Count the Cost
THE INCLUSIVE CALL
When a host planned a feast, he told his guests the day of the feast, but not the hour. He had to know how many were coming so he could butcher enough meat and provide sufficient food. The servants would then go out near the hour of the feast and tell the guests to come. Remember, the guests in this story had already agreed to come; but then they backed out. Their action and excuses were a terrible breach of etiquette as well as an insult to the host.
The three people all had feeble excuses. In the East, real estate transactions are long and complicated; and how could he examine his property in the dark? Furthermore, anybody who buys ten oxen without first testing them is a fool. Finally, the third man’s wife really had nothing to do with the event, for women were not usually invited to public feasts. It was only an excuse!
I think it was Billy Sunday who defined an excuse as “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” The person who is good at excuses is usually not good at anything else. These three guests actually expected to get another invitation in the future, but that invitation never came.
These men may have had only one reason for refusing the kind invitation: they were unprepared to attend such a fine dinner. So, the servant constrained them to accept (see 2 Cor. 5:20). They had no excuses. The poor could not afford to buy oxen; the blind could not go to examine real estate; and the poor, maimed, lame, and blind were usually not given in marriage. This crowd would be hungry and lonely and only too happy to accept an invitation to a free banquet.
People today make the same mistake that the people in the parable made: they delay in responding to the invitation because they settle for second best. There is certainly nothing wrong with owning a farm, examining purchases, or spending an evening with your wife. But if these good things keep you from enjoying the best things, then they become bad things. The excuse-makers were actually successful people in the eyes of their friends, but they were failures in the eyes of Jesus Christ.
This parable was the text of the last sermon D.L. Moody preached, “Excuses.” It was given on November 23, 1899 in the Civic Auditorium in Kansas City, and Moody was a sick man as he preached. “I must have souls in Kansas City,” he told the students at his school in Chicago. “Never, never have I wanted so much to lead men and women to Christ as I do this time!”
There was a throbbing in his chest, and he had to hold to the organ to keep from falling, but Moody bravely preached the Gospel; and some fifty people responded to trust Christ. The next day, Moody left for home, and a month later he died. Up to the very end, Moody was “compelling them to come in.”
THE EXCLUSIVE CALL
Jesus turned to the multitude and preached a sermon that deliberately thinned out the ranks. He made it clear that, when it comes to personal discipleship, He is more interested in quality than quantity. In the matter of saving lost souls, He wants His house to be filled (Luke 14:23); but in the matter of personal discipleship, He wants only those who are willing to pay the price.
Jesus gave three parables to explain why He makes such costly demands on His followers: the man building a tower, the king fighting a war, and the salt losing its flavor.
He wants to use us as stones for building His church, soldiers for battling His enemies, and salt for bettering His world; and He is looking for quality.
Discipleship is serious business. If we are not true disciples, then Jesus cannot build the tower and fight the war. “There is always an if in connection with discipleship,” wrote Oswald Chambers, “and it implies that we need not [be disciples] unless we like. There is never any compulsion; Jesus does not coerce us. There is only one way of being a disciple, and that is by being devoted to Jesus.”
It is important to note the contrast between vv. 23 and 25. When it comes to salvation, God wants everybody who will come; but when it comes to discipleship, He wants only those who will pay the price. Jesus was not impressed by the great crowds that followed Him because He knew their hearts. He was on His way to a cross outside Jerusalem, and the crowds were not ready for that. It is easy to be in the crowd but not so easy to carry the cross. After we “come in” and find salvation (v. 23), we must “come to” Him for our cross (v. 26), and then “come after” Him in obedience to His will (v. 27). Jesus is the Host at “salvation’s supper,” but He is the Master in our Christian walk of faith.
He is looking for those with “salty character” (Matt. 5:13) who will help Him influence this decayed world (vv. 34–35).