1. τινος τῶν ἀρχόντων τῶν Φαρισαίων. ‘Of the Rulers of the Pharisees.’ Vulg Cujusdam principis Pharisaeorum. The rendering of our version gives the general sense but is inadmissible. It is perhaps due to the translators being aware that the Pharisees had (strictly speaking) no Rulers. There were no grades of distinction between Pharisees as such. But obviously the expression might be popularly used of a Pharisee who was an eminent Rabbi like Hillel or Shammai, or of a Pharisee who was also a Sanhedrist.
σαββάτῳ φαγεῖν ἄρτον. Sabbath entertainments of a luxurious and joyous character were the rule among the Jews, and were even regarded as a religious duty (Nehemiah 8:9-12; Tobit 2:1; John 12:2). All the food was however cooked on the previous day (Exodus 16:23). That our Lord accepted the invitation, though He was well aware of the implacable hostility of the Pharisaic party towards Him, was due to His gracious spirit of forgiving friendliness; and to this we owe the beautiful picture of His discourse and bearing throughout the feast which this chapter preserves for us. Every incident and remark of the banquet was turned to good. We have first the scene in the house (1–6); then the manœuvres to secure precedence at the meal (7–11); then the lesson to the host about the choice of guests (12–14); then the Parable of the King’s Feast suggested by the vapid exclamation of one of the company (15–24).
καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦσαν παρατηρούμενοι αὐτόν. ‘And they themselves were carefully watching Him,’ comp. Luke 6:7. The invitation in fact even more than those in Luke 7:36, Luke 11:37 was a mere plot;—part of that elaborate espionage, and malignant heresy-hunting (Luke 11:53-54, Luke 20:20; Mark 12:13), which is the mark of a decadent religion, and which the Pharisees performed with exemplary diligence. The Pharisees regarded it as their great object in life to exalt their sacred books; had they never read so much as this—“the wicked watcheth the righteous and seeketh occasion to slay him” Psalms 37:32; or “all that watch for iniquity are cut off, that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate” Isaiah 29:20-21?
1–6. SABBATH HEALING OF A MAN WITH THE DROPSY
CH. 14 THE VARIOUS DISCOURSES OF JESUS AT A BANQUET. “THE SON OF MAN EATING AND DRINKING”
2. καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν ὑδρωπικὸς ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ. The verse represents with inimitable vividness the flash of recognition with which the Lord at once grasped the whole meaning of the scene. The dropsical man was not one of the guests; he stood as though by accident in the promiscuous throng which may always enter an Oriental house during a meal. But his presence was no accident. The dropsy is an unsightly, and was regarded as an incurable, disease. The Pharisaic plot had therefore been concocted with that complex astuteness which marks in other instances (Luke 20:19-38; John 8:5) also the deadliness of their purpose. They argued (i) that He could not ignore the presence of a man conspicuously placed in front of Him; (ii) that perhaps He might fail in the cure of a disease exceptionally inveterate; (iii) that if He did heal the man on the Sabbath day there would be room for another charge before the synagogue or the Sanhedrin. One element which kindled our Lord’s indignation against the Pharisees for these crafty schemes was the way in which they made a mere tool of human misery and human shame.
3. ἀποκριθεὶς … εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς νομικοὺς καὶ Φαρισαίους. See on Luke 5:22. He took the initiative, and answered their unspoken thoughts.
ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεῦσαι; Some MSS. read εἰ ἔξεστιν, comp. Luke 22:49; Acts 1:6. In later Greek εἰ became a mere interrogative particle. We have already seen (Luke 6:1-11, Luke 13:11-17; comp. John 5:11; John 9:14) that these Sabbath disputes lay at the very centre of the Pharisaic hatred to him, because around the ordinance of the Sabbath they had concentrated the worst puerilities and formalisms of the Oral Law; and because the Sabbath had sunk from a religious ordinance into a national institution, the badge of their exclusiveness and pride. But this perfectly simple and transparent question at once defeated their views. If they said ‘It is not lawful’ they exposed themselves before the people to those varied and over whelming refutations which they had already undergone (see on Luke 13:15). If they said ‘It is lawful’ then cecidit quaestio, and their plot had come to nothing.
ἡσύχασαν. It was the silence of a splenetic pride and obstinacy which while secretly convinced determined to remain unconvinced. But such silence was His complete public justification. If the contemplated miracle was unlawful why did not they—the great religious authorities of Judaism—forbid it?
4. ἐπιλαβόμενος. ‘Taking hold of him,’ i.e. laying his hand upon him.
5. υἱὸς ἢ βοῦς. The unquestionable reading if we are to follow the MSS. is υἱὸς ἢ βοῦς. The strangeness of the collocation (which however may be taken to imply ‘a son—nay even an ox’) has led to the conjectural emendation of υἱὸς into ὄϊς ‘a sheep’ (whence the reading πρόβατον ‘a sheep’ in D) or ὄνος ‘an ass’ which was suggested by Deuteronomy 22:4. When however it is a question between two readings it is an almost invariable rule that the more difficult is to be preferred as the more likely to have been tampered with. Further (i) Scripture never has “ass and ox” but always “ox and ass;” and (ii) “son” is a probable allusion to Exodus 23:12, “thine ox and thine ass and the son of thine handmaid shall rest on the sabbath,” and (iii) the collocation ‘son and ox’ is actually found in some Rabbinic parallels. If it be said that ‘a son falling into a well’ is an unusual incident, the answer seems to be that pits (as in Matthew 12:2) and wells (as here) are so common and often so unprotected in Palestine that the incident must have been less rare than it is among us.
εὐθέως ἀνασπάσει αὐτόν. Will at once draw him out. Vulg extrahat. They would draw him out although the Sabbath labour thus involved would be considerable. And why would they do this? because they had been taught, and in their better mind distinctly felt, that mercy was above the ceremonial law (Deuteronomy 22:4). An instance which had happened not many years before shews how completely they were blinding and stultifying their own better instincts in their Sabbath quibblings against our Lord. When Hillel—then a poor porter—had been found half-frozen under masses of snow in the window of the lecture-room of Shemaiah and Abtalion where he had hidden himself to profit by their wisdom because he had been unable to earn the small fee for entrance, they had rubbed and resuscitated him though it was the Sabbath day, and had said that he was one for whose sake it was well worth while to break the Sabbath.
6. οὐκ ἴσχυσαν ἀνταποκριθῆναι πρὸς ταῦτα. Inability to answer never makes any difference in the convictions of ignorant hatred and superstitious narrowness.
7. ἔλεγεν … παραβολήν. See on Luke 4:23.
πρὸς τοὺς κεκλημένους. To the invited guests, as distinguished from the onlookers.
ἐπέχων. Sc. νοῦν, turning his attention to the fact (animadvertens, attendens).
ἐξελέγοντο. ‘They were picking out for themselves.’ The selfish struggle for precedence as they were taking their places—a small ambition so universal that it even affected the Apostles (Mark 9:34)—gave Him the opportunity for a lesson of Humility.
τὰς πρωτοκλισίας. The best couches, i.e. the chief places at table. These at each of the various triclinia would be those numbered 2, 5, and 8. The host usually sat at 9.
See Smith’s Dict. of Antiquities, s.v. Triclinium.
7–11. HUMILITY A LESSON FOR THE GUESTS
8. εἰς γάμους. The term is used generally for any great feast; but perhaps our Lord here adopted it to make His lesson less immediately personal.
ἐντιμότερός σου. Philippians 2:3, “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
9. ἄρξῃ μετὰ αἰσχύνης τὸν ἔσχατον τόπον κατέχειν. The lowest place. The ‘room’ of the A. V meant ‘place’ as in Psalms 31:8. If, by the time that the guests are seated, it be found that some one has thrust himself into too high a position for his rank, when he is removed he will find all the other good places occupied. There is an obvious reference to Proverbs 25:6-7. How much the lesson was needed to check the arrogant pretensions of the Jewish theologians, is shewn again and again by the Talmud, where they assert no reward to be too good or too exalted for their merits. Thus at a banquet of King Alexander Jannaeus, Rabbi Simeon Ben Shetach, in spite of the presence of some great Persian Satraps, thrust himself at table between the King and Queen, and, when rebuked for his intrusion, quoted in his defence Sirach 15:5, “Exalt wisdom, and she … shall make thee sit among princes.”
10. ἀνάπεσε. Some MSS. read ἀνάπεσαι, but only the 2nd aor. of this verb is found.
δόξα. ‘Glory.’ It need, however, hardly be said that nothing is farther from our Lord’s intentions than to teach mere calculating worldly politeness. From the simple facts of life that an intrusive person renders himself liable to just rebuffs, he draws the great spiritual lesson so much needed by the haughty religious professors by whom He was surrounded, that
“Humble we must be if to heaven we go;
High is the roof there, but the door is low.”
11. ταπεινωθήσεται. Shall be ‘humbled.’ The ‘abased’ of the A. V is a needless and enfeebling variation. See on Luke 1:52, Luke 13:30, and Matthew 23:12. A similar lesson is prominent in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 16:18-19, Proverbs 29:23), and is strongly enforced by St Peter (1 Peter 5:5).
12. μὴ φώνει τοὺς φίλους σου. In this, as many of our Lord’s utterances, we must take into account  the idioms of Oriental speech;  the rules of common sense, which teach us to distinguish between the letter and the spirit. It is obvious that our Lord did not mean to forbid the common hospitalities between kinsmen and equals, but only, as the context shews,  to discourage a mere interested hospitality intended to secure a return; and  to assert that unselfish generosity is superior to the common civilities of friendliness. The “not” therefore means, as often elsewhere in Scripture, “not only, but also,” or “not so much … as,” as in Proverbs 8:10; John 6:27; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Timothy 2:9, &c. In other words, “not” sometimes denies “not absolutely but conditionally (Galatians 5:21) and comparatively (1 Corinthians 1:17).” See Matthew 9:13; Jeremiah 7:22; Joel 2:13; Hebrews 8:11. In Hellenistic Greek φωνεῖν is used for καλεῖν.
μήποτε καὶ αὐτοὶ κ.τ.λ. Lest perchance they too. “This,” says Bengel, “is a fear not known to the world.” The turn of the sentence is, in fact, what a Greek would have described as a happy παρὰ προσδοκίαν. It teaches by surprise.
καὶ γένηται ἀνταπόδομά σοι. In a similar case Martial says, “You are asking for gifts, Sextus, not for friends.”
12–14. WHOM TO INVITE A LESSON TO THE HOST
13. κάλει πτωχούς. Matthew 25:35. The duty is recognised in another form by Nehemiah. “Eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared,” Nehemiah 8:10.
14. ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει τῶν δικαίων. The same duty is enforced with the same motive by St Paul, 1 Timothy 6:17-19. By the phrase “the resurrection of the just,” our Lord possibly referred to the twofold resurrection, Luke 20:35; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, &c. But the allusion may be more general, Acts 24:15.
15. ἀκούσας δέ τις τῶν συνανακειμένων ταῦτα. He may have wanted to diminish the force of the rebukes implied in the previous lessons by a vapid general remark. At any rate, he seems to have assumed that he would be one of those who would sit at the heavenly feast which should inaugurate the new aeon, and from which, like all Jews, he held it to be almost inconceivable that any circumcised son of Abraham should be excluded. Hence the warning involved in this parable which was meant to prove how small was the real anxiety to accept the divine invitation.
φάγεται ἄρτον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ. Almost the same words occur in Revelation 19:9. The Jews connected the advent of the Messianic Kingdom with banquets of food more delicious than manna—the flesh of Leviathan, and the bird Bar Juchne.
15–24. THE REFUSED BANQUET A LESSON TO A GUEST
16. ἄνθρωπός τις ἐποίει δεῖπνον μέγα. The difference between this parable and that of the King’s Supper (Matthew 22:1-10) will be clear to any one who will read them side by side. He who gives the invitation is God. Psalms 25:6.
καὶ ἐκάλεσεν πολλούς. This implies the breadth and ultimate universality of the Gospel message. But as yet the “many” are the Jews, who (in the first application) are indicated by those who refuse.
17. ἀπέστειλεν τὸν δοῦλον αὐτοῦ τῇ ὥρᾳ τοῦ δείπνου. This is still a custom in the East, Proverbs 9:1-5; Thomson, Land and Book, I. ch. ix. The message of the servant corresponds to the ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus Himself.
ἔρχεσθε, ὅτι ἤδη ἕτοιμά ἐστιν. “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Luke 10:1; Luke 10:9; Matthew 3:1-2.
18. ἀπὸ μιᾶς. With one consent (γνώμης), lit. from one determination; or with one voice (φωνῆς), comp. ἀπὸ τῆς ἴσης, ἀπ' εὐθείας, ἐξ ὀρθῆς, &c. They are rather colloquial than classical phrases.
παραιτεῖσθαι. Deprecari. 2 Maccabees 2:31; Acts 25:11. The Greek word is the exact equivalent of our ‘to beg off.’ The same fact is indicated in John 1:11; John 5:40, and in the “ye would not” of Luke 13:34; and the reason is the antipathy of the natural or carnal man (ὁ ψυχικὸς) to God, John 15:24.
ἠγόρασα. These aorists simply regard the facts asserted as single acts.
ἔχε με παρῃτημένον. Consider me as having been excused. (Comp. εἶχον ‘they considered’ in Matthew 14:5.) The very form of the expression involves the consciousness that his excuse of necessity (ἀνάγκην ἔχω) was merely an excuse. There is, too, an emphasis on the me—“excusatum me habeas”—it may be the duty of others to go; I am an exception.
19. πορεύομαι δοκιμάσαι αὐτά. The second has not even the decency to plead any necessity. He merely says ‘I am going to test my oxen,’ and implies ‘my will is sufficient reason.’
20. οὐ δύναμαι ἐλθεῖν. The ‘I cannot,’ as in Luke 11:7, is only an euphemism for ‘I will not.’ He thinks his excuse so valid that there can be no question about it. He relies doubtless on the principle of the exemption from war, granted to newly-married bridegrooms in Deuteronomy 24:5. Compare Hdt. i. 36 where Croesus declines to let his son go on a hunt νεόγαμός τε γάρ ἐστι καὶ ταῦτά οἱ νῦν μέλει. Perhaps St Paul is alluding to this parable in 1 Corinthians 7:29-33, “The time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; … and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not using it to the full.” Thus the three hindrances are possessions, wealth, pleasures. But, as Bengel says, neither the field (Matthew 13:44), nor the plowing (Luke 9:62), nor the wedding (2 Corinthians 11:2) need have been any real hindrance. The ‘sacred hate’ of Luke 14:26 would have cured all these excuses.
21. παραγενόμενος ὁ δοῦλος ἀπήγγειλεν τῷ κυρίῳ αὐτοῦ ταῦτα. We have here a shadow of the complaints and lamentations of our Lord over the stiffnecked obstinacy of the Jews in rejecting Him.
τότε ὀργισθεὶς ὁ οἰκοδεσπότης.
“God, when He’s angry here with any one
His wrath is free from perturbation;
And when we think His looks are sour and grim
The alteration is in us, not Him.”
τὰς πλατείας καὶ ῥύμας τῆς πόλεως. This corresponds to the call of the publicans, sinners, and harlots—the lost sheep of the House of Israel, Luke 4:18; Mark 12:37; Matthew 21:32; James 2:5. In classic Greek ῥύμη means ‘a rush.’ In later Greek (probably as a colloquialism) it acquired the sense of alley.
22. καὶ ἔτι τόπος ἐστίν. ‘Grace, no less than Nature, abhors a vacuum.’ Bengel.
23. εἰς τὰς ὁδοὺς καὶ φραγμούς, i.e. outside the city; intimating the ultimate call of the Gentiles.
ἀνάγκασον εἰσελθεῖν. Constrain them to come in; by such moral suasion as that described in 2 Timothy 4:2. For this use of ἀναγκάζω comp. Matthew 14:22. The compulsion wanted is that used by Paul the Apostle, not by Saul the Inquisitor. The abuse of the word “Compel” in the cause of intolerance is one of the many instances which prove the deadliness of that mechanical letter-worship which attributes infallibility not only to Scripture, but even to its own ignorant misinterpretations. The compulsion is merciful, not sanguinary; it is a compulsion to inward acceptance, not to outward conformity; it is employed to overcome the humble despair of the penitent, not the proud resistance of the heretic. Otherwise it would have been applied, not to the poor suffering outcasts, but to the haughty and privileged persons who had refused the first invitation. Yet even Augustine shews some tendency to this immoral perversion of the words in his “Forisinveniatur necessitas, nascitur intus voluntas.” Others apply it to threats of eternal punishment, and a ministry which dwells on lessons of wrath. Maldonatus well says “adeo rogandos … ut quodammodo compelli videantur.” Those who refused the invitation were not dragged in.
24. λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν. Since the ‘you’ is plural this verse is probably the language of our Lord, indirectly assuming that His hearers would see the bearing of this parable.
οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἐκείνων. It must be remembered that Jesus had now been distinctly and deliberately rejected at Nazareth (Luke 4:29) and Jerusalem (John 8:59); in Judaea, Samaria (Luke 9:53), Galilee (Luke 10:13), and Peraea (Luke 8:37). “Seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles,” Acts 13:46; Hebrews 12:25; Matthew 21:43; Matthew 22:8.
25. συνεπορεύοντο δὲ αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοί. And there were journeying with Him (towards Jerusalem) numerous crowds. This is evidently a scene of the journey, when many separate caravans of the Galilaean pilgrims were accompanying Him on their way to one of the great Jewish feasts. The warning might have prevented them from following Him now, and shouting ‘Crucify Him’ afterwards.
25–35. LESSONS OF WHOLE-HEARTEDNESS, AND OF COUNTING THE COST THE TOWER-BUILDER THE WARRING KING THE SAVOURLESS SALT
26. καὶ οὐ μισεῖ τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα. Marcion read the milder word καταλείπει. It is not so much the true explanation to say that hate here means love less (Genesis 29:31), as to say that when our nearest and dearest relationships prove to be positive obstacles in coming to Christ, then all natural affections must be flung aside; comp. Deuteronomy 13:6-9; Deuteronomy 21:19-21; Deuteronomy 33:8-9. A reference to Matthew 10:37 will shew that ‘hate’ means hate by comparison. Our Lord purposely stated great principles in their boldest and even most paradoxical form by which He alone has succeeded in impressing them for ever as principles on the hearts of His disciples. The ‘love of love’ involves a necessity for the possible ‘hate of hate,’ as even worldly poets have understood.
“Va, je t’aimais trop pour ne pas te haïr.”
“I could not love thee, dear, so much
Loved I not honour more.”
ἔτι δὲ καὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ψυχήν. This further explains the meaning of the word ‘hate.’ The ψυχὴ ‘soul’ or ‘animal life’ is the seat of the passions and temptations which naturally alienate the spirit from Christ. These must be hated, mortified, crucified if they cannot be controlled; and life itself must be cheerfully sacrificed, Revelation 12:11; Acts 20:24. “Il faut vivre dans ce monde,” says St Francis de Sales, “comme si nous avions l’esprit au ciel, et le corps au tombeau.”
27. οὐ βαστάζει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ. Not only must self be mortified, but even the worst sufferings endured, 1 Thessalonians 3:4-5. The allusion to the cross must still have been mysterious to the hearers (Matthew 10:38), the more so since they were dreaming of Messianic triumphs and festivities.
28. θέλων πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι. This and the next similitude are meant, like the previous teachings, to warn the expectant multitudes that to follow Christ in the true sense might be a far more serious matter than they imagined. They are significant lessons on the duty of deliberate choice which will not shrink from the ultimate consequences—the duty of counting the cost (see Matthew 20:22). Thus they involve that lesson of “patient continuance in well-doing,” which is so often inculcated in the New Testament.
29. πάντες οἱ θεωροῦντες ἄρξωνται αὐτῷ ἐμπαίζειν. Very possibly this might have actually happened in some well-known instance, since the Herodian family had a passion for great buildings and probably found many imitators. First failure, then shame awaits renegade professions and extinguished enthusiasms.
31. ἑτέρῳ βασιλεῖ συμβαλεῖν εἰς πόλεμον. ‘To meet another king in battle.’ There may be an historical allusion here to the disturbed relations between Herod Antipas and his injured father-in-law Hareth, king of Arabia, which (after this time) ended in the total defeat of the former (Jos. Antt. XVIII. 5, § 3).
32. ἐρωτᾷ τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην. This is sufficient to overthrow the interpretation which sees Man and Satan in the warring kings. Another view is that it implies the hostility of man to God, and the urgent need of being reconciled to Him (e.g. Bengel says on the words ‘king,’ “Christiana militia regale quiddam”). That however is never a calculated hostility which deliberately sits down and expects to win the victory; otherwise it would be a good inference that “a Christian’s weakness is his strength.” It is a mistake, and one which often leads to serious errors, to press unduly the details of parables; as when for instance some would see in the 10,000 soldiers a reference to the Ten Commandments. The general lesson is—Do not undertake what you have neither the strength nor the will to achieve, nor that in which you are not prepared, if need be, to sacrifice life itself.
33. οὐκ ἀποτάσσεται πᾶσιν τοῖς ἑαυτοῦ ὑπάρχουσιν. ‘Renounceth not all his possessions’ (Vulg renunciat, comp. Luke 9:61); i.e. every affection, gift or possession that interferes with true discipleship. We must be ready ‘to count all things but loss for Christ,’ Philippians 3:7-8.
34. καλὸν οὖν τὸ ἅλας, the true reading (Salt therefore is good), connecting this verse with what has gone before. This similitude was thrice used by Christ with different applications. “Ye are the salt of the earth,” Matthew 5:13. “Have salt in yourselves,” Mark 9:50. Here the salt is the inward energy of holiness and devotion, and in the fate of salt which has lost its savour we see the peril which ensues from neglect of the previous lessons.
35. ἔξω βάλλουσιν αὐτό. Forth they fling it! There is not a moment’s doubt that it has become perfectly useless. There is nothing stronger than salt which can restore to it its lost pungency. Hence, if it have been spoilt by rain or exposure, it is only fit to be used for paths. The peril of backsliding, the worthlessness of the state produced by apostasy, is represented in St John (John 15:6) by the cutting off and burning of the dead and withered branch. The main lesson of these three similitudes is expressed with its full force in Hebrews 6:4-12; Hebrews 10:26-39; and the importance of it is emphasized by the proverbial expression, “He that hath ears to hear” (Matthew 11:15; Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 6:9-10).
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the Second Week of Lent