- Luke 14
Dear friend in our Lord Jesus Christ,
We have a tendency to think that the rich and the famous are in some ways better people to mix with. Over the exit out of Wimbledon, boys and girls would wait with a large tennis balls or a printed program just incase the renowned tennis player would sign it. The arrival of a film star on an airport can easily create chaos as fans gather to see their hero. These days people take selfies with the famous.
The Pharisees in the time of Jesus did the same: they picked the places of honour at the table of their hosts.
An invitation to Jesus Christ
There was a day that our Lord got an invitation to dine with a prominent Pharisee in his house. Experts in the law were also invited. They probably did not invite Jesus socially; they were most probably looking for a way to trap Him. The text says, “He was carefully watched.”
Jesus Christ, the Son of God knew their motives, and it is almost as if Luke does not dwell on informalities.
The houses then were more “open”: neighbours or close relatives were not kept outside while invited guests had a meal. That’s why our text takes us right to the point of the man with dropsy being there too. We know that all things are ordained to the finest of detail by our Father; so it was on this day too. He suffered from something which made his hands swell because of the retention of water. In God’s grand design this man, and the way he was healed, served a marvellous purpose: the way by which Jesus would heal him would expose the hearts of the Pharisees and the experts of the Law. What in their hearts was exposed to all present?
They did not understand the purpose of the law
“Is it unlawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” To them the Law of God was nothing else but a set of rules as how to improve ones life in an effort to gain entrance into the kingdom of God. They missed the mercy of God in saving his people altogether. The preamble to the Ten Commandments proclaims this:
Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. (Exodus 20:1–2)
For some reason they missed that, and jumped straight to the rest, which to them became a system of self-righteousness. When Jesus later gave them a roasting in Matthew 23 He said:
You have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. (Matthew 23:23)
This is now exactly what Jesus tested them on: is it unlawful to show mercy on a Sabbath? They couldn’t answer. There was just this uneasy speechlessness; staring at the ceiling of the floor. He’s got us!
Mercy does not seek recompense
Jesus was looking for mercy in their hearts, but their was none. Instead, they found it better to associate with those who were rich and influential, and forgot the poor and the needy. Even at the very table they arranged themselves in order of importance – and the whole purpose of that was assure that they could get invitations back. That’s why Jesus said:
“When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. (Luke 14:12)
Instead, Jesus said:
When you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13–14)
In other words, if you received mercy form God who had mercy on a wretched sinner, show mercy to a fellow sinner and fulfil the Law: that’s what people do who are in the right relationship with God.
In this whole episode our Lord wanted them to understand that, although they were privileged Jews who in the first instance got the invitation from God to be his people, they might in danger to be humiliated when the host ask them to go sit in the lowly places.
They were speechless before the Son of God: they did not understand mercy, and they did not receive mercy – unless they would listen to the words of Christ.
This says a lot about to us: some people are of good standing, not really “sinners”, not really in need of salvation (or so they think), and they invite Jesus to dine with them – on their conditions, of course – and they are still lost.
What does it teach us? We can’t invite Jesus into our lives and expect no change. We dare not invite Him into our lives on our conditions. Yes, we think we would probably have the privilege of having Him under our roof, but He would not be at home there. It is only when we see ourselves as He sees us – wretched sinners – that we will have peace with Him.
The invitation of Jesus Christ
In the next part of the chapter Jesus told them of a man who was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. In the context of the parable, and in the wider context of Luke’s gospel, the invited guests foremost refer to the Jews, who later went on the rejected Jesus as the Son of God. For many years they heard the invitation through the call of the prophets, but when it was time for the banquet they excused themselves. What they basically did was to say they are not interested. Jesus did not meet their expectations of the Messiah.
Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant:
Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!’ (Luke 14:21)
With this we are back in the first part of the chapter. The invitation of Jesus are to those who could not repay Him. They were blind, poor, crippled and lame. If ever there is a picture of the state of a sinner in the eyes of God, this is it: spiritually we are blind, sick, crippled and lame.
Think of it: the rich man who had this big house prepared the great banquet. It was a mega feast. The original invitees rejected the invitation. They were the privileged. The rich man did not cancel the banquet: he invited the wretched.
We don’t see it in our Bibles as clearly as the Greeks saw it, reading this in greek, but the word for guests in verse seven, is from the same word which is translated as to invite: those of the back lanes now became the guests of honour. They could not pay back. They slept on card boxes in the alleys. They smelled, and had to be helped into the banquet hall. Those are the sort of people our Lord loves at his banquet. Not because they smell, not because they have nothing in their bank accounts, not because they are blind or cripples, but because grace does not demand back payment.
The invitation to follow Jesus Christ is free. It is not like those ads on TV where you have to read the fine print after the asterisk – after it said it is free -and you work out it is not! When Jesus calls us to follow Him He knows we have nothing to repay Him. And that is grace. And if we think we need to bring something along to compensate for grace, we’ve got it all wrong. That is the whole point of this parable. They could leave their card box beds, their filthy blankets and whatever they used to eat from, behind – at the banquet they would be provided for – more then they could imagine.
Why would we answer the call to follow Jesus?
He is God, the Saviour
First, I would say, is not because it is free. We shall and must answer the gracious call of Christ to come to the banquet in the first instance, because He who calls is God, He is our Saviour, He is Lord. There is no other call we should answer. Others who might want our attention, energy, time, talents or money are phoney: they cannot provide what they promise. Their promises are hollow, and it leads to nothing. It’s different with Jesus: He not only promises to give us new life, He secured it. With his blood He paid for it. In his death and resurrection He purchased our righteousness. Therefore it is free.
It is a call of grace
The second reason why we must follow Him, is because his call is full of grace. By this the Bible means He provides salvation free of charge. We don’t need to work for it – He did all of it in our place. There is no balance on the account of salvation – something that I need to contribute to complete the payment. No, when He calls me to his banquet, He knows I am broke, filthy, blind, lame, sick and crippled. This is how sin scarred me, and this is how I was born. There is no reciprocal, or give and take arrangement in grace; there is no such a thing as tit for tat in salvation. It is all of Christ and nothing of me. He fully satisfies the needs of any sinner.
There is no other who can give saving grace
Jesus Christ is the only Saviour; his is the only banquet I can go to. He, by his righteousness dresses his church, his bride with the finest of white garments for his wedding feast. Listen:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:7–9, ESV)
Time is running out
Those who were originally invited had all sorts of excuses – all of which were invalid- and they ran out of time. The date was set for the banquet, and it was set by the owner of the house. We cannot set our own date. God will not wait for us. Therefore we need to leave behind what we are busy with, like the first disciples, and come while the invitation still stands. But God hold eternity in his hands. Only He know when time will run out – and run out it will. Don’t wait as if you have time and eternity in your hands – you don’t.
Grace is free, but it not cheap
There too many people who proclaim a cheap grace, as if being a disciple of Jesus is going to cost you nothing. Don’t understand this wrongly: it’s got nothing to do with payment for salvation; that Jesus took care of. But associating with Jesus Christ has its consequences.
Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, ESV) This “anyone” includes the privileged Pharisees, the teachers of the law, as well as the disadvantaged and undesirable sick, the blind, the lame and the crippled. By free grace we are saved – all of us, but to follow Christ has its cost:
No love more important that the love of Christ
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Hate? The meaning here is to express a love for the Lord so strong that anything else will look like hate. More so if any desire of theirs is in conflict with our discipleship.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27, ESV)
In coming to Him we turn from others, and in coming after Him we share what is his – and that is the cross. Since there is no escape from some suffering for Christ’s and the gospel’s sake, it is impossible for anyone to be a true disciple without carrying this cross, whatever it is that is planned for to him or her.
There is a battle going on
This parable does not want us to see if we will have enough in ourself to make discipleship work. What it wants us to understand is following Jesus is entering war. To enter this war, we must give up everything and leave the battle and the outcome to our Lord (Luke 14:33).
Our Lord uses two examples to describe His kingdom: building a tower and waging of a war. The picture is that of a fortified tower used in warfare and the war is against an army double the size of your own. Discipleship builds up something grand in us and strikes down something hostile outside of us. Jesus wants us to become disciples, but no man can do this by his own natural ability. We could never get beyond the foundation, mere outward profession of faith, mere outward attachment to Jesus. Where, then, is the money to come from to build this
The invitation of our Lord to become his followers is astonishing free; but it is breathtakingly challenging. Yet, He made it possible. So, let’s follow Him; the opposite is dreadfully dangerous. Amen.tower? Grace furnishes us all that discipleship needs, grace alone. Jesus wants us to be his disciples, He wants this war, and He therefore warns us not to enter it with our inadequate strength, for we should then be doomed. That means that we take the armour of grace.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 29 June 2014