1. 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.
This event apparently took place on one of His three remaining days of miracle ministry as He was traveling toward Jerusalem. He is invited into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees to eat, but this is not the friendly invitation that it seems. Once again they have invited Him in order to watch Him in hopes that He will heal on the Sabbath and give them a cause to accuse Him.
“To eat bread” is a figure of speech here for eating food. Bread was a major staple of their diet, and thus was substituted for all kinds of food, just as wine was a major staple of their beverages, and so is put for all kinds of drink.
We would note the several times in the book of Luke that we have seen the Lord dining in the home of a Pharisee. We tend to look at the Pharisees with the idea that they were the hated enemies of the Lord. While there is some truth to this, that is not the way most people of the day would have looked at them. We know that there were various factions and parties in Israel. The three that are mentioned in the Word of God are the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. Of these three, the Pharisees were by far the best.
Some here might protest that there were other parties in Israel. Men commonly bring up the Essenes. However, these were a separatist group who went off into the wilderness and little affected the life of the average Israelite living in the land. This was really a small fringe group, and the only reason we know about them and think they are important today is because of the dead sea scrolls they left behind them. Really, this party was not important to the life of Israel as a whole.
Now let us consider these three parties. The Sadducees had largely given up on the teachings of Scripture. In spite of the fact that the Word clearly spoke of angels and resurrection, the Sadducees had given up on both of these. Because they did not believe in life after death, they tended to hold themselves to a far lower standard of moral conduct than the Pharisees did. The lack of respect for Scripture and the looser morals of the Sadducees clearly made them an inferior party to the Pharisees.
The Herodians supported the line of Herod kings. These kings were descended at least in part from the Syrians to the north of Israel, and were really usurpers with no God-given authority. Because the Herods largely got their authority from Rome, to be a Herodian meant you comprised with and accepted the Roman rule. The Herods often lived very morally bankrupt lives as well.
In contrast to these two parties, the Pharisees were all about faithfulness to God, to the Scriptures, and to the law He had given to Israel. They believed the doctrines of Scripture like angels and resurrection which the Sadducees rejected. They supported and lived by a high moral code, and decried the excesses of the other parties and the Gentile nations that surrounded Israel. They supported many of the institutions that God had created for Israel, and were viewed as the keepers of the right ways of following the Lord. Thus, to most good, thinking people in Israel, the Pharisees were clearly the party of choice, at least before the Lord and His followers came on the scene. Of course, they did not “vote” for their parties like we do, but if you were a Godly person and choosing which of these parties to support, there can be no doubt which party you would have to choose.
Now once they faced off with the Lord, the hypocrisy, selfishness, and rebellion against God that was in the heart of the many of the Pharisees came to light. They may have been the “best party” of the major parties in Israel, but they were not all that they pretended to be. When the Lord came, they largely rejected Him, and He in turn showed them for who and what they were. Yet before the Lord came on the scene, there can be little doubt that the caring and thinking man in Israel would have sympathized far more with the Pharisees than any other group. After all, if you didn’t support the Pharisees, what other choice did you have? You didn’t want the Sadducees to get the power, did you? Trust me, you didn’t. So most good men supported the Pharisees, and if we had been there before following Christ became an option, I hope we would have as well.
So we see the significance of the Lord’s dealings with the Pharisees. Many good and true men in Israel supported this party. Indeed, the Lord honored them in many ways, for He never entered the home of a Sadducee or of a Herodian. By eating with them, He was in some ways identifying with them, even as He criticized them and pointed out the hypocrisy in their hearts. Some of them appear to have learned from this, and in Acts 15:5, we read of those of the sect of the Pharisees who believed. We never read of such a thing of the Sadducees. Thus the Pharisees really were the preferred and “best” party in Israel before the Lord came and created His alternative.
We could apply this to our current situation and parties today, yet we do not wish to spend too much time on it and become too political. Let it suffice us to say that most of us support one party or another. We feel that we support this party because it is the best out there, and while we may admit that there is some corruption and hypocrisy in the party, that it is better than the alternative. Well, that may be true, but we need to remember the example of the Pharisees. They were the “best” party in Israel, and yet look how far short they fell from what they should have been! Yet they perhaps were better than our “best” party today. Though we might well support the better party today, we would be wise not to place too much faith in them, or believe them to be too much on “our side.” Remember the Pharisees, the best party in Israel, and realize that for the believer only God can produce a government that we can ever rightfully support with wholehearted devotion.
2. And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy.
A certain man is before Him who has the dropsy. This word is a medical word that occurs only here, and comes from the Greek word for water. Thus it probably implies internal water that causes an ailment. It seems unlikely that this chief Pharisee would just happen to have a man with dropsy hanging around his house. That this man was there was probably no accident, but was part of this trap set up by the Pharisees.
3. And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
The Lord Jesus, of course, knows their thoughts and detects their scheme. Yet He does not run from the issue or shy away from it. Rather, He meets this head on. He responds by asking them the very question they were hoping to catch Him on. How will they then answer?
The “lawyers” here are not what we think of when we use that word. These were not attorneys. Rather, they were doctors or experts when it came to the law God gave through Moses. We would call these doctors of the law, rather than lawyers.
4. But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go.
The Pharisees say nothing, being either unwilling or unable to answer the Lord. What a lot of self-righteous judges these were, ready to pass sentence against the Creator of all! The Lord sees they will not respond, so He goes ahead and heals the man. How can they now accuse Him since He had asked them this question and they had failed to respond? The Lord has indeed outwitted them again.
5. 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?”
The Lord, after performing this miracle in front of them in defiance of their plot, then goes on to question them further. Which of them would not violate the Sabbath if it meant pulling a donkey or an ox they owned out of a pit? Of course the Pharisees, who were very jealous of their material possessions, would be quick to rescue an endangered animal on the Sabbath. Yet of what greater importance is a man than an animal! The sad truth of the matter was, however, that a diseased person did not have the same importance in the eyes of these Pharisees as an animal of theirs that was endangered would have! Thus the Lord Jesus shows clearly their hypocrisy.
Some manuscripts have “a son” rather than “a donkey” here. Yet this seems to make little sense. Why would a son and an ox be spoken of together, as if they were of the same class? The ox and the donkey are mentioned together in Luke 13:15 in a similar example, as well as in the Old Testament command regarding the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14.) We would concur then with the Received Text, and conclude that huios or son is the corruption, not onos or donkey.
6. And they could not answer Him regarding these things.
They are unable to answer Him at all due to the truth of His accusation. He has dissected their plot to find something to accuse Him of, and instead has made them look bad.
7. So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them:
The rest of the guests at this dinner would probably have preferred to ignore the Lord from this point on, or else have eaten their meal in relative silence. The Lord, however, does not allow this to happen. He is ever ready to teach, even these who had invited Him here to trap Him. Yet notice that His teaching to these Pharisees is consistent with most of His teaching to them, which always has to do with rebuke. These men were looking out for their status and reputation, and the Lord Jesus catches them in it just as they had hoped to catch Him in healing on the Sabbath.
At table in those days, there were clearly delineated “higher” and “lower” places, usually dictated by where the host was seated. The word here is actually “first couches,” and this is where they were choosing to seat themselves. The Lord notices how they are jockeying for position and seeking the highest places for themselves. It is to this that His parable speaks.
8. “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;
In His parable He pictures guests sitting down at a more important event than this: a wedding feast. He advises them that, if they are attending such an event, not to choose the best places, as they were doing now, lest one more honorable than they has been invited by the host.
9. “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.
This is a very plausible scenario. An honored guest who came late would have to have an appropriate place cleared for him, but the one displaced, since all the guests were already seated in their places, would be relegated to a very low place indeed, probably the lowest at the table. Then this one would suffer shame rather than honor.
These Pharisees had indeed exalted themselves very much. Their seat at table was only an illustration of the many ways that they had tried to promote themselves. Yet when God came and took control of things, He would relegate them to a very low place indeed, and to great shame.
10. “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.
The Lord’s advice to them rather is to seat themselves immediately in the lowest place. Thus, when the host sees them there, he may feel that this is inappropriate, and will come to raise them higher, thus exalting them in the sight of all the other guests.
The one who chooses an inappropriately low place for himself will be noticed and be glorified for doing so. It seems that God will do the same for those who humble themselves. In our secret dispensation when God is not making His mind known regarding how much honor He gives to any man, we make no mistake if we likewise take a very low place for ourselves. This world often operates based on the very high claims that some make for themselves. Yet we would do better if we would make no such claims. Better it is to say that we are sinners saved by grace, and nothing more. If we have taken too low a place, then when God sets things in order, He will raise us. Yet what shame there will be for those who have taken too high a place! For then, they will be humbled, and their arrogant self-importance rebuked.
The advice that the Lord gives here is not unique to His ministry. His teaching here is actually an adaptation of a teaching of Solomon already recorded in the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 25:6-7, we read:
6. Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king,
And do not stand in the place of the great;
7. For it is better that he say to you,
“Come up here,”
Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince,
Whom your eyes have seen.
Here, we read a proverb that echoes the same teaching Christ was giving here in Luke 14. He only adapted it from standing before a king to attending a feast. Yet the principle is the same as that put forth by Solomon a thousand years before. Ultimately, since Solomon’s wisdom came from the Lord, we know that the Lord Jesus was the source of this wisdom in the first place. Now, He adapts His wisdom to this situation, and teaches these rich rulers the lesson that they had failed to learn from the Scriptures He had given them.
11. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
How true this is in our relationship with God! Only by humbling ourselves and accepting His provision on our behalf can we truly please our God and win His favor. Too many prefer to make bold and boastful claims. These might impress men, but they do not impress God. God knows just how small we are, and we would do better to wait for Him to exalt us than to foolishly seek to exalt ourselves.
12. 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.
The Lord continues with further advice as to what to do when you give a dinner or supper. He suggests that you not ask your friends, relatives, brothers, or rich neighbors. This is often what we will do ourselves when we are planning who to invite over for a dinner. When we do this, there are often feelings that this must be repaid, and when we are invited to another person’s house for a dinner, we often feel that we must someday return the favor. We feel we always must repay any favor done for us.
13. “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.
The Lord’s advice is rather to invite men like this: the poor, maimed, lame, and blind. This is something that rich men like those with whom He was dining would normally never do. They always wanted to keep company with those they felt were of their class and status. Do not we often do the same even today?
14. “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Because these poor, maimed, lame, and blind cannot give anything back to those who invite them to a dinner, the one who invites them has truly given a gift, and Christ proclaims that those who act like this, though they may never receive anything for it in this life, will receive their reward in the resurrection of the just. How good it is to know that our sacrifices will not go unnoticed!
The resurrection of the just here is the same as the resurrection of the righteous. The Greek word dikaios is sometimes translated “just,” and sometimes “right” or “righteous.” We believe, along with the apostle Paul, that there will be both a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24:15.) There will be no reward, but only condemnation, for those who take part in the resurrection of the unrighteous. However, for those who take place in the resurrection of the righteous, there will be rewards, and for those who have given to the poor, maimed, lame, and blind, as Christ suggests here, there will be a reward that will come to them at that time.
15. 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!”
The men who sat at this table well knew that the resurrection of the righteous that the Lord Jesus mentioned takes place in the Kingdom of God. This prompted this man to think of that Kingdom and make this emotional exclamation. This was a true statement, and one that I agree with completely. However, it does seem to be along the lines of changing the subject, for the commands that the Lord was giving would have made these men feel uncomfortable indeed. Few of them probably would have taken Him at His word and actually considered inviting men like the poor and blind to their dinners. More than likely, the man just made this outburst to try to smooth things over after the uncomfortable things the Lord had said. It could also be, of course, that this man was just the excitable sort, and so could not help exclaiming this way at the thought of the kingdom of God.
Overall, the Lord’s reception at this dinner of men who generally acted as His enemies was not so harsh as He was with those at some of the other dinners He attended, for other than trying to trap Him with the healing on the Sabbath, these men really do not seem to have opposed Him too strongly. Therefore, the Lord does seem to try to teach these men, rather than rebuking them. When this man makes this outburst to try to change the subject, however, the Lord just uses it to further His teaching, as we will see in the parable He tells following.
16. Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many,
The Lord again teaches through use of a story. He speaks of a man giving a great supper, probably much like the one He Himself was attending at this time. This man quite naturally invited many to his supper.
17. “And sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’
Supper time comes, and the man sends out his servant to tell those who were invited that all is ready, and they can now come to the supper. In their compact cities without the means of rapid transportation that we have, it is probable that his guests would be easily within walking distance for this servant to bring this message to them.
The word “sent” is a form of apostello here, the verb form of the word “apostle” that we have discussed various times in this book. It means that this servant was sent with his master’s authority to invite all these men to his dinner.
18. “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.’
All these men who were invited to the supper begin to make excuses. This seems a foolish thing to do, for it was an honor, not a burden, to be invited to a great supper like this. Yet we consider the Pharisees, the men with whom Christ was now dining. He had held out the invitation to His kingdom to them, which was a great privilege indeed. Yet they had utterly rejected it, and wanted nothing to do with the generous offer He made to them. This made little sense, yet that is what they had done.
The first man in the Lord’s story has bought a piece of ground, and wants to be excused because he must go see it. This seems like a poor excuse indeed. When one is thinking of buying a piece of ground, we can well imagine that he would want to go and see it before making the purchase. Yet once he has already purchased it, he is already locked into it, and going to see whether he made a good purchase or not is certainly something that could be put off. Thus, this man’s excuse does not ring true.
19. “And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’
Again this excuse does not make much sense. If this man was trying to make a deal for five yoke of oxen, we can see why he would be anxious to test them. Yet if he has already bought them, then there is little he can do if he has made a bad purchase, and his hurry to test them makes little sense. Again, this seems just a lame excuse.
20. “Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
This third man gives the excuse that he has married a wife. Why this would keep him from coming it is hard to say. This might be the most insulting excuse, for it could certainly be taken that his wife does not approve of the one who invited him.
Sadly, the same can be true of some who start out seeking after truth today. They begin well in following after the truth of God’s Word, but then they marry a wife, or perhaps she marries a husband, and that is the end of Bible study for that person. This new wife or husband has no interest in the truths of God. Perhaps this one only is interested in finding some church and partaking in food, fun, and fellowship. Thus the one who started off after the truth is cowed into settling for empty religion. All who start out to follow Christ and to know Him had best be careful that they do not marry a wife or marry a husband like this.
21. “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.’
The servant reports these excuses to his master. When the master hears these things, he becomes angry. A few legitimate excuses might be believed, of course, but the poor excuses given and the universality of the rejection of his invitations shows that these people simply did not want to come to his feast, much like the Pharisees wanted nothing to do with God’s Kingdom plans once they saw the King He had chosen. Thus the Lord is going to show this man that those who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God may be blessed, but they will not be the “blessed” sort of people that this man had in mind.
So the master now commands the servant to go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city. There, he is to take any poor, maimed, lame, and blind he can find and bring them in to the master’s house. This was a radical thing to do indeed. No discretion is being made here as to the type of person being brought in. Rather, all who will may come. The master knows that all those poor and needy would actually appreciate his feast. They will be delighted to come to the dinner he has prepared, and thus contrast sharply with the uninterested response of the more wealthy and powerful crowd that was invited at first.
Notice that the Lord has brought this story from the blessed who enter into the kingdom back to the poor, maimed, lame, and blind, where He had started from. This man’s outburst and attempt to change the subject did not deter Him from the teaching He had for them.
22. “And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’
The servant obeys his master’s command, and then returns to report to him. He has brought in all these poor, maimed, lame, and blind as he was commanded, and so the supper is heavily attended. Yet the places are not yet filled, and there is still room for others at the supper.
23. “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.
Finding that there is still room, the master sends his servants out once again, this time to all but force those common people to come to his feast so it will be filled to capacity.
In the same way God would choose to bring men into His kingdom from the common people, even the poor and handicapped, and would prefer them over the honorable men of this world like the Pharisess. Even His leaders for His soon-coming Kingdom were not chosen from the current leaders of Israel, but rather from the poor and seemingly unimportant, such as fishermen like Peter and John.
As for this sending out for the common people, we can see this happening throughout the book of Acts. The word of God’s kingdom goes out, even to the highways and hedges of the nations around Israel wherever the Jews were scattered, and men from all these nations come into God’s kingdom.
As for the compelling, we need only to consider the conversion of the apostle Paul to see an example of this. When the Lord appeared to him on the Damascus road, he had little choice but to respond to His invitation. If he had not, I believe he would have died on the spot, as the persecutor Herod did after him in Acts 12. In this way the Lord would compel men to come into His kingdom, and give them little choice but to do so or perish rejecting it.
24. “‘For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”
The master firmly declares that none of those men who were originally invited shall taste of his supper. In the same way, those who rejected the kingdom as proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ and those who followed Him in the Acts period were doomed to miss out on it. No further invitation would be made to them, but they were shut out for ever. Indeed, this was a solemn warning indeed that the Lord was giving to these men who had invited Him to dinner. Clearly, He believed that there were those there who were in danger of rejecting Him like this, and yet He still believed there was hope for them, if they would take the warning. We can pray that some of them did.