The Parable of the Great Feast

colorful painting depicting a person inviting all to the feast

Before the parable of the Great Feast, Jesus shares some teachings with some guests present at an actual feast He is attending. Jesus is with the Pharisees in this passage. They hope to make an object lesson of an ill person with them, asking if it would be scriptural to heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus turns the question back to them, asking them who among them wouldn’t help their own ox on the Sabbath. If they would show mercy on a beast of burden, why would they be hesitant to show mercy to a child of God?

Then Jesus launches into a longer parable directed directly at those guests who wanted their importance to be noticed. In this case, they had selected the best seats for themselves. Jesus gives them a parable about humility, that those invited should instead select the less important seats. It is better to be elevated by the host rather than humiliated by being moved down. This leads to Jesus telling them to invite those who could never pay them back, saying it is more blessed to to give to those who cannot repay.

The Parable of the Feast

These teaching culminate in Luke 14:16 – 24:

But he said to him, “A certain man made a great supper, and he invited many people. He sent out his servant at supper time to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, for everything is ready now.’

“They all as one began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please have me excused.’

“Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go try them out. Please have me excused.’

“Another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I can’t come.’

“That servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’

“The servant said, ‘Lord, it is done as you commanded, and there is still room.’

“The lord said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you that none of those men who were invited will taste of my supper.'”

An Open Invitation

All of the guests in this parable would have already been invited, but each of these had an excuse. The first purchased some property and now was going to see it. (Unseen purchases were not uncommon in this time period.) The second’s excuse is similar but now regarding beasts of burden. The third was due to a recent wedding. It’s important that each of these excuses are plausible, but they all demonstrate misplaced priorities.

Each excuse, however, is an insult to the host. Invitations in ancient Jewish culture were a serious matter, and each of these individuals had already promised to come. However, the host does not cancel in frustration. He doesn’t retaliate. Rather, he uses his anger for good, and he invites those who need mercy the most. He extends this invitation twice, so that his house would be filled.

Accepting the Invitation

So who is Jesus speaking about? Those who excused themselves from the feast would be those who know of God and yet reject Him. In this direct context, it would have been Jesus’ audience. It can be any of us who reject God despite His grace. Those who are in need of mercy? Those poor and blind people are all of us. We are all in need of God’s mercy as those were in need of physical mercy. Like them, we can never repay God’s grace, but He will gladly extend the invitation to us if we just accept.

In John 14, Jesus tells His apostles that He has gone to prepare a place for them. And He has prepared a place for us as well. He invites us to His home, but we have to accept that invitation. That invitation is a commitment to live as He would have us, to submit to His word and follow Him. That is how we show our acceptance, and, in doing so, we will then invite others to the great feast so we can all join Him together in Heaven.

lesson by Aaron Kadel