Healing Again on the Sabbath, 1-6
14:1 Now one Sabbath when Jesus went to dine at the house of a leader of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. 14:2 There right in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. 14:3 So Jesus asked the experts in religious law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 14:4 But they remained silent. So Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him away. 14:5 Then he said to them, “Which of you, if you have a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 14:6 But they could not reply to this.
On Seeking Seats of Honor, 7-14
14:7 Then when Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. He said to them, 14:8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, because a person more distinguished than you may have been invited by your host. 14:9 So the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your place.’ Then, ashamed, you will begin to move to the least important place. 14:10 But when you are invited, go and take the least important place, so that when your host approaches he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up here to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who share the meal with you. 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
‘Pride and status are social issues in any culture, and the ancient Jewish culture was no exception. Status brings power, and power often begets pride. Jesus regards this equation as destructive to spiritual health. Jesus’ disciples are marked by humility. Both how we operate socially and whom we invite to dinner indicate the type of person we are. Humility means ignoring rank or class. Friends can be made anywhere. The lesson is a hard one, as some of the New Testament epistles show. (1 Cor 11:17-22; Php 2:1-11; Jas 2:1-5; 4:6; 5:1-6) But Jesus’ picture parable (Lk 14:7) shows that he regards this attitude as fundamental to discipleship.’ (IVP Commentary)
14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid. 14:13 But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14:14 Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The Parable of the Great Banquet, 15-24
14:15 When one of those at the meal with Jesus heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will feast in the kingdom of God!” 14:16 But Jesus said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many guests. 14:17 At the time for the banquet he sent his slave to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ 14:18 But one after another they all began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please excuse me.’ 14:19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going out to examine them. Please excuse me.’ 14:20 Another said, ‘I just got married, and I cannot come.’ 14:21 So the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the master of the household was furious and said to his slave, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 14:22 Then the slave said, ‘Sir, what you instructed has been done, and there is still room.’ 14:23 So the master said to his slave, ‘Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled. 14:24 For I tell you, not one of those individuals who were invited will taste my banquet!’ ”
The various excuses are given in the areas of (a) property, v18, (b) work, v19, and (c) relationships, v20. Each of these is a legitimate pursuit, but each, too, can become an all-consuming passion.
Counting the Cost, 25-35
14:25 Now large crowds were accompanying Jesus, and turning to them he said, 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 14:27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 14:28 For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. 14:30 They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’ 14:31 Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 14:32 If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. 14:33 In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions.
Jesus has spoken of a banquet to be enjoyed. He will now spell out the cost attached to that invitation to feast.
Jesus matched his teaching carefully to those he was speaking to. To the Pharisees he preached humility; to the crowds who enthusiastically followed him around, as here, he spelled out the cost of commitment.
We need to listen to this lesson in our own day. Christians will try, it seems, almost anything to convince outsiders that following Christ is fun, is easy, costs nothing and brings untold satisfaction and fulfilment. Here is a corrective. ‘The conduct of our Lord on this occasion stands out in strong contrast to that of many ministers of the Gospel, in the present day. The temptation to admit people to full communion, and endorse and approve them as true Christians, before they have given evidence of decided grace, is very strong. The inclination to set before young enquirers the joys and comforts of the Gospel, without any proportionate exhibition of the cross and the fight, requires constant watching against. The close imitation of our Lord’s conduct in this passage would probably greatly lessen the number of our communicants. But it may be doubted whether we should not gain in quality what we lost in quantity, and whether we should not be freed from many of those disgraceful backslidings, which so often nowadays bring discredit on religion.’ (Ryle)
26 Richard Dawkins, after expressing approval for some of Jesus’ moral teaching, then objects, ‘Jesus’ family values were not such as one might wish to focus on. He was short, to the point of brusqueness, with his own mother, and he encouraged his disciples to abandon their families to follow him. The American comedian Julia Sweeney expressed her bewilderment in her one-woman stage show, Letting Go of God: “Isn’t that what cults do? Get you to reject your family in order to inculcate you?”‘ (The God Delusion, 250)
The disciples of Jesus must be willing to forsake that which is very dear. Following Christ may bring us into conflict with those we love best in this life. If so, a painful choice may have to be made.
We might have expected Jesus to say, “If anyone comes to me he will have joy, peace, and fulfilment in abundance.” But he doesn’t say that.
In biblical idiom to hate can mean to love less, Deut 21:15; Mt 10:37. ‘It is evident from Mt 10:37-38 that Luke’s command to “hate one’s parents” (Lk 14:26) means that his disciples must love Jesus more.’ (DJG)
A literalistic interpretation would bring Jesus’ words here into hopeless conflict with his words in Mk 7:9-13. Moreover, it would conflict with his attitude towards his own mother, whom he lovingly made provision for while dying on the cross (Jn 19:26f). His words here are hyperbolic. He is saying that our loyalty to him should take precedence over even the closest of earthly ties.
Among Jesus’ followers were those who had forsaken family ties, Mk 10:29f. Yet Peter’s marriage apparently survived his call to discipleship, for 25 years later his wife was still accompanying him on his missionary journeys, 1 Cor 9:5.
Providing for one’s family and relatives was regarded as the norm, 1 Tim 5:8. Our parents, children, brothers and sisters are precisely those people we ought to love the most. It is a feature of many cults that they turn their adherents against their nearest and dearest. But our love for Christ must be supreme. ‘When our duty to our parents comes in competition with our evident duty to Christ, we must give Christ the preference. If we must either deny Christ or be banished from our families and relations (as many of the primitive Christians were), we must rather lose their society than his favour.’ (MHC)
‘We are not at liberty literally to hate our parents. This would be expressly contrary to the fifth commandment. See also Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20. But we are to love them less than we love Christ; we are to obey Christ rather than them; we are to be willing to forsake them if he calls us to go and preach his gospel; and we are to submit, without a murmur, to him when he takes them away from us. This is not an uncommon meaning of the word hate in the Scriptures. Comp. Mal 1:2,3; Gen 29:30-31; Deut 21:15-17.’ (Barnes)
‘The experience of the pleasures of the spiritual life, and the believing hopes and prospects of eternal life, will make this hard saying easy. When tribulation and persecution arise because of the word, then chiefly the trial is, whether we love better, Christ or our relations and lives; yet even in the days of peace this matter is sometimes brought to the trial. Those that decline the service of Christ, and opportunities of converse with him, and are ashamed to confess him, for fear of disobliging a relation or friend, or losing a customer, give cause to suspect that they love him better than Christ.’
What Jesus is teaching here is analogous to the marriage bond. In marriage, there is a ‘leaving’ as well as a ‘cleaving’. It is not that the new husband or wife loves his or her parents less than before, but that the pre-eminent place has now been taken by another.
‘In the times when he spoke these words, becoming his disciples often involved discord within the family and ostracism in society. In Western lands there is usually little family or social cost involved, but in the East, conversion often meant loss of employment. In the world-wide programme on which he was embarking, he wanted associated with him men and women of quality whose devotion to him and his cause would not waver before opposition and even persecution.’ (J.O. Sanders)
27 This illustrates the phrase “even his own life” in the previous verse. The disciples of Jesus must be willing to carry that which is very heavy.
Crucifixion was a common enough event for people to be able to appreciate Jesus’ words here. To carry one’s cross means to count as dead one’s former life; it means to renounce selfish desires. See the similar (but positive) statement in Lk 9:23-25. Of course, it would mean readiness for literal martyrdom for some: though not all of Christ’s disciples will be crucified, yet all must carry their cross in readiness for this.
It is possible to be an admirer of Jesus without being his disciple.
“And follow me” – ‘As the soldier follows his general, as the servant follows his master, as the scholar follows his teacher, as the sheep follows its shepherd, just so ought the professing Christian to folow Christ.’ (Ryle)
28 The tower could be a watchtower for a vineyard or a farm building. Common sense determines that before any important project we will deliberately sit down and calculate the cost to make sure the task can be completed.
The possibility of making a preliminary enthusiastic commitment to Christ but failing to see it through reminds us of seed that fell on stony ground and that which fell among weeds in the parable of the sower. Think of the examples of Judas and Demas. ‘Look,’ says Jesus, ‘before you leap.’
‘The cause of Christ will bear a scrutiny. Satan shows the best, but hides the worst, because his best will not counter-vail his worst; but Christs will abundantly.’ (MHC)
‘The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers – the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called “nominal Christianity”.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 196)
31 Our Lord, having given a proactive, peaceful illustration of counting the cost, now gives a reactive, military illustration of it; for discipleship has both elements – it involves both building and fighting.
This is an apt illustration of the Christian life. We face a formidable foe, 1 Pet 5:8; 1 Jn 2:16.
“Give up” – lit. ‘bid farewell’; ‘renounce.’
Christ calls for whole-hearted devotion, complete self-denial, so that one places all of oneself, and all that one has, at his disposal.
34 Suppose you want to undertake some major building work on your property. Will you take the first quote you are given? How will you feel if the builder keeps adding on unexpected costs? What will happen if run out of money half-way through?
‘Let them consider that it will cost them the mortifying of their sins, even the most beloved lusts; it will cost them a life of self-denial and watchfulness, and a constant course of holy duties; it may, perhaps, cost them their reputation among men, their estates and liberties, and all that is dear to them in this world, even life itself.’ (MHC)
14:34 “Salt is good, but if salt loses its flavor, how can its flavor be restored? 14:35 It is of no value for the soil or for the manure pile; it is to be thrown out. The one who has ears to hear had better listen!”
“It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile” – This would seem to challenge our assumption that ‘salt’ in the NT has to do with either flavouring or preserving. This verse suggests that it was used as a fertilizer. Such use is attested not only among the ancient Hebrews, but also among the early Chinese and Romans. In the Philippines to this day salt is used to promote the growth and productivity of coconut trees. Anthony B. Bradley explains that ‘salt’ in NT times was very different to our table salt (more or less pure sodium chloride). It consisted of a range of chlorides of sodium, magnesium and potassium. It also contained some calcium sulphate (gypsum). Some mixtures degraded more quickly than others; they ‘lost their saltiness’. ‘So when Jesus talked to his followers about losing their saltiness, he was talking about losing their fertilizing properties, their ability to bring about life and growth.’
Consequently, writes Bradley, ‘Christians are not here to merely season or preserve the world from decay. The followers of Jesus Christ are sent on a mission to stimulate growth in the parts of the world that are barren, and to be mixed into the manure piles of the world so that God can use that fertilizer to bring new, virtuous life. But if those same followers are not committed to the radically countercultural message of Jesus Christ, they lose their “saltiness,” which is the unique witness to the power of the gospel that brings the kingdom of God to the messes of the world, stimulating life and growth. If we lose our “saltiness,” we are “no longer good for anything” and cannot be the agents of change that Jesus intended for his followers to be (Matt. 5:13).’
‘It costs much to follow Christ; but it costs more not to.’