Feasts and Invitations
A. Healing on the Sabbath.
1. (Luke 14:1) Jesus eats in a Pharisee’s home.
Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely.
a. He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath: Even though Jesus had some of His greatest disputes with the Pharisees, He still associated with them — not to be one of them, but to love them and show them a godly example.
b. They watched Him closely: Jesus was under constant observation. People wanted to know what He would do in different situations, and they formed their opinions about Jesus (and His God) based on what they saw.
i. Watched Him closely: “The word used for watching is the word used for ‘interested and sinister espionage.’ Jesus was under scrutiny.” (Barclay) As John Trapp wrote, “They watched as intently as a dog doth for a bone.”
ii. In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul explained that we are letters from Jesus, that all men read; and that the letters are not written with ink, but with the Holy Spirit, and not on paper, but on our own hearts. We are the only kind of Bible many will ever read.
2. (Luke 14:2-4) In front of His critics, Jesus heals an afflicted man.
And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go.
a. And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy: Because this was in the home of one of the rulers of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1) this man was an invited guest. Some believe that he was invited simply to provoke Jesus into doing something that they could accuse Him regarding.
i. “Probably the insidious Pharisee had brought this dropsical man to the place, not doubting that our Lord's eye would affect his heart, and that he would instantly cure him; and then he could most plausibly accuse him for a breach of the Sabbath. If this were the case, and it is likely, how deep must have been the perfidy and malice of the Pharisee!” (Clarke)
ii. The man was afflicted with dropsy, which is an “abnormal accumulation of serous fluid in the tissues of the body” (Liefeld), “A disease that swells up the body due to fluids forming in the cavities and tissue.” (Barclay) The word for dropsy here comes from the Greek words for “water” and “face” or “countenance” because the disease often made a person look bloated in their face.
iii. And Jesus, answering: “The arresting word is the word ‘answering.’ These men had said nothing, yet He answered them.” (Morgan) Jesus answered them with both a question and an action.
b. Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? The issue was not about the healing directly, but on healing on the Sabbath. When Jesus healed the man, His accusers believed that He worked on the Sabbath, and violated God’s command, but that wasn’t true. With this question, Jesus reminded them that there was no command against healing on the Sabbath.
i. Jesus never broke the commandments of God, but He often offended man’s traditions that surrounded and extended the commandments of God. The commandments of God are enough, and we should never make the traditions of man — even good traditions — equal to the commandments of God (Mark 7:8-9).
ii. But they kept silent: Notably, Jesus’ accusers had no answer for this question.
c. He took him and healed him, and let him go: We notice that there seems to be no ceremony or hocus-pocus in the healing ministry of Jesus. He simply did it, and the man was completely well. Additionally, since the man’s affliction (dropsy) affected the man’s appearance, it should be understood that the man’s appearance immediately was transformed, indicating health. This was a remarkable miracle.
3. (Luke 14:5-6) Jesus explains why He can heal on the Sabbath.
Then He answered them, saying, “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?” And they could not answer Him regarding these things.
a. 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? Jesus’ logic was simple and impossible to dispute. If it was allowed to help animals on the Sabbath, how much more was it right to heal people who are made in God’s image?
i. “If they said no, they would reveal themselves for what they really were — inhumane religious leaders. If they said yes, they would be breaking their own laws governing the Sabbath.” (Pate)
b. They could not answer Him regarding these things: One reason they could not answer was that in using this analogy Jesus appealed to something good in His accusers. “You aren’t brutal and cruel men. You will help your animals in need. Now, extend that same common-sense kindness to needy people.”
i. “Thus, while our Lord rebuked the wrong attitude and temper of these men, He did so by appealing to the best within them and calling them to be true to it. His purpose is not that of shaming men, but that of saving them.” (Morgan)
B. Jesus teaches on pride and humility.
1. (Luke 14:7) The setting for this teaching.
So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them:
a. So He told a parable: What follows is a parable, a real-life illustration set along side a Biblical truth to give an example. Parables are not fables; Jesus didn’t tell fanciful stories with morals. He took real-life situations familiar to all, and used them to bring forth God’s truth, especially for those open to hear His truth.
b. When He noted how they chose the best places: At the home of the Pharisee, Jesus noticed how people strategically placed themselves so as to be in the best places; that is, the places of most honor.
i. In Jesus’ day, the seating arrangement at a dinner showed a definite order of prestige or honor. The most honored person sat in a particular seat, the next most honored person in another place, and so on down the line.
2. (Luke 14:8-9) What not to do: don’t take the highest place on your own initiative.
“When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.”
a. When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast: A wedding party was the most important social occasion in Jewish life at that time. The seating arrangement at the table indicated one’s standing in the community.
b. Do not sit down in the best place: If one takes the most honored place for himself, he may be asked to be removed if the host would rather have someone else sit there.
i. We don’t have the same exact customs illustrating social standing by the seating arrangements at a wedding. Yet there are constant occasions in modern life where one can display their own sense of self importance, pride, and high opinion of one’s self.
c. And then you begin with shame to take the lowest place: Jesus reminded them of the shame that often comes with self-exaltation. When we allow others (especially God) to promote and lift us up, then we don’t have the same danger of being exposed as someone who exalted himself.
i. The Bible reminds us that we should not play the self-promotion game. We should do our work hard and unto the Lord, and let God raise us up. For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south, but God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another. (Psalm 75:6-7)
3. (Luke 14:10-11) What to do: take a lower place, and let God move you up.
“But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ 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.”
a. Go and sit down in the lowest place: When we are at the lower place, we aren’t there just to be noticed so we can go up higher. Nor are we miserable there, and letting everyone know by our facial expressions that we really don’t belong there. There is something wonderful in being content in whatever place God allows you to have.
i. Jesus wasn’t merely teaching good manners, but a lifestyle that in lowliness of mind esteems others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)
b. “Friend, go up higher.”Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you: Instead, we joyfully embrace the lower place; we aren’t filled with such a high opinion of ourselves that we think we don’t belong there. If the master of the feast were to raise us to a more prominent place, then it would be all the more satisfying (you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table).
i. Especially in Christian service, there is something wonderful about knowing that God has raised you up, instead of you raising yourself up to prominence of some sort.
c. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted: When we seek to take honor to ourselves, we will always be humbled — if not on earth, then for all of eternity. The promise of exaltation for the humble and humiliation for the proud is one ultimately fulfilled in eternity.
i. We don’t have the same cultural situation for wedding feasts today; but we certainly do have the desire to grasp for a certain position or status. And we even learn how to do our grasping with a spiritual veneer.
ii. We may choose the low place, and act meek and humble, so that others may notice how humble we are. This is a subtle form of spiritual pride that is very dangerous.
iii. When we get our own position, either through outward or subtle pride, we can even say, “It was the Lord, it was the Lord” — but in our heart of hearts we know it was us, our own calculation, our own schemes, our own grasping. We should remember the words of George MacDonald: In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably — or succeed more miserably.
d. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted: Jesus was the perfect One to teach on this subject, because He fulfilled it perfectly. He is the ultimate example of someone who deserved the highest place, but took the lowest place, and was granted the highest place (Philippians 2:5-11).
4. (Luke 14:12-14) Jesus warns His host about the danger of pride when it comes to the guest list.
Then He also said to him who invited Him, “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.”
a. When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends: Jesus spoke this specifically to him who invited Him. Jesus saw that His host chose his guests from a sense of exclusion and pride, lacking love to others. Jesus told him to not only ask those who could repay something to the host.
i. Do not ask is more properly “do not habitually ask” (Geldenhuys). It isn’t wrong to ever invite your friends, your brothers, and so on; but it is wrong to only invite such people.
b. Lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid: It is wrong to only associate with people who can advance us or give something to us. It is easy for us to limit our friends to a few comfortable, easy people, instead of reaching out to others.
i. Jesus here told us to not associate with people only on the basis of what they could do for us. That is self-centered living; we are called to follow Jesus, and He showed others-centered living.
ii. There is something wonderful in giving a gift that can never be repaid. This is some of the more blessing Jesus spoke of when He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). This helps to explain some of the pleasure of God in giving the gift of salvation and blessing to His people.
c. You shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just: This kind of living will cost us something; yet we will be repaid, with the full repayment coming at the resurrection of the just. Here again Jesus shows how important it is to live with an eternal perspective.
i. You shall be repaid reminds us that we will never be the loser when we give after the pattern of God’s generosity.
C. The guests of the Messiah’s Banquet.
1. (Luke 14:15) An exclamation about the Messiah’s Banquet.
Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
a. Now when one of those who sat at the table: Still at the dinner given by one of the rulers of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1), Jesus had just spoken strongly, warning them against traditionalism, pride, and exclusivity. Perhaps this one of those thought to break the tension with these words.
b. Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God! The man spoke of the goodness and blessedness of the great banquet with the Messiah that was spoken of many times in the Old Testament, and is known in the New Testament as the marriage supper of the Lamb: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! (Revelation 19:9)
2. (Luke 14:16-20) The parable of the great feast: Invitations and excuses.
Then He said to him, “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.’”
a. A certain man gave a great supper and invited many: Jesus told a parable about a man who gave a great feast, a large banquet, inviting many people to come. Normally, this was just the sort of occasion that people would be thrilled to attend, and be quite happy to be invited.
b. Come, for all things are now ready: In an age before the clock, the date of the banquet was announced long before, but the exact time only was announced the very day.
i. This means that many accepted the invitation when it was first given; yet when the actual time of the banquet came, they were of a different mind. “To accept the invitation beforehand and then to refuse it when the day came was a grave insult.” (Barclay)
ii. By analogy, we can say that God has made it so all things are now ready for men to come and receive from Him. We come to God and find that He has been ready for us.
c. But they all with one accord began to make excuses: Central to this parable are the excuses that were offered. The excuses are different, but really all the same — they all with one accord began to make excuses.
i. Excuses are made. They are fashioned for convenience and are clung to in desperation. Hope doesn’t begin until excuses end. “Excuses are curses, and when you have no excuses left there will be hope for you.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The excuses begin to explain why such a wonderful invitation was rejected. This answers an important question asked by many: If Christianity is so true and so good, why don’t more embrace it? Why don’t more accept the invitation?
d. I have bought a piece of ground… I have bought five yoke of oxen: The first two excuses had to do with material things, and were foolish excuses. Only a fool first buys a piece of land, and then goes to check it. Only a fool buys ten oxen and is only interested in testing them after the purchase.
i. When we buy something new, we are almost always preoccupied by it. Preoccupation with material things and experiences is a common excuse for not following Jesus.
e. I have married a wife: The third excuse had to do with a man who put his family before everything. The best thing we can show to our family is that they are not first in our lives, but that Jesus Christ is.
i. These excuse makers condemned themselves; their excuses were only a thin veil hiding the fact that they did not want to come. “Back of an excuse is a lack of desire.” (Morgan) There is no rational reason why someone would not want to be part of this feast; they just didn’t want to.
ii. I cannot come: “In saying, ‘I cannot come,’ the man intended, as it were, to dismiss the matter. He wished to be understood as having made up his mind, and he was no longer open to argument. He did not parley; he did not talk; but he just said, off-hand, ‘I want no more persuading; I cannot come, and that settles it.’” (Spurgeon)
3. (Luke 14:21-24) The parable of the great feast: Filling the feast.
“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.’”
a. So that servant came and reported these things to his master: The master of the feast must have been surprised at the response; he was certainly angry. It was strange and offensive that so many made excuses when given such a wonderful invitation.
b. 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: If those first invited to the feast refused, there would still be a feast, because the master would not prepare a banquet in vain.
i. We see that Jesus responded to the man’s exclamation Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God! (Luke 14:15) by asking, “You admire the Messianic Banquet; yet are you ready to receive the invitation to come? Will you make excuses?”
ii. This is an especially relevant question when one considers the sort of people who will also be at the feast: redeemed sinners and the maimed and the lame and blind.
c. Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled: The master of the feast was determined that some would enjoy what he had prepared. If those originally invited made excuses, the master commanded his servants to use all persuasion (compel them to come) to fill the feast.
i. Jesus said compel to indicate God’s great desire to fill His house, and because these wanderers and outcasts needed to be convinced that they were welcome, compelled by love.
ii. “So if we are to have many sinners saved, we must go out of our own quiet haunts, and go forth into frequented places. We must preach in the street, or at the market-place, or on the village green.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Tragically, Augustine and others used the phrase compel them to come in as a justification to coerce people into Christianity, sometimes using persecution and torture. “It was taken as a command to coerce people into the Christian faith. It was used as a defence of the inquisition, the thumb-screw, the rack, the threat of death and imprisonment, the campaigns against heretics, all those things which are the shame of Christianity.” (Barclay)
iv. Even John Trapp (1601-1669) agreed with this idea: “This may be meant (saith Mr Perkins) of the Christian magistrate; for that is the magistrate’s duty in respect of the outward profession.”
v. Bruce on compel: “Reflects in the first place the urgent desire of the master to have an absolutely full house, in the second the feeling that pressure will be needed to overcome the incredulity of country people as to the invitation to them being meant seriously. They would be apt to laugh in the servant’s face.”
vi. “As the commentators well recognize, the veiled reference is to the Gentiles who would soon be invited to enter the kingdom of God through faith in Christ.” (Pate)
D. The cost of receiving the invitation.
1. (Luke 14:25-26) Disciples must put Jesus first.
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
a. Now great multitudes went with Him: As Jesus continued toward Jerusalem, many went with Him. He then spoke an appropriate word to these great multitudes (He turned and said to them).
b. He cannot be My disciple: Jesus clearly spoke about the kind of person who could not be His disciple. The word disciple simply means “learner.” A disciple is someone who is a student, a learner of Jesus.
i. Previously, Jesus said that coming to God was like accepting an invitation (Luke 14:16-24). Jesus was careful to add that there is more to being His follower than simply accepting an invitation.
c. If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple: Jesus boldly said that the true disciple comes to Him without reservation, setting Jesus first. Other relationships are definitely of lower priority than faithfulness and obedience to Jesus.
i. This was an audacious demand. None of the prophets or apostles asked for such personal commitment and devotion. If Jesus was not and is not God, this would be idolatry and probably madness.
ii. Napoleon understood this principle when he said, “I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander [the Great], Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and this hour millions of men would die for him.”
d. And does not hate: Repeatedly in the Bible we see that Jesus founded a way of love, not hate. Yet Jesus used the strong word hate to show how great the difference must be between our allegiance to Jesus and our allegiance to everyone and everything else.
i. “It is only in a comparative sense, and not literally, that the term can possibly be used; and to make this very clear, Christ said that we are to hate our own life.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Normally, being a follower of Jesus makes someone a better and more beloved family member; being a follower of Jesus doesn’t automatically divide families. Yet it certainly sometimes divides, and more so among non-Christian or anti-Christian cultures.
iii. The greatest danger of idolatry comes not from what is bad, but from what is good — such as love in family relationships. The greatest threat to the best often comes from second best.
2. (Luke 14:27) Disciples must count themselves as dead; they must go all the way.
“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
a. And whoever: We remember that Jesus spoke this to the great multitudes, instructing them on what it meant to be His disciple — especially, that it is more than accepting an invitation.
b. Bear his cross and come after Me: Here Jesus said to the great multitudes something very similar to what He said privately to all His disciples in Luke 9:23 — that being a follower of Jesus is something like bearing a cross.
i. This probably horrified His listeners. As Jesus spoke these words, everybody knew what He meant. In the Roman world, before a man died on a cross, he had to carry his cross (or at least the horizontal beam of the cross) to the place of execution. When the Romans crucified a criminal, they didn’t just hang them on a cross. They first hung a cross on him.
ii. Everyone knew this. “When the Roman general, Varus, had broken the revolt of Judas in Galilee [4 BC], he crucified two thousand Jews, and placed the crosses by the wayside along the roads to Galilee.” (Barclay)
iii. Carrying a cross always led to death on a cross. No one carried a cross for fun. The first hearers of Jesus didn’t need an explanation of the cross; they knew it was an unrelenting instrument of torture, death, and humiliation. If someone took up his cross, he never came back. It was a one-way journey.
c. His cross: Jesus chose this phrasing instead of saying, “The cross” or “A cross.” The idea is that there is a cross suited to each individual, and one person’s experience of the cross may not look just like another person’s experience of the cross.
i. “The general idea that these words of Jesus about bearing the cross refer to passive submission to all kinds of afflictions, like disappointments, pain, sickness and grief that come upon man in life, is totally wrong... only a person who for the sake of His service surrenders all self-seeking and abandons all striving after his own interests can be His disciple.” (Geldenhuys)
d. And come after Me: Jesus made it clear that the one who bore his own cross would follow the life and pattern of Jesus. Jesus here recognized that He would bear His own cross; that He would go before.
i. This is following Jesus at its simplest. He carried a cross, so His followers carry one. He walked to His self-death, so must those who would follow Him.
ii. “When Jesus said this he was on the road to Jerusalem. He knew that he was on the way to the cross; the crowds who were with him thought that he was on his way to an empire.” (Barclay)
e. Cannot be My disciple: Jesus made it clear that only cross-bearers can be His disciples. Therefore, we sometimes may understate the demands of Jesus when we present the gospel. We can give them the impression that coming to Jesus is only to believe some facts instead of to yield a life.
i. “It is possible to be a follower of Jesus without being a disciple; to be a camp-follower without being a soldier.” (Barclay)
3. (Luke 14:28-33) Carefully measuring the cost of following Jesus.
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it; lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
a. Sit down first and count the cost: In the parable of the tower Jesus said, “Sit down and see if you can afford to follow Me.”
b. Sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand: In the parable of the king Jesus said, “Sit down and see if you can afford to refuse My demands.”
i. Jesus perhaps alluded to the idea that the work of His kingdom was like building and battle. Each of these are usually more costly than one thinks before beginning.
c. Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple: We have a difficult challenge in understanding and communicating the gospel here; there are two extremes to avoid.
i. We can never give people the impression that they have to clean up their lives before they come to Jesus; that is like washing up before you take a bath.
ii. Yet likewise we can never give people the impression that Jesus won’t want to clean up their lives with their cooperation after they come to Him.
iii. It is important for every potential disciple — those of the great multitudes that followed and heard Jesus (Luke 14:25) — to consider the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Yet those who choose to reject and resist God should count that cost as well. What possible good can come from opposing God? It costs something to be the disciple of Jesus; it costs more to reject Him.
d. Forsake all that he has: This ancient Greek phrase had the idea, “To say goodbye to.” Jesus told us to say goodbye to everything we have, entrusting it to Jesus.
4. (Luke 14:34-35) Given the demands of discipleship, don’t be a lukewarm follower of Jesus.
“Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
a. If the salt has lost its flavor: Salt that loses its “saltiness” is of no use. A professed believer who through corruption or assimilation loses distinctiveness, flavor, or preservative value is of no use as a follower of Jesus.
b. It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill: Salt is only useful when it has the nature of salt. A Christian is only useful when he or she has the nature of Christ.
5. (Luke 15:1) The reaction of the multitude to the strong call of allegiance to Jesus.
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.
a. Then all the tax collectors and the sinners: Among the great multitude described in Luke 14:25, the most notoriously sinful drew near to Jesus in response to His strong words about discipleship.
i. The strong call to discipleship was consistent with the love of Jesus; it was the result of His love.
b. Drew near to Him to hear Him: They did not necessarily give Jesus their trusting love and allegiance immediately; but they did want to hear more. Sinners and outcasts saw the love prompting the bold call to discipleship, and they responded.
i. People respond to a challenging gospel if the truth is spoken in love. We do a great disservice when we appear to soften the demands of the gospel, either for others or for ourselves.
©2018 David Guzik — No distribution beyond personal use without permission
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- Morgan, G. Campbell "Searchlights from the Word" (New York: Revell, 1926)
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- Trapp, John "A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments" Volume 5 (Matthew to Revelation) (Eureka, California: Tanski Publications, 1997)
Updated: August 2022