“Parables of Jesus: The Great Supper,” Ensign, Apr. 2003, 51
While I served as a mission president in Bolivia years ago, Sister Hammond and I gathered all of the new native-born Bolivian missionaries to our home for dinner. From the scattered villages of their native land they came, humble and dedicated.
Following a brief meeting, each was ushered into the dining room, where a feast awaited. The table had been carefully set, and each plate was filled with scrumptious fare. The meal was gratefully received, and every last crumb was eaten.
As I have reflected upon this experience, it is significant to me that when we extended the invitation all our guests gladly and promptly accepted and that afterward they left the feast filled with immense gratitude, eager to continue their work.
Contrast this with what happened in the Savior’s parable of the great supper. “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many” (Luke 14:16). All those initially invited to the feast appear to have promised to attend. However, when the day for the feast came and servants were sent to announce that everything was ready, one by one each of the invited guests declined, making such excuses as: “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it,” “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them,” “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come” (see Luke 14:18–20).
It is obvious they did not truly desire to attend the feast and had little love for the man. They failed to follow through on their initial commitment, creating the possibility that the man’s substantial investment of time, effort, and money would be wasted.
The man was angry and commanded his servants to bring into his home “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt [lame], and the blind” from the streets and alleys of the city (Luke 14:21). Graciously they all accepted his invitation and came, yet there were still many empty places at his table for additional guests. The man sent his servants beyond the walls of the city, to “the highways and hedges” of the countryside to invite, even urge, all to come to the feast (Luke 14:23; see footnote c). Finally his house was filled with guests. The man then made this emphatic, final pronouncement concerning those who would not come: “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (Luke 14:24).
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a feast of such quality and purity that the prophet Nephi said “it is the most desirable above all things … and the most joyous to the soul” (1 Ne. 11:22–23). So why wouldn’t everyone come and be filled? I offer four principles that seem applicable to our everyday lives.
We often must make significant changes in our lives in order to attend the feast at the table of the Lord. Too many of us put those changes off, thinking there is no urgency. Perhaps this parable could be called the “don’t bother me now, Lord” parable. We try to excuse ourselves in various ways. Each rationalization comes from selfishness and almost always relates to something temporal. For some it is the Word of Wisdom. For others it is the law of tithing. Perhaps it is a reluctance to live the law of chastity. Whatever the reason, we who reject or delay our response to the Savior’s invitation show our lack of love for Him who is our King.
The prophet Amulek has warned us, “I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed” (Alma 34:33). When the invitation to feast is extended and received, we must not delay or wait to take our seat at His table.
Some who have accepted the gospel by being baptized do not continue to enjoy the feast. Once we have come to the Lord’s table, let us not leave too early!
Continuing to feast on the good things of the gospel means we will keep the commandments, attend our meetings, and contribute to the happiness of those around us by being good neighbors and friends.
The role of the man’s servants in the parable of the great supper is an aspect of the story we seldom think about. Contemplating this, I wrote the following parable: A certain man possessing many riches and desiring to share them with all his friends planned a feast with food and drink. His servants were given instructions, and preparations were made. In the evening the guests arrived hungry, looking forward to being fed. The hall was spacious and the tables beautifully set. But the cups were empty and only crumbs were spread upon the plates. The guests left hungering and thirsting, their loyalty shaken, not anxious to return. And the king wept because his servants, they who had professed total allegiance and obedience to him, did not perform their duties as expected.
We who have the responsibility to serve, train, and teach in the home or at church sometimes come to our tasks unprepared. Our children or students want to be spiritually fed but frequently go away still hungering and thirsting for the things of the Spirit of God. Every parent and teacher in the Church—whether in Sunday School, Primary, Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, a priesthood quorum, or even on the music committee—who is not prepared to feed his or her “guests” runs the risk of leaving the Lord’s children hungry. However, when adequate preparation is made and the Spirit is invited, everyone may leave the meeting edified and rejoicing in the Lord (see D&C 50:22).
There are also many who come to the great supper with joy and truly feast. They never grow tired of the meal that is offered. For the food is the Bread of Life and the drink is the Living Water.
One lovely day as I walked from the temple to the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City, two sisters stopped to say hello. They were being trained to serve full-time missions for the Lord. I questioned them about their families. Both were widows, their children all grown. Both were grandmothers. To my amazement one of the women was the mother of 14 children. Tears filled my eyes as she told me that each one of her children had served a full-time mission. Now the last missionary was home and happily married.
Her children had met together in a family council and decided that since their mother had provided a way for each of them to serve a mission, it was now their turn to provide for her, so they pooled their resources. This dear sister visited with the bishop of her ward, and after several weeks her call finally came from the living prophet of God. Could there be anything sweeter than this? My humble prayer is that we will come to the feast of the Lord and be filled, that His words will lead us back into His presence in the celestial kingdom to feast with all of our loved ones at the table of the Father and the Son forever.