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Bible Commentaries
Luke 14

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

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This section of Luke (Luke 14:1—17:10) is made up practically altogether of "material which Luke alone reports."(F1) This chapter recounts the healing of the man with dropsy at the Pharisee’s feast (Luke 14:1-6), the teaching on humility which Jesus addressed to the guests (Luke 14:7-11), advice to the host regarding his list of guests (Luke 14:12-14), the parable of the slighted invitation (Luke 14:15-24), and Jesus’ pronouncement on the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35).

Verse 1


And it came to pass, when he went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees on a sabbath to eat bread, that they were watching him.

Went into the house of one of the rulers … In view of the opposition of the Pharisees and rulers to Jesus, it is a little surprising that he should have been invited and that he should have accepted such an invitation; but this is clear in the light of two considerations. First, as Barclay said, "Jesus never refused any man’s invitation to hospitality, … and never abandoned hope of men."(F2) Second, the Pharisee intended to use the occasion against Jesus. As Clarke said:

Professing friendship and affection, he invited our blessed Lord to his table, merely that he might have a more favorable opportunity of watching his conduct, that he might accuse him, and take away his life.(F3)

On the sabbath … The following miracles were performed on the sabbath day:

The healing of Simon’s wife’s mother (Luke 4:38)

The healing of the man with the withered hand (Luke 6:6)

The healing of the woman crippled eighteen years (Luke 13:14)

The healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:9)

The healing of the man born blind (John 9:14)

The healing of the demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1:21)

The healing of the man with dropsy, as recorded her

Thus, the Pharisees had every reason to believe that if confronted with the opportunity Jesus would surely heal on any sabbath day; therefore they contrived the incident before us. The invitation for Jesus to have a sabbath meal, the dramatic appearance of a man with dropsy, and the presence of many distinguished guests "had been carefully preconcerted among the Pharisees as a trap for Jesus."(F4)

"The Jews took only two meals on week days, but they had three meals on the sabbath";(F5) that extra meal was celebrated after the morning worship and was the big meal of the entire week. "The only restriction upon those feasts was that the food had to be cooked the day before."(F6)

Verse 2

And behold, there was before him a certain man that had the dropsy.

Spectators often entered the house to witness an eastern banquet";(F7) but as Russell noted, "Other schemes of the Pharisees on like occasions make it very probable that the Pharisees had placed him there."(F8)

Of course, all eyes were fixed upon Jesus; as the previous verse said, "They were watching him." The word used for watching in the text means "interested and sinister espionage."(F9)

Verse 3

And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?

Significantly, Jesus answered not the words of his watchers, but their thoughts. Like human vultures, those evil men were waiting for Jesus to fall into their trap; but he took it all in at a glance, snaring them with one of their own devices, a dilemma. If they said, "Yes," they had no case; if they said, "No," they would have spoken a lie. "The law did not condemn such acts of mercy; and they undoubtedly saw the point of the Master’s question."(F10)

Verse 4

But they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go.

Astounded by the position in which Jesus had placed them, and being unable to discover some means of saving face, they simply remained silent; whereupon, Jesus healed the man; and, since the man was evidently not one of the guests invited to dinner, the Lord sent him on his way.

Verse 5

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a well, and will not straightway draw him up on a sabbath day?

It was well known that the Pharisees would indeed do such things on the sabbath; and here Christ pointed out the first of three reversed ethics in the Pharisees’ thinking, the first being that they valued property above a man. "Jesus did not condemn this act of mercy (to animals); but he did condemn their attitude toward men."(F11)

Verse 6

And they could not answer again unto these things.

As Hobbs said, "They did not want to admit that they valued their law and property more than they valued a man; but their attitude spoke louder than their words."(F12) There is no New Testament example of an episode in which the Pharisees were able to answer Jesus’ words in open debate.

Verse 7

And he spake a parable unto those that were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief seats; saying unto them.


A parable … "This word PARABLE is an elastic word. Here it means a piece of advice, inculcating humility."(F13) This is not therefore the usual type of parable with clear analogies.

The chief seats … As Plummer said, "In the mixture of Jewish, Roman, Greek and Persian cultures at that time, we cannot be sure which were the `chief seats’"(F14) The Talmud ranked three seats on a couch by making the center chief, the one on the right second, and the one on the left third! Whatever were accounted the most honorable seats, there was a vulgar scramble among the guests on that occasion, each man jockeying with others for the better places.

Verse 8

When thou art bidden of any man to a marriage feast, sit not down in the chief seat; lest haply a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him.

A more honorable man than thou … What an irony is this! To egotistical social climbers like those guests, it was an unheard-of-consideration that a "more honorable" man than any of them might have been invited.

Verses 9-10

And he that bade thee and him shall come and say to thee, Give this man place; and then thou shalt begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when thou art bidden, go and sit in the lowest place; that when he that hath bidden thee cometh, he may say to thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have glory in the presence of all that sit at meat with thee.

It should be noted that in Luke 14:8 preceding, Jesus begins with the postulate of being invited to a "marriage feast"; and since the feast where this admonition was spoken was not that kind of feast, it is not amiss to look for the analogy Jesus had in mind. Was the Lord merely passing out some advice, or is there a deeper meaning? In watching the selfish scrambling for the chief seats, it suddenly appeared to Jesus that the unseemly thing going on in his presence was typical of a far greater sin on the part of that same class of people. Had they not indeed usurped the chief seats in the theocracy for themselves, the honor always going not to the worthy, but to the arrogant usurper? Furthermore, note the inference in "When he that hath bidden thee cometh"! Who is this, if not Christ? The Master of the messianic banquet was indeed before them, and he was confronted with the harsh necessity of demoting the proud, arrogant, and unspiritual priests from the chief seats they had usurped and conveying them to "publicans and harlots" instead, such persons being more honorable than the usurpers. A decent humility on the part of the ruling priesthood would have saved them the shame which came upon them.

Verse 11

For every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

In these words, Jesus concluded this remarkable teaching; and it is one which all men should heed. A little later, Jesus would return to this same subject by relating the story of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9 ff); but here he announced the eternal ethic of humility. How may men cultivate humility? They can do this in two ways: (1) They can consider the facts. No man is wise in any ultimate sense, good in any heavenly sense, or powerful in any eternal sense. Man’s life is ephemeral; his days are few and full of trouble; at his best, man is above only a few of his contemporaries, and that only for a brief moment in time. "O why should the spirit of mortal be proud?" (2) They can look at the lives and achievements of others which exceed their own in excellence and glory. As Barclay suggested, "Many a man has decided to burn his clubs after watching the Golf Open Championship."(F15) For further comment on the grace of humility, see under Matthew 23:12 in my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 23:11-12.


The Lord had naturally included his host in the remarks addressed to the guests; but he reserved a very special word for the host himself.

Verse 12

And he said to him also that had bidden him, When thou makest dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich neighbors; lest haply they also bid thee again and a recompense be made thee.

Geldenhuys said this means "One should not invite such persons EXCLUSIVELY."(F16)

Adam Clark wrote:

Our Lord certainly does not mean that a man should not entertain at particular times his friends, etc.; but what he indicates here is charity to the poor.(F17)

Spence thought that "Jesus did not mean to forbid our entertaining those whom we love. He means, simply, `In view of the life to come, thou canst do better still’."(F18) Lamar believed that:

Jesus does not mean here to prohibit the invitation and entertainment of those who might be able to reciprocate the courtesy; but to condemn (1) the motive with which it is some times done, and (2) the exclusiveness growing out of such motive, which limits the invitation of this class.(F19)

All of the above softening of the impact of this passage would appear to be valid! However, there is far too much of the same thing that Jesus condemned in the hospitality one sees today; and, in not a few churches, there are little cliques engaged almost exclusively in entertaining themselves; and that, we are certain, is wrong.

John Wesley, also, like practically all commentators on this passage, diminished the impact of it in this manner: "That is, I do not bid thee call thy friends or thy neighbors. Our Lord leaves those offices of humanity and courtesy as they were, and teaches a higher duty."(F20)

We may not be too certain, however, that the commentators have fully understood what Jesus meant here. Perhaps Jesus was outlining here just what true righteousness and genuine hospitality actually are; and if that is the case, one confronts here a righteousness that is above all human achievement of it. This is what man SHOULD do, regardless of the fact that all men find themselves unable, absolutely, to live up to this ethic, thus making the passage similar to the command, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

Verse 13

But when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.

Boles’ comment on this is: "It is far better to give to relieve the distressed than to set a feast to those who do not need it."(F21) A man is not in the true sense hospitable who entertains only those who can entertain him. "Such interested hospitality is not wrong, but it does not lay up treasure in heaven."(F22)

With this word to the host, Jesus pinpointed the third of three distortions, or reverse ethics, which marked the conduct of his hearers. In Luke 14:5, it was love of property elevated over love of men; in Luke 14:7, it was pride and conceit elevated above humility; and here in these verses it was selfishness elevated above genuine hospitality.

Verse 14

And thou shalt be blessed; because they have not wherewith to recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed in the resurrection of the just.

This verse clearly shows that Jesus had in mind the instruction of his audience in how to lay up treasures in heaven.

The resurrection of the just … Despite the fact that Harrison believed this verse supports the idea of a double resurrection, one of the righteous and one of the wicked, separated by an interval of time,"(F23) there is no agreement with that here. The men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South, separated by centuries of time, will nevertheless arise in judgment with the contemporary generation of Jesus (Matthew 12:41-42). Geldenhuys affirmed that this verse does not deny either a resurrection of the wicked or the fact of its being simultaneous with the resurrection in view here. Likewise, Matthew Henry stated:

The exclusive mention in this place of rewards to the righteous, does not in the least imply that the wicked shall not receive their reward, which is so clearly stated elsewhere.(F24)

Verse 15

And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.


Trench explained what was probably in the mind of that guest who thus spoke in Jesus’ presence:

When we keep in mind what were the Jewish hopes concerning the setting up of the kingdom of God (that it would be ushered in by a glorious festival), it is easy to perceive how this man’s mind passed on to the great festival which (in their view) was to accompany the resurrection.(F25)

Such a carnal view of God’s kingdom was wrong, of course; but there was an even greater wrong in the assumption of the guest that himself and all the other Jews would enjoy such a messianic banquet to the exclusion of all others, especially Gentiles. In the following parable, Jesus moved to correct such false views and to warn that his hearers were in danger of missing the kingdom of God altogether.

Verse 16

But he said unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and he bade many.

The man = God

The great supper = God’s kingdom

Many = the Israelites

Verse 17

And he sent forth his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

The servant = God’s messengers such as the Twelve and the Seventy

Supper time = The advent of the Messiah

Theophylact understood "the servant" to be none other than the Suffering Servant, Jesus himself; and others have supposed him to represent John the Baptist; but Trench is obviously correct. He said:

We behold in him, not the heralds who preceded, but those who accompanied the King, the evangelists and apostles … who bade the Jews to enter on the enjoyment of those good things, no longer far off, but near.(F26)

All things are now ready … The fullness of time had come. The Messenger of the Covenant had arrived and would shortly make an atonement for sin. The first invitation (Luke 14:16) was the call of the Hebrews to be the chosen people and to receive the promises made to Abraham. This renewal of the invitation (Luke 14:17) through Christ and his apostles was the final call of Israel to the feast of the kingdom of God. Such a second invitation was customary in the East, and it would have been a serious breach of etiquette to have omitted it, a breach that Plummer described as "equivalent to canceling the more general invitation. To refuse the second invitation was an insult, equivalent among the Arab tribes to a declaration of war."(F27)

Verses 18-20

And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a field, and I must needs go out and see it; I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them. I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come.

Boles insisted that "These are not flimsy and ridiculous excuses, as some have sought to make them, but the most important excuses that could be given."(F28) But Summers called them "ridiculous and humorous."(F29) As far as these excuses may be weighed as justifying the refusal of those bidden to attend the feast, they are worthless and therefore ridiculous; but from the standpoint of the carnal man, they did pertain to the things men of the world hold to be most important: real estate, business, and family relations.

There is evident a progressive unwillingness to attend in the excuses offered: (1) One pleads necessity; (2) the next pleads his will not to go; and (3) the third said flatly, "I cannot," but did not bother to ask any release from his obligation. In the case of this last, a marriage did exempt the bridegroom from the war (Deuteronomy 24:5; Deuteronomy 20:7), but not from a feast it was his duty to attend. It has been often noted that there was really no compelling reason behind any of the excuses. Viewing land or proving oxen which had "already been purchased" cannot be looked upon as valid reasons for their refusal; and, in the case of the man with a bride, where was there ever a bride who would not have wished to attend a feast in the home of a rich man?

The three excuses have this in common, that "They all plead something that pertains to self, and all place the gratification of selfish desires above duty and obligation."(F30)

In the aggregate, these three who made excuses stand for the Jews who rejected the invitation to receive the kingdom. There had come about, through ages, a deterioration of what the concept of the kingdom meant to the chosen people. Especially among the leaders, a malignant carnality had distorted their thoughts of what God’s kingdom would be; and, for that reason, they insultingly rejected Christ.

Verse 21

And the servant came and told his lord these things. 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 hither the poor and maimed and blind and lame.

The man giving the feast here moved to a wider circle than before; and this corresponds to the call of the publicans, harlots, and others of those classes despised by the leaders of Israel. The anger of the master of the house is the same as the anger of the king (Matthew 22:7), and in both parables it is the anger of God for their rejection of the Son of God which is indicated.

Verse 22

And the servant said, Lord, what thou didst command is done, and yet there is room.

Not even the inclusion of that wider circle of beneficiaries had the desired effect of filling the feast with guests; and God, no less than nature, abhors a vacuum; nor will the purpose of the Almighty be frustrated by willful and rebellious men.

Verse 23

And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled.

"This time the master of the house invites to his banquet the Gentiles."(F31) As this had not yet been accomplished at the time of this parable, it is clear that the parable was prophetic at this point, moving altogether beyond the narrow circle of Israel, either of its leaders or its less noble classes. All men will be laid under tribute to provide guests for the Father’s kingdom banquet.

Constrain them … is translated "compel them" in some versions; but only a moral and rational force is indicated. Despite this, these words are a favorite text of the persecutor and inquisitor.

Long ago, Augustine used this text as a justification for religious persecution. It was used as a defense, and even as a command, to coerce people into the Christian faith. It was used as a defense for the inquisition, the thumb-screw, the rack, the threat of death and imprisonment — and for all those things which are the shame of Christianity.(F32)

Christ never intended that kind of constraint to bring people into his kingdom; and "The church which tolerates, encourages, and practices persecution is not the Church of Christ; and no man can be of such a church without endangering his salvation."(F33)

That my house may be filled … These words are a definite suggestion that God intends to redeem from earth "a certain number of souls." "The invitation will therefore be continued, and consequently the history of our race prolonged, until that number be reached."(F34)

Verse 24

For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper.

As Jesus frequently did, he abandoned the metaphor here and stood forth in the majesty of his own right. He no longer addressed a servant (as did the lord in the parable), but said, "I say unto you (plural)," meaning those very men in his presence, that "none of those that were bidden (and refused) shall taste of my supper." Thus Jesus identified himself with the Father in heaven and himself as the one giving the supper, and the supper as the kingdom he came to set up.

Summers pointed out that Jesus did not mean "that no Jews would participate in God’s mercy, but that none of those who rejected it would experience it."(F35)

The application of this parable is not restricted to the immediate situation of Israel’s rejection of Christ, for it is also descriptive of men in all ages who place personal, selfish desires above the kingdom obligations in Christ. In this parable, God’s greatest gift, the salvation of the soul, appears in the analogy of an invitation to a great feast, the unspeakable tragedy being man’s blind, foolish rejection of it.

Countless thousands of people were following Jesus, but the vast majority of them had no practical understanding of what following Jesus actually entailed. "He desired to check this light-hearted manner of following him, … so he lays down the absolute demands for everyone who wishes to be his disciples."(F36) What Jesus did in the next paragraph strongly suggests what Jesus did to that great throng in Capernaum who had followed him after the miracle of feeding the five thousand; and what was that? He stunned them with that metaphor of eating flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:52 f). That cooled their superficial ardor; and the same effect was achieved by Jesus in this multitude through the equally hard sayings of the next paragraph.

Verses 25-26

Now there went with him great multitudes: and he turned and said unto them, If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also he cannot be my disciple.


The simple meaning of this astounding declaration is that one, in order to be a disciple of Christ, must love him more than any other being, not even excluding self.

Hateth … as applied here to father, mother, wife, etc., means "to love less," and is void of the sentiments usually associated with that word today. The Biblical use of this word becomes clear when it is recalled that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Genesis 29:30), and that the next verse says that "The Lord saw that Leah was hated." The truly difficult part of the requirement in view here is in the words, "yea, and his own life also," Loving the Lord more than self is the plan of salvation.

Verse 27

Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Long familiarity has softened the meaning of this for modern disciples, the usual notion of it being that the reference here is to a patient, submissive acceptance of the ills and misfortunes of life; but Jesus plainly meant that to be his disciple one would have to hate his own life to the extent of willingness to accept crucifixion at the hands of the Romans for the sake of fidelity to Christ. The background against which Jesus spoke these words proves this to be true. Only twenty-four years previously, about A.D. 6, "The Romans crucified hundreds of followers of the rebel, Judas the Gaulonite … Crucifixion was a common spectacle both before and after that date."(F37) Therefore, Jesus’ mention of bearing a "cross" could not have failed, in the audience which heard him, to mean the most horrible of deaths.

Verses 28-30

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it? Lest haply, when he hath laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all that behold begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

As Henry said, "All that take upon them a profession of religion, undertake to build a tower."(F38) The Saviour’s teaching here is that the endeavor should be attempted in full view of the enormous cost of it. Men must bid farewell to the dearest earthly ties, mortify the lusts of the flesh, set their affections on heavenly things, and subordinate all earthly prospects to the will of the Master.

All of the details of this parable and the one following are inert factors. "They simply enforce the one idea that it is folly to undertake a serious business (here, becoming a disciple of Christ), without counting the cost.(F39)

Verses 31-32

Or what king, as he goeth to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and asketh conditions of peace.

The meaning of these two parables is similar; but the unusual nature of the illustration here suggests the possibility that there might have been a historical basis of it. Spence pointed out that Herod had divorced his first wife, the daughter of a powerful Arabian prince, in order to marry Herodias, which precipitated a war between them. "The results were disastrous to Herod."(F40)

A significant difference appears in the fact that the first of these two parables regards building, and this regards fighting, the same being two phases of the Christian life. The great London preacher, Spurgeon, made these the sum and all of true faith. He named his newspaper, "Sword and Trowel." And, while it is true that there is much fighting in the Christian life (1 Timothy 6:12), such is not in view in this parable. Hence, the situation demands that an ambassage be sent and peace negotiated, and with whom? Certainly not with Satan? The Mighty One with whom the soul must be careful to make peace while there is time, is God. Therefore, the second of the twin parables strongly suggests that while counting the cost of following Jesus Christ, the soul would do well also to count the cost of becoming Christ’s enemy! And what an overwhelming cost that is!

Let the man who will not follow Jesus consider that his refusal is a denial of the only hope of redemption. Let it be considered that all of the sobbing tides of human mortality converge in the abyss of the grave, that all of the strength, beauty, and glory of life are only for a moment, that only Christ has provided the remedy for sin, stabbed the gloom of death with eternal’ light, planted the lilies of the resurrection upon the tomb, and arched every cemetery on earth with a rainbow of promise.

The parable had an application to Israel. Just as Herod was shamefully beaten by Aretus, Israel stood to be destroyed by Rome, unless they accepted the Saviour; they would have done well, therefore, to have made peace with Christ; but there is also application to every man: with his mortal resources as his only strength, does man really wish to be the enemy of God?

Verse 33

So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

In the light of this, who is truly a disciple of Jesus? Every soul that contemplates the terms of discipleship as outlined here must fall on his knees and say, "Lord, I am a disciple; help me to be a disciple." Just as the Lord helped Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, mentioned in the preceding chapter, so will he help all who truly desire to be his followers.

Verse 34

Salt therefore is good: but even if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill; men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

For a more detailed study of the salt metaphor, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 5:13. The use of the metaphor here is different from that in Matthew. Christ used many of his illustrations on various occasions and for the purpose of making different points. Spence declared that:

Here "salt" stands for the spirit of self-sacrifice, self-renunciation. When in a man, or in a nation, or in a church, that salt is savourless, then that spirit is dead; and there is no hope remaining for the man, for the people, or the church.(F41)

Likewise Dr. Ash wrote that: "SALT represented disciples who would count the cost and pay the price. Men who would not were as worthless as tasteless salt."(F42)

This passage has no bearing whatever upon the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, or impossibility of apostasy; but that does not prevent the allegation that it does. Based upon the chemical fact that sodium chloride CANNOT lose its taste, that salt "(cannot) ever lose its peculiar pungency and power to hinder corruption," Bliss concluded that "no true subject of regenerating grace ever has or ever will become utterly void of new life."(F43) However, Christ said nothing of sodium chloride, the salt of that day being an utterly different product, which not only COULD but frequently did lose its taste (see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 5:13). The illustration as here given by Christ posed no impossibility at all. "If even the salt have lost its savor" was certainly a development that Christ held to be possible, for he went further and declared that "It is fit neither for land nor for the dunghill."

Whereas in Matthew Christians are viewed as "the salt of the earth," here it is the spirit of renunciation and sacrifice within Christians which is the salt.

Strict and demanding as the conditions of true discipleship assuredly are, the rewards are abundantly sufficient to justify any and all sacrifices required in following the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 14". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/luke-14.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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