The parable of the Great Supper closely precedes an important feast. When is the parable read? Why?
This parable is read on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. This is 2 Sundays before the Nativity of the Savior. The parable speaks of the incarnation, in a profound way, and is a fitting preparation for the celebration of it.
This parable was uttered in response to something that a man said to Jesus. What was it?
"And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. (Luke 14:15)
The holy Fathers explain that Christ was answering the man and teaching what it means to feast with God.
"A certain man made a great supper." (Luke 14:16)
Who is the man? What is the significance of this?
The "man" is God the Father. God is referred to as a man when His love for mankind is emphasized. When His power to punish is alluded to, He is called panther, a leopard, or a bear. (See St John Chrysostom, and Hos 13:7-8)
What is the supper? Why a great supper and not a dinner?
The Great Supper is God's great economy to man, accomplished through the incarnation. Through the incarnation, we become sharers of Christ's flesh and therefore able the feast with him, and be the blessed ones who eat bread in the kingdom of God"
It is a supper and not a dinner because our Lord came in the last days; supper is the evening meal. This was foreshadowed by the time of day that the Paschal (Passover) lamb was slain, according to the Mosaic Law; in the evening.
"A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at suppertime to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready." (Luke 14:16b-17)
Who is the servant? Note the two callings ("to say to them that were bidden") What is the meaning of this?
The servant is Christ.
Suppertime is the appointed and proper time.
The two callings are this: those that were bidden are the Jews, who were told of Christ through the law and the prophets. Christ Himself accomplished the second calling.
"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." (14:18,19)
What does the ground and the 5 yoke of oxen represent? Does the number of oxen have any special meaning?
Both represent the love of wealth, and material things. This love blinds a man to the higher, spiritual things. A carnal man cannot comprehend spiritual things.
The piece of ground, or "farm", especially "signifies the man who cannot
accept the mystery of faith because he is governed by the wisdom of this world"
The ground represents the world, and nature. The man who must go and see his ground sees only nature. He cannot accept spiritual things, such as the birth of Christ from a virgin, the incarnation, turning the other cheek, and in general the entire Christian teaching.
The man who bought the 5 yoke of oxen and tested them represents he who loves material things. He uses his 5 senses foolishly, and with them yokes his soul to the world, with its love of pleasure and lusts. This man also does not understand earthly things, because his mind is ever turned earthward, since oxen are used to till the ground.
"And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." (Luke 14:20)
What is the meaning?
The wife is a metaphor for the inordinate attachment to the flesh, and pleasures. Just as a wife is the mate of the husband, the flesh is the mate of the soul. One who cleaves to the flesh cannot please God.
Note well that it is not the marrying of a wife that is condemned, but the putting of a wife (fleshly pleasures) above God ("therefore I cannot come").
The ones who rejected the invitation to the Great Supper must be understood in 2 ways. Who are these people?
This parable was surely aimed at the Jews who rejected the servant who came at suppertime, Jesus Christ.
It also applies to every soul, whether he be Orthodox or not, who is attached to earthy things and pleasures or does not have true, living faith in God. Every man is called to the Great supper by his conscience.
So that servant came, and shewed 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. (Luke 14:21)
Who are these people? Describe their afflictions and character
The poor are those blessed ones who are poor in spirit, that is, humble, and willing to hear and obey the message of the Gospel. Such ones may have many spiritual and physical defects, but none of things will keep a man from the Kingdom of God if he believes.
The halt are those who do not follow an upright journey throughout life. They are like a man who cannot walk in a straight path because of his infirmity. Such ones can be made completely whole and be able to walk again, if they heed the spiritual words of the Gospel.
Those who are blind have no brightness in their minds. They too can be enlightened, when they accept the light which illuminates them.
"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." (Luke 14:24)
Who are the ones in the highways and hedges? What are these places?
With these words the Lord indicates the calling of the Gentiles. The Jews were also halt and blind, but within the "city", that is, they were those whom the Lord came to first. The Gentiles were outside the city, in the hedges and highways
"Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers", Vol. 3, Pp. 164-189
Blessed Theofylact, "The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke"
St Gregory the Dialogist, "Forty Gospel Homilies"
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