Luke 14

Luke 14:1-6.222

The last chapter had closed with the setting aside of the Jew and the judgment of Jerusalem. We have now the moral principles involved set forth in Luke 14. The Lord was asked to “the house of one of the rulers [who was] of the Pharisees to eat bread on [the] sabbath.” One might have expected, if there were anything holy or any appreciation of grace, now was the time for it. But not so. They were watching Him. They, ignorant of God, looked for evil, desired evil. God was in none of their thoughts, nor His grace. Yet these were the men who most of all piqued themselves upon their nice observance of the Sabbath day.

But grace will not stay its work or withhold the truth to please men: Jesus was there to make known God and do His will. “And behold, there was a certain dropsical [man] before Him.” No religious forms can shut out the ruin that is in the world through sin, and our Lord, filled with the good that was in His heart, answers their thoughts before they uttered them, speaking to the lawyers and Pharisees with the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?223 His question was an answer to their evil judgments. It was impossible to deny it. Hardened as man was and habituated to evil, he could not say that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath day. Yet they really wished that it should be so, and, as we know, made it repeatedly a ground of the most serious accusation against the Lord. However, here He challenges those who were ostensibly the wisest and most righteous in Israel, the lawyers and Pharisees; but “they were silent.” The Lord then takes the dropsical man, heals him, and lets him go. Then He answers them further by the question: “Of which of you shall an ass224 or an ox fall into a well and he doth not straightway pull him up on the sabbath day?” (Cf. Matt. 12:11.) This is a little different from His reply to the ruler of the synagogue in the chapter before. There it was more the need of the animal, the ordinary supply of his wants. But here it is a more urgent case. It was not simply that the animal needed watering and must be led to it, but “of which of you shall an ass or an ox fall into a well and he doth not straightway pull him up on the sabbath day?” It was lawful, therefore, to look after the good of an animal on that day. They proved it where their own interests were concerned. God had His interests and love: therefore was Jesus in this world, therefore was He in the Pharisee’s house. He had meat to eat that they knew not of. It was not the Pharisee’s bread, but to do the will of His Father. In healing the dropsical man He was glorifying His Father. He was boldly acting upon that which even they durst not deny — the right of healing on the Sabbath day. If they could relieve on that day their animals from their pain or danger, what title had they to dispute God’s right to heal the miserable among men, among Israel?

“And they were not able to answer him to these things.” How unanswerably good is the grace and truth of God! (See Matt. 22:46.)

But it is plain that the heart of Israel was sick and that this very scene showed how much they needed to be healed. But they knew it not. They were hardened against the Holy One Who could do them good. They were maliciously watching Him, instead of presenting themselves in their misery that He might heal them.

Luke 14:7-11.

Matt. 23:6.

But the Lord in the next scene puts forth “a parable to those that were invited, remarking how they chose out the first places.” It is not only that there is a hindrance of good to others, on the part of those who have no sense of need themselves, but there is a universal desire of self-exaltation. The law does not hinder this: it can only condemn, and that, too, for the most part, what the natural conscience condemns. But Christ here brings in the light of God’s grace, of Divine love in an evil world as contrasted with human selfishness. He marked how those that were guests chose out the chief rooms. They sought for themselves; they sought the best. But “when thou art invited,” says He who was Himself the perfect Pattern of love and humility — “when thou art invited by anyone to a wedding, do not lay thyself down in the first place at table, lest, perhaps, a more honourable than thee be invited by him. And he who invited thee and him come and say to thee, Give place to this [man]; and thou begin with shame to take the last place.” Assuredly it would be so with Israel themselves. They had had the outward call of God, they had chosen the chief seats, and now they were going to lose all place and nation. Jesus was in the fullest contrast with them. He went down to the lowest room, He took it in love for God’s glory; and certainly there is One Who will say for Him, Give this man place. Clearly, however, it is an exhortation for every heart and more particularly for those who heed the call of God.

Then comes a more positive word: “When thou hast been invited, go and put thyself down in the lowest place” - He had done so Himself - “that when he who hath invited thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher.” He took the form of a servant, was found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name.” (Phil. 2:9.) As He says here, “Then shalt thou have honour before all225 that are lying at table with thee. For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.” (Cf. Matt. 23:12.) They are universal principles of God: the one true of Christ and of all that are Christ’s, as the other is of the spirit of man. The first Adam sought to exalt himself, but only fell through the deceit of Satan. The Second Man humbled Himself and is set above all principality, and power, and might.

Luke 14:12-14.

Then we find, further, it is not a question only of guests but of a host: He has a word for every man. God looks for love in this world, and this, too, apart from nature. His love is not for one’s friends or family alone; it is not on this principle at all. “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsfolk, nor rich neighbours, lest it may be they also should invite thee in return and a recompense be made thee.” A witness for Christ is marked by that which is supernatural. There is no testimony to His name in merely natural kindness or family affection, but where there is love without a human motive or any hope of recompense, there is a testimony to Him. It is exactly so that God is doing now in the Gospel, and we are called to be imitators of God. It is not meant to be merely in making a feast or a supper, but that grace should stamp its character on all our Christian life. The whole time of the Gospel call, as we shall see farther on, is compared to a feast to which the activity of love is gathering in from the miserable of this world.

Hence, the Lord adds, “When thou makest a feast, call poor, crippled, lame, blind,369 and thou shalt be blessed; for they have not [the means] to recompense thee.” How Divinely fine, yet how different from the world and its social order out of which the Christian is called! If we thus act in unselfish self-sacrificing love, God will surely recompense according to all His resources and His nature. This will be at the resurrection of the just, the great and final scene when all that are severed from the world will be seen apart from it, when human selfishness will have disappeared for ever, when they that are Christ’s will reign in life by one, Christ Jesus. Anything short of this is not the exercise of the life of Christ, but of our nature in this world; and this is precisely what has no place at the resurrection of the just.

The Lord speaks here of a special resurrection, in which the unjust have no part. Not that these too do not come forth from their graves; for indeed they must rise for judgment. But our text speaks of the resurrection of life in which none can share but those who are just by the grace of God — justified, no doubt, but also just — those that practised the good things, in contrast with those that did the evil. Other Scriptures prove that these two resurrections differ in time as decidedly as in character; and the great New Testament prophecy determines that more than a thousand years separate the one from the other, though the effects for each never pass away. It is manifest also that only the resurrection of the just admits of recompense. For the unjust there can be but righteous retribution.370

Luke 14:15-24.

Matt. 22:2-10.

It was an unwonted sound to man. The evidently Divine grace of the Lord acted on the spirit of one of those who were lying at table with Him, who, hearing that which was far more suitable to heaven than ever was as yet seen carried out on earth, said “Blessed [is] he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”371 Our Lord then proves that this is a great mistake as far as concerns man’s readiness to answer the grace of God. Hence He puts the case in the following parable: “A certain man372 made a great supper and invited many.” There was no lack of condescension and goodness to win man on God’s part. His heart went out to any. He invited according to His own largeness of mercy and grace. “And he sent his bondman at the hour of supper to say to those who were invited, Come, for already all things are ready.” This Gospel, like Paul’s epistles, shows that God even in His grace does not forsake, in the first instance, prescribed order. So Paul, when he went to any place, went first to the synagogue; and in explaining the Gospel in the epistle to the Romans, says, “To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” (Rom. 2:10.)

Though God has no respect of persons, He nevertheless does heed the ways that He has Himself established. This makes so much the less excusable the lack of faith on the part of the Jew. God never fails — man always. Favoured man only makes the greater show of his own unbelief. Here the message to them that were bidden was, “Come, for already all things are ready.” Such is the invitation of grace. The law makes man the prominent and responsible agent; it is man that is to do this, and, yet more, man that must not do that. Man therein is commanded to love God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind. But the commandment, just as it is, is wholly unavailing, because in this case man is a sinner and loveless. No law ever produced or called out love. It may demand but cannot create love; it is not within the nature or power of law to do so. God knew this perfectly; and in the gospel He becomes Himself the Great Agent. It is He that loves, and who gives according to the strength of that love in sending His only begotten Son with eternal life in Him — yea, also to die in expiation for sin. Law demonstrated that man, though responsible, had no power to perform. He was incapable of doing God’s will because of sin; but his pride was such that he did not, would not, feel his own incapability, or its cause. Were he willing to confess it, God would have shown him grace. But man felt no need of grace any more than his own guilt and powerlessness to meet law. So he slights the call to come, though all things are now ready,

“And all” (says the Lord Jesus) “without exception began to excuse themselves.” No doubt these were the Jews — the persons who were bidden. “The first said unto him, I have bought land and I must go out and see it; I pray thee hold me for excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee hold me for excused.” Not that these things were in themselves wrong; they are the ordinary duties of men. It is not a person who is too drunk to come, or one living in misery in consequence of his grossness, like the prodigal son; but these might be decent, respectable men. They were engrossed in their own things, they had no time for the supper of grace. God invited them, having prepared all things for them; but they were each so preoccupied that none had heart or care for God’s invitation. Is not this a true picture of the condition of man — yea, of man who has the Bible, of Christendom no less than Judea? It is an unbelieving excuse founded on alleged duties, certainly on present material interests. But what blindness! Does eternity raise no questions? Not to speak of judgment and its awful issues, has heaven no interest in man’s eyes? If Christ or God be nothing, is it nothing to be lost or to be saved?

These are evidently serious questions, but man goes off without the moral courage to seek an answer from God. Here those bidden despised His mercy and grace, as they felt no need of it for their own souls. They lived only for the present. They blotted out all that is really admirable in man according to God’s grace. They were living only for nature in its lowest wants — the providing what is necessary for food or for pleasure. The commonest creature of God, a bird or a fly, does as much; the meanest insect not only provides food, but also enjoys itself. Does boastful man by sin degrade himself to be in profession no better than a butterfly, in practice far worse? “Another said, I have married a wife, and on this account I cannot come.” He did not even say, “I pray thee hold me for excused.” His wife was an excellent reason in his eyes for refusing God’s invitation.373 It was a question of a family in this world, not of God hereafter. It is clear that the real root of all unbelief is the absence of sense of sin, and no glory given to God. There is no sense of what God is, either in His claims or in His grace.

Again, “The226 bondman came up and brought back word of these things to his lord. Then the master of the house in anger said to his bondman, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring here the poor and crippled, and blind, and lame.”374 Such is the urgent message of grace, when the proud refuse and God presses it on the most despised. Still we have before us the streets and lanes of the city. I think the Lord had Jerusalem as yet in view, though not put forward distinctly. At any rate, it was that which was orderly and settled in the world: only the despised and the wretched are now the express objects of the invitation. The busy great had slighted it; the lawyers and scribes, the teachers and Pharisees, were indifferent if not opposed. Henceforth it became a question of publicans and sinners, or anybody that was willing, however wretched. “And the bondman said, Sir, it is done as thou hast commanded, and there is still room.” Then comes a third message. “The lord said to the bondman, Go out into the ways and fences, and compel to come in, that my house may be filled.” Thus we have the clear progress of the Gospel among the Gentiles; and this too with the strong earnestness of Divine mercy.375 “For I say unto you, that not one of those men who were invited” (none of those who had the promises, but trifled with them when they were accomplished) “shall taste of my supper.”

Thus the whole case is brought before us, but with remarkable differences from the view given in Matt. 22. There it is much more dispensational. Hence it is “the kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son.” All savours of this: the king, the king’s son, the marriage feast — not merely a feast, and again the massages and his action attest it. The first mission there represents the call during Christ’s ministry on earth; the second was when the fatlings were killed — that is, the work was done. This is followed by the judgment that fell upon those who despised the Gospel message and maltreated the servants. “The king was wroth and sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers and burned up their cities.” There is not a word about this in Luke. It was well that it should be brought forward in the Gospel that was intended for the warning as well as the winning of the Jew. And there only was it written. The destruction of Jerusalem befell the Jews because of their rejection of Christ and of the Holy Ghost in the preaching of the apostles finally. Again, it is only in Matthew that we have the case of the man who was present without a wedding garment, setting forth the advantage that an unbelieving man would take of the Gospel in Christendom, where we have the corruption of those who bear the name of the Lord, and their presumptuous pretension to be Christians without the slightest reality, without a real putting on of Christ. Need I say how common that is in Christendom? All this is left out in Luke, who confines himself to the moral dealings of God.

Luke 14:25-35.376

Matt. 10:37f.

On the Lord’s departure great multitudes go with Him, to whom He turns with the words, “If any man come to me, and shall not hate 377 his Own father, and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters; yea and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.” They might have thought that at any rate they would treat the Lord better than His message — so little does man know of himself. The Lord would not permit that the multitude then following Him should flatter themselves that the at least were willing to partake of the supper, that they were incapable of treating God with the contempt described in the parable. So the Lord tells them what following Himself involves. The disciple must follow Christ so simply and decidedly that it would seem to other eyes a complete neglect of natural ties, and an indifference to the nearest and strongest claims of kin. Not that the Lord calls for want of affection; but so it might and must look to those who are left behind in His name. The attractive power of grace must be greater than all natural fetters, or any other claims of whatsoever kind, over him who would be His disciple. And more than this: it is a question of carrying one’s cross and going after Him. “Whoever doth not carry his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” It is not enough to come to Him at first, but we must follow Him day by day. Whoever does not this cannot be His disciple. Thus in verse 26 we see the forsaking of all for Christ, and in verse 27 the following Christ with pain and suffering and going on in it.377a

Again, the Lord does not hide the difficulties of the way, but sets them out in two comparisons. The first is of a man intending to build a tower, who had not the wisdom to count the cost before beginning. So it would be with souls now. Undoubtedly it is a great thing to follow Jesus to heaven, but then, it costs something in this world.378 It, is not all joy; but it is well and wise to look at the other side also. Then the Lord gives a further comparison. It is like a king going to war with one who has twice as many forces. Unless I am well backed up, it is impossible for me to resist him who comes against me with twice my array; much less can I make head against him. The inevitable consequence of not having God for us is, that when the enemy is a great way off, we have to send an ambassage and desire conditions of peace. But is it not peace with Satan, and everlasting ruin? “Thus, then, every one of you who forsaketh not all his own possessions cannot be my disciple.” A man should be prepared for the worst that man and Satan can do. It is always true, though not always apparent; but Scripture cannot be broken, and in the course of a disciple’s experience a time comes when he is thus tried one way or another. It is well therefore to look all thoroughly in the face; but then to refuse Jesus and His call to follow, not to be His disciple, is to be lost for ever.379

Matt. 5:13; Mark 9:50.

The Lord closes all with another familiar allusion of everyday life. “Salt [then]227 is good; but if the salt also228 has become savourless, wherewith shall it be seasoned?”379a There is shown the danger of what begins well turning out ill. What is there in the world so useless as salt when it has lost the one property for which it is valued? “It is proper neither for land, nor for dung; it is cast out.” It is worse than useless for any other purpose. So with the disciple who ceases to be Christ’s disciple. He is not suited for the world’s purposes, and he has forsaken God’s. He has too much light or knowledge for entering into the vanities and sins of the world, and he has no enjoyment of grace and truth to keep him in the path of Christ. The expression “men cast it out” is perhaps too precise. It has a virtually indefinite meaning: “they cast it out” — i.e., it is cast out, without saying by whom. Savourless salt becomes an object of contempt and judgment. “He that hath ears to hear let him hear”: (Matt. 11:15.) how solemn the call to conscience!

222 Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 336-339.

223 “On the sabbath.” Edd. here add “or not,” following BDL, 1, 69, Syrcu Memph. The words are not in AEX Δ, etc., cursives in general (33), Syrsin Amiat. Arm., etc. They are attested by some Old Lat. and not by others.

224 “An ass”: so KLX Π, etc., 1, 33, Syrrsin hier (sin.: “ox or ass”), Memph. Arm. Aeth. D: πρόβατον (as Matthew). Edd. adopt “a son,” after ABEGH and later uncials, many cursives, Syrrcu pesch hcl Sah. Cyril. Alex. The balance of Latt. favours “ass.” — D has “sheep.” See W.H., App., p. 62, also note 368 in Part II. of this volume.

225 “All”: so most Edd., as ABLX, 1, 33, 69, Syrcu Sah. Memph. Aeth. Blass, after D ΓΔ, etc., most cursives, Syrsin Old Lat. Goth. Arm. omits.

226 “The”: so Edd. following ABD, etc., 1, 69, Old Lat. Memph. Aeth. Arm. EX ΓΔ, etc., Syrr. have “that.”

227 [“Then”]: so Tisch. following BLX, 69, Memph. Treg. brackets. Other Edd. omit, as ADER Δ, etc., 1, 33, Syrr. Amiat.,

228 “Also”: so BDLX Syrrcu pesch. It is omitted in AER ΓΔ, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrsin Memph.