Luk . One of the chief Pharisees.—Rather, "one of the rulers of the Pharisees" (R.V.). The phrase is a peculiar one, since the Pharisees, as such, had no rulers; it may refer to some influential Rabbi, or to some member of the Sanhedrim. To eat bread.—The Jews were accustomed to give feasts on the Sabbath (all the food having been cooked the day before), and in the writings of the early Fathers there are many allusions to sumptuous eating and drinking among the wealthier Jews on that day. (Cf. Neh 8:9-12; Tob 2:1.) The phrase "to eat bread" is a Hebraism which is often used to denote "to feast," "to make good cheer." They watched Him.—Rather, "they were watching Him" (R.V.). It would seem as if they went further and laid a trap to ensnare Jesus. The man with the dropsy seems not to have been a guest, but to have been planted among the company in the sight of Jesus. This appears from the phrase (Luk 14:2) "before Him," and (Luk 14:4) "let Him go"—as of dismissing him from the room.
Luk . And Jesus answering.—I.e., knowing their thoughts and, replying to them, though they were unexpressed (cf. Luk 5:22). Is it lawful?—They were in a dilemma; for if they answered in the negative they exposed themselves to an overwhelming retort like that given in chap. Luk 13:15, while if they answered in the affirmative their whole case against Jesus would fall to the ground.
Luk . Held their peace.—And even thus could not avoid giving an answer to the question. They did not forbid the miracle, by declaring that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath day. Took Him.—I.e., took hold of Him, laid His hands upon him.
Luk . An ass or an ox.—The balance of evidence is about equal in favour of "a son or an ox," or "an ass or an ox." The R.V. retains the latter in the text and relegates the former to the margin. The natural connection between "ass" and "ox" (cf. Luk 13:15) may account for that reading. The other is a more difficult reading, and therefore more likely to have been the original one, according to a well-known canon of criticism. The reading "son" suggests two different kinds of ownership—"one of your children, or even one of your cattle." Fallen into a pit.—Rather, "into a well" (R.V.). There is a certain analogy between the disease and the accident—dropsy, and death by drowning. Pull him out.—Rather, "draw him up" (R.V.).
Luk . Could not answer Him.—Silent, but not convinced: obstinacy and spiritual pride sealed their minds against the force of His reasoning.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luk
There is little that is specially characteristic about this miracle. On other occasions than this Jesus healed disease by a word, or by a touch; on other occasions, as on this, He gave offence to those who were anxious to find it by healing upon a Sabbath, and amply vindicated His action, to the confusion of His adversaries. Yet the incident here recorded is not, by any means, superfluous or wanting in suggestiveness; it gives us a vivid picture of a scene in the life of Jesus, in which both the graciousness of the Saviour and the sullen malice of His adversaries are set forth.
I. The graciousness of the Saviour.—This was manifested, first of all, in His consenting to accept the invitation of the ruler of the Pharisees to eat bread in his house. After the preceding scenes, a certain measure of courage, as well as of kindly feeling, is implied in our Lord's sitting down at table with members of that party, whose hostility to Him could not be concealed. Yet the righteous anger and indignation which the conduct of the Pharisees had, from time to time, excited in the mind of Jesus, did not exasperate Him against them; the Divine compassion which He manifested towards publicans and sinners was not withheld from those who were blinded by prejudice, and led astray by a delusion as to their own righteousness. The patience and love of the Saviour toward those who were animated by dislike to Him, are, indeed, more wonderful than His compassionate treatment of the outcast and defiled; just as, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the patience of the Father with the harsh elder brother surprises us more than his kindness to the returning penitent. He knows that He is the object of their malicious suspicions, even if they have not laid a snare for Him, and yet He utters no reproaches against them. On the contrary, He reasons calmly with them, in order to convince them of their error and to win them to a better mind. Then, too, we see the graciousness of the Saviour in the cure of the man with the dropsy. The sight of the sufferer awoke pity in His heart, and though no direct petition for relief was offered to Him, the mute appeal was sufficient to call forth His miraculous power. He not only had compassion upon those who besought His help, but also upon those who stood in need of it, even if they were too timid or faithless to apply to Him for relief. And no sooner has Jesus healed him than He dismisses him from His presence, apparently to spare him the acrimonious criticism which the sight of a cure wrought on the Sabbath might provoke (cf. Luk ).
II. The sullen malice of Christ's enemies.—They were not ashamed to violate the laws of hospitality by narrowly watching to find some cause of offence, or ground of accusation, in His conduct in private life, on an occasion when He might be expected to be somewhat off His guard. The feast was a formal and elaborate one, but the spirit of love was absent from it. So far from avoiding controversy with their guest, they lay in wait for Him. Nor did they lay aside their hostility when His words of calm wisdom overthrew their theories and arguments, and left them silent in His presence. They could not answer Him, and yet they refused to be persuaded by Him. Could we have a more striking illustration of the power of religious prejudice to blind the eyes and deaden the feelings of those who cherish it? They were in the presence of the Incarnate Son of God, and yet they could not discern His Divine Majesty! They saw the sufferer delivered in an instant from a dreadful form of disease, and yet felt no gladness—their thoughts were taken up with the frivolous question as to whether the miracle could be lawfully wrought on that day! They did not see that their own souls were smitten with a spiritual disease, and that they were rejecting Him who alone could heal them. And in all ages religious prejudices exercise the same baneful influence upon all who indulge in them—they make men hard-hearted towards their brethren, and they come as a thick veil between the soul and Christ, so that His words cannot be understood nor His gracious working recognised.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luk
Luk . Lessons from the Great Teacher.
I. In Sabbath-keeping.
II. In true humility.
III. In true hospitality.
IV. In God's hospitality.—Taylor.
Luk . The Dropsical Man.—The miracle with the account of which this chapter opens gave rise to a conversation of graphic originality, carried on by a series of parabolic illustrations. Chiefly, perhaps, for the sake of introducing these is the healing narrated. The incident in itself is not dwelt upon, and the reasoning which arose upon it closely resembles previous cases of Sabbath healing. The number of these, and the living detail with which they are recorded in the gospels, are noteworthy. Jesus puts signal honour on this day as a day for public worship and for showing acts of mercy. His example must ever remind Christians that care for the poor, the sick, and the ignorant, are duties specially fitted for the Lord's Day. It is consecrated by His Spirit for the service of man, as well as for the worship of God.—Laidlaw.
Luk . One of the Chief Pharisees.—In this last period in which the hatred of the Pharisees against Him was most distinctly expressed, the Saviour does not withdraw from them. Obviously Jesus hoped, by the power of the truth, to gain over for Himself and the cause of God the better disposed, at least, among them.
A Treacherous Invitation.—The invitation of the Pharisee was a treacherous one. He was carrying out the policy indicated in Luk, and had set this diseased man in a place where he would catch the attention of Christ, in order to see what He would say or do. "Behold" in Luk 14:2 implies something unusual and unexpected; and this circumstance implies that the presence of the diseased man was not accidental.
"To eat bread."—It belongs to the peculiarities of St. Luke that he loves to represent to us the Saviour as sitting at a social table, where He most beautifully reveals His pure humanity, through table-talk which, more than that of any other "was seasoned with salt" (Col ), and was addressed, first to the guests (Luk 14:7-10), then to the host (Luk 14:11-14), and, finally, on occasion being given (Luk 14:15), to both (Luk 14:16-24).—Van Oosterzee.
"They watched Him."—The kindness and long-suffering of Christ in accepting the invitation of the Pharisee are very noteworthy, when we consider the bad faith displayed in the desire to find something in His words and deeds out of which they might frame an accusation against Him.
They watched whether He would not transgress their Sabbath restrictions: that was the way that they kept the Sabbath.
Luk . "There was a certain man before Him."—The Pharisees argued
(1) that Jesus could not ignore the presence of a man conspicuously placed in front of Him;
(2) that perhaps He might fail in the cure of a disease exceptionally inveterate;
(3) that if He did heal the man on the Sabbath day there would be room for another charge before the synagogue or the Sanhedrim.—Farrar.
Christ Moved by the Sight of Suffering.—The sight of the suffering man standing there silent moved the heart of Jesus, as the Pharisees had justly expected that it would.
Luk . "Sabbath day."—Our Lord studiously and designedly selected, rather than avoided, the Sabbath day for the performance of His miracles of mercy. The five distinct instances recorded were probably but a few out of many. Add to which, that they seemed, humanly speaking, to cause offence; which our Lord would have avoided, were it not for some great purpose or principle.—Williams.
"Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"—The question was an embarrassing one. If they answered Yes, the occasion of finding fault was taken away; if No, they were open to the charge of want of compassion.
Luk . "Let him go."—A delicate courtesy is indicated in the man being thus dismissed after being cured, before the conversation is resumed upon the work of mercy which had been wrought in his case.
Luk . Christ and the Sabbath.—The teaching to be derived from the Sabbath healings, as recorded in the gospels, may be summarised as follows:
1. We see that Jesus took pains to emphasise the humane element in the original institution as a day of rest, while He rescued it from the exaggerations of Pharisaism.
2. He gave it the sanction of His own observance as a day of public worship and religious congregation.
3. By these deeds of healing He put singular honour upon it as a day for showing mercy.—Laidlaw.
Luk . "Answered them."—Again, it is said, "He answered them," although they had held their peace. That is because their minds were full of fierce, rebellious thoughts; and thoughts are words in the ears of Him with whom we have to do.—Burgon.
"Son or ox" (R.V.)—The argument proceeds from a thing of greater value to one of less. "You deliver your children, and even your oxen, on the Sabbath; shall not I much more deliver My creatures and My children?" If "ass" were the true reading, it should follow "ox"; the Scriptures often say "ox and ass," never "ass and ox." In Deu, in the law of the Sabbath, "son" stands first in the list of rational creatures, "ox" in that of irrational.
Inconsistency of the Pharisees.—As on other occasions (Luk ; Mat 12:11), the Lord brings back those present to their own experience, and lets them feel the keen contradiction in which their blame of Christ's free work of love sets them with themselves, in that, where their worldly interests were at hazard, they did that very thing whereof they now made an occasion against Him.—Olshausen.
Luk . "Could not answer."—Nothing is said, however, about their being convinced of error. Prejudice and malicious feelings are not always to be overcome, even by the best-ordered arguments.
The Truth Exasperates Them.—The truth, which did not win them, did the only other thing which it could do—exasperated them the more; they replied nothing, biding their time (cf. Mat ).—Trench.
Luk . Put forth a parable.—The miracle was wrought, evidently, before the feast began. From the emulation among the guests, and from the allusion in Luk 14:12 to friends and rich neighbours, this seems to have been a formal and luxurious entertainment. The word "parable" is used in a wide sense; the words are to be taken literally, but suggest a great moral lesson (Luk 14:11). Chief rooms.—Rather, "chief seats" (R.V.); the middle places on the triclinium were counted the most honourable.
Luk . A wedding.—Rather, "a marriage feast" (R.V.); perhaps to avoid making the rebuke on this occasion too pointed. At a marriage, too, rules of procedure might be more carefully insisted upon. Sit not down.—It need scarcely be said that the pride that apes humility violates the spirit of this teaching. There should be genuine self-abasement.
Luk . He that bade.—The person who has authority to decide such matters. Begin.—This vividly suggests the reluctance and lingering with which a presumptuous guest leaves the higher and goes down to the lower place. Lowest room.—The other good places having been taken possession of in the meantime.
Luk . That when he, etc.—A consequence that may follow, though not designed and led up to by the guest. Worship.—Rather, "glory" (R.V.), as distinguished from "shame" (Luk 14:9).
Luk . Abased.—Rather, "humbled" (R.V.). For an example of such humiliation see Isa 14:13-15, and of such exaltation Php 2:5-11. These words (Luk 14:7-11) had been addressed to the guests. Christ now addresses the host.
Luk . Call not thy friends, etc.—I.e., hospitality is not to be confined to such feasts; ostentatious and interested motives are also discouraged. Returns are made by friends and rich neighbours, so that real hospitality is not manifested by such feasts. Over and above the intercourse and civilities of social life are the claims of charity; the former are presupposed as ordinarily taking place, and common-sense forbids us to suppose that Christ here condemns them. He Himself, by being present on this and similar occasions, sanctioned them.
Luk . Call the poor.—As a different and somewhat unusual phrase for "call" is given in Luk 14:13, some have supposed that the one implies an ostentatious invitation and the other a more unobtrusive one. But this seems rather too far-fetched. The poor: cf. Neh 8:10; Mat 25:35.
Luk . Resurrection of the just.—If the phrase "of the just" is to be taken as having a distinct meaning (which we can scarcely doubt it has), Christ here refers to the twofold resurrection. See 1Co 15:23; 1Th 4:16; Rev 20:4-5.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luk
Lessons to Guests and Hosts.—The lawyers and the Pharisees at this feast scrutinised eagerly the conduct of Jesus, in order to bring home to Him the charge of Sabbath-breaking. And He, on His part, took notice of their procedure, and in due time spoke words of kindly counsel to them. We read that "they watched Him," and also that "He marked how they chose out the chief seats" at the table. Yet there was a vast difference between their spirit and His. Their action was something like treacherous espionage, while His was like that of a father who gently reproves his children's faults.
I. A lesson to guests: a lesson of humility (Luk ).—We should rob these words of all their value if we took them as merely a counsel of worldly prudence: for in that case they would enforce an artificial rather than a real humility, and even make an affected humility the cloak for selfish ambition. We should rather take the words as enjoining a genuine and unaffected humility, as teaching that the only distinction that deserves a thought is that which is freely bestowed on men of a lowly and a kindly spirit. We may take the parable as setting forth a truth which experience abundantly confirms—viz., that even the most worldly and selfish of men have a sincere respect for the unworldly; that the only men whom they can bear to see preferred before themselves are those who are of a spirit so gentle, and sweet, and unselfish, as not to grasp at any such preference or distinction. Even the world meets us in very much the same spirit that we take to it. If we push men out of our way, they push back; if we plot and strive against them, they plot and strive against us: whereas if we show ourselves friendly, they are not unwilling to be our friends; if we are unaffectedly meek and pure, they honour us for virtues which they may not themselves possess. Those who are most ambitious of rule and of occupying places of distinction are often, if not generally, devoid of the qualifications needed for the post they covet, and men are glad when they see such persons authoritatively commanded to take a lower seat. While those of meek and quiet spirit are unaffectedly surprised when they are summoned to take a more honourable or conspicuous post. Yet these are precisely the men whom we all delight to honour and to see honoured—the men of whose spirit and usefulness we are most assured, and of whose capacity for any work they can be induced to take we are confident. We cheerfully give them the "worship" or glory they do not seek. Because they abase themselves we rejoice in their exaltation.
II. A lesson to hosts: a lesson of benevolence to the poor (Luk ).—As the guests are warned against a pride which might lead to shame, so the host is counselled not to waste his wealth in exercising an ostentatious and interested hospitality. Again the words of Christ bear the appearance of worldly wisdom. Friends and kinsfolk and rich neighbours return the hospitality they receive: the poor cannot repay kindness shown to them, but recompense will be made at the resurrection of the just. Appeal seems to be made to a mercenary motive—that of expecting a reward in heaven for good deeds done upon earth; but in actual life it will be found that no one will busy himself with kindly deeds merely for the sake of a future reward. Consideration for others will awaken and strengthen all the better feelings of the heart, and banish the mercenary spirit. The mention of reward emphasises the fact that acts of benevolence have a high spiritual value in the sight of God, and will draw down upon him who does them the Divine favour and blessing. These words of Christ teach the same lesson as that contained in the parable of the Unjust Steward, who diligently made use of present opportunities for providing for himself shelter and comfort in the day of need.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luk
Luk . Jesus at the Feast.
I. What He said about men's feasts.—
1. A word to the guests.
2. A word to the host.
II. What He said about God's feasts.—
1. It is different as regards those invited.
2. It is different as regards Him who invites.—Stock.
The Exhortation to Humility.
I. Guests ought to humble themselves, by selecting the lowest place.
II. Hosts should humble themselves, by inviting the poorest to their tables.
Luk . The Lowest Seats at Feasts.—This parable deserves a passing notice, if it were only to give occasion for pointing out the prominent place which the great truth that the kingdom of God is for the humble occupied in the thoughts of Jesus, as evinced by the fact of His uttering two parables to enforce it. That he who humbleth himself shall be exalted, and he who exalteth himself shall be abased is, in the view of Christ, one of the great laws in the kingdom of God. On the surface this portion of our Lord's table-talk at the Sabbath feast wears the aspect of a moral advice, rather than of a parable. But through the medium of a counsel of prudence relating to ordinary social life, the Teacher of the doctrine of the kingdom communicates a lesson of true wisdom concerning the higher sphere of religion. The evangelist perceived this, and therefore he called this piece of advice a parable—most legitimately, inasmuch as a parable has for its aim to show, by an example of human action in natural life, how men should act in the sphere of spiritual life. Christ had no serious intention to give a lesson in social deportment, and the parabolic element in His words is confined to this, that instruction valid only for the religious sphere is couched in terms which seem to imply a reference to ordinary social life. Jesus reminds His fellow guests that there is a society in which humility is held in honour, and pride gets a downsetting. That He is thinking of this sacred society is apparent from His manner of expressing Himself.—Bruce.
The Ambitious Guest.
I. These verses obviously enforce an important social principle applicable to our daily life.
II. They bear also on religious duties—our life in relation to God.
III. The more directly spiritual application.—In spiritual things the highest place is the most excellent and most desirable.
1. We are commanded to aim at perfection.
2. We are not to be satisfied with our present condition.
3. Christ's love alone can give us a title to even the lowest room in the heavenly world.—Brameld.
This Parable Teaches—
I. That the law of Christ justifieth none in any rudeness or incivility.
II. That the disciples of Christ ought to have a regard to their reputation, to do nothing they may be ashamed of.
III. That it is according to the will of God that honour should be given to those to whom honour belongeth; that the more honourable persons should sit in the more honourable places.—Pole.
A Higher Place.—
1. Every man ought to desire a higher place.
2. There is a wrong way of getting place.
3. There is a right way of getting place.
4. As a general rule, high character will be called into the higher place.
Luk . "A parable."—The use of this word, as well as the general principle laid down in Luk 14:11, prepares us to find more than a maxim of worldly prudence in this saying of our Lord. Christ here teaches humility in the deepest sense of the word. Let each take the lowest place before God, or, as St. Paul says, "esteem others as better than himself" (Php 2:3). It is God who fixes the true place of each, and His judgment is independent of ours. If we sincerely think ourselves deserving of a low place, we shall not thereby lose our true place.
Secret Dispositions Discovered.—The dignity of these words appears in this, that without any appearance of profoundness or severity, they lay bare the secret disposition at the foundation of the external behaviour they condemn.—Schleiermacher.
Luk . "Sit not down in the highest room."—Cf. Pro 25:6-7 : "Put not forth thyself in the presence of the King, and stand not in the place of great men; for better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither, than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the Prince whom thine eyes have seen."
Luk . Sense of Shame and Lawful Pride.—It is noticeable that He who created man such as he is, here, and in Luk 14:29, appeals to man's sense of shame (Luk 14:9), and to his sense of pride (Luk 14:10).
Luk . "Begin with shame."—No shame attaches to him who takes a low place, but shame is felt by him who is sent down from a higher place.
Luk . "Friend."—No such gracious appellation is addressed to him who had been asked to give up his place to a more honourable guest (Luk 14:9).
This Teaching Exemplified by Christ.—Now, what Christ commanded others He Himself did; for when He came into this world He reclined in the manger, and He died reclining on a cross. Neither at His birth nor at His death could He find any more lowly place.—Bellarmine.
False Humility Excluded.—All that false humility, by which men put themselves lowest and dispraise themselves of set purpose to be placed higher, is by the very nature of our Lord's parable, excluded; for that is not bonâ fide to abase oneself. The exaltation at the hands of the host is not to be a subjective end to the guests, but will follow true humility.—Alford.
Luk . Spiritual Counsels.—The counsels which Christ had given—"Be not proud, lest thou be put to shame; be lowly, so shalt thou be exalted"—are here deepened and spiritualised. They are not mere prudential maxims, therefore, but condemn the Pharisaical pride of the Jews in relation to the kingdom of God.
Luk . The Highest Kind of Hospitality.—Jesus, as it were, does not interfere with the hospitality we may show to relatives and friends—He leaves it in its own place; but He commands us to manifest a kindness of a higher and more spiritual type in caring for the poor and unfortunate.
Luk . "Call not."—I.e., "prefer to show mercy to the poor." The paramount importance of one duty is here stated by comparing it with another, and by preferring it to the lesser, as in Mat 9:13.
Repayment by God.—The recommendation Christ here gives is rendered all the more gracious in its form by its being represented as more for our interest to show a kindness which will draw down a recompense from God than a hospitality which men will repay.
Friends, Relations, Rich Neighbours.—There is a gradation in the order of persons named whom we are likely to invite to our table.
1. Our friends—from a delight in their society.
2. Our brethren and relations—from a sense of duty.
3. Our rich neighbours—from the honour they confer on us by coming, and the hope of receiving an invitation from them in return.
"Lest they also."—A fear which the world does not know.—Bengel.
Disinterested Kindness.—Jesus certainly did not mean us to dispense with the duties of ordinary fellowship. But since there was no exercise of principle involved in it, save of reciprocity, and selfishness itself would suffice to prompt it, His object was to inculcate, over and above everything of this kind, such attentions to the helpless, and provision for them, as, from their inability to make any return, would manifest their own disinterestedness, and, like every other exercise of high religious principle, meet with a corresponding gracious recompense.—Brown.
Luk . "Thou shalt be recompensed."
I. We may reasonably expect a recompense from heaven for such good works as we do, for which we are not recompensed on earth.
II. That God's recompense of us, for doing our duty in obedience to His commands, is often deferred until the resurrection of the just; but then it will not fail obedient souls.
Luk . "Call the poor."—What the Saviour here commends to others He has Himself fulfilled in the most illustrious manner. To the feast in the kingdom of God He has principally invited not such as were related to Him after the flesh, or those from whom He might hope for recompense again, but the poor, the blind, etc., in the spiritual sense of the words. But for that reason also He has now joy to the full in the kingdom of the Father, and a name that is above every name.—Van Oosterzee.
Luk . "The Resurrection of the Just."—Jesus speaks, in Joh 5:28-29, of the general resurrection. Here He distinguishes between a first and a second resurrection (cf. chap. Luk 20:34-36), and His teaching is further developed in the later apostolic writings (1Th 4:16; 1Co 15:23; Rev 20:5-6).
Earthly and Heavenly Rewards.—Let us, therefore, not be disappointed and troubled at not receiving a recompense from men on earth; rather let us be troubled when we receive it, lest we learn to look only for reward on earth, and so lose our reward in heaven.—Chrysostom.
Luk . Blessed is he.—The recompense at the resurrection of the just (Luk 14:14) suggested to this guest a great banquet in the kingdom of the Messiah at which the faithful Israelite would sit down in company with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob (cf. Luk 13:28). He extols the greatness of the privilege. Christ warns him and the others, in the parable that follows, that the privilege will by no means be so generally recognised or embraced by the Jewish people as was commonly thought. There seems to be nothing especially vapid or affected in the exclamation of this guest. Eat bread.—See on Luk 14:1.
Luk . A certain man.—The giver of the feast represents God. A great supper.—"The kingdom of God, the feast of fat things in Isa 25:6; completed in the marriage supper of the Lamb, but fully prepared when the glad tidings of the gospel were proclaimed" (Alford). Bade many.—I.e., the Jewish nation, especially the religiously-minded among them—rulers, Pharisees, and doctors of the law—those enjoying highest religious privileges. The invitation was given through Moses and the prophets.
Luk . Sent his servant.—As was usual in the East (cf. Mat 22:3-4). If the servant is to be identified with any one historical person, it can only be with Christ Himself; but John the Baptist, the Apostles, and others after them, delivered a message like this. All things.—"All" is not in the original, but may fairly be inserted, as it is implied in the sense of the passage.
Luk . And they all.—The underlying idea is that but few of the Pharisaic class responded to Christ's invitation. One consent.—"Consent" is also inserted by the translators; it might have been equally well rendered, "with one voice." All are worldly-minded, though each has his different preoccupation, and expresses himself differently in asking to be excused. All, by alleging excuses, admit that they feel they are under a kind of obligation which they choose to set aside. Go and see it.—Rather, "go out [into the country] and see it" (R.V.). I must needs go.—The reply is still a courteous one, the excuse being pressure of business.
Luk . I go to prove them.—No necessity alleged, but simply the fact that he is going; he has made plans which he will not alter. Still, he feels that some excuse is needed for his conduct.
Luk . I cannot come.—Abrupt refusal, without any attempt at excuse. His "I cannot" is equivalent to "I do not want." According to the Mosaic law (Deu 24:5) a newly married man was free for a year from military service; but exemption from the hardships of war is a very different thing from slighting the claims of friendship. "Commentators usually dwell upon the weakness of the excuses offered. So far from that the first two reasons are very plausible, and the last very strong. And why? They seem to have been purposely made as strong as such reasons ordinarily are, in order to show that no reasons of any kind will be admitted as valid by the heavenly Inviter, who enjoins us first (i.e., above all) to seek His kingdom and righteousness, and allows of no plea for neglecting that duty" (Bloomfield).
Luk . Go out quickly.—No time is lost, either in the parable or in fact, in finding fresh guests. Streets and lanes of the city.—The city still, among the Jews. The poor, etc.—Publicans, sinners, and harlots; lost sheep of the house of Israel. The guests at the banquet correspond to those described in Luk 14:13.
Luk . Yet there is room.—"Both nature and grace abhor a vacuum" (Bengel).
Luk . Highways and hedges.—Outside the city; this refers to the calling of the Gentiles. Compel them.—By moral suasion: had physical force been permitted, why should those who had first refused have been left to themselves? The word "compel" no doubt refers, in the first instance, to the circumstances of the parable: the time was short, the banquet could not be deferred, and the master was anxious for every seat to be occupied. Of course it has its spiritual counterpart in the earnestness with which zealous servants of Christ will press the claims of the kingdom of God (cf. 2Ti 4:2).
Luk . For I say unto you.—Here Christ speaks in His own person, half continuing the parable and half expounding it. For "you" is in the plural, while in the parable the master has been giving commands and directions to one of his servants.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luk
The Feast Refused.—Pious sentiment is cheap, and many a man who has little other religion has his mouth full of beautiful speeches about the desireableness of heaven. Jesus seems to have detected the false ring in this seemingly devout aspiration, and therefore to have met it with this story of the refused feast, which warns the speaker and others to be sure that they are not excusing themselves from a banquet for which they profess to long.
I. The preparation of, and invitations to, the feast.—The use of this emblem to denote spiritual blessings is rooted in Old-Testament prophecy (Isa ; Isa 55:1-3). It is a "great" feast, both in regard of the rich and satisfying food and of the ample room. It provides "enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore"; it meets all the hunger and need of the soul. The preparation of the feast, and the invitations, cover a long time—the whole past ages of Israel's history, during which law, and sacrifice, and prophecy, had been aiming to make men ready for receiving the kingdom, and had been summoning them to partake of its blessings. A second invitation was given in the preaching of John the Baptist, of our Lord Himself, and of the apostles during His life. The fact of a more pressing summons being sent at the moment of readiness marks the solemn significance of the hour at which He was speaking. His coming makes "all things ready," and is the critical moment to which all the ages have been tending. Present decision was called for, and not pious platitudes. We, too, have to learn the awful importance of the present moment, and to beware of losing the awakening consciousness of that in smooth generalities about any future. How we behave to God's invitation, that peals in our ears to-day, settles how we shall fare in the future.
II. The astonishing unanimity of refusal.—In ordinary life people would scramble for invitations to such a grand feast, especially if a great man gave it. But the improbability of the incident is the very point of it. "They all with one consent." This is the miserable strangeness of the fate of God's invitations to the highest good. No others are treated so. Mark the increasing rudeness of the speakers. The first pleads a "must needs"; the second merely states his intention—"I go"; the third bluntly says, "I cannot," and omits the courtesy of asking to be excused. The true lesson from all three is, that innocent and right things keep men away from the gospel feast, and that, however different the objects which are preferred to it, the spirit which prefers them is the same. These excuses do not cover all the reasons—which are excuses only, and not reasons—for refusing the feast. But they suggest that by far the most common is some form or other of preferring the poor delights of time and sense, and they prepare the way for the stringent requirements, in Luk, of giving up all to be a disciple. There was no real incompatibility between the true enjoyment of farm, merchandise, or wife, and accepting the invitation; nor is there any between discipleship and the fullest use and truest enjoyment of earthly good; but the incompatibility is made by our false estimate of these. Because we put them first, therefore they shut us out from the feast. Put it first, and it does not shut us out from them.
III. The needy who do not refuse.—Note—
1. The action of the giver of the feast. His settled purpose that some shall partake of it is not to be foiled. God's provision shall not be wasted, and if it be refused by some foolish souls who prefer husks to bread, and leeks and garlic to manna, the tables shall not stand without guests. The Divine mercy is not to be thwarted, but, with persistent variation of direction, works on to its end undiscouraged. True, the structure of the parable required the second invitation to appear as an afterthought; but that does not detract from the wonderful representation it gives of the inexhaustible patience and unwearied, continuous invitation of the master of the feast.
2. The success of the second invitation. The recipients are still in the "city." They are the same classes as Jesus had just bid His hearers ask to their feasts (Luk ). They have no farm or oxen to see after. In the historical application they represent the "publicans and harlots," the outcast classes who hung on to the theocracy, but, though Jews by descent, were scouted by the class to whom Jesus was speaking. In the wider reference they are the people who know their own needs, and have found themselves to be hungry and poor, having infinite need of salvation, and nothing of their own to win it with. "Yet there is room." How that hints of the boundless spaces in the festal halls, of the ample provision for all!
IV. The invitation extended and made more urgent.—The vagrants who house in the fields and under the hedges are further down in misery than the poor in the city. Historically they represent the Gentiles outside the polity of Israel, and it is in accordance with the spirit of St. Luke's gospel that this transference of the offer of salvation to them should have been recorded by him. But the representation embodies the great truth of which that transference was but an exemplification; namely, the destination of the gospel for all, and its special mission to the lowest. The increase in urgency corresponds to the distance from the banquet and the degradation of the invited. First the message was a simple "Come"; then it was to be a "Bring" them in; and now it is, "Constrain them." The pleading earnestness increases with the need and the sense of unfitness for so great an honour. Complacent indifference, which made sure of a right to eat bread in the kingdom, and would give up nothing for it, was left alone; but poor wretches, who could scarcely believe that the feast was meant for them, were prayed with much entreaty to receive the gift. How grand and wonderful a view of the Divine longing to bestow blessings lies in that word, given as the motive of the host's command, "that my house may be filled!" God cannot be satisfied with empty spaces at His table. He does not rest till all the ample spaces are crowded with "the great multitude, which no man can number," so all-embracing is His love, so strong His desire to impart the bread, enough and to spare, which He has prepared for all the hungry. Historically, the closing threat foretells the exclusion of the Israel of that day as a whole from the feast, but it does not necessarily imply that individuals who separated themselves from the mass, and changed refusal into acceptance, should be debarred access to it. No threatenings are unconditional, and no refusal need be final. Acceptance is always possible, and no refusal need be final.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luk
Luk . "Blessed is he that shall eat bread."—This guest seems to have formed an erroneous idea of the nature of the kingdom of God:
1. He evidently regarded it as affording privilege, rather than as imposing obligations.
2. He thought that, as a Pharisee and an Israelite, he was sure of entrance into it.
3. He thought of that kingdom as belonging to the future, and as having little bearing upon present conduct. The sentimental guest flattered himself that he appreciated the good things of the kingdom; and Christ, knowing how apt men are to deceive themselves in such matters, went on to show him how little reliance is to be placed on the interest in things Divine which he and others took credit for.—Bruce.
An Unexceptionable Remark.—As a saying, the guest's remark was unexceptionable. But as he uttered it, it was only a mere pious remark. He was not a true disciple of Jesus, and had probably no intention of becoming one, so he was one who would never eat bread in the kingdom of God, since he was determined not to accept the invitation to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.—Hastings.
"Blessed is he."—The words sound like those of Balaam, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his". (Num ), a wish only to be safe and happy at last, while rejecting all present invitation to turn to God and live.
I. The spiritual provision.—It is abundant, gracious, glorious.
II. The wide invitation.—There is room for many. Many must come.
III. The feeble excuses.—
1. Worldliness of spirit.
2. Absorption in commercial pursuits.
3. Relative obligations.
IV. The angry host.—Displeased because His generosity is not appreciated. Because He has given the strongest proof of His goodness. His displeasure is irreconcileable.—Stevenson.
Excuses.—They are typical excuses.—
1. Cares of wealth.
2. Pursuit of wealth.
3. Attractions of earthly ties.
II. None of them is a good reason for refusal.
III. In each case what caused refusal was nothing wrong in itself.
The Invitation Refused.—The power of mental pre-occupation in producing indifference or aversion to the doctrine of the kingdom Jesus illustrates in a popular manner in the parable of the Great Supper. The forms of preoccupation therein mentioned are such as are most suited to parabolic narration—such, namely, as arise from the business and pleasures of ordinary life. They are not the only forms, or even the most important, or such as beset the class of men represented at the dinner-table when the parable was spoken. The pre-occupations of the wise and learned were of a more dignified and respectable character.—Bruce.
Near the Kingdom, but Not In It.—Christ spoke the parable to point out the difference between being invited to enter the kingdom and being in it, and to show that the invitation will only aggravate the doom of those who refuse to comply with it. He intends to teach the Jews, and through them to teach us, that those who are near the kingdom may in the end come short of it—that those who stand high in spiritual privileges may be excluded—may exclude themselves—from the kingdom of God.—Arnot.
The Gracious Character of the Kingdom.—The parable teaches that the kingdom of heaven is not for the full, but for the hungry. Everything in it is significant of grace:
1. The selection of a feast as an emblem of the blessings promised implies that they are a free gift from God.
2. The behaviour of those invited first—being full, they despise the Divine gift.
3. Those who are empty and destitute value it.
4. The avowed motive of the repeated invitations—that the house may be filled.—Bruce.
Luk . "A great supper."—The kingdom of heaven
(1) Satisfies those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
2. It brings joys beyond compare.
3. It brings all who believe into holy fellowship with each other.
A Fit Emblem.—The blessings of salvation are in Scripture fitly compared to a feast—
I. Because of their rich variety and abundance.
II. Their suitableness to our spiritual wants.
III. The high satisfaction and enjoyment which they yield.
"Many."—I.e., the whole Jewish people—by the Baptist, by His apostles, by His disciples, and by Himself.
Luk . "His servant."—The office of summoning the world to enter the kingdom of God is one, and the commission to all those who hold it is the same; hence, but one servant is spoken of. This unity of teaching and preaching is the holy inheritance of the Church from her one Lord.
"For all things are now ready."—A suggestion of the splendid abundance of the feast prepared.
The Nominally Religious.—It is implied that these men had tacitly, or in some other well-understood way, accepted the first invitation. They gave no intimation that they intended to decline—they gave the provider of the feast reason to expect their presence. They were, therefore, representatives of those who were nominally, but not really, the people of God. They were within the reach of privileges which they did not value, and were understood to be well-disposed towards God, until their true character was revealed by their being asked to make a decisive choice between God and the world.
Luk . Worldliness of Spirit.—The temper of these self-excusers is threefold; the excuses themselves are threefold; their spirit is one. The first alleges a necessity—he must go and see his land; the second not so much as this, only his own plan and purpose; the third not so much as either of these, but rudely asserts, I cannot (i.e., I will not) come. All are detained by worldliness, in however varied forms.—Alford.
Innocent, but Fatal.—Land—oxen—a wife;—all innocent; perhaps all needful; all certainly fatal. They loved them too much, or the gospel too little. Their love for them was perhaps not excessive; it might have been but little; but, at all events, their love for the gospel was less. Or their love for the gospel might have been great, very great; but their love of the world was greater. Still, it all came to one and the same end for God will not have a divided heart. It is the choice of the two which is presented at all times. To have married a wife was provided for in the law as a sufficient plea not to go forth to war; but the gospel is higher in its requirements. "He that loveth wife or children more than Me, is not worthy of Me."—Williams.
Ever-Recurring Forms of Danger.—It may be observed that in describing the reception which the gospel would meet with, our Lord mentions the very things which He notices in speaking of the old world and of Sodom. He omits all mentions of their great crimes, but chooses out, for their resemblance to the last day, points innocent in themselves, but of an absorbing worldly nature. In the days of Lot, which are likened to the end of the world, "they bought and sold" (chap. Luk )—as here the excuse is, "I have bought oxen, and I go to prove them." In the former, "they planted, they builded"—as here the plea is, "I have bought a field; I must needs go to see it." Again, in the days of Noah and of Lot "they married and gave in marriage"—and the gospel in the parable is rejected, because "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." The same things, therefore, are true of the days of the Son of Man, as appears from Scripture; whether we speak of Christ's final coming, or of the Christian dispensation generally.—Burgon.
The Thorns which choke the Word.—The three excuses answer to the three things which are said to "choke the Word" in the parable of the Sower (Luk )—"the care of this world," "the deceitfulness of riches," and "the pleasures of this life."
Different Degrees of Contumacy.—One may trace here a rising scale of contumacy:
1. The first of these guests would be very glad to come, if only it were possible, if there was not a constraining necessity keeping him away.
2. The second alleges no such constraining necessity, but is simply going upon sufficient reason on another errand.
3. The third has engagements of his own, and declares outright, "I cannot come."—Trench.
Hindrances to Faith and Obedience.
I. "The lust of the eye and the pride of life" too often detain men from Christ.
II. In some cases the business and cares of life have the same effect.
III. In other cases it is the pleasure of the world that is a hindrance.
The Excuses Frivolous.—These various excuses are all frivolous; they simply veil a disinclination to come to the feast. For all these persons had been informed of the coming feast, and could have chosen another day for attending to the various concerns which they now plead as excuses.
Luk . Spiritual Possessions, Occupations, and Joys.—All these excuses had been anticipated and refuted by our Lord's teaching that there is another field for which we ought to sell all and buy it (Mat 13:44)—another plough to be followed (Luk 9:62); and now He teaches that there is another marriage-feast to be preferred before all earthly nuptials—a marriage-feast in which the soul is not only a guest, but is espoused as a bride to Christ (2Co 11:2).—Wordsworth.
"With one consent."—One motive inspired them all: indifference towards, or dislike of, him who had invited them.
"To make excuse."—By so doing they acknowledge their obligation to appear at the feast. In like manner comparatively few of those who lead irreligious lives repudiate religious obligations, however poor the excuses may be which they bring forward to excuse their neglect of them.
"Have me excused."—"Me." Whatever may be the case with others, who can and ought to come, I am obliged to ask thee to excuse me.
Luk . "A wife."—Marriage—the closest and most sacred of all ties—here stands for all earthly ties; just as oxen and land stand for all worldly goods and possessions whatsoever. "Surely he takes the text in too large a sense, that, because it says ‘a man shall leave all and cleave to his wife,' therefore he shall leave God. It is but the father and mother on earth, and not the Father of heaven, that for her we may forsake" (Feltham).
"I cannot come."—"The persons mentioned before excused themselves civilly. This man bluntly declares ‘he cannot come.' Some damn themselves in a rude and brutal, others in a civil, well-bred manner" (Quesnel).
His language is all the more brusque because he is assured that he has a more plausible and adequate reason for refusing the invitation than others.
Luk . Angry.—The dislike or hatred which lay beneath the excuses calls forth anger on the part of the master. Cf. 2Sa 22:27 : "With the froward Thou wilt show Thyself unsavoury."
"Streets and lanes."—Still within the city, so that by the class here summoned we are to understand the outcast classes among the Jews, as distinguished from the Pharisees and scribes to whom the invitation was naturally first addressed, and who had as a class rejected it.
"The maimed, the halt, and the blind."—"The maimed," whom no woman would marry (Luk ); "the halt," who could not follow the plough (Luk 14:19); "the blind," who could not see fields or anything else (Luk 14:18).—Bengel.
Luk . "Yet there is room."—
1. A word of encouragement to those who desire, but have not ventured to come in.
2. A summons to fresh zeal on the part of those charged with the duty of bringing in guests.
Luk . Unlikely Guests.
I. The guests, brought in from the highways, and hedges, and lanes, may in the first intention, represent the spiritually-neglected Jewish populace, as opposed to the self-satisfied scribes and Pharisees.
II. The principle involved is; the kingdom and its blessings are for the hungry anywhere and everywhere; there is plenty of room, and I will have my house full.
III. The probable application is: privileged Israel self-excluded by her indifference; unprivileged heathendom rendered eligible by destitution.—Bruce.
Luk . "Highways and hedges."—Those in the heathen world needing, and many of them longing for, salvation.
As Luk is the subject of the first part of the Acts of the Apostles (chaps. 1-12, the conversion of the Jews), so Luk 14:22-23 contain that of the second part (chap. 13 to the end, the conversion of the heathen).—Godet.
The Need for Haste.—The time was short, and the master of the house could not wait; therefore he bade his servant urge these new guests to fill the house without delay.
"Compel."—Use so much zeal and importunity that they may feel constrained to come in (2Ti ).
Force and Persuasion.—The two kinds of compulsion are illustrated in the history of St. Paul. Saul as a persecutor compelled men and women to return to or to remain in the Jewish fold; as a servant of Christ he strove to urge and persuade his hearers to enter the Christian fold.
Timidity Overcome.—The poor out casts would doubtless naturally be timid about entering the rich man's house; they would scarcely dare to accept the invitation. A friendly compulsion is necessary in their case. Those really unwilling to come—the guests first invited—are not compelled to attend the feast.
Inducements to Accept the Invitation.—Inducements to persuade acceptance of the gospel invitation:
1. Your naturally miserable and perishing condition.
2. The consideration that "all things are now ready."
3. That many guests have entered.
4. That "yet there is room."
5. That rejection of the invitation now means exclusion from the feast of heavenly glory hereafter.
"Filled."—The great love of God desires a multitude of guests; not a seat that is prepared is to be allowed to remain vacant. The number of the elect is proportioned beforehand to the riches of the Divine glory, and this can only find complete reflection in a certain number of human beings. The invitation will therefore last, and consequently the history of our race will be prolonged, until that number is reached. Thus it is that the Divine decree is reconciled with human liberty. The number of those saved is, comparatively to the number of those called, small, no doubt; nevertheless, in itself, the number of the saved is great.—Godet.
"That my house may be filled."—He has so made provision that He must have people that eat, drink, and are merry, though He should make them out of stones.—Luther.
Spiritual Wretchedness not a Ground of Safety.—However, let it be well observed that to be in a spiritually wretched state does not confer a favour, or imply safety. These men were saved, not because they were spiritually very low, but although they were spiritually very low; they were saved, although the chief of sinners, because Christ invited them and they came at His call. The more moral, and more privileged, who were first invited, would have been as welcome and as safe if they had come.—Arnot.
Luk . "For I say unto you."—In matter of form these words belong to the parable, but no doubt the look and manner of Jesus, as He put this threat in the mouth of the host whose invitation had been so indifferently treated by the guests first summoned, made those present feel that He and they were the type of persons really meant.
"My supper."—Our Lord half passes from the parable and speaks words which seem to express His own decision rather than that of the giver of the feast. By so doing He warns His hearers of the risk they were running in rejecting Him—they were acting like those who had excluded themselves from the feast. "My supper, to which I not only invite you, but which I, as the Son, with the Father, have Myself prepared for you!"
Luk . There went with Him.—I.e., journeyed with Him; many, if not most, of them being on their way to one of the feasts in Jerusalem. The multitudes were attracted by Christ's teaching and works, and He wished to teach His followers the wide difference between an outward and a real adhesion to Him. He spoke these stern words to sift the multitude. The purpose of self-sacrifice by which He was inspired lent force to His utterances. "The nearer the approach of His own self-sacrifice, the more distinct and the more ideal are the claims which He makes" (Meyer).
Luk . Cometh unto Me.—This is descriptive of outward adhesion. Hate not.—The word cannot be understood of active hatred, since Christ commands us to love even our enemies, but denotes a deep and heartfelt alienation from all ties, and affections, and feelings, that would interfere with devotion to Christ. The clue to whatever difficulty the words might, at first sight, suggest is to be found in the phrase "and his own life also." Life here means animal life; not life in the highest sense. In the same manner in which a man is called to control and repress and subordinate his lower life to higher claims, at any cost of feeling, is he to deal with the other relationships in which he finds himself. "Let the hate begin here, and little explanation will be further wanted. It need hardly be observed that this hate is not only consistent with, but absolutely necessary for, the very highest kind of love. It is that element in love which makes a man a wise and Christian friend, not for time only, but for eternity" (Alford).
Luk . Bear his cross.—I.e., submit to any sufferings, however severe, to which his devotion to Christ might expose him.
Luk . Sitteth not down.—Deliberate and careful consideration (so in Luk 14:31) of ability to complete the undertaking.
Luk . Or what king …?—The former illustration lays stress upon the folly, this upon the danger, of following Christ without having duly considered what is involved in discipleship—what self-renunciation must be exemplified. The purpose of the illustrations seems to be to enforce the necessity of earnestness and deliberation in entering upon and discharging the obligations of the spiritual life.
Luk . That forsaketh not, etc.—In other words, "counting the cost" (Luk 14:28), which may be that of forsaking the interests, and affections, and possessions, of this present life.
Luk . If the salt have lost, etc.—The life of the merely nominal Christian is compared to salt that has lost its characteristic properties and is useless for any purpose. The office of the follower of Jesus is to be a salutary influence in the world, by which it is to be preserved from corruption. The figure was evidently one frequently used by Christ (cf. Mat 5:13; Mar 9:50). The loss of savour is an illustration drawn from actual fact. "It is a well-known fact that the salt of this country (gathered from the marshes in dry weather), when in contact with the ground, or exposed to air or sun, does become insipid and useless" (Thomson: "The Land and the Book").
Luk . Neither fit, etc.—Of no use as manure, or to be mixed with manure. Men cast it out.—A fit emblem of the contempt which even the worldly-minded have for any who fall away from Christian practice—who have the name of disciples, but have lost all that differentiates them from the children of this world. He that hath ears, etc.—Words that no doubt closed the discourse (cf. chap. Luk 8:8).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luk
Thorough-going Disciples.—Complete surrender of earthly things as the indispensable condition of discipleship is the teaching of this passage. Crowds followed Christ, but He will have no recruits enlisted on false pretences, and rather discourages than stimulates inconsiderate adhesion. The clear presentation of difficulties stifles no genuine earnestness, but rather fans the flame. Christ would have the light-minded crowds, following Him with curiosity, understand that it is no holiday stroll nor triumphal march in which they are joining, but a procession to a cross. So, if they are not ready for that, they had better not come after Him, and, at any rate, must come with their eyes open, if at all.
I. Our Lord lays down the law of discipleship.—There is a twofold requirement, the solemnity of the statement of which is increased by that repeated "He cannot be My disciple."
1. The first requirement refers to the heart. Jesus claims the subordination, and, if necessary, the sacrifice of all other love to the supreme love to Himself, as the prime, indispensable condition of all discipleship. We need not wonder at that strong word "hate." The "hate" which embraces all whom nature and God bid us love, and our own lives also, cannot be the earthly passionate loathing, attended by desire to harm, which goes by that name, but detachment of heart consequent upon supreme attachment of heart to Jesus—the purifying of earthly love by loving only in Him, rigid subordination of the closest ties, and the readiness to sacrifice the tenderest of these when they come in the way of our higher love to Christ. Mark the tremendous claim which Christ here makes, in assuming His right to the throne in all our hearts. What gives Him the right, and how can He satisfy the love which He demands? Surely He who thus speaks must be conscious of Divinity, or His claim is blasphemous. Surely He not only is, but does, what deserves and draws, and will bless with full fruition the fullest love of every heart.
2. The second requirement applies to conduct. The first calls for the surrender of the dearest; the second, for the acceptance of the most painful. There is here a veiled allusion to Christ's own cross, as if He had said, "I, on this journey in which you are following Me so blindly and eagerly, am going to My cross. If you could see, it is already lying on My shoulder. If you follow Me, you, too, will have to carry a cross." Note the two halves of conduct which together make up real discipleship—taking up each the cross which is his own, and imitating Christ. Every true Christian has his own special burden of humiliation, difficulty, self-denial, to carry. The cross is heavy, and hard to carry; but unless we do carry it, we are not His. And all the procession of cross-bearers go after the Lord. If we follow after Him, our crosses grow light, remembering His, and with Him for leader and companion.
II. Two illustrative similes enforce the law.—
1. The rash builder. This sets forth discipleship in its aspect of building up the noble and conspicuous structure of a Christ-like character. That is the life-long work of a true disciple. Life is not for enjoyment, nor for worldly ends, but for building up a holy character, and all outward things are but scaffolding to further the building. Expenditure is needed to secure this end. Building costs money. The building of ourselves takes and tasks all the resources of a life-time. In other words, we are not disciples unless we surrender self and all we have. It plainly follows that there must be deliberate, open-eyed recognition of what being a Christian involves, at the beginning, if there is not to be failure long before the end. But if we find that we have not the power to build, are we to give up the attempt? No. For they who know that they can do nothing of themselves are they who will most humbly look for, and most certainly receive, the grace that will keep them steadfast and growing; and they who fail are precisely those who begin with swaggering self-sufficiency. The bystanders mock, as they have a right to do. Thorough-going Christians may be disliked, but they are respected. Earnestness awes and sometimes excites hostility, but inconsistency only amuses.
2. The rash soldier. This presents Christian life as a warfare. There is not only need for continuous effort, as in building, but for continual struggle with an enemy stronger than ourselves. Our Lord here warns men not to begin the conflict unless they are prepared to fight it out to the death. Does He, then, advise a man who feels himself too weak to conquer evil to give up the struggle and to become its tributary slave? That would be a counsel of despair. If we find that we have not enough force to meet the enemy, the recognition of our weakness, and the abandonment of all trust in self, will bring an ally into the field whose reinforcements will make us more than conquerors.
III. The final warning.—Entire self-surrender is necessary in order to our realising the ideal of the Christian life in our own characters. It is also necessary in order to the discharge of the Christian's office to society. The true disciple, who has forsaken all, and taken up his cross and gone after Christ, is the salt. The action of such souls on the community is to arrest corruption, and by diffusing a penetrating and sometimes biting, but always purifying, influence to sweeten and hallow what is on the road to putridity. There is need, however, for watchful renewal, day by day, of the self-surrender; for the saltest salt may lose its savour. It is a slow and often unconscious process. The salt keeps shape, colour, bulk—only the invisible savour is gone; but everything worth keeping goes with it. How can the loss be repaired? There is nothing in the world that can re-salt it. Of course, our Lord does not here close the door to the possibility of going again to Him, and getting from Him a fresh gift, even of the grace which we have so carelessly spilt; but what He means is, that since disciples are to give, and not get, savour, there are none to give it them if they lose it. He is always there to give, but that is not the point in hand. Christians who are not acting as salt are doing no good at all. Saltless salt is utterly useless, and by no means ornamental. The only thing to do with it is to cart it away. It may do to lay on a path, but that is all it is good for. Stern words from gentle lips! But they are true, and need to be laid to heart by the professing Christians of this as of every time.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luk
Luk . "Great multitudes."—Christ reads their hearts and foresees the future; He knows that multitudes will fall away from Him, and multitudes cry "Crucify Him" (chap. Luk 23:21). And so He winnows them by prophecies of tribulation and trial; as Gideon winnowed his thirty-two thousand until he had brought them down to three hundred (Jud 7:1-8).
The Fickle Crowd.—Christ placed no confidence in the multitude loosely attached to Him; He knew that a day of temptation would scatter them. "They that are with Him are called and chosen and faithful" (Rev ), and such, and such only, will abide with Him to the end.
Luk . "If any man come … and hate not."—Discipleship may involve
(1) the sacrifice of affections—the breaking of earthly ties, and
(2) the endurance of persecution.
Luk . "Come to Me."—I.e., outward attachment to Jesus. "Be My Disciple." I.e., genuine attachment to His person and spirit.
Recruits Warned of Hardship.—Recruiting-sergeants commonly keep out of view what is hard, painful, and dangerous in the service for which they would enlist men; but Christ desired that none should join themselves to Him without a clear knowledge beforehand of all to which they were engaging themselves. So to St. Paul, at his conversion, is shown what great things he must suffer for Christ's name's sake (Act ). Ezekiel, at his first commission, is told that the men to whom he is sent are like thorns, briars, and scorpions (Eze 2:6).
"Doth not hate."—We must hate all things—our friends, our relatives, our own lives—if they draw us from Christ. We are to love our enemies; and that man is best loved who, if he tempts us from God by words of carnal wisdom, is not heard.—Wordsworth.
The Principle already Sanctioned by Scripture.—According to Deu, when a man showed himself utterly vicious and impious, his father and mother should be the first to take up stones to stone him. Jesus here simply spiritualises this command.—Godet.
Divinity Implied by the Claims Christ Makes.—What man, that was not man's Maker as well as his fellow, could have required that father and mother, wife and children, should all be postponed to Himself; that, where any competition between His claims and theirs arose, He should be everything, and they nothing; that not merely these, which, though very close to a man, are yet external to him, but that his very self, his own life, should be hated, when on no other conditions Christ would be loved? God might demand this of His creatures, but how could Christ, except as He also stood in the place of God, and was God?—Trench.
Christ Demanding Hatred.—This demand must have staggered many who were now following Jesus. It was meant to sift the heterogeneous crowd. This crowding after Him was not discipleship; they could only become disciples—they could only obtain those blessings which he had to bestow—at a certain "cost." This cost they ought to "count." And these are His terms: "If any man come to Me, and hate not his father," etc. Those who heard Him must have understood Him to mean that His claims were paramount, and, in case of conflict, were to override the claims of the nearest and dearest relatives. His words were well adapted to sift the crowd: the unspiritual would probably be driven away by them in disgust, while those who were attached to Jesus, in virtue of their spiritual susceptibility, would probably still cling to Him and wait for His own explanations. Of this paradox about "hating" father and mother we say
(1) that the whole spirit of Christ's life and teaching was enough to prevent His disciples from understanding the word in its bare, bald, and literal meaning. Christ did not "trample under foot everything that is human—blood, and love, and country." So far from commanding His disciples to hate their friends, He exhorted them to love even their enemies. He Himself respected the ties of natural relationship. He wept over Jerusalem. When on the cross He thoughtfully cared for His mother. He taught that the spirit of hatred and contempt was the very spirit of murder, and He took little children into His arms and blessed them. None could learn from Him that He demanded from His followers that they should love Him alone.
2. The word "hate" cannot here mean that we ought to love our relatives and friends with a diminished affection. This interpretation would be opposed to the teaching of Christ and the genius of Christianity. "Love one another," says Christ, "as I have loved you." "Husbands, love your wives," says Paul, "even as Christ loved the Church." What limits shall we set to affection which is thus inculcated? Pure and unselfish love cannot be excessive. We may, indeed, love the Divine Lord too little; but we cannot love any human being too much. And we shall never love the Divine Lord more by merely loving our human friends less.
3. The words "hate his own life also" are the key to the whole aphorism. A disciple is to hate his relatives and friends in the same sense in which he is to hate himself. A man can hate what is mean and base in himself; he can hate his own selfish life. Not in the bald, literal sense, for he still cares for his own true, best life, and wishes that to be developed and strengthened. But he does, in a sense, hate himself when the self in him rises in rebellion against God, and Christ, and duty. Now, in this sense also a man may hate his relatives and friends. He may hate that in them which is mean and base. He may hate that in them which seeks to drag him away from Christ. He may hate the selfishness lying in their love for him, which leads them to tempt him into sin. He may hate the selfishness lying in his own love for them, which tempts him to disobey God in order to please them, or in order to retain their friendship. Just as he hates all selfish life, so he may hate all selfish love; and this hatred he may manifest in deliberately choosing to renounce the favour and affection of his friends, rather than recant his allegiance to Christ. It is here that we are to look for the explanation of Christ's demand for hatred; in the positive revulsion of feeling with which the faithful soul turns away from the temptations of affection, and in the positive sacrifice of friendship which may be involved in allegiance to duty. The strongest and truest love is that which is capable of the courage and self-sacrifice involved in the infliction of necessary pain. And, therefore, just as he who "hateth his life in this world" really "keeps it unto life eternal," so he who, according to Christ's paradox, "hates" his friends, really loves them with a deeper, more abiding, and more unselfish affection.—Finlayson.
Luk . His Cross.—I.e., his sufferings, whatever he may be called upon to suffer in My name, even as I actually bear the cross and suffer upon it. Christ here speaks prophetically of His own crucifixion—an event not likely to be foreseen by merely human wisdom, as the cross was not a Jewish form of punishment.
Luk . Building and Fighting.—The Christian has two kinds of work to do—building and fighting (cf. Neh 4:17).
I. The positive aspect of the Christian life; the erection of a structure which arrests the attention of men, and for the building of which all the resources available will be required.
II. The negative aspect of the Christian life; a perilous war with a powerful king, which involves the possibility of being called upon to lay down one's life for the cause.
A Bad Beginning; a Disastrous Close.
I. Christ warns His hearers, and all in later times, of the shameful close which may attend a service begun in a spirit of vain self-confidence.
II. He points out to all the only wise course for avoiding such perils as would thus be before them.
Want of Due Deliberation.
I. The folly of an inconsiderate profession of religion.
II. Its danger.
Luk . "A tower."—Something more than an ordinary house—a considerable edifice, specially fortified, which cannot fail to arrest the attention. In like manner a Christian life professes to be something more and better than an ordinary life—to have stronger and more enduring elements in it; and the world can judge whether the profession is actually realised or not.
"Sitteth not down first."—The sitting down first, and considering well from the very beginning all that is involved in the continuing and finishing, is to commence with deep thoughtfulness, not rashly and superficially, in contrast with that thoughtless running after Him which was witnessed at this time and which the Lord intends to humble and repel.—Stier.
"Counteth the cost."—In the spiritual building, the only true counting of the cost is that a man should see his own absolute incompetence and emptiness. The counting of the cost must always issue in the discovery of the utter inadequacy of his own resources, and the going out of himself for strength and means to build.
Luk . "Was not able to finish."—In the "building" which is implied in discipleship, the completion may be righteously demanded and expected of all who have begun; in this case the not continuing brings its own fitting disgrace in the sight of God and man. The world is compelled to respect the sincere and thorough-going Christian; it has nothing but contempt for the half-hearted, who give up the object which they profess to aim at—the salt that has lost its savour is trodden under their feet.
Luk . "Cometh … with twenty thousand."—The king coming with twenty thousand soldiers is God, whose sanctifying power and discipline must ever be in conflict with our independent life and will until they are completely subject to His power. So far from the prince of this world being this king, man is naturally at peace with him, and Christ would not advise surrender to him.
Luk . Self-assertion a Mode of Fighting with God.—He fights with God, as truly, though in another way, as the openly ungodly, who would fain be anything in His sight, who, face to face with God, would assert himself at all; who does not renounce all that he hath, and, as that which is the dearest to him, and cleaves closest to the natural man, himself and his own righteousness the first of all. The Pharisee in the parable (Luk 18:9-12) reckoned up all that he had wherewith to meet Him who resisteth the proud and giveth grace only to the humble; the publican, on the contrary, avowed his own inability even to look his adversary in the face—and therefore, exclaiming, "God be merciful to me a sinner," he threw down his arms, and sought, while there was yet time, "conditions of peace."—Trench.
Luk . "Desireth conditions of peace."—Nothing is said here of scorn or shame, since to pray for peace in the presence of the more mighty one involves no disgrace, but is rather an act of praiseworthy prudence.
Luk . The Claims of Christ's Love.—Christ did not make things too easy for His disciples. Three times in this discourse is the tremendous sentence repeated, "He cannot be My disciple," each time with a condition of discipleship harder and sterner than before. Hating our life, carrying our cross, forsaking all we have—why, claims like these we should have thought, would have earned either a bitter resentment or a silent disdain from most men, but for two circumstances—separately attractive, together invincible—His sincerity and His worthiness. He meant what He said, and He merited what He claimed. Those claims of His can only be met by us, and satisfied for Him, through the wondrous method of sacrifice. He claims acceptance, docility, imitation, service, trust, love.—Thorold.
"Forsaketh not."—Nevertheless, it is not enough to forsake all that we have, unless also we forsake ourselves.—St. Gregory.
Luk . "Salt is good."—If a man, who ought to teach others, and to preserve them from corruption, lose his savour, and become reprobate, how shall he be seasoned?—Bede.
The Need of Entire Self-sacrifice.—How significant is this admonition of the Lord, following instantly on the absolute necessity of entire self-sacrifice! "Salt is good, but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith then shall it be seasoned?" The inference is indisputable. The salt of the Christian life is sacrifice, and if the spirit of sacrifice die out of it, and the essence of that spirit, which is love, become chilled, and its activities and devotions presently diminish, and decay, and disappear, the salt of the life is gone, and its growth paralysed, and its influence killed, and its testimony silenced. The bane of the Church of God, the dishonour of Christ, the laughing-stock of the world, is in that far too numerous body of half-alive Christians who choose their own cross, and shape their own standard, and regulate their own sacrifices, and measure their own devotions; whose sacrifices do not deprive them of a single comfort from one year's end to another, and whose devotions never make their dull hearts burn with the love of Christ.—Thorold.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Luke 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent