The thirteenth chapter of Luke has asked the question if few would be saved. Jesus gave the answer teaching the need to giving every effort to strive through the narrow door. There will be many who seek but will not enter into the kingdom. Jesus is not looking for a casual relationship but for those who will give everything to follow him. Jesus’ teaching sets the tone for the fourteenth chapter of Luke. Luke is going to show us who are the ones who are thrust out. Who are the many who will not be saved? Who are not in the kingdom?
God Who Rescues (1-6)
The first 24 verses of Luke 14 contain one story. The setting is another Sabbath day when the ruler of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine with him at his house. Through our study of Luke we have seen that the Pharisees are not genuinely questioning and learning about Jesus, but are trying to discredit Jesus (cf. Luke 11:53-54). Our author, Luke, wants us to know that this mentality has not changed. Jesus has been invited to the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees with the same purpose. Notice that the Pharisees are watching him carefully. Verse 2 reveals that there was a man at this dinner who had dropsy. Dropsy is a condition where there is a buildup of excess fluids in the cavities or tissues of the body. Luke is making a point: this man is not at this dinner by coincidence. Do you see the setup? It is the Sabbath day and Jesus is invited to dinner in the house of the ruler of the Pharisees. And by great surprise, there is a person who has dropsy at this dinner and they are watching Jesus carefully. Jesus knows the hearts of people. Jesus recognizes the setup. Please notice the text says that Jesus “responded” or “answered.” The Pharisees have not said anything. But Jesus is answering their hearts as he asks the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Notice that the Pharisees remain silent. They are not interested in learning from Jesus or considering their religious convictions. They just want to see what Jesus will do so they can discredit him and dispatch of him. Jesus takes the man with dropsy, heals him, and sends him away. This shows this man was not here for the dinner but was merely a pawn in the Pharisees’ plan. So Jesus heals him and sends him away. Notice Jesus’ teaching:
Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out? (Luke 14:5 ESV) These Pharisees want to use healing as a violation of the law of Moses concerning the Sabbath which said not to work. Jesus shows the ludicrous nature of their thinking by asking if they would rescue an ox or rescue their son who had fallen into a well. Can you imagine telling your son that he would have to stay in the well until Sunday and then I will come back and pull you out? As we noted a couple weeks ago, the Sabbath was a day to remember God’s grace and deliverance from Egyptian slavery, when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt at the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:15). The Sabbath was day to remember how they had been rescued by God from the hand of the Egyptians. Who does not rescue their animal on the Sabbath? How much more should God not rescue this person who is suffering from this medical condition! Now it is easy to stop the story here because our Bibles put headers between verses and 7 and that makes us want to stop. But notice that verse 7 says that Jesus told a parable to those who had been invited to this dinner. Jesus has much more to say. He does not heal this person and leave. Now Jesus will teach whose not in the kingdom of God.
Wedding Parable (7-14)
Verse 7 is very important. Jesus tells a parable. Jesus is not offering a lesson on dinner etiquette. Jesus is not concerned about how people sit at a table. But he is concerned about the hearts of these people because it is causing them to miss out on participating in the kingdom of God. The key teaching of this parable is that it is better to let others exalt you than to be humiliated. Don’t assume for yourself a position. Take the lowest place and let others give you honor. Now, while this is practical information, please recognize that Jesus is teaching to their hearts about their relationship to God.
The proud will not be in the kingdom of God. Don’t assume your position before God. Humility is required to enter the kingdom. Better for God to exalt you as you live a humble life, then to assume honor and for God to humiliate you. God honors humility with exaltation.
Humility is a character trait that is often misunderstood. Humility is not merely how you think about yourself. Humility is observed by our actions. How we treat others reveals humility or pride. Notice that Jesus speaks to the host of this dinner in verse 12. Don’t invite people who can repay you for your kindness. Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind and you will be blessed. People who are humble do not do things to be repaid. Those in the kingdom of God are not concerned about what others can do for them. Humility is seen in doing good without expecting repayment. Do you see what Jesus was saying? Why was Jesus telling the Pharisees to invite the poor, crippled, and blind? Was he just trying to exchange one external, heartless act for another external, heartless act? No, but the humble heart cares for those who can do nothing for you in return.
The scriptures teach us a critical thought that should maintain humility and block any sort of pride. To know God is to understand his infinite greatness and goodness and our own sinfulness and smallness. We are not in the kingdom receiving salvation if we do not understand this truth. Take the lowest seat in the kingdom of God. Stop thinking about yourself. Stop thinking about what others should be doing for you. Don’t act like you are important or that people should give you any attention. Take the lowest seat at the table and let God exalt you. When you think you are someone, God says he will humble you (14:11). Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV) A brother in Bowling Green always made this point: it is hard to fall when you are on your knees. We need to get on our knees because God is infinitely great and good and we are so small and so sinful.
The Parable of Excuses (15-24)
This lead to some tension in the room. Have you ever been in an uncomfortable situation and feel like something needs to be said to smooth things over. One who is at the table, after hearing Jesus’ teaching, declares, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Basically, “it’s going to be great for us.” It seems he did not get the message of what Jesus was saying. They are the ones missing out of the kingdom of God. They are missing out on salvation. So Jesus tells a sharper parable to get his message across. The invitation to a great banquet has gone out. The image of a great feast or banquet was a common symbol for the Messianic kingdom (see verse 15, eating bread in the kingdom of God; also Luke 13:29).
However, when the time of the banquet arrived, they all began to make excuses for a variety of reasons. Everyone has things they think are more important to do. One has purchased a field, one has purchased oxen, and one has just married. Something else is more important than the feast in the kingdom. Each person is making a judgment that other things are more valuable than Jesus and his ministry. This is sad. What could possibly be more important than sitting at the table and feasting in the kingdom? You would rather go look at a field than feast? You would rather go look at oxen than feast? You are married and can’t come? Don’t you think she would like to come to the feast also?
What business could possibly be more important than making sure you have eternal life?? What property could be more valuable to have than a title to heaven? What relationship could ever be more important than the one you have with the God who made you and sent his Son to die for your sins? What could be more important in your life? Who turns down a feast for these things?
When we treasure other things more than we treasure Jesus we are left out of this kingdom. We are part of the many who are seeking but will not enter because we did not give every effort to Jesus. The invitation goes out to the streets of the city. Those invited are the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Please notice who Jesus said is to be invited to their feasts in verse 13: the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Jesus is rescuing the outcasts. The message of the kingdom first went to the Jewish nation but they rejected. Therefore they will not participate in the glorious kingdom of our Lord. Jesus is going to the rest of the world and inviting them to the kingdom.
The master’s goal is to fill his house (14:23). The master will take whoever will accept him and his terms. Who will treasure Jesus above all else? Who will not make excuses for the affairs of this world that they put in the way of being in the kingdom of God? We like to make all kinds of excuses for why we cannot strive and give every effort to be with him. We think that our excuses matter to God. We think we have good reasons. But in the face of what is being offered, our excuses are foolish. It is sad to me to hear all the excuses we make for why we cannot worship Jesus, serve Jesus, love Jesus, or give ourselves fully to Jesus. It truly breaks my heart to hear people think their excuse is acceptable because we are failing to see that we are treasuring that activity more than Jesus. Why isn’t Bible study the most important thing in the world to us? Why isn’t worship the most important thing in the world to us? We think we are seeking but we are dying without Christ. Not only us, but the world is also dying outside of Christ. We are living in the days of verse 23. The message is going out and God wants you to come to his kingdom. We must urge people to come. We must convince people to enter the kingdom, compelling them to see the great feast that has been prepared.
Hear the warning: do not make excuses for not coming to the feast. The kingdom is filled with people who will humble themselves before God. Jesus has come to rescue us from our sins.