The Parable of the Great Supper
by Pastor Douglas Shearer
Luke 14:16-23 - what we have here is a parable that's not often used to teach truths concerning the gospel. I believe the lesson it teaches is especially valuable for Christians in the affluent West - America, Europe, Canada, etc. - where the gospel is languishing. We would be wise to reflect carefully on the principles it delineates.
Then said Jesus unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
So that servant came, and showed 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 hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.
Then the servant said, Lord, it is done as you have commanded, and yet there is room.
And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
This parable is not frequently used to teach strategies for evangelism; but it does exactly that. The “great supper” mentioned in verse 16 can be said to represent salvation. That’s the first point I want you to take note of. God is inviting all mankind to be saved. He’s inviting us into his kingdom - back into his fellowship.
Next, I want you to carefully note that there are basically two kinds of persons invited to the supper: (1) those who are socially and financially well positioned; and (2) those who are dispossessed - meaning they’re by and large powerless and easily exploited; they have little or no stake in the established order; they’re on the “outside” looking in - with little or no hope of ever getting “in.”
Reaching The Beautiful People
The “beautiful people” - meaning the socially and financially well positioned - the first kind of people mentioned by Jesus in the parable - are “up to their eye-balls“ in “the good life” - meaning they’re too busy to attend the supper.
They give three kinds of excuses for not attending: (1) the first revolves around property and material goods - and here in contemporary American culture, that means up-scale neighborhood; new cars; expensive and well appointed homes - with stylish furniture and crammed with all kinds of “toys” and goodies that tickle their fancy and reflect their status; etc. (2) The second pertains to business and financial matters - the world of commerce, of banking and investment, of jobs and careers. (3) The third and last excuse revolves around friends and relatives - marriage; raising a family; a crowded social calendar; etc.
Witnessing to the “beautiful people” is like witnessing to the deaf: it’s hard for them to hear you - they’re too distracted; they’re too “caught up.” For the most part, the only way the gospel can be effectively preached to them is through a crisis - meaning some sort of a serious interruption that breaks the routine they’re caught up in - that stops them in their tracks and gets them to take stock of their lives - of where they’re going and what life is all about.
A crisis allows you entrance into their lives. Their defenses are down; they’re willing to listen. What kind of crisis? Death of a loved one; marriage difficulties; loss of a job; over-extended credit leading to bankruptcy; an addiction that’s gotten out of hand; illness; children out of control.
Perhaps the single most obvious crisis dogging the lives of the “beautiful people” is a troubled marriage. Close to 50% of the “beautiful people” suffer from marriages that have “gone south.” Ministering to their troubled marriages is a good way of reaching the “beautiful people.”
Reaching The Dispossessed
The reason the dispossessed might not attend is quite different. It’s not that they’re “caught up” and distracted. It's not that they’re too busy to find the time. It’s because they’re unlikely to believe the invitation is real. They’re unlikely to believe they’re really wanted.
That’s why in the parable the master says, “Compel them to come.” In telling his servant to “compel” them to attend, the master doesn’t mean tie them up and drag them to the supper. He’s not instructing his servant to put a “half-nelson” on them. What he actually means is “convince” them that the invitation is real and that he actually wants them to come.
Imagine for a moment someone showing up at your front door with an invitation from the President inviting you to be his guest at a White House dinner. It’s a little unbelievable, isn’t it? You’re likely to think he’s “putting you on” - that he’s playing a joke on you. “Who’d want me to attend a state dinner at the White House? Someone’s pulling my leg.”
The number one problem in preaching the gospel to the poor - to the dispossessed - to the “down and outers” - is that they aren’t likely to think you really want them around. You’ve got to persuade them that you do! And that’s likely to take a lot persuasion - a lot of convincing. It won’t happen overnight.
Too many Christians become discouraged in reaching out to the dispossessed. Why? Because so little immediate change takes place in their lives. But there’s a reason for that. It’s because...
Change requires spiritual nourishment; and the dispossessed are unlikely to partake of the spiritual nourishment we offer them until they’re genuinely convinced we really want them to sit down with us at the master’s table. And that requires a real effort - inviting them into our homes and making a conscious effort to include them in what we’re doing. It’s easy - all too easy - to say “hello” at a Sunday morning service and let it go at that - thinking that’s good enough. And it’s not.
Yes, inviting them into your routine - making room for them - is likely to disrupt your life and intrude on your “good times” with friends and relatives. But isn’t that exactly what Jesus is asking us to do? Of course it is. Isn’t that what “picking up your cross daily” means? Of course it is. May God bless us all richly here at New Hope as we seek to expand his kingdom and open up heaven to the unsaved. Let’s finish the work Jesus has given us to do.