The parable of The Great Supper is similar to the parable of The Marriage Feast in Matthew 22, but it is not identical. On this occasion, Jesus was eating at the house of one of the Pharisees on the Sabbath day, as Luke 14:1 states. A man came to him needing healing, and Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees present, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” They were silent. Jesus healed the man and then asked them another question. “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” Again, they did not answer Him. This is the setting for this parable, which is in two parts.
“So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place…” Jesus went on to teach that if one assumes he is the guest of honor, even goes so far as to think that he is the most important person in attendance, he may be very embarrassed and ashamed if someone more important arrives. Rather, find the folding chair in the corner, and wait for the host to invite to the place of honor. “Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus used the parable to point out their arrogance, but with a loving lesson, like a parent teaching children. He then spoke directly to the man who had invited Him, saying, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Jesus had taught this principle in various ways before. Luke 6:32-34 teaches, in essence, that even sinners love those who love them, and sinners lend to sinners to receive the same back. Do something good for people who can never repay, and don’t just exchange favors with friends. God sees and keeps track of everything and He will always appropriately reward.
Luke 14:16-24 records the parable of The Great Supper, which is similar to the wedding feast story. Jesus used this parable to address the spiritual stupor of Israel’s “finest.” “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. 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 and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master 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 say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”
Jesus was addressing the aloofness and aimless wandering of God’s people and especially the spiritual leadership of Israel. All through the years, the prophets and the Scriptures had foretold of the Coming One, but when He arrived, they were too hardhearted and blind to realize that “the acceptable year of the Lord” and that the day of their salvation had finally come. They had endless excuses, and, like the wedding feast parable, with Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ, the door opened for the Gentiles to come in and receive God’s blessings.