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Bible Commentaries
Luke 14

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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It would seem that whatever rudeness modern sceptics have found in the severe language of our Lord to Pharisees at their own table, these Pharisees were themselves very apt to repeat the invitation. It is often the case that men return, again and again, to hear the preaching of ministers Who offend them through a wounded conscience. Our Lord is on the present occasion a central object for all eyes and ears, while he himself is calmly at perfect ease. A miracle is performed; a standing controversy is agitated and apparently settled, Luke 14:2-6; some admonitions on humility of heart and conduct are administered them, Luke 14:7-11; a method of giving feasts which God will reward is prescribed to his entertainer, Luke 14:12-14; and a warning against failing to attend the final feast of the Son of man, Luke 14:15-24, completes this discourse of feasts at a feast.

Verse 1

1. One of the chief Pharisees That is, one who was a leading character among the Pharisees. The Pharisees were not an official class, but a sect; and their chief men were their eminent doctors or wise men. But such were often promoted to office, as this sect was very influential in public affairs. Alexander Jannaeus, one of the Jewish kings, opposed the Pharisees with all his power during his own life; but when he came to his death, he advised his surviving queen to submit herself entirely to their control. Obeying this advice, she was able to rule in peace. This chief Pharisee was very likely one of the Sanhedrim.

On the Sabbath day The Jews made it a point of honour to the Sabbath day to take a much more sumptuous meal than upon any other day. They must feast thrice that day as a religious merit; for who so did should be saved from the three punishments: the sorrows of the Messiah, the pains of hell, and the wars of Gog and Magog. Jesus was a guest on this occasion, and rendered it a religions assembly. Those who cannot, like Jesus, render a Sabbath social gathering a profitable occasion, had better absent themselves.

They watched him The standing point of debate, Will he heal upon the Sabbath day? was evidently before their minds.

Verses 1-35


Jesus went to the Feast of Dedication, John 10:22-40. After which, according to John 10:40, he went to beyond Jordan, (Peraea,) where John at first baptized, and there abode. Many, as John assures us, who had the original testimony of the Baptist, were convinced of its fulfilment in him, and became believers on him. Of this PERAEN MINISTRY Luke here gives an account; covering apparently, however, but the two or three closing days. Jesus, then, as we learn from John, departed to raise Lazarus, and then retired to Ephraim.

A marked fact in this brief account of the Peraean ministry is the conversion of many Jewish publicans and [Gentile] sinners, and the Lord’s defences of them against the malignity of their Phariseean assailants. This contest draws out from Jesus a series of most striking discourses and parables. Jericho and the Jordan region probably abounded in Publicans and a Gentile population.

Verse 2

2. And behold As if it were a sudden and unexpected object.

A certain man How he came there Luke was not very likely to be informed; especially if, as some plausibly think, he was put there for the occasion by the treacherous Pharisees.

Before him As Jesus sat perhaps on the divan before the company had taken seats at the table. For it was, probably, that strife for precedence at the table which called forth the lesson from our Lord which follows.

Dropsy A disease in which the body or some part of it is filled with water; most usually the abdomen. It is attended with difficulty of breathing, intense thirst, and diminished urine. The body is emaciated, feverish, and feeble, and the spirit despondent. In some cases it is held incurable.

Verse 3

3. Answering Answering, perhaps, their silent evil eye.

Verse 4

4. Held their peace Unable to condemn what their law permitted; unwilling to concede a point on which so much cavil had been founded. Jesus proposes the old question, as if the advantage had fairly turned on his side.

Took… healed… let go Displaying his own mastery before their watching eyes with a sort of calm, majestic omnipotence.

Verse 5

5. Fallen into a pit Our Lord used the instance of unloosing the beast in defending his loosing the bonds of a daughter of Abraham. He uses this instance of relieving the beast from the well in this case of the man saved from the watery disease.

Verse 6

6. Could not answer him The miracle was displayed before their eyes; the question was propounded for their discussion; and before both they were silenced. But it is one thing to silence a man and another to convince; and it is another thing still to change his heart and save his soul.

Verse 7

7. A parable Truly a parable; for though at first it seems a series of precepts upon good manners, yet it contains as the concluding verse, 11, a doctrine of wisdom belonging to the divine administration.

Be humble before God, if thou wouldst attain a high place at his right hand. To those which were hidden Lesson first, Luke 14:7-11, is for the guests; lesson second, 12-14, is for the host. Like a good provider, the Lord dispenses the proper share for each.

Verses 7-11

Parable on Humility, Luke 14:7-11.

The miracle and its discussion is over; but as the guests come to recline upon the couches at table, the dispute, discreditable, but common in those times, arises as to which shall occupy the most honourable place at table. Our Lord makes it the occasion of a lesson.

Verse 8

8. A wedding The Greek term had become applicable to any feast.

Highest room See note on Matthew 23:6. Which was the most honourable place was decided, by custom, differently among different nations. Among the Greeks and Romans each couch was a triclinium, or triple seat; of the three the holder of the middle place was the most honourable; and the triclinium of the host at the head of the table was the most honourable among the couches. It would seem that among the Jews the host did not, as among us, assign the place, and quarrels among the guests about the precedence were very common.

A more honourable man Whose dignity perhaps induces him to come in late, and by his coming attract the general attention to his importance.

Verse 9

9. And thou begin Yes ; begin, after having exalted thyself awhile, to lower thy crest.

With shame All the more heightened by the fact that all eyes notice the great man’s exaltation and thy humiliation at the same glance.

Verse 10

10. Friend, go up higher Jesus here gives a lesson of human propriety, the observance of which improves both the public manners and morals. The writer of the book of Proverbs had given the same lesson in words which our Lord evidently intends substantially to quote, Proverbs 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,” etc.

Verse 11

11. Whosoever exalteth himself Men do indeed often act on the reverse o this maxim. They often take the humble man at his word and increase the insignificance he admits of himself. On the contrary, impudence and assumption often have their rewards from men, by securing a consideration of their claims. And yet history warns the proud man and the proud nation to beware. The Greek philosopher, Chilo, being asked what Jupiter is doing, replied, “Abasing the lofty and exalting the lowly.” And Jesus here warns us that we shall find the same law of Jehovah verified in eternity.

Verse 12

How to give feasts for a divine reward, Luke 14:12-14.

12. To him that bade him We could almost suppose that our Lord meant to compliment the man who had furnished the feast for

him. A recompense And then thou wilt be cheated of thy recompense from God. Our Lord here is giving no lesson against the interchange of hospitalities among friends. He does not deny that they have their healthful social influence among men. The repayments of the social debts of life, performed in the right spirit, have the blessing of God upon them. He would be evidently condemning himself in attending them, if he wore rebuking the inviters. But the bent of his lesson is this: As the feast of interchange has its return from thy fellow, so the feast of benevolence has its return from God.

Verse 14

14. Be blessed; for they cannot recompense So that in fact the helpless poor are better recompensers than thy rich friends, since they have God to repay their entertainment for them.

At the resurrection of the just So that the act of benevolence is an act of faith. It is the evidence of high and noble trust in God in a soul that looks beyond the sordid present. Many Jews disbelieved that the wicked also will rise at the resurrection of the just; and others denied that they would rise at all. Our Lord does not, by using the phrase, endorse either view. He simply maintains that there will be a resurrection of the just, and that then will be the time of the full fruition of their reward. The Jew who spoke in the last verse in fact believed that he would be raised at the coming of the Messiah. Jesus used his phraseology, but in a truer sense.

The Parable of the Marriage Feast, 15-24.

Verse 15

15. One of them Hearing that at the resurrection of the just the feast of the bountiful host will be repaid, one of the guests present, expecting that he would enjoy that higher feast also, utters an ejaculation upon the blessedness of such a lot.

Eat bread The figure under which the Jew expressed the bliss of the Messiah’s glorious kingdom.

Kingdom of God By this the Jew meant a resurrection kingdom, when Messiah should come. Our Lord shows the ejaculator, that the feast of the true Messiah is the very feast which he and his fellow-guests are rejecting.

Verse 16

16. Unto him Our Lord’s first parable was to the guests; his second to the host; his third to this ejaculator.

Verse 17

17. Sent his servant at supper time According to the custom of the East, that after the first invitation a messenger is additionally sent to give notice of the supper time.

Verse 18

18. They all They seem to have been the gentry of the city, which we suppose to be Jerusalem. This they would seem to include the Pharisees, the present hearers of our Lord, and even the self-congratulating individual to whom the parable was addressed.

With one consent Scarce a single individual of the hierarchy accepted the invitation of the Gospel. There have been a number of explanations of these three excuses. Some explain the piece of ground as referring to property possessed, the oxen as property getting, and the wife as sensual enjoyments. We might suggest that the land is dead materiality; that the oxen rise to animal life, and the wife to human and social life. It seems doubtful, however, whether our Lord meant any symbolical classification. The three simply mean that the attractions of this world overcome the attractions of that eating bread in the kingdom of God which this man was lauding.

Have me excused. There is a climax in the form of the excuse. The first feels himself under the necessity, needs, to refuse; the second will not affirm necessity, and would go, but begs to be excused. The third neither pleads necessity nor asks to be excused, but stays away of his will.

Verse 21

21. The master Who is Christ himself.

Being angry His judicial wrath and condemnation at the rejecters of his Gospel, the very men who were listening to his parable.

Streets and lanes of the city Of Jerusalem, the representative of the theocracy.

The maimed Who have lost a limb.

The halt Who cannot walk from some disorder. These represent the publicans and the sinners, who go into heaven before the proud Pharisee.

Verse 22

22. Yet there is room The room is indeed as vast as the merits of his atonement; capacious as heaven itself.

Verse 23

23. Go out Overpass the boundaries of the theocracy.

Highways and hedges In the mild climate of the East these refuges are plentifully stocked with their squalid inhabitants. To the Jew this would suggest the Gentile races. And thus, in the kingdom of the Messiah on earth, we have the prelude to what is described as taking place in the kingdom of the Messiah to come, (Luke 13:28-30.) So that Jesus, pausing in the parable, speaks in his own literal person, addressing the company present. This makes Jesus, stepping out of parable into literal, disclose himself as the parabolic inviter, and they as the rejecters, with a most thrilling impressiveness. In a similar manner Jesus oversteps the parabolic nature in Matthew 25:40, as we have intimated in our note on the 35th verse of that chapter. See also note on Luke 12:46.

Verse 25


25. There went great multitudes These multitudes followed him as friends and partizans perhaps as he walked from the feast to his place of abode.

See note on Luke 13:32. The miracles, the preaching, the power of Jesus’s character, attracted floating multitudes, whose feelings were deeply stirred, but whose souls were not renovated by the truth. They trailed after his footsteps rather than followed his precepts; being followers not in a spiritual but in a mere bodily sense. So it is that, in periods of religious excitement, light minds are often flung upon the Church, which she hardly knows what to do with.

Turned. and said Jesus presents to them that true disperser of such chaff the cross.

Verse 26

26. If any man come to me With a true and earnest coming; not an excited chasing of my footsteps.

Hate not With a moral and holy repulsion.

Father The relatives, the ties, the interests that stand in the way of his entire surrender to me.

His own life When to love it would make him an apostate and cheat him of the martyr’s crown.

Verse 27

27. Bear his cross See note on Matthew 10:38.

Verse 28

28. Build a tower As becoming my disciple is building the structure of your salvation.

Sitteth not down first Added to describe graphically the reckoning of the tower builder.

Have sufficient Just so you, pursuers of my footsteps, imagining you will be my disciples, should weigh, before you go farther, whether you have the moral capital. See whether you are so renouncing every obstacle, abhorring every counter tie, and making that complete surrender which the enterprise demands.

Verse 29

29. Begin to mock him Just as the world always does when a Christian, especially a young convert, gives out. There are three possible ways in the case. One is to make a hasty profession without the capital. The second is to decline to attempt to become a disciple. The third is to obtain, what always may be obtained, the strength from God to prosecute and persevere. The third the Lord has specified in Luke 14:26. The two other alternatives he is describing now.

Verse 31

31. What king In this little parable the soul of the would-be disciple is the king; the adversary to his salvation, whether the devil or all opposing evil, is the

another king. Whether he be able Just as the sinner must examine himself and be sure that he is ready to give up all for Christ.

With ten thousand to meet him Let the sinner examine and see whether with the moral force within him he has ability (obtainable from above) to fight the battle of salvation. Let him be sure that he has the right and sufficient strength; otherwise he may find it necessary to capitulate to the devil.

Verse 32

32. Great way off The sinner had better make no start at all in the service of Christ than to make a false start. He may as well give up to the devil first as last. For a false start is in itself no start at all; it being only a fit of self-deception, terminating in a self-disgrace, and, what is worse, a disgrace to the cause of religion.

Verse 33

33. Of you Who are in great danger of supposing that to be my pursuer is to be my follower.

Forsaketh not all Here is the true third way. Neither make a false start nor a hopeless stand still, but give up at once all for Christ, and act by the gracious ability that he will confer.

Verse 34

34. Salt is good Excellent is salt! is, literally translated, the Lord’s exclamation. The true living, sparkling, stimulating, conservating article is the very emblem of faith, perseverance, and life. He who has the principle it symbolizes will not merely chase at my heels, but truly tread in my footsteps.

Have lost its savour If we have taken up with salt which has no saltness, then truly it is no salt at all.

Wherewith… seasoned That is, wherewith shall the salt be re-endowed with its saline power? There is no giving any Christian value to that religion which has no self-surrender to Christ in it.

Verse 35

35. Fit neither for the land That is, to be used as soil; neither as manure.

He that hath ears to hear The commentator will fail to understand this whole discourse, 25-35, unless he keeps in his eye the audience to which it was so kindly directed; namely, a retinue of loose but admiring attendants, who applauded at every step, but who were liable, under opposing influences, to cry crucify him to-morrow. This expostulation aims to call them to consider their depth of feeling and the true method of being an earnest disciple of Jesus. He illustrates his meaning by the most practical examples, popular but expressive, and founded in the truest common sense as well as the deepest wisdom. The whole is impressively closed with earnest admonitions to every man who had ears to hear his touching words, to accept them in their true force. Some of them may truly have heard with the ear of the soul. It was from this pitiable yet interesting class that many of his followers who formed the body of his apostolic Church after his ascension, were gathered. For true religion easier finds its way to the vacant destitute soul, which has merely the primitive common sense which God has given, than into the most cultivated mind occupied already with its systems and with its prejudices.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Luke 14". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/luke-14.html. 1874-1909.
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