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Parables Bible Study 20: The Great Supper

Title: Parables Bible Study 20: The Great Supper

Subject: The Kingdom of Heaven

Age: 13+ years

Location: Luke 14:16-24

Handout for note taking: Bible Study Worksheet

Begin the Bible Study with a prayer. Read the passage, and then allow time for quiet reflection. Share the following notes on the parable.

Many argue that the Parable of the Great Supper is a version of the same found in Matthew chapter 22:1-14. For several reasons we will consider this similar parable found in Luke to be its own. We will take these words of Jesus as if He actually spoke them and the illustrations He made as original and of specific intent. Note that Matthew 22:11 is missing in Luke, "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment." (Matthew 22:11) The expulsion of the guests ends Matthew's account while Luke's ends with a pronouncement.

Matthew's parable follows the indictment of the Jews by means of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Luke's parable seems to be an illustration of humility and a correction of one of the guest's misunderstanding about the nature of the kingdom of God.

Luke 14:11-15, prior to this parable, is of important context, as Jesus is telling the disciples that when we are invited to a dinner or a supper that we are to invite those who can not repay us through an invitation of their own, that we are to invite the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind.

Let us review a summary of salvation history: God sends His messengers, Moses and the Prophets to proclaim His will and the coming salvation. Next is the coming of Christ and the Jews rejection of the Savior. Following is the call of the Gentiles and then the mission of the Church to the whole world.

Returning to the parable now, in verse 16, we learn that a man prepares a banquet to which many are invited. In verse 17, we read that at the time when all was ready he sent out via his servant a second invitation. This double invitation is often missed; the guests are invited twice. This double invitation leads to the interpretation given it by the Church Fathers. The first invitation was the centuries-long preparation of the Hebrew nation for the coming of the Messiah. The second invitation is the news that He had arrived.

The supper, dinner, banquet has a few important connotations and meanings. First and foremost this dinner or banquet is to be understood as a figure of God's presence among His people. This reality is understood in three ways:

  • The inaugurated kingdom on the earth.
  • The Church, with its fullest expression being found in the Eucharist.
  • The fullness found in the world to come.

The excuses of the invited guests begin in verse 18. The feeling in the Greek is that the reasons are contrived. Those invited show a selfish preoccupation with matters that take precedence over everything. But how do we know these excuses are contrived outside of the way they read? Remember the guests received a first invitation! The first invitation followed by the second tells us that the guests could have made arrangements to attend given the initial invitation but did not. As a result they are unable to respond to the Lord's graciousness.

Verses 18 through 20 offer three of the guest's excuses. There is almost contempt in the first three refusals. The organizer of the banquet desires their attendance. Perhaps we can even say he wanted to share this meal with them out of his desire to enjoy their friendship and camaraderie. If we paraphrase their excuses we could do so in the following way: "Oh, I had intended to go but something better or more important to me has come up." These excuses typify our own human responses to the Lord's invitation. Our concerns and priorities stand first, in front of our relationship to God. Ultimately the response of those invited illustrates humanity's neglect of what is of an infinitely greater value to us; namely salvation and life eternal with God, rather than our earthly and thereby perishable concerns. To view the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews is to view our own rejection of Jesus. Having been carefully prepared and cultivated through events of their own history for the coming of Christ, God's speaking to them through the Law and the Prophets, Jesus is in the end rejected! Why? This parable seems to hint that the reason comes because their material concerns were not improved and so the offer, the invitation is rejected.

Verse 21 reveals that those invited are replaced. Stronger still, those that replace the chosen are the outcasts, those of the streets and alleys. Still further out is the invitation to be taken past the Hebrew worldview to the highways and hedges (verse 23). Those the Jews considered outcasts are brought in, but note that even they must be compelled to accept His invitation. Verse 24 is a reference in the Church's view to the last judgment. Those who have rejected God's grace will have no part in His kingdom. Interesting to note that being shut out of the kingdom is likened to missing one's supper.

This is a sober warning to every Christian. Without a doubt we must take to heart the lesson of this parable and see no distinction between the Jews rejection of the invitation and our own. We place bodily health in front of spiritual; worldly learning in front of the knowledge of God; earthly treasures before the riches of God; future material security before preparation for eternal life; luxury and self-indulgence before care for others, and like the Jews of old, we fashion our righteousness to suit our own priorities. Remembering this we may summarize best our approach to this parable's outcome for the Jews by remembering Hebrews 2:1-3:
"Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him."

Allow time for discussion or reflection.

End the bible study with a prayer.

[1] This study relies and quotes almost exclusively from Archbishop Dimitry's study on the parables entitled, The Parables, pp. 126-129

Prepared by Fr. Evan Armatas

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