The Parable of the Great Supper
When someone invites you to a dinner party, you are usually on your best behavior. You use your good manners, you try to be sociable and cheerful, and you try to avoid needlessly offending your host or the other guests.
Jesus, frankly, was not a very pleasant dinner guest; at least not on some occasions. When surrounded by Pharisees and lawyers, Jesus said and did things that were positively offensive to them.
Jesus had been eating lunch with some of the leaders of a synagogue on the Sabbath. He had already offended his host and his other guests in several ways. He healed a man, thus violating the Pharisees’ rules about not doing work on the Sabbath. He had accused the guests of being proud and of exalting themselves. He had accused them of self-centeredness and lack of charity.
He had one more thing to say to the guests at the meal, and it was perhaps even more offensive than what he’d already said. He asserts that none of them will make it to heaven. God’s great kingdom banquet would go on without them. They would be excluded from the kingdom of God. It’s no wonder that the leaders of the Jews were so hostile to Jesus. He kept saying things that would have been very offensive to them. But it was true, and they needed to hear it.
.15 All of this begins with what seems like a fairly innocent statement from one of the guests at this dinner party: “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Based on that statement, Jesus launches into this parable regarding the coming kingdom.
Sitting down to a banquet in the kingdom was what the Jews were looking forward to. They expected the Messiah to arrive, establish his kingdom, and host a great feast for all of God’s people—the Jews. No doubt all those attending that dinner assumed that they would be at that great future kingdom banquet.
But Jesus is not so sure about that. In fact, the purpose of the parable is to show that many who assumed that they would be there would not be present in God’s kingdom.
And the warning for us today is that we’d better accept that invitation or we will miss out on the great kingdom banquet God is planning for his people.
Now remember that this is a parable, a fictional story told to highlight a truth. Jesus is telling a story about a great banquet, but he’s really telling us about God and his plans for the coming kingdom. So behind this story is a greater truth.
Let’s look at the parable and follow the flow of Jesus’ teaching.