The Parable of the Great Supper
‘Why do so many who seem so close to the Kingdom of God still end up perishing,’ asks Gerald Bilkes in his book on parables, Glory Veiled and Unveiled. He then states:
“This is one of the most perplexing questions we might try to wrap our minds around. Of course, the Bible teaches us the doctrines that help us to understand this, such as the fundamental truths of election and reprobation and the total inability of man, whose evil heart will not and cannot believe in its own strength. These truths give us the deepest answers to this question. In the parable of the great supper in Luke 14, Christ also sheds light on this question in a very pointed way.”
Here we meet with four scenes around the lunch table. A prominent Pharisee invited Jesus to Sabbath lunch (v1). We don’t know where this occurs – Luke is sparse on such detail. But all 24 verses take place around the table. The underlying theme is still ‘the Kingdom of God and the Jewish people.’ One commentator divides the whole of chapter fourteen by considering certain questions Jesus seems to be posing to his hearers. He notes that Jesus ‘seems to’ because ‘Jesus doesn’t overtly or explicitly ask these questions, but they seem to be implied in and catch the thrust of what he is saying.’
While the first couple of questions don’t address issues in the parable of the great supper, they lead up to the story. In vv1-6, then, Jesus seems to ask, ‘Can you see your bondage?’ As if to say, ‘Can’t you see that your tenacious commitment to your extra-biblical Sabbath traditions can keep you from living out a proper piety?’ Or ‘Don’t you feel the misery of being slaves to man-made requirements?’ But, of course, ‘these men suffer from an even deeper bondage… they hate and despise [Jesus] – so entrenched is their anti-Jesus-ism.’ And that is a bondage only the Father can break (John 6:44).
In vv7-11 Jesus seems to ask, ‘Can you see your pride?’ Jesus draws his own application in v11: ‘Because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’ Of course, this is a reference to the last judgment and to God’s action at that time, and so this matter of nailing down prominent seats is not a bit of trivia – it is a symptom of that self-centered arrogance and self-idolatry that will be damned. As David Garland writes, ‘If self-admiration and exaltation can lead to disastrous consequences in human social settings, it will lead to even more disastrous results in the final judgment.’
Thirdly, Jesus’ words to his host asks, ‘Can you see your insulation?’ (vv12-14). Ralph Davis notes,
“It is interesting how Jesus links ‘last things’ with here-and-now needs, as if the ‘resurrection of the righteous’ should supply motive enough for inclusion of poor, disabled, lame, and blind. Eschatology [last things] should drive present-time service. But Jesus’ host and his ilk will have to break out of their cocoon of simply receiving pay-back invitations and enjoying adulation from their people.”
Finally, Jesus so much as asks his fellow diners, ‘Can you see your danger?’ (vv15-24). Jesus’ use of ‘blessed’ and his allusion to ‘the resurrection of the righteous’ in v14 sparked one of the guests to exclaim, ‘How blessed whoever eats bread in the Kingdom of God!’ (v15). In response Jesus tells what we may call a parable with the sense: “Well, yes, but there will be no such final blessedness if you despise the offer of grace to enter and enjoy the Kingdom of God now.”
It is that grace which is highlighted throughout the parable, especially in v23 as the servant is instructed to ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.’ I hope you can join us in person this Sunday as Chad unpacks the wonder of God’s grace in this parable.
Again, please note that we are no longer live streaming for at large audiences as we strongly want to urge God’s people to come to worship with his people. However, if you are providentially hindered, we can provide a link for you to join. Michelle and I will miss you this week, but we are grateful for your allowing us to spend some time at the coast with our family. We will see you next week. Grace and peace to you.
Soli Deo Gloria,