The Great Supper

by Rev. Samuel Rutherford
a Preparation Sermon, before the communion, at Kirkmabreck, in Galloway, in the year 1634
published by Rev. Andrew A Bonar, Glasgow, 1876 (reproduced in;
minimally updated and edited by JJ Lim

Then said He 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, &c

Luke 14:16, 17, &c

There are two things which we have to mark in this parable: (1) The dependence thereof on the preceding words; (2) The sum and scope of Christ’s words therein.

The Lord is showing what sort of guests they must invite to their feast; even the poor and needy, whom the Lord shall recompense “at the resurrection of the just.” Whereupon, a man who sat at meat with Him (whether a Pharisee or not is uncertain) says to Christ, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Many call them happy who have part in Christ, and yet think it not. Many will talk broad words for the kingdom of heaven, and of the worth of Christ; but when it comes to this, What will you [give up]1 for Christ? Will you [give up] your farms and your lands for Christ? Will you [give up] your five yoke of oxen for Christ? And will you [give up] your new married wife, and your children, for Christ?—then they make a stand, and question all. We are all good Christians till we be tried. We often make a fair profession, while we mar all in practice. Many do with Jesus Christ as onlookers do in a great fair; they go through the market, and commend everything they see, but never open their purse to buy anything. So multitudes can say, “It is good to be a Christian; O! the Son of God is worth all the world;” but they will never offer a penny for Christ’s cause. They will not want a ridge of land, nor suffer the loss of an ox for Him. They will rather lose their immortal souls than lose their gear. All you who now speak proudly of Christ, when persecution comes, see what you will lose for Him. Oh! the Lord Jesus has many friends, who yet are but false friends and flatterers at bottom. They will speak good of Him, but will do no good for Him. Few leave their nets and custom-box for Him. But the man who finds the pearl, he sells all, and buys it.

1 Orig. “quit.”

This man would here say, Blessed are they who have a keen appetite to banquet with Jesus Christ. This lets us see that many have a false stomach, and can call them blessed who eat bread with Christ, as if it were from true hunger; and yet it is only like the hunger of sick folk, who cry for meat, but as soon as they taste of it their stomach recoils, and they can take no more of it. Many have the like hunger for Christ; they are soon full of Him when they come to the table. Balaam could say, “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel,” and yet for the peace of Jacob, he would not lose court with the King of Moab. The petty kings of clay are often obeyed at the expense of disobeying the great King of heaven.

I now come to enter upon the particulars of the parable. The scope of it is to show “that few obey the gospel of Christ,” set down under the similitude of a man who made a great supper, and invited many, who, notwithstanding of that, refused to come, the parts of which are these:─

1. The Preparation of the Supper: “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many.

2. The Invitation of the Guests: “Come; for all things are now ready.

3. Their refusal: “They all with one consent began to make excuse, &c.” And—

4. The Servant’s coming, and “shewing his Lord these things.”

The Lord then takes a second course of filling up his table, albeit they refuse who were first bidden; for he loses not his supper. Wisdom’s wine that was drawn sours not: he gets two sorts of guests to eat his meat: (1) The diseased and poor;  (2) The common people up and down the streets. And then you have the Lord’s sentence upon the recusants or refusers.

1. The Preparation

A certain man made a great supper”—The Lord is here offering mercy in the gospel, and is compared to a man, not a common man, nor to one who makes a supper only for his friends. This shows us God’s mercy in the gospel. He shows Himself to us a man, a friend, banqueting us. But when we become beasts, and like the horse or mule that have no understanding, He then turns from a man to a lion, and to the house of Judah as a young lion; “I, even I, will tear and go away, and none shall rescue him.” It is a hard word that the Lord speaks to Ephraim, “I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and to the house of Judah as a young lion” (Hos 5:14). If we be men, God will be a man to us; but if we be beasts, God is as a lion and a bear, “He was unto me as a bear lying in wail, and as a lion in secret places” (Lam 3:10).

Use. God carries Himself to us as a man and a friend, and has been feasting us these seventy years; and, I assure you, the Lord is near the drawing of the table. The ordinary time of removing the table is, when all at it are full, and can eat no more. The gospel is now loathed by us, and the word of God contemned. At the beginning of this Supper, one sermon or a Communion was sweet; people ran to it like hungry banqueters; now it is disregarded. One sermon in the day of the Lord’s banquet is now thought sufficient. Well, I see men are fallen asleep. I fear, beloved, I fear (think of it as you please) the word shall be taken from you, the board drawn, and the plague of the Lord follow it. Amos 8:2, the famine of the word of God shall come.

2. The Invitation

The second part of the parable is, the Lord’s invitation of the guests, “Come, for all things are now ready.”— Here there be three things: (1) A commission to His servant, that is, His ministers, to bid those that were called Come; (2) The Time—It is at supper-time; (3) A Reason—“All things are now ready.”

I shall only touch these points, and briefly go over the words.

Doctrine. The Lord invites us to a banquet and great Supper. That is the hardest word that the Gospel speaks to poor sinners, “Come.” Never a word of hell, the wrath of God, or the plagues of God for sin. But His words are all (though He speaks in wrath to His enemies), My dear friends, I shall think Myself [under obligation to you]2, if you will come and sup with Me. Surely, beloved, the Lord might have supped [without any to bear him company]3. The angels are good company; but God thinks He wants company if the children of men are not with Him! In Proverbs 8:31, says Wisdom (which is Christ), “I was with God, yet playing and sporting with the children of men.” Here, indeed, is love itself, the Lord inviting us to embrace the gospel! He resembles it to a great supper. Merciful God! Thou mightest command us, under the pain of condemnation, to come and believe in the Son of God. But not a word of that here: the Lord will hire us to come to the kingdom of heaven—this is evangelic. The first word that the gospel speaks is mercy, mercy to poor sinners. The key wherewith Christ, the husband, opens the heart of His [church] is, “Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled; for My head is filled with dew, and My locks with the drops of the night” (Song 5:2). He might have said, Woe be to thee, thou hast put me to the door, and hast taken a strange lover in My place; I will quit thee; I will go [to woo souls]4 in another place; the back of My hand to thee; I shall never look on thee again. No; but His hardest knock is, Sweet Dove, Love, Fair One, I am both wet and weary; let Me not lie in the streets all night. “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord” (Jer 3:14). What is the Lord’s argument to move him? “For I am married unto you, I am your husband.” “I taught Ephraim to go taking them by the arms” (Hos 11:3). God’s mercy is a great net; all the fish that come in the net are brought to land. Well, beloved, this is the gospel’s voice, Come, [you who are] wearied and laden; but this voice will not last [for ever]. In that day when the heavens shall part away like a scroll, the elements melt with heat, and the wicked cry, “Hills and mountains, fall on us, and hide us from the face of the Lamb, for the great day of His wrath is come, and who can stand?” Not a word of a Supper then. Alas! the board will be drawn, and God will not care for your company then.

2Orig. “in your common.”

3Orig. “His alone.”

4Orig. “suit.”

The second particular is, The servant is sent out at supper-time, near night, and bed-time. Then the day of God’s mercy is but a supper-time; the edge of the evening; the sun-setting. As long as the gospel speaks, it ever cries, Come, welcome, welcome, Sinners, ye will be welcome to sup with the Lord.

When all the rest were set down at the table, Paul came in, and the master of the house gave him the board-head.

Use. We shall be as welcome to come in at mid-supper, as those, were, who came to the Lord’s vineyard at the sixth and ninth hour of the day. If you come at board-drawing5, as the thief who died at Christ’s right hand, and those who came at the eleventh hour, you come to the dessert. But, beloved, I beseech you, beware that you come not after supper, when the board is drawn, the goodman of the house in his bed, and the door shut, as the foolish virgins did. Remember that it is even now Supper-time, while the word is preached, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood offered; and blessed are they who come to the Supper. But woe be to them who come after, for they shall lie down in the beds of their graves unsupped. As Job says of the hypocrite, “Their bones shall be full of the sins of their youth.” Oh! the world has many debtors, ill debtors, who sell their souls for sin; but what a pitiful thing! for what can they give in exchange for their souls? A man who has to cross the water will run at the first call of the seamen, because he knows the tide will not wait him. And yet now, men who profess they would sail to Canaan, will not come out at the voice of the Lord’s mariners, crying, “Come, it is now tide;” but they let the sea ebb, and sit still. And this is the devil’s craft, when we have our one foot on the shore, and the other in the ship, and have a purpose to sail from our sins, Satan has a word to say. The Levite’s father-in-law, urged him to stay a night with him, and promised him he should go to-morrow, but then, tempted him to stay another night. Even so it is here, after we have stayed in the devil’s service one year, he will urge us to stay another year, and promise he shall then demit. O! that we were wise to close our eyes and ears at Satan’s delays and temptations. And now in the short time of the Gospel, while the table is covered, embrace the Lord’s Supper. Walk while you have the light, says the Lord; “the night cometh wherein no man can work.” Our sins tell us that the long shadows are approaching; the night is at hand, the gospel is to be removed, and happy are they who sup in time.

5I.e. The Scottish practice of fencing in of the communicants and therefore excluding all others as the Supper commences.

The third particular is the reason why they should come—“For all things are now prepared.” And so reasons Solomon, “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table” (Prov 9:1, 2). “Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my failings are killed, and all things are ready, come to the marriage” (Mt 22:4). Thus is mercy offered to the people of the Jews, where their God made all external means (as the word and sacrament) ready for them. So that he says, in Isaiah 5:4, What could I have done more to my vineyard, that I have not done. He stretches out His arms, and holds them out all the day long (Isa 65:2). “Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets” (Prov 1:20). Here God is crying, shouting, and casting out His arms,  crying and shedding tears (Mt 23:37, Lk 19:40). He would have them turn and live. But as it is true of the Jews, so it is of us; He has dressed the whole Supper Himself, covered the table, and there is no more for us to do, but sit down and eat. If we look to this dressed Supper, Christ dressed it all Himself, in the furnace of God’s wrath, and the bread that we here eat is His flesh, which He gave for the life of the world. The wine, which is mingled and drawn is His blood (Jn 6:51). And, O, sirs, was not our Lord a hot man in making ready this Supper? Not one dish is miscooked, all is set before us in the gospel, and Jesus craves no more for all His pains, but only that His friends come to the banquet and eat and be merry; and if ye will come, Christ will pay all the reckoning. When the Israelites were fed with manna, they behoved to go out of the camp, and gather it themselves; but we furnish nothing of this Supper. God be thanked, Christ bears all the expense. Alas! alas! that the unhappy world will not eat heartily, since Christ pays for all. The poor sons of Adam were all sick and at the point of death, and their stomachs were so spoiled with a sour apple that Adam did eat, that they were famished and not able to eat. In comes Jesus and makes a medicinal dinner of His own flesh and blood; lays down Himself and is slain to make physic of His crucified body for us, in order to affect our cure. It is just they die for hunger, and lose their stomach for evermore, who loathe this meat. In the sacrament all things are ready; whatever the soul wants, it shall find at the Table. All the hungry shall find Christ meat and drink (Jn 6:55).

gold, they who are naked shall find Him garments, they who are blind shall find Him light to the eyes. “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich: and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see” (Rev 3:18). Look to the Supper and you shall find it very expensive to Christ, for the fire that made it ready was the wrath of God; the fuel and the elding1 was Christ, and a great burden of the sins of the elect on His back. And if Jesus had not been green timber He had been burnt all to ashes. Christ was first boiled in His own blood, in the garden of Gethsemane; then He was roasted and burnt on the cross, and carved all to pieces with nails, spears, and buffetings, to make Him God’s bread for the mouth and stomach of believers. And the sourest sauce in this supper to Christ, was His dear Father hiding Himself. And when all is done you cannot do Him a worse turn than not to eat heartily. Now, for the Lord’s sake, beloved, please the goodman of the house, and eat and welcome. The last wine will be the best. What would you have! Here is sweet company, eat, you are heartily welcome; and you use to call that great cheer that has great servants. Then there is not a plate set on this table by angels, far less by man. A curse upon them who bring in Mary’s Milk, with Martyrs’ Blood, as a dessert! No, Christ’s blood is in every dish, Christ’s flesh is in every mess, and Christ’s merit is a sweet sauce to all the messes. Other meats have no taste at this Supper. No, they are plain poison, put in by the devil’s hand, who would wish never a living man to rise from the table, but all to be poisoned.

1i.e. fuel or firewood.

… to be continued