LUKE CHAPTER 14.
Christ the Guest of a Pharisee. Luke 14, 1-14.
Healing a man afflicted with dropsy on the Sabbath: V. 1. And it came to pass, as He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath-day that they watched Him. V. 2. And, behold, there was a certain man before Him which had the dropsy. V. 3. And Jesus, answering, spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? V. 4. And they held their peace. And He took him, and healed him, and let him go; v. 5. and answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath-day? V. 6. And they could not answer Him again to these things. The Pharisees continued their method of attempting to provoke Jesus to some rash utterance, chap. 11, 53. 54. It was for this reason, also, that He was invited by one of their number, as once before. His host was one of the chief, or first, among the Pharisees, occupying a position of honor among them, since they had no regular rulers. He may have been a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest council of the Jewish Church, or he may have been known for the excellency of his learning. In the house of this man Jesus was a guest; for feasting on the Sabbath was common among the Jews, though they were permitted to serve only cold dishes. The Pharisees had an object in inviting the Lord, for they were observing Him most carefully and suspiciously. They had, as they thought, arranged a trap for Him. For when Jesus came into the house, there was, as though by chance, and yet by most cunning planning, a dropsical man. The omniscient Christ knew their thoughts, answering them as though they had spoken aloud. He addressed Himself to all the scribes and Pharisees present, for they were all equally guilty. His question was the same which He had asked upon other occasions, whether it was the right, the proper, the obligatory thing to heal on the Sabbath-day or not. His question implied an assertion in the affirmative, and they found themselves unable to contradict Him, preferring to say nothing, since their heart and conscience told them that they could not deny the fact which Jesus wanted to convey. Works of love were indeed permitted on the Sabbath-day, even according to the strictest Mosaic law. And so Jesus fulfilled the greatest law of all: putting His hand upon the sick man, He healed him and sent him away. Then the Lord turned once more to the Pharisees and answered their unspoken thoughts, which condemned the healing on the Sabbath. He asked them whether it would not be self-evident for them, in case one of their domestic animals, a mere beast of burden, should fall into a pit, an empty cistern, to draw the poor victim of the accident up at once, without the slightest hesitation, without paying any attention to the fact that it might be the Sabbath-day. Once more they were silenced, not being able to contradict the statement of the Lord, since it was impossible to do anything but acknowledge the truth of His argument. Note: The Pharisee, in inviting Jesus, professed friendship, affection, and respect for Him, while at the same time he was preparing snares to catch Him. Thus many children of the world will simulate interest and regard for the Gospel and its ministry, while in reality they are trying to draw out the Christians, in order to ridicule their belief in the words of Holy Scripture. Also: The same Sabbath fanatics that made the life of Jesus miserable at times are at work also in our days, insisting upon all manner of outward observances of Sunday, though many of them are not one whit concerned about the pure preaching of the Gospel. "The doctrine of Sabbath has mainly this object, that we learn to understand the Third Commandment correctly. For to sanctify the Sabbath means to hear God's Word and to help our neighbor wherever possible. For God does not want the Sabbath kept so holy that we should on that account leave and forsake our neighbor in his trouble. Therefore, if I serve my neighbor and help him, though this means work, I have kept the Sabbath rightly and well; for I have performed a divine work on it." 79)
A parable teaching humility: V. 7. And He put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when He marked how they chose out the chief rooms, saying unto them, v. 8. When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room, lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him, v. 9. and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. V. 10. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room, that, when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher; then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. V. 11. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. The eyes of Jesus were always observing the manner in which people behaved under various conditions of life, for He drew lessons from everything. At the ordinary feasts of the Jews there was a good deal of informality, but at the wedding-suppers the question of rank was very important. Jesus had noticed upon this occasion that the guests all made an attempt to take the sofas of honor, the first pillows, at the head of the table. And so He teaches them a lesson concerning the higher sphere of morality and religion. At a wedding-feast the guests should not strive for the most honored seats, for it might easily happen that one to whom greater respect is due on account of his rank or station is among those invited. And what a humiliation it would be then if the host would openly request the forward guest to give up his place to the guest of honor, while the other shamefacedly and with ill grace would have to move to the last place! The Lord therefore advises the opposite method, to choose the lowest place, for then it might well happen that the humble guest would be invited in the presence of the assembled guests to move farther to the head of the table, thus receiving honor before all that reclined with him at the tables. It was not a mere question of prudence and good form which Jesus here broached, but it was a rebuke of the presumption and pride of the guests. Incidentally, it illustrates a rule which finds its application in the kingdom of God: Every one that exalts himself will be humbled, and He that humbles himself will be exalted. He that exalts himself, places himself above his neighbor, boasts of his own merit and worthiness before God, he will be humbled, will be excluded from the kingdom of God. But he that humbles himself before God, and consequently places himself also below his neighbor as a willing servant to minister unto his needs as occasion offers, he will be exalted, he will receive honor in the kingdom of God. For such humility expresses the true disposition of a disciple, it is an evidence of a repentance which is conscious of its own unworthiness, and of faith, which glories only in the cross of Jesus and finds comfort only in His mercy.
Advice to the host: V. 12. Then said He also to him that bade Him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors, lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. V. 13. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, v. 14. and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. A lesson in true, selfless service. Upon the occasion of a dinner or supper the invitations should not go out to friends and relatives and brothers, and especially not to rich neighbors, if this were intended as a bait for receiving greater favors in return. If any apparent service is rendered with that idea in mind, to receive in return, and perhaps more than was given, it does not come under the heading of charity and kindness, and should not be advertised as such. On the other hand, if, as the Law required of the Jews, Deut. 14, :28. 29; 16, 11; 26, 1113, a kindness is shown to such as are in need of it, to the poor, to those suffering with sickness or bodily debility, to the lame, to the blind, then the person performing such unselfish works will be happy in the pleasure of having done a kindness not to be repaid by the recipients. Such charity would flow out of faith and would therefore receive a reward of mercy at the hands of God on the last day. He would receive in return, just as though he were worthy of it, such kindness as would be altogether out of proportion to the small labor of love which he was glad to show his unfortunate neighbors. He will, on account of this proof of a faith which must come forth in works of love, be looked upon as just, as justified, in the sight of God. Note: Jesus, in this parable, does not condemn the festival meals of friends, relatives, and neighbors, otherwise He would not have accepted the invitation of the Pharisee, but He would call attention to this fact: If any one on account of such intrinsically harmless parties and gatherings forgets the poor and unfortunate and neglects to show the proper manifestation of Christian charity, he places a false valuation upon social intercourse and forfeits the heavenly reward; he will have no part in the resurrection of the just for the recompense of the just. For where there is no charity toward one's neighbor, faith also will be missing. Luther gives as the summary of the entire Gospel-lesson, vv. 1-14: "Charity and necessity must be the norms for all' laws; and there should be no law that should not be bent and interpreted according to love; if there be, it should be abrogated, though an angel from heaven had made it. And all this serves for the purpose that our hearts and consciences be strengthened thereby. Then, also, the Lord teaches us how we shall humble ourselves and subject ourselves to others." 80)
The Great Supper. Luke 14, 15-24.
The invitation: V. 15. 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. V. 16. Then said He unto him, A certain man made a great supper and bade many; v. 17. and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. One of the guests at the feast of the Pharisee was deeply impressed by the words of Christ, and especially by His allusion to the happiness which would be the lot of those that would be included in the resurrection of the just. The consummation of such glory filled him with a deep and ardent longing for the blessings which might be expected up in heaven. His remark may have been due mainly to the enthusiasm of the moment, but it served to call forth a very beautiful parable from the Lord. Blessed is he that eats bread in the kingdom of God, in the time of the fulfillment of the Church of Christ in heaven, where all those that have been accounted righteous will eat of the eternal pleasures and drink of the water of life, world without end. Jesus, in answering upon this exclamation, addressed Himself primarily to the speaker, but also to all the rest that were gathered about the tables. A certain man, a man of means and influence, as the story shows, made a great feast, prepared a supper of unusual magnitude. Great this feast was, as well on account of the abundance of refreshing foods as on account of the fact that it was intended for many guests. In accordance with the elaborate plans of the host, many were invited; the first invitation went out to a great number of people. When the time of the feast had come, the master of the house sent out his own servant, trusted and faithful, to give the customary second reminder or repetition of the first invitation. It was an urgent call: Come, for now are ready all things! The guests were asked to come to the feast prepared for them, and at once, for everything was now in readiness for them.
The excuses: V. 18. 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. V. 19. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me. excused. V. 20. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. With one consent, as if by previous agreement, the invited guests began to excuse themselves, courteously enough, but with an air of finality which cannot be overlooked; they begged off, they did not want to 'come. The excuses of three of them are given as examples. One had bought a piece of ground, and just at that time the necessity devolved upon him to look it over; the purchase had not yet been made unconditional, and so it was absolutely necessary for him to go out at just this moment. His business was more important than the supper: he begged to be released from his promise. A second invited guest had just purchased five yoke, or pair, of oxen, and he was on the way to examine them. He was not even so anxious as the first man to make his refusal appear unavoidable: he wanted to go, it pleased him to do so, his business was also dearer and more important to him than the invitation. A third coolly stated to the servant that he had married a wife and therefore could not come. His marriage had taken place since he had first received the invitation, and that, he considered, absolved him from any social duties that he may have promised. It is not the factor of carnal pleasure that is here emphasized, but merely the fact that in his new happiness he cared nothing for distractions.
The result: V. 21. So that servant came, and showed 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. V. 22. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. V. 23. 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. V. 24. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. The servant was obliged to bring his master the news of the rejection of the invitations. The latter naturally became angry over such behavior, but immediately thought of a plan by which he might procure guests for his feast in a short time. The servant was to lose no time in going out, both on the broad streets and on the narrow lanes of the city, and to bring into the house of the master the poor and the weak, or crippled, and the blind and the halt. The servant had not anticipated his master's command, but now hurriedly fulfilled it, returning with the report that the instructions had been carried out to the letter, but that there was still room. Then, as a last resort, the master sent the servant out to the country, along the highways and hedges, on the main roads, as well as on the footpaths running through the fields, alongside the hedges. Whomever he should find there, he should invite urgently, compellingly, since the poor people might not want to consider the fact of their having been invited seriously. The object of the master was frankly to fill his house. But so far as the first guests were concerned, the solemn declaration is made that not one of them would so much as taste of the feast which had been prepared with such care.
The meaning of the parable in the light of New Testament fulfillment is clear. The master of the house is God Himself, the almighty, but also gracious and merciful Lord. "The preaching of Christ is the great, glorious supper, to which He asks guests in order to sanctify them through His Baptism, comfort and strengthen them through the Sacrament of His body and blood; that they should be in need of nothing, that there be a great plenty and every one be satisfied." 81) The food to be provided was thus the Gospel with all its glories, yea, Christ Himself, complete justification, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. When Jesus came into the world, the hour of the great supper had come, Gal. 4, 4. 5. He Himself is the Servant of the Lord in the most exclusive sense, Is. 42, 1; 49,6; 52,13; 53,11. Personally, through His herald John the Baptist, and through the apostles He repeated the invitation which had been issued through the prophets, that the time had come to which all the patriarchs and prophets had looked forward, that the kingdom of God had come near them. Christ went to the children of the house of Israel, for them His personal ministry was intended; they were the chosen people of God, Rom. 3, 2; 9, 5. To them and to their children the promise was published first. And so Christ journeyed back and forth through the length and breadth of the country of the Jews, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. And the apostles followed up His work, proclaiming the Gospel to the Jews first. But Israel as a whole wanted nothing of the glorious news pertaining to their salvation, they refused the invitation. Their minds were centered in earthly things, they expected a temporal kingdom of the Messiah. And their leaders, having a show of sanctity, used this as a cloak for their covetousness and their seeking for pleasure. They despised and rejected the Gospel of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Then God in His anger turned from them. Jesus sought the poor and unknown among the Jewish people, those that were spiritually sick, halt, and blind. He called the publicans and sinners to Him and assured them that salvation was theirs. Poor fishermen, former publicans, reformed sinners, were the members of Christ's flock, 1 Cor. 1, 26-28. And finally Jesus, through His apostles and other messengers, brought the invitation of God out into the world of the Gentiles, that were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, Eph. 2, 12. From all nations of the world the Lord is calling men to His great supper, that they may receive the fulness of His goodness and mercy. He is calling urgently and pleadingly; His call is sincere and powerful. He prepares the way for the preaching of the Gospel by the proclamation of the Law, that the sinner may learn to know his helplessness and rely upon the righteousness of the Redeemer all alone. "That is what it means to compel, if we fear the wrath of God and desire help from Him. If that has been accomplished through preaching, and the hearts are broken and terrified, then preaching is continued in the words: Dear person, do not despair, though thou art a sinner and hast such a terrible condemnation upon thee; rather do this: thou art baptized, now hear the Gospel. There thou wilt learn that Jesus Christ died for thy sake and has made satisfaction for thy sins on the cross." 82) The merciful call of God is effective through the Gospel: that is the way in which a person comes to the great supper. Christ calls and pleads; the table is set; the full redemption is obtained; God is merciful to men for Christ's sake. But if a person does not come and does not want to come, then it is his own fault. The Lord has called, and He sincerely offers to all men the riches of His grace. Those that despise His call will be excluded, by their own fault, from the joys of salvation, from the eternal supper of bliss in heaven.
The Obligations of Christ's Discipleship. Luke 14, 25-35.
Bearing the cross: V. 25. And there went great multitudes with Him; and He turned and said unto them, v. 26. If any man come to Me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. V. 27. And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. When Jesus left the house of the Pharisee to continue His journey, there followed Him, as usual, great multitudes of people, going with Him for the usual reason, mere external inquisitiveness. To these Jesus expounded the requirements of true discipleship. The mere following after Christ for the sake of seeing miracles signified and availed nothing. If any one comes to Him, with a view to close and permanent discipleship, sacrifices are necessary from the standpoint of this world. First of all, the love of Christ must precede all other love, even that of the nearest friends and relatives, Matt. 10, 37. Absolute devotion to< Him and to His cause requires that natural love to one's relatives be relegated to the background, that life itself be denied, that the heart be torn away from temporal possessions, that the cross of Christ be willingly shouldered, though it sink in deeply and bruise unmercifully. All rival masters and interests must be put away that the love of the great Master may be supreme. If this devotion and work should demand the final sacrifice of life, according to His example, even that must be willingly given for the sake of the love He bore us.
Two parables for emphasis: V. 28. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? V. 29. Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, v. 30. saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. V. 31. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? V. 32. Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an embassage, and desireth conditions of peace. V. 33. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple. Foolish is he that counteth not the cost. If a man wants to build a tower, a fine, high structure, prominent before all the buildings in the neighborhood, prudence will dictate that he sit down first and' calculate the cost very carefully. His plan will be gone over thoroughly; the material is painstakingly grouped and added; the exact cost of the project is computed. For if the man should start to build and then find that it is impossible for him to finish up, he will become an object of ridicule for all the passers-by. In the same way, prudence will govern the actions of a king who has broken off diplomatic relations with another ruler. He will call in all his counselors and make a very careful calculation whether he will be able to carry out his plans in case he should decide to assume the offensive. And in case the matter seems dubious, he will prefer to enter upon negotiations with the enemy in time, and find out his conditions of peace. Either parable teaches the necessity of considering the costs; either one represents the absurdity of those that undertake to be disciple of Jesus Christ shall require no less difficulties they are to meet with, and what strength they have to enable them to go through with the undertaking. "He that will be a true disciples of Jesus Christ shall require no less than the mighty power of God to support him, as both hell and earth will unite to destroy him." Because complete self-renunciation is required, earnest consideration is absolutely unavoidable. So much the discipleship of Christ demands, and so much the true disciple will give cheerfully.
A final warning: V. 34. Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith. shall it be seasoned? V. 35. It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. The very fact of self-renunciation brings out the genuineness of the discipleship, which must have the same seasoning power as salt. Cp. Matt. 5, 13; Mark 9, 51. As long as salt is strong, it has value for seasoning; but if it becomes insipid (almost a contradiction in itself), it has lost its purpose in the world. It can no longer be used in the preparation of foods for the table; it is neither earth nor fertilizer; out they cast it, since it is worthless, mere refuse. If the purifying influence of the Christians in the midst of the unbelieving world of these latter days ceases, if the Church is no longer a power for good, by the preaching that is done from its pulpits and by the example of the life of its adherents, then savor and worth are lost at the same time. The reason for existence can no longer be urged in such a case. Every individual Christian that fails of his wonderful destiny due to the call of God in him, that does not in speech and life confess Jesus the Christ, is deceiving himself, as well as others, but not God. He can well distinguish between seasoning salt and savorless salt. It is an impressive lesson, emphatically brought out by the Lord's "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!" For many so-called Christians mere outward formality seems to be sufficient. But God looks upon heart and mind, and demands sincerity in His confession and service.
Summary. Jesus heals a dropsical man on the Sabbath, gives a lesson in humility and true altruism, tells the Parable of the Great Supper, and explains some of the obligations of Christian discipleship.