Chapter 14 - Commentary on Luke's Gospel

The previous chapter warned of impending judgment on the city of Jerusalem and the religious establishment of that city. Now from various angles Jesus explains how true religion, as opposed to Pharisee and Sadducee religion, begins with the needs of the poor and downtrodden. James, the Lord's brother, wrote "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27). He also said "If a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say 'Have a seat here, please' while to the one who is poor you say, 'Stand there,' or 'Sit at my feet,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves" (James 2:2-4, 15-17). The Pharisee teachers should have known about God's concern for the poor from the Old Testament (Leviticus 25:35, Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 14:21, 31, 19:17, 21:13, 22:9). The poor, the aliens, widows and orphans, are the special concern of God (see Psalm 69:33, 72:12-14,) and Jesus added to this list those who were outcaste as sinners (5:24, 31, 6:20-21, 7:39). The parable of the sheep and the goats makes clear that a nation is judged by the way their poor, the sick, aliens and prisoners are treated (Matthew 25:35-45).

14:1 This Pharisee was probably a member of the Sanhedrin (as was Nicodemus in John 3:1), and he had invited his friends to the usual (among rich people) Sabbath day brunch (after the morning synagogue service). No hot food would have been served, as this would have required work, but the trays of cold food and fruits prepared the previous day would have been lavish. Jesus was invited, but the real purpose was to watch him for any infringement of the Pharisee laws (see note on 5:30).

14:2-3 As a Doctor, Luke inquired carefully about those who were healed, and here he notes the exact medical condition. Dropsy is an abnormal accumulation of serous fluid, often seen in very swollen legs. And this man had walked in to the meal as it was being served. Before healing him, Jesus asked the theologians who were present whether it was lawful to heal a sick person on Sabbath day. Jesus had asked the same question on a previous occasion (Luke 6:9) before healing a man with a paralyzed arm, and he repeats the question to see if they had learned from the previous occasion.

14:4 The questioners remained silent. The Greek verb means "he took hold of the man," and this right in full view of the assembled guests. The man was obviously healed there and then, and Jesus told him to go to his home.

14:5-6 Jesus then repeated the question he had asked in the synagogue on a previous Sabbath day when he healed a woman who had been bent over totally crippled for eighteen years (13:15). And again "they did not have the power (ability) to answer the question." Their failure to answer the question introduces Jesus' teaching in the remainder of this chapter about a heartless religion that had no concern for "the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind" (14:13, 21). All that mattered was meticulous observance of the rules they had made (Pharisee religion) and the priestly rituals of the temple (Priestly and Sadducee religion)..

14:7 The man who had been healed had hardly left, and the religious leaders were still sitting in stunned silence, when Jesus looked round at the way they had seated themselves according to their own ideas of honor and importance. He was reminded of the words, "it is better to be told, 'Come up here,' than to be ut lower in the presence of a noble" (Proverbs 2:7).

14:8-10 Later Jesus would predict that the Pharisee religious system would be decimated with the judgment on Jerusalem (Matthew 23:36), and one of the reasons was their despising of ordinary people as they pandered to their own self-importance. "They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi" (Matthew 23:6-7). In Jesus' church, having taken a seat among the ordinary guests, we might be invited to higher honor, but the trappings of religious superiority are always wrong.

14:11 An essential part of the heart of God is that he delights in humility and makes sure that the proud and haughty are put down. "All of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time" (1 Peter 5:5-6). These religious leaders should have remembered the prophet's words: "Thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit" (Isaiah 57:15). This is why he will inevitably topple a religion that honors the importance of its leaders but despises the poor. As Mary sang in the Magnificat, "He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly" (Luke 1:51-52).

14:12-13 These verses are not to suggest that we should never invite our family and friends to a meal in our home. The problem with this meal at the home of a rich Pharisee was that it was a means of honoring the important people in the religious hierarchy, and those who could use their influence when needed. As a religious leader, a banquet or reception should be used to honor the poor and the weak in society. These cannot repay us but God is pleased.

14:14 This reference to the resurrection of those in sheol (hades) was made before the crucifixion. The emptying of sheol took place when the righteous responded to the voice of the Messiah when he descended into sheol (the abode of the Old Testament dead) immediately after his death on the cross (see Matthew 27:52-53, John 5:28-29, 1 Peter 3:18-19).

14:15 One of the guests now tried to turn the difficult conversation in the direction of the Messianic banquet. He obviously thought he would be one of the honored guests on that great occasion when the Messiah came in his glory.

14:16-17 Jesus responded with the parable of the excuses. This pointed to the fact that the religious leaders were making trivial excuses to avoid the Messiah's invitation, and it was the poor and downtrodden who were flocking in to his Kingdom (14:22). The practice was to invite guests to a banquet, and when the food was ready to be served a slave would be sent to invite the guests to the table.

14:18 The excuses are obviously trivial. This man had bought a piece of land (farm), and he could have gone out to decide what to do with it any time. Jesus' ironic humor is obvious.

14:19 Poor people were glad to have one ox to plow their small parcel of land. This man had bought five pairs of oxen (Elisha was ploughing with twelve pairs of oxen, 1 Kings 19:19) for the purpose of working a medium sized farm. To suggest he needed to try out his team of oxen the very night of the banquet was equally ridiculous.

14:20 The rule was that after getting married a newly married man "shall not go out with the army or be charged with any related duty. He shall be free at home one year, to be happy with the wife whom he has married" (Deuteronomy 24:5). But there was no reason why a newly married man should not take his wife to a dinner.

14:21 When the invited guests (referring to the religious leaders mentioned in 14:1, 12, 15)) had rudely refused the Messiah's invitation to his banquet, the rejects of Jewish society (see introductory note above) were invited in.

14:22-23 And when this had been done, people of other nations would later be brought in. As Jesus had instructed his apostles, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-6, see Mark 7:27). Jesus had a sequence in mind, and people of all nations will in due course be invited in to the banquet (Matthew 8:11, 24:31, 28:19). Luke makes clear in the book of Acts that the going out to other nations was to begin after the Day of Pentecost. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

14:24 Having rejected the invitation to be lamp bearers at the wedding, the religious leaders are excluded from having any part in the wedding banquet (see notes on 13:25, 28, 34, and the commentary on Matthew 23:33-36, 25:11-12).

14:25 Very large crowds had gathered in Galilee (12:1) and now large numbers traveled up to Jerusalem with him.

14:26 Jesus welcomed all and sundry to be baptized and begin learning from him as disciples (see notes on 3:15-16, John 4:1). But only some of these were chosen to accompany him as apostles (6:12-17, 8:1-2, 9:1, 10:1). There were therefore disciples who were just beginning to learn and disciples who decided to engage in the work of the kingdom (see followers in 14:27, 18:22). In any school or university this distinction is recognized - all are students or learners but only some are called to teach others. To engage in the Messiah's service the cost must be counted. If we are to love even enemies, Jesus cannot be suggesting that we should hate our parents and children, brothers and sisters (as in Matthew 10:34-39). But from their point of view we may seem to hate them in comparison to the mission we have engaged in. This cost is faced by all missionaries and others engaged in the tough work of the Kingdom.

14:27 Jesus is not saying that a decision to take up our cross must precede the entry into the school of the Holy Spirit. Only some of those who learn mountain climbing in a school for young climbers will eventually take up the cross of climbing mount Everest. It is only after learning on the easy slopes that we can choose to tackle the high mountains.

14:28-30 And like building a house, we should not engage in the project before we have counted the cost of bringing it to completion. But this cost is not known at the point of baptism when we begin to learn, only after we have found out what the work of the Kingdom is about. The failure to count the cost results in people mocking us when things go wrong, as they often do in missionary work,

14:31-32 Similarly with going to war. Better figure out if we have the resources to fight against a powerful enemy. This principle applies in spiritual warfare "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

14:33 Obviously one can and many people do begin learning as a disciple without giving up all their possessions. But the preceding verses perhaps explain why giving up the priority of our attachment to family and possessions (as in 12:26-34) is necessary to engage in the warfare of the Kingdom. It is hard to engage in a war if our first concern is the home and property we have left behind.

14:34-35 It is impossible for salt to lose its taste. But the salt from the area around the Dead Sea was mixed in with impurities, and when dampness removed the pure salt what remained was useless for giving taste to food (Matthew 5:13). It was also useless for throwing on the land or the manure heap. Similarly the purity of motivation of a call to discipleship is essential for effective Christian service.

Chapter 15 .....