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The parable of the party guests who gave excuses

Posted in Bible, Parables, Religion on Saturday, 16 February 2013

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This edited article about the Bible originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 137 published on 29 August 1964.

Christ and disciples, picture, image, illustration

Christ telling a parable to his disciples by Ambrose Dudley

Jesus once told a story which was full of keen observation, and had a touch of humour, but at the same time carried a warning for the many so-called religious people of his day who ignored the invitation to accept his message.

The story was about a certain man who planned to give a big dinner-party. He chose the menu with care, and ordered the food well in advance. He gave detailed instructions to the cook, and hired extra waiters for the day of the party.

Invitations were sent out in plenty of time. These were not in writing, but as was the custom in those days, they were conveyed by a messenger who called at each home and gave the invitation by word of mouth.

At last the great day came. The man who was giving the party took a final look at the gaily-decorated rooms and well-laden trays of food, inspected the servants, then sent his messengers round the district to say, “Everything is now ready; will you please come to the dinner?”

After a while the messengers began to return one by one. “Well, are my guests on the way?” said the host genially.

The first messenger coughed apologetically. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said, “Mr. Samuel sends his apologies. He quite forgot that he had an appointment with his lawyer. The matter was urgent – something to do with a piece of land he has bought, I believe. He says he is sure you will understand.”

The host was clearly disappointed, but doubtless felt that one guest would hardly be missed at such a large party.

“Excuse me, sir.” Another messenger had come up to the host. “Mr. Joseph presents his compliments and regrets that pressing business matters prevent him from coming tonight.”

Another promise broken. . . . A third servant approached. “Well, have you an apology, too?” snapped the host.

“Well, perhaps not so much an apology as an explanation,” the man replied. “Mr. Jones is away from home. As a matter of fact” – he whispered – “he is on his honeymoon. It would have been too much to expect him to leave his wife, even for this splendid occasion.”

One by one the other servants all came in with similar excuses. It was clear that not a single guest was coming.

The host’s disappointment turned to anger, yet mingled with his anger was the knowledge that there were plenty of hungry people who would be glad of such a supper. Let his fine friends do without, then. He would invite those who would appreciate his hospitality.

“Go out into the streets,” he ordered, “and bring here all the poor and crippled people, and anyone who is blind or lame. Fill my house with them. They shall take the place of those who scorned my invitation.”

Perhaps the hearers who claimed to be so religious remembered that they had scorned Jesus for eating with the poor and needy. Now they began to wonder if they had been as ungrateful as those who in his story had ignored the invitation.

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