LUKE - CHAPTER 14
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees
to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.”
We may presume that the Lord
entered the house by invitation of the Pharisee, and the fact that they
watched him reveals that the invitation had been extended, not out of good
will, but rather for the purpose of attempting to entrap Him into saying
something they could use to bring a false charge against Him.
“And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy
(excessive water in the tissues).”
Undoubtedly there is a
spiritual significance to the man’s having this particular disease, but I
regret being unable to discern what it may be.
“And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers (scribes) and Pharisees, saying,
Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?”
Clearly the Lord intended to
heal the man, but before doing so, would hear from the lips of His enemies
their view of the legality of His good deed. This was putting them in a very
difficult position. If they said, Yes, then there could be no objection from
them when He had healed the victim. If, however, they said, No, then they
would be left to explain by what power He had performed the miracle. If they
attributed the power to Satan, rather than God, then they would still have to
explain why the Devil would be doing a good work.
“And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;”
Aware of the dilemma, they
shrewdly kept silent, and the Lord healed the man.
“And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen
into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?”
Knowing that there was
criticism in their hearts, the Lord proceeded to remind them that what they
themselves would have done to one of their animals, was what He had done to
the man. Nothing is more unreasonable than the mind estranged from God. Even
had it been in their power to heal the man, they would have refused to do it
on the sabbath, yet would have seen no incongruity in relieving the suffering
of an animal!
In the previous chapter the
Lord had justified His healing of the bowed over woman on the Sabbath, by
reminding His critics that they on the Sabbath watered their animals; but here
He justifies His healing of the dropsied man by referring to their rescuing on
the Sabbath one of their animals which had fallen into a pit. In the crippled
woman we are being shown the present effects of sin, but in the animal fallen
into a pit, the eternal consequences. Here on earth sin blights men’s lives,
but in eternity it brings them down to the pit: first hell, and then eternally
the torment of the lake of fire.
“And they could not answer him again to these things.”
They were silenced, but not
convicted, and so is it with many today also. Even though they can’t refute
the truth of Scripture, they refuse to be convicted of their need of a Savior.
An opponent is no less an opponent because silenced, for a man convinced
against his will is not convinced at all.
“And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how
they chose out the chief rooms (places, seats); saying unto them,”
“When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest
room (place or seat); lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him;”
“And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and
thou begin with shame to take the lowest room (place, seat).”
The Wycliffe Bible
Commentary on this section states that, “By the time the guest had found
the best place and discovered that it was reserved for someone else;, the
intermediate places would have been filled, and only the lowest would be
left. If the host found an honored guest in a lower place, he would invite
him to a reserved seat at the head table.”
Beyond the practical wisdom
enjoined, lies a higher spiritual application. The wedding feast is that to
which God calls all men: the celebration of the marriage of Christ and His
Church. There are many today in whose hearts lurks the same desire for vain
glory as motivated the Pharisees. An outward show of much busy religious
service may disguise a hidden desire for the plaudits of men, rather than the
commendation of Christ. The Bema, however, will expose the sham. There is
good reason to believe that many who occupy prominent places in the church
here on earth will have very lowly ones in Christ’s kingdom; and vice versa.
“But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he
that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt
thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.”
“For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself
shall be exalted.”
The invitation is that which
is extended through the gospel; but each man who accepts the invitation is
given a gift to be used for the Lord’s glory here on earth, and it is in
proportion to the measure of faithfulness in the use of that gift that each
will be assigned his place at the heavenly wedding feast. As already noted,
those who aspired to high places on earth, seeking glory for themselves rather
than for the Lord, will find the earthly high place exchanged for a
correspondingly lower one, not only at that feast in heaven, but in the
governmental hierarchy of Christ when we reign with Him.
In this as in all things, the
Lord Himself is the perfect example. Because He was willing to take the
lowest place here on earth, God has exalted Him to the highest place in
heaven, as it is written, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ
Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with
God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a
servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a
man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the
cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which
is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of
things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that
every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
Father,” Php 2:5-11.
“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a
supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy
rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.”
This also goes beyond the
literal, for the spiritual lesson is against either looking for glory from
men, or of looking for recompense for whatever service it may be our privilege
to render the Lord.
“But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the
Corresponding to every literal
class is a corresponding spiritual state. The call or invitation to the
feast is still the gospel. The poor are sinners, for no matter what his
financial state, the man who hasn’t Christ is a spiritual pauper.
The maimed or crippled portray
another condition of the unconverted, for as the maimed or crippled man is
physically imperfect, so are the unsaved spiritually marred, as it is written,
“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Ro 3:23.
The lame man cannot walk
properly, but since the literal walk represents the manner of life, the lesson
being declared is that the lifestyle of the unconverted man is displeasing to
God. And so also with the blind. Lack of literal sight speaks of spiritual
blindness, and tells us that the unsaved man lacks spiritual understanding
both as to his own state, and as to what God requires of all who would escape
hell and enter heaven.
“And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be
recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
This promise of future
recompense confirms that we are not to be looking for reward here on earth
which is the sphere of service. The reward will be given when the work is
done, and it will be given, not by those to whom we may have preached the
gospel, or ministered to in any way, but by the Lord Himself, for it is beyond
the power of anyone else to give such rewards as He will bestow upon those
whose stewardship has been faithful.
Relative to the resurrection
of the just, it is to be remembered that there are three parts to that
resurrection. Christ Himself is the Firstfruits. The second stage will be
that of Church age believers at the rapture; and the third and last, that of
OT and Tribulation age saints at the Lord’s return to establish His kingdom,
it being the last stage because no believers will die during the Millennium.
“And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said
unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
How much of the Lord’s
teaching the man understood isn’t disclosed, but certainly he had grasped
enough to recognize the blessedness of those who are fitted to enter heaven.
It is tragic that so few today recognize the imperative of preparing
themselves by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
“Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:”
The provider of the supper is
God; the invitation is the gospel; and the many invited are sinners, Jews and
Gentiles alike, “For all have sinned....” Ro 3:23.
“And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come;
for all things are now ready.”
The servant is the Holy
Spirit; and its being supper time speaks literally of its being the end of the
day; but spiritually, of its being the end of the day of grace for Israel.
The practical lesson for today’s reader is that it is now also “supper time”
of the day of grace for the Gentiles. The Lord could return at any moment.
“And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him,
I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee
have me excused.”
“They ... began to make
excuse.” Not one offered a valid reason for refusing the
invitation, and the lesson God would teach is that those who reject the
invitation of the Gospel can only offer excuses: they have no valid reason for
This first man is
representative of many who reject the Gospel. He had bought a piece of
ground, and had to go and see it. What a puerile excuse! Surely the time to
have examined the ground was before buying it. Good or bad, it was now his,
so what was to be gained by rushing off now to see it! But the spiritual
folly portrayed is greater than the literal, for this man is the
representative of all who busy themselves with earthly things to the neglect
of those which are spiritual and eternal. He who chooses earthly things over
spiritual, will discover in eternity just how worthless was the “piece of
ground” which he valued more than the salvation of his soul; and compounding
his horror will be the discovery that he has lost both the ground and his soul
Such was the Israel addressed
by the Lord. They were an “earthly” people in every sense of the word.
“And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I
pray thee have me excused.”
This man’s excuse was as
childish as that of the first. The proper time to have proved the oxen was
before buying them, because now, good or bad, they were his. But he too, is
obviously a representative man, but of what? In Scripture the number five
speaks of responsibility, and the ox is the biblical symbol of service, so
that he appears to portray those who mistake busyness in religious things for
fulfillment of their responsibility to God. Like the first, they too will
discover too late, the worthlessness of religious service apart from the
knowledge of Christ as Savior. These “oxen” will be found, in fact, to be not
the means of obtaining eternal life, but rather, the means by which it was
Again, such was the Israel to
whom the Lord spoke. Their darkened minds failed to see the inadequacy of
their religion, as does many a similarly darkened mind today. Religion will
save no one.
“And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”
As has been noted in other
studies, the wife represents the expression of a man’s spiritual life: the
godly wife portraying the expression of genuine spiritual life; the ungodly,
that which passes with the unconverted for spiritual life. This third man
therefore, represents Israel, smugly complacent in the delusion that she had
everything God required. She saw no need of coming to receive what He was
offering her through the gospel.
Christendom, also earthly, and
occupied with earthly things; religious, and busy with religious activities,
is as smug and complacent as was Israel. She too is convinced that she has
everything God requires of those who would enter heaven. She too, however,
will discover too late that her true condition is represented by the Laodicean
travesty masquerading as a church, in regard to which the Lord said, “I will
spue thee out of my mouth.... Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and
blind, and naked,” Re 3:16-17.
“So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of
the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and
lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt,
and the blind.”
This portrays God’s anger at
Israel’s national rejection of His invitation extended through the gospel,
which offered her a pardon for all her sin, and with that pardon, His gift of
eternal life; and His sending the servant out again to bring in “the poor, the
maimed, the halt, and the blind,” clearly represents His turning to the
despised outcasts of Israel, to offer them the blessings which the
self-righteous bulk of the nation rejected.
The word “quickly” emphasizes
the need of being saved while salvation is available, for the day of grace
won’t last for ever. It is, in fact, fast drawing to a close.
(See notes on verse 13 for the
spiritual significance of the afflictions of this second group who were
“And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there
“And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and
compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
“... yet there is room”
declares the limitless scope of God’s grace. Even after the poor, the maimed,
the halt, and the blind had come in, there was still plenty of room. The
sacrifice of Christ makes salvation available to all of earth’s billions, but
sadly, only a very few accept His gracious invitation.
This seems to point to the
Lord’s turning entirely from Israel to offer the blessings of salvation to the
Gentiles, for it is to be noted that the poor, etc., were from the “streets
and lanes of the city,” but these latter guests were from “the highways
and hedges,” obviously outside the city which speaks of what is Jewish. There
can be little question that the guests who enjoyed the supper were the
outcasts of Israel, as well as the poor and needy from among the Gentiles. It
is of such that the Church is composed.
The extension of the
invitation to the outcasts of society (Jew and Gentile alike) reminds us that
the professing church today largely ignores this section of society, moving
their meeting places out to the affluent suburbs, and leaving those of the
inner cities with virtually little or no chance of hearing the gospel. The
response of the poor to the invitation to the great supper ought to encourage
us to expend more effort to bring the gospel to those in the inner cities.
“Compel them to come in” may
not be taken as authority to use any means other than the persuasion of the
gospel. During the dark ages Rome used these words to justify the use of
physical force to compel people to “join the church.”
For the spiritual significance
of the physical conditions listed here, see notes on verse 13.
“For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of
This is the symbolic
announcement of God’s abandonment of Israel as a nation during this present
Church age when He is calling out from the nations a people for Himself, and
included amongst those called-out ones are the few individual Jews who believe
There is a solemn warning here
relative to rejection of the gospel: none of those who rejected the invitation
would receive another, nor will there be a second opportunity of salvation for
the man who rejects the gospel and dies in his sins.
“And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,”
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and
children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be
This obviously is not to be
taken literally (for example, men are to honor their parents, and love their
wives), but rather as the declaration of the truth that saving faith requires
that Christ be given the place of preeminence. He has first claim on our
love, as He does on our obedience, for obedience is the expression of love, as
He Himself declared, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jn 14:15.
William MacDonald’s comment on
this verse is worth quoting, “At times the Lord Jesus wooed men to
Himself but after they began to follow Him, He winnowed them.”
“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my
This verse has been much
misunderstood as referring to the need to endure some particular trial, such
as ill health, poverty, etc. Such a view is clearly negated by the fact that
every believer is to “bear his cross,” yet clearly few believers are
called upon to endure permanently such trials as are supposed to be indicated
The teaching is to be
understood against the background of the Lord’s bearing His cross out to
Calvary. It marked Him, as it did all who carried a cross, as One under
sentence of death, and to all such, the affairs of this world are of little
concern. The lesson is that those who would follow the Lord must pass through
this world as those who are dead to it, having become dead to it through His
cross, God imputing the Lord’s death to every believer. In other words, we
are to be concerned with the things that belong to His kingdom, not the things
pertaining to this doomed world. Such a lifestyle involves exposure to
suffering and shame for Christ’s sake, and the incentive to live such a life
is to remember the shame and suffering He endured in order to redeem us, and
to keep ever before us the eternal reward with which He will recompense every
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and
counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”
“Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it,
all that behold it begin to mock him,”
“Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish."
“Tower” here means “a
tower-shaped building as a safe and convenient dwelling,” Thayer’s
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, and may be a figure of heaven,
the safe and secure high place in which the believer will dwell eternally.
Christianity isn’t something
to be embraced lightly. It involves not only the complete duration of the
life, but every activity of the life as well. The equivalent of the money
needed to finish the tower is faith. Unless a man has complete faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ, his anticipated “tower” will never be complete, he will
never dwell in it, he will never enter heaven.
The emphasis here is upon
building, reminding us that the Christian life consists of building, as it is
written, “For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye
are God’s building,” 1 Cor 3:9. Each believer is a living stone, his
conversion adding him to the mystical building, the Church. But he himself is
also to be building: first building up himself in the faith, and then by his
witness in the gospel bringing others to the Savior, thus helping to build the
Church. But Paul warns of the need to be careful how we build, “According to
the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid
the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how
he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold,
silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man’s work shall be made
manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire;
and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work
abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s
work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet
so as by fire,” 1 Co 3:10-15. See also Eph 2:19-22.
Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first,
and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh
against him with twenty thousand?”
This reminds us that the
Christian life is also a warfare, as it is written, “For we wrestle not
against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against
the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high
places,” Eph 6:12. Please read also Eph 6:13-18.
Nor is it a war that has an
end. It goes on right to the end of life’s journey, and he who would be a
follower of Christ must recognize that fact.
“Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and
desireth conditions of peace.”
This may not be taken to imply
that we can ever make peace with the enemy. We can’t! It is meant to warn of
the need to count the cost before taking up the cross and following Christ.
Our present security and ultimate victory lie in being completely obedient to
the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is only through our obedience that His power is
available to us, enabling us to walk in the confidence of the assurance given
by Paul that, “I can do all things, through Christ who strengtheneth me,” Php
4:13. If we are not prepared to yield that obedience then we should face the
fact that we will not be victors in the conflict with the forces of evil, and
will be forced to live by the terms dictated by Satan, rather than in the
enjoyment of the blessing that is the accompaniment of obedience.
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he
cannot be my disciple.”
Again, this doesn’t teach that
a believer is required to abandon his family, give up his job or business,
etc., (unless the job or business is dishonoring to God), but that
everything else must take second place to the cause of Christ.
“Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be
“It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it
out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Lord’s reference to salt
is particularly appropriate relative to the steadfastness of the commitment
required of those who would stand approved at the Bema, for in the OT salt was
used in connection with the sealing of an unbreakable covenant, see Le 2:13;
Nu 18:19; 2 Chr 13:5. Acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord is the
equivalent of entering into a “covenant of salt.” He will not fail to keep
His part of the covenant, and we should seek with all our hearts to keep ours,
expressing our love in willing obedient service, as He Himself told the
disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.... He that hath my
commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me,” Jn 14:15,21.
The teaching of these two
verses is to be understood in the context of what is written concerning us as
believers, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor,
wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be
cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men,” Mt 5:13. Since salt retards
corruption, and adds flavor to food, the lesson being taught is that we are to
expose and denounce evil; and to have such a knowledge of Scripture as will
enable us to refute error, and instruct others.
The salt of Christ’s day was
impure, the sodium chloride easily leaching out, and leaving an impure
substance which was neither salt enough for seasoning or preserving, nor fit
for the manure heap because what little sodium chloride did remain would spoil
the manure for fertilizing. Such is the undedicated Christian. He is useless
to God and to man.
We should note, however, that
the worthless salt is cast out by men, not by God. The undedicated believer
may render himself useless relative to testimony and service, but one who has
been truly born again can never lose his salvation.
The exhortation relative to
hearing reminds us that one may hear with his natural ears, but if what he
hears produces no change in his life, then it is as though he hadn’t heard at