“The Parable of the Great Supper: An Explanation and an Analysis, while Grasping the Words of Jesus,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
Dear friends, neighbors, thinkers, writers, and the intellectually honest and discerning… I now set before you an interpretation, attempted understanding, and grasp of Jesus’s words and narrative in the parable of the Great Supper. It is found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, verses 1-11; and the gospel of Luke chapter 14 verses 16-24. In these gospel sections, Jesus gives to us the parable of the Great Supper. In this parable, he says that the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast but they would not come. Again, he sent other servants, saying to them to tell those who were invited since he had made ready his dinner and the marriage feast was completely ready. The persons who were invited by the servants apparently made fun of this invitation and went off one to his farm, and another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. For this, the king was angry and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. The king then said to his servants that the wedding was ready, but those were invited were worthy. He told his servants to go to the streets and invite to the marriage feast as many as they could find. Those servants went out to the streets and gathered all, both good and bad, and so the wedding hall was filled with guests. This is the narrative of the parable in Matthew 22:1-10.
In Luke 14 16-24, the relation by Jesus of this parable is slightly different. Jesus says that a man gave a great banquet and invited many and said to those who had been invited that everything was ready, but they all began to make excuses, such as having bought a field and having to go out and see it; having bought five yoke of oxen; and having to go and examine them; while another said he had just married and could not come. The servant came and reported this to his master, and the householder said to his servant to go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind, and lame. The servant replied, “I have done what you commanded and there is still room.” The master then said to his servant to go out to the hedges and highways and compel people to come in so that his house might be filled. The parable in Luke ends with a sentence, “I tell you none of those men invited shall taste my banquet.”
The narrative in Luke is slightly different from that in Matthew in that various excuses are given. The householder tells his servant to go and bring in the poor, maimed, blind, and lame. The narrative in Matthew tells us that his servants were killed and that the king in his anger sent his troops to destroy the murderers and destroy their city. Again, the servants go out to the streets and invite to the marriage feast both bad and good since those invited were not worthy, Matthew tells us.
The parable is fairly clear. The idea here is that in a sense the wedding feast and banquet is heaven itself; there is a relationship of love with god and the guests at the banquet. The ability to understand this parable revolves around the concept and idea of an invitation by god. It is up to us whether to respond to this invitation. Many in the world reject this invitation, not even to the level of indifference, but to the point of active hostility toward god in Christ who extends this invitation to all of humanity with no strings attached.
In Matthew, the invited guests not only declined to go, but killed the servants who were extending the invitation. Matthew says that the invited were unworthy and both in Matthew and Luke we are provided with the great insight that the guests of god and Christ will not be whom we may expect. They may be the poor, the lame, and the blind, and virtually anyone. In Matthew, we are told that the people who will receive and inhabit the kingdom of heaven in which this feast is assigned could be anyone and everyone.
Jesus tells us in this parable that the people who will be with him may not be the people the world honors and values but in fact the people who have the least value in the eyes of the world. Perhaps Jesus tells us in this parable not to make outer judgments, since his judgments, like an x-ray, pierce the souls and being of each of us. Who will be invited to the heavenly feast not only may not be what we expect, but in fact may not include us at all. The criteria for entrance in the kingdom of heaven and the heavenly feast are quite different from what we may have thought and may exclude people whom the world and ourselves may lay value on and include the degraded, the poverty-stricken, and the most unattractive. In short, Jesus tells us the people who will be invited to the kingdom of heaven and to the heavenly feast may be those we least expect to be there; and it is to those to whom Jesus tells us he extends his invitation of love, for reasons unknown, to replace those who seriously reject his invitation of love and his claim and invitation.
It is not surprising that all of us continually turn down the good for something else. If a man is not sufficiently wealthy, he is liable to be rejected by the woman he loves. Throughout world history, there has been a continual battle between good and evil, which continues to this day. Good people rarely obtain political office and power and are, for the most part, excluded. There is an attraction to raw power, which people grab onto and thus we have the Hitlers, Stalins, and Genghis Khans. Yet for every man in prison, there is a woman who decidedly and definitively loves him. The good is rejected and the bad are taken and accepted by many and all. Many people would rather have an expensive car than hear a great work of music, which may cost them nothing.
In short, the people who will be at the heavenly feast will be those who we may not know, but whom god already knows and has found.
This essay is taken, with alterations and modifications, from my book entitled “The Parables of Jesus: A Personal Commentary,” pub. by Hamilton Books, 2018, pp.49-51.