For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

14:1.  “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.

14:2.  “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.

14:3.  “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.

14:4.  “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.

14:5.  “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.

14:6.  “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.

14:7.  “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,”

14:8.  “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;”

14:9.  “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.

14:10.  “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.”

14:11.  “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.

14:12.  “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.

14:13.  “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:”

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.

14:14.  “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.

14:15.  “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.

14:16.  “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.

14:17.  “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.

14:18.  “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 rejecting it.

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 eternally.

Such was the Israel addressed by the Lord.  They were an “earthly” people in every sense of the word.

14:19.  “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 lost eternally.

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.

14:20.  “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.

14:21.  “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 invited).

14:22.  “And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.”

14:23.  “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.

14:24.  “For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.”

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 the gospel.

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.

14:25.  “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,”

14:26.  “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 my disciple.”

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.”

14:27.  “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

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 here.

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 such believer.

14:28.  “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”

14:29.  “Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,”

14:30.  “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.

14:31.  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.

14:32.  “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. 

14:33.  “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.

14:34.  “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned?”

14:35.  “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 all.

[Luke 15]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough