THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT SUPPER
“The Parable of the Great Supper” is recorded in Luke 14:16-26. This parable was presented in the house of one of the chief Pharisees. Verse one indicates that Jesus had gone there on the Sabbath day to eat bread. While there, Jesus healed a man and also taught about humility. In verse 15, a man who was eating with Jesus said, after hearing the teaching, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” This statement prompted the parable. It is similar to “The Parable of the Marriage Feast” (Mt. 22), but it is evident that they are separate and distinct parables.
The First Invitation
In verses 16-17, we see that a certain man prepared a great supper and invited many to come. He sent his servant at supper time to say to those who had been invited, “Come, for all things are now ready.” At this time, it seems that often there would be two invitations sent out for such an event. Neil R. Lightfoot, in his book, “Lessons from the Parables,” points out, “First, in keeping with oriental customs, a general announcement was sent out to inform everybody of the coming event. The date was specified, but the exact hour was not. On the stated day, when all the preparations had been made and everything was in order, the man sent out his servant to tell his invited friends that the hour had arrived for the supper.” Apparently, the invitation offered in verse 17 was this second invitation. The supper was now ready. The invited guests should come at once and enjoy it.
It seems obvious, based on their responses that the people simply did not want to come. Verse 18 says, “and they all with one consent (“all alike” NASB) began to make excuse. . . .” The first man said, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must need go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.” This man must have felt that his land was more important, and that he had a suitable excuse for not attending the feast. The second man said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.” This man wanted to test the oxen that he had bought. The excuse did not have the urgency of the first excuse, yet both excuses seemed very final. The third man said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” This excuse was the bluntest of the three. He did not say, “I pray thee have me excused,” but simply, “I cannot come.” Rather than bringing his wife with him to the feast, or leaving her at home, he just refused to attend.
The servant reported these things to the master who was angered by what he heard. He said, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” This was done, but there was still room left. The master then told the servants, “Go out into the highway and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.”
What is the specific application of this parable? It seems that the excuse makers would be representative of the Jews. They had rejected Jesus and would not “sit at His table.” The others who were offered the invitation were the Gentiles. They would receive the blessings which would first be extended to the Jews.
There are other lessons which can be drawn from this parable. Consider that the first two men offered excuses which pertained to business. These men had certain business interests which they put before the feast. Many, being materialistic, are like this today as they are more interested in money and business than they are in spiritual things. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6:19-21). The third man put his family before his attendance at the feast. Similarly, many today put their family before spiritual things. Some have even refused to obey the gospel because their parents have forbidden them to or because some other relative was against it. In Matthew 10:37, Jesus said, “He that loveth father or mother more then me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” There are many important lessons that we can learn from this parable.