countryside,” he demands, “and fill my house up.” There is no reason any of the listeners would have been shocked by Jesus’ story up to the point of inviting persons to replace the original guests who made excuses at the last moment. Everything is as usual, even though regrettable, about planning a dinner party, preparing, and inviting, only to have guests not show. Such is the nature of parable – it is drawn from nature or common life. But like many parables, this one has a jolt. It takes a quite unexpected turn: rather than inviting others form the same social circles and financial levels as the original guests, the host turns to the streets of the city, bringing in the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind (same as in v.13). The parable is tailored to the hosts and guests of vv.12-14.
HOW WILL THE HOST REACT TO THE COORDINATED EXCUSES?
Luke 14:21 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.’
With passion and resolve
With passion: The host became angry because the rejections were personally insulting.
With resolve: Clearly, he was determined to hold his banquet. Honor would be distributed whether those excuse-makers liked it or not.
This master of the house demonstrates that he does not need the approval of his peers.
So, the city’s elite have worked in concert to shame him by verbally accepting his invitations but begging out at the last moment. What will he do now?
Instead of abandoning his dinner party, he makes a bold move to quickly substitute his guests.
He arranges for the bringing in of unpretentious folk – indeed the truly disadvantaged of his society.
His servant quickly rounds up all who are nearby in the public roads and alleyways of the city.
Are we expected to reach out to everyone? We are targeting receptive people to invite to the God’s banquet. We are not salesmen who must close the deal.
WHAT ARE THE HOST’S INSTRUCTIONS?
Invite the closest and the guaranteed
…bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.
These must “brought.” They are willing to attend but they don’t know the way. They must be led. No resistance, just directions required.
A “street” was wider and traveled by a greater variety of people than a “lane of the city” which was equivalent to an “alley.” The alley was likely to harbor the loitering outcasts of society.
With this round of invitations completed, the servant discovers that there is still plenty of space left for more guests.
Luke 14:22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’
“Still there is room” – This seems to show that there is a greater willingness on God’s part to save sinners than there is on the part of sinners to be saved. More grace is given than there are hearts willing to receive it.
So the net is cast wider: the servant goes out now beyond the city to the country roads among the fields and vineyards and gardens adjacent to the town. The banquet will reach maximum capacity.
Luke 14:23 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.
Invite the most marginalized and most reticent
With room still available, the servant is to go outside the city and search the “highways” even the “hedges.”
It would not be easy to find people in these places because they would likely be spread out over an expanded area.
Extending the search to such unpromising fields shows how serious the master was about filling up his dinner party.
No one is too sullied. No one is too wretched to be counted as a friend at this master’s table.
Who finds shelter under the hedges? The homeless; the most derelict – the utterly down and out.
Consider their outlook on life: How do they feel about those who live the blessed life in the city while they languish in the shrubbery? How suspicious would they be to hear a nobleman’s servant summon them to his home for a lavish banquet?
To get them to leave the relatively hollow “safety” of the hedges would take some convincing.
“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in”
The first group need to be brought to the banquet. The second group requires a little more. They must be compelled.
illus: In his book on ancient near eastern culture, Through Peasant Eyes, Kenneth Bailey suggests that if a nobleman issues an invitation to someone of much lower class or social status, that person feels duty bound to spend the first fifteen minutes refusing the invitation, and he does so because he is convinced that the invitation cannot possibly be legitimate. Hence at some point in the extended conversation, the nobleman’s representative must take him by the hand and gently urge him along. It seems too good to be true. He must be compelled to attend.
To “compel” them to come in is not to coerce them. Instead, it is “an insistent hospitality.” After all, how much pressure could one single servant put on the public?
“Compel” means something like a) reassure b) convince of safety and goodness of host d) persuade
The use of “compel” reflects the practice of their ancient culture in which a resolute host takes the hand of a hesitant guest and ushers him personally into the house.
Gen 19:1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.
Gen 19:2 And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.”
Gen 19:3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
The two disciples on the Emmaus Road “constrained” the stranger (Jesus) to accept their hospitality.
Luke 24:29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
Luke 24:30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
Luke 24:31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
Newly baptized Lydia compelled Paul and his missionary team to receive her household’s hospitality in Philippi.
Acts 16:15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.
Those from the highways and hedges knew:
(1) that they could not possibly reciprocate an invitation from a prestigious man capable of such a sizable feast and
(2) that they belonged to an altogether alien social world – there were socio-religious barriers one simply did not cross.
The point is that wanderers in such places would require much persuading. Otherwise, they might never believe that they were really wanted at a banquet in the city.
The servant was not to take “no” for an answer; the house must be filled.
This benevolent host has created an entirely new social order. He has prepared table fellowship to those who lived a life of rejection.
They cannot repay him. He cannot gain financially or in prestige from contact with them. He had erased barriers that would normally exclude outcasts like these. He initiates a new community grounded in gracious and uncalculating hospitality.
illus: Let us perish the thought that we must make the gospel compelling. It already is. We must simply explain the glories of the truth. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is not a compelling message. It is also not the gospel. The unregenerate person, who is likely a “happy heathen” (satisfied in his own fleshly pursuits), agrees with God. “God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life? What a relief! It just so happens that I too love me, and I also have a wonderful plan for my life!”
Who needs to be compelled to believe or think what they already believe and think?
This passage concludes with a somber verdict on those who were first invited but made excuses after initially committing. There would be no second chance for them. They had squandered their opportunity and would not receive another.
Luke 14:24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”
Verse 24 is clearly not part of the parable: the speaker is no longer the host of the banquet but Jesus, and the one addressed is no longer the servant (the “you” is plural) but everyone.
“Jesus wishes this feast to be regarded as His feast, the table at which the guests are to recline as His table, and the coming kingdom of God as His kingdom.”
Once again Jesus presses the urgency of accepting the invitation to enter the kingdom of God. The Lord is gracious and will receive all who come to Him (John 6:37), but people must not dilly-dally. The time for procrastinating has passed.
God’s purpose may be resisted, but it cannot be overcome.
There is a lurking prejudice in the minds of some that God arbitrarily and unjustly condemns some people to hell. This parable speaks to that prejudice.
The host (=God) excludes no one. It is He who first issues the invitation, and in the face of refusals repeats the invitation to include others not originally intended. It is the invited who exclude themselves by refusing the invitation to the banquet.
The know Jesus. They sit at the table with Him. They enjoy His company. Their absence at the coming banquet is contrary to the will of the host. And the only reason they give for not attending is they chose other priorities.
Their finances, their businesses, their occupations, and their family relationships were more important than the invitation to the feast.
The master has extended his invitation to insiders and outsiders – those near and far. His desire for a full house is so great that he pleads for everyone to enter.
But some still refuse, and they have only themselves to blame. They have allowed the time of grace to pass them by.
Whoever refuses this invitation will have no share in the rich blessings of the everlasting kingdom of God.
When it comes to entering the kingdom of God:
(1) Either way, you lose
a. lose your excuses or…
b. lose your invitation
Two essential points in what Jesus teaches through this parable are: (a) no man can enter the kingdom without the invitation of God (b) no man can remain outside the kingdom but by his own deliberate choice.
We cannot save ourselves, but we can damn ourselves.
The gospel message every day declares to every seeking soul this glorious invitation: “Come for everything is ready – through the perfect, saving work of Jesus Christ.”
“I’m not ready to surrender my life to God” is invalid and must be challenged.
illus: Arrogant rejection of Jesus is nothing new. Ben Franklin, US founding father, was a close and cordial friend of evangelist George Whitefield (Great Awakening figure). Whitefield did not fail in his most gracious way to press the gospel on Franklin, witnessing to the distinguished government official many times. After Whitefield’s death Franklin wrote, “Mr. Whitefield use to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard.” Can you not hear the strain of egotism in Franklin’s statement, almost an air of smug superiority? That’s what will keep any of us from Jesus’ supper.