The Harvest of Hearts - Luke 14:15-24

The New York Mets, Daniel Murphy, was forced to choose between starting on opening day of the Major League baseball season or to be with his wife as she gave birth to their son, Noah. For Murphy, the choice was a very simple one; missing the birth of his son was never a consideration. Major League baseball players are allowed 3 days of paternity leave before they are required to return to their teams. Although Murphy made the right choice, not everyone agreed with his decision. Listen to what former NFL quarterback and radio host, Boomer Esiason says on how Murphy’s wife should have accommodated her husband’s baseball schedule,

I would have said, ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give our child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”

Another radio host, Mike Francesa added,

I don’t know why you need three days off. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help.[1]

Who would have thought a man would be publicly ridiculed and derided for not making excuses as a father, but being there for his wife and son?

One out of every three children in America lives without their biological father in the home which is eight million children. As Douglas Wilson writes in his book, Father Hunger, “We live in fatherless times.” It is clear by the ridicule of Daniel Murphy for being there for his son, we have a problem in our society. Our country does not value biblical fatherhood, but sadly, encourages fathers to make excuses for not being there for their children. As my basketball coach, Ed Molitor, used to say,

“Excuses are like armpits. Everyone has a couple and they all stink.” 

Our society is full of men making excuses for not being there for their families and our society is suffering for it. The common thread among all societal maladies (poverty, homelessness, abuse, teen pregnancies, drug abuse etc.) is fatherlessness. Fathers need to stop falling down and start standing up. Our world needs godly fathers to lead and not make excuses. It is easy to make excuses, and there are grave consequences that come with those excuses. And what is the root of our desire to make those excuses? Our selfish hearts. We make excuses simply because we do not want to care for, sacrifice for and love another person. Jesus warned people through a parable about the dangers of excuses at a meal with the Pharisees. The Pharisees
boasted in their righteousness before God, but their lives were full of excuses in accepting true righteousness. They had selfish hearts.

The Harvest of the Selfish Hearts

Luke 14:15, “When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’” This man was responding to Jesus’ statement about the resurrection of the just. He was implying that he was one of the just who was going to eat bread in God’s kingdom. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah was going to come in power to establish his kingdom. Jesus proclaimed in his ministry that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The Pharisees trusted in their works before God rather in God’s gracious invitation to the table. This man assumed that because of his works he would be in the kingdom of God, but his assumptions were wrong. Jesus responded in verse 16,

But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet. He sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry…

Jesus told a parable to rebuke this man and the Pharisees with him for their excuses in not accepting the invitation to the kingdom of God.

During Jesus’ day, an invitation to the party would have gone out first, then a second invitation would have been sent when everything was ready. The people responding to the invitation would have already had ample time to prepare for the feast. Jesus is clearing speaking of the Eschaton or the end of days. The prophets
have already given numerous signs and words concerning the coming of the Messiah. It would have been clear to the original audience that these invitees were making very poor excuses in missing the banquet. Luke highlights two main reasons for missing the banquet, family and property. The first two do not make sense, because it is unlikely that someone would buy a field or oxen without first examining them. The third excuse does not make sense because there would be no reason why his wife would not be able to attend the banquet. The issue is not the type of excuse, but that there were excuses. Verse 18 says it well, “But they all alike began to make excuses.”

The question we have to ask ourselves is, “What are our excuses?” and before we are able to discover our excuses, we have to understand the invitation. The Pharisees thought the kingdom of God was in the future, but the kingdom of God was present. Jesus Christ came to bring the kingdom of God. In another confrontation with the Pharisees about casting out demons, Jesus said in Luke 11:20, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God on earth calling all men to repent and serve Him as King. The Pharisees were making excuses to serve Jesus as King. They did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They did not accept His invitation into His kingdom. Therefore, the invitation means accepting Jesus Christ as King and living as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. So what are your excuses in denying Jesus Christ as King? What is keeping you from submitting to Jesus as your King? Money? Sex? Family? Vocation? Romans 6:16,

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

What are you living for: God or self? A selfish heart shall never taste the banquet of the Lord.

 


One of the ways the Lord has given to cure our selfish hearts is the church. The church is the visible representation of the kingdom. We are called to love each other. We are called to serve each other. We are called to use our gifts to build each other up so that we can be conformed into the image of Christ. If the church is the visible representation of the kingdom of God, what are the excuses that keep people from the church? You are here and most of you are here every week so this question may not be for you, but for those you know. What are the excuses that keep people from the church? Let me name a few:


·
 My kids have a sports tournament 

· I’ll miss the race or the big game 

· Tired from a long week of work 

· I’ve been hurt in the past 

· The church is full of hypocrites 

· The church is boring 

· The people are judgmental 

· I just don’t want to 

· I don’t like the people 

What excuses have you heard? Jesus said, “they all alike began to make excuses.” And what is the outcome of those men who were invited, but made excuses? Verse 24, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” The selfish hearts will be shut out of the kingdom, but those with a simple trust will be welcomed at the table.

The Harvest of the Simple Hearts

As the parable unfolds, the master becomes angry. The master’s anger forces him to turn away from the original invitees to those who were outside of the kingdom. Second half of verse 21 Jesus says,

Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame. And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’

Notice the different reaction to the invitee from the poor, crippled, blind and lame. They immediately responded to the invitation. Why was their reaction so different? First, they had a very different view of themselves. The first group trusted in their own self-righteousness while the second group knew of their desperate need. Second, they had greater respect of the one giving the invitation.


One of the greatest problems in American culture is we think too highly of ourselves. A survey comparing the attitudes of high school seniors in 1975 and 2006 reveals how American have grown in their opinion of from their parents, overcompensated by overpraising their children. There is almost a 20% increase in students who predicted they would be “very good” at being a spouse, parent and employee. The survey highlighted that Baby-Boomers, who grew up with a lack of praise  

Our society does not like criticism, but praise. Everyone wants to be praised, but not everyone is worthy of praise. The 30 year push of growing kids’ self-esteem has created a generation of people who believe that they are worthy of esteem regardless of their performance. One of the dangers that have developed from the self-esteem movement is that people are being convinced of their self-righteousness and are blinded of their desperate need for a Savior. If you have a high opinion of yourself, you are often blinded of your need for the gospel themselves. 

These people had no problem seeing their desperate need. They lived outside of the kingdom. They were not
allowed to enter into the synagogue. They felt the reality of being shut out. The self-righteous could not see the reality that without accepting the Messiah they were shut out of the banquet. So how do you view yourself? Do you see your desperate need or are you holding on to your righteousness? Philippians 3:7-9,

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Beloved, we need an “other-worldly” righteousness and this only comes from Christ. Jesus’ death shows that no man is righteous. Jesus had to die, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. The more we hold on to our own goodness, the more we are robbing ourselves from coming to Christ. Do not believe the lie: You are not good enough for Heaven without Jesus. Jesus is the only way.

It is not only rightly looking at ourselves, but rightly looking at God. Do you understand who is inviting you to the banquet? The Eternal Son stepped out of heaven to pursue you. He came from glory to seek the spiritually crippled. He offers you Himself; his life for yours. He will take all your sin and give you all his righteousness if you come to Him by faith. What a great God!!

The Harvest of the Servant’s Hearts
Jesus ends the parable with a simple command to his servants. Verse 23,

And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.

We must heed these words as a church. Two things that God’s people must do: go and compel. We gather every week to exalt the Savior and to rejoice in our salvation. We are being equipped with God’s Word and taught God’s truth so that we can go into our world with the gospel. We are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Jesus Christ to the lost and dying world. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation to help reconcile men to God. Without responding to the invitation, those people will never taste his banquet.

This parable is a foreshadowing of God’s mission to the Gentiles. The Jews did not respond to the gospel so God sent his servants to those who were outside the kingdom. God has not changed his strategy. He wants
his servants to go to those who are outside the kingdom with the gospel. We must go. Recently at the Southern Baptist Convention, there was a plea for Baptist to regain their heart of evangelism. We must break from our holy huddles and go to the lost.

We are not only called to go, but we are called to compel. We must persuade men and women of the truth. And in order to persuade people of the truth, we must know the truth and we must know our world. Evangelism is taking the whole gospel to the whole person. We also must know people. We must build relationships with the lost so we can apply the gospel to their lives. We cannot compel people to come to Christ if we do not know them.

Thom Rainer, the president of Lifeway, comments on the most common factor of declining churches. He writes, “Simply stated, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.” He lists a number of symptoms of this disease of the selfish church. As I read the list, ask if any of these reveal your heart or the heart of our church:

o There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.

o Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.

o Numbers of members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, other church staff, and lay leaders in the church.

o Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with anger and resistance.

o The past becomes the hero.

o Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.[2]

Beloved, Jesus commands us to take our eyes of ourselves and to go and compel people to come into the kingdom. We cannot focus on what we don’t have, but we must focus on what we do have. We have the Gospel and the Holy Spirit of God. We have all that we need. Let’s stop making excuses. Let us go as God’s servants and compel the lost to come to the banquet.

Steven Brazzell

Charlotte, NC