Sermon outline, January 11:

Table Talk, Luke 14:1-35

Meals were central to Jesus’ ministry. He comes “eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34). His meals are not just for refreshment, but are opportunities for teaching and one of Jesus’ key “methods” for forming a new Israel. The people He eats with, often outcasts, are the seeds of a new Israel, and the meal is both a sign of the presence of the kingdom and a visible realization of that kingdom. If we were asked to point to the kingdom of God on earth, we would point to the scene of Jesus eating a meal with His disciples.

“Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely . . . .” (Luke 14:1-35).

The first section of chapter 14 (vv. 1-6) provides a good review of the themes that we have been seeing throughout the first thirteen chapters of Luke’s gospel. First, this incident takes place on a Sabbath day (v. 1). At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus announced that He had come to bring in the favorable year of the Lord, the great Sabbatical year of the Jubilee, during which slaves were released and Israelites returned to their ancestral property (Luke 4:16-21). Jesus comes to give rest and relief.

Second, Jesus heals on the Sabbath (vv. 2-4). Jesus’ healings are not mere demonstrations of His divine power. His works testify to the fact that He is the “Expected One” (Luke 7:20-23), the Servant who has come to restore Israel. And his works are not merely “signs” of that restoration; they actually accomplish the restoration.

Third, when Jesus heals on the Sabbath, the Pharisees and scribes object or question him (vv. 1, 3). The people of Nazareth greeted Jesus’ announcement of the “favorable year of the Lord” by trying to kill Him, and when He healed on the Sabbath the scribes and Pharisees were filled with rage and plotted to do away with Him (Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-17). Because of the Pharisees growing opposition, Jesus begins to warn that the Jews are courting disaster (11:42-52; 12:49-59; 13:1-9), which, of course, only increases the Pharisees’ hostility to Jesus (11:53-54). When Jesus triumphs over the Pharisees in this confrontation, the Pharisees are shamed and silenced (13:17; 14:6), which enrages them still further. Jesus does not back down one inch from the conflict, but instead sharpens his attacks (cf. 11:37-52). The conflict is heating to a boiling point, and will spill over in murder.

Fourth, Jesus is making His way to Jerusalem for this final confrontation. As the “Son of Man,” He must suffer, by killed, and be raised (9:22), and He is setting His face toward the capital city to accomplish that purpose (9:51). Jerusalem has a history of killing prophets (13:47), and all the blood of the prophets is going to be charged to her account (13:50-51).

Finally, as mentioned at the outset, Jesus heals during a Sabbath meal. Along His journey to Jerusalem, Jesus stops frequently to have meals, and this is the third and last time we see him dining with a Pharisee (7:37-50; 11:37-54).

Jesus uses this particular meal as an opportunity to describe the way of life that His disciples should adopt. He heals a man with dropsy (edema), a general bodily swelling due to excess fluid, which was, paradoxically, accompanied by insatiable thirst. Slaking that thirst was, of course, self-destructive for someone with dropsy, since it only made the swelling worse. Jesus heals the man not only to provide an object-lesson in Sabbath-keeping, but also to demonstrate that He satisfies all hungers and thirsts.

Jesus also uses the meal to show that one’s conduct at the table sets the pattern for conduct as a disciple. Seating arrangements at ancient meals were very important, a matter of “honor” and “disgrace” (v. 8-9). Someone seated close to the host was exalted over the more distant guests, and could boast in a closer relationship with the host. Jesus uses this as an object lesson in humiliation and exaltation, and teaches the paradoxical truth that humiliation is the pathway to exaltation, service the way to authority. This parable is not just good “social advice,” but is a comment on the outlook of the Jewish leaders, who are vying and competing for favor with the Divine Host. God is not impressed. Disciples must follow Jesus’ lead; He humbled Himself, took the lowest seat, and therefore the Father exalted Him to His right hand.

Banquets and meals were, further, important ways of establishing social networks and, again, of gathering honor. As today, “partying” with the famous was a way to become famous. Plus, when you invite an important guy to your banquet, you are buying yourself an invitation to his next banquet. Jesus says that we should not think about hospitality in that kind of calculating way (cf. Luke 6:30-35). Our hospitality should imitate the hospitality of God, who gives generously even though we can never repay Him and even though He needs nothing from us.

Finally, Jesus tells a parable that develops the analogy between the kingdom of heaven and a wedding feast. As with most of Jesus’ parables, this is mainly a commentary on his own ministry and Israel’s response to it. He has sent the seventy ahead of him (Luke 10) announcing that the feast is ready and issuing invitations, but many Jews make lame excuses and will not come. The host is angry, but He responds by extending His invitation even further (v. 21), to include the poor, lame, crippled, and blind ?Eall the spiritually physically disabled that some Jews believed were excluded from the Messianic banquet. Guests will fill the banquet hall of the kingdom, but many in Israel will be outside.

The invited guests in the parable are not willing to give up their land, oxen, and wives for even a few hours to attend a wedding feast. Anyone who follows Jesus has to be willing to part with all his possessions (v. 33), his family and even his own life (v. 26). This warning had a particular application to Jesus’ immediate disciples: Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to be killed, and He knows it. Anyone who is literally “following” Him toward Jerusalem is in danger of being killed too. For them, “taking up the cross” is not a metaphor but literal truth. Every Christian, however, is called to “martyrdom,” to faithful witness, if need be even to death. We may not be called to die for Jesus, but we are all called to die for Jesus.

Jesus says that we must “hate” father and mother in order to be a disciple (v. 26). In Scripture, “hate” means to “count as an enemy,” and only secondarily does it describe an emotion. Jesus means that if our family members, or even our concern for our live, prevents us from faithfully following Him, we must count them and ourselves as enemies.

Disciples don’t rush in without thinking about the cost, but, having counted the cost, disciples follow Jesus anyway. Only that kind of disciple is worthy of such a Master.