Luke 14:1-6. 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. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 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? And they could not answer him again to these things.
Christ’s question was unanswerable unless they wished to condemn themselves. Now I want you kindly to turn to the next evangelist, in whose Gospel you will find the record of the fifth miracle which our Saviour wrought on the Sabbath-day. (See John 5:1-9)
Luke 14:7. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; —
This parable was by far the best part of the entertainment of the day: —
Luke 14:7-9. Saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be hidden 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.
For, of course, the next room is full, and the next, and the only vacant seat, when the feast has begun, will probably be in the very lowest room of the house.
Luke 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.
Note that our Saviour was not just then talking to his disciples, or else he would have given more spiritual reasons for his advice; but, speaking to the people who were gathered as guests at the Pharisee’s house, he appealed to them with an argument suitable to themselves. We may, however, extract the marrow from this bone. Let us not covet the highest place; let us not desire honour among men. In the Church of God the way upward is downward. He that will do the lowest work shall have the highest honour. Our Master washed his disciples’ feet, and we are never more honoured than when we are permitted to imitate his example.
Luke 14:11. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
There is a conspiracy of heaven and earth and hell to put down proud men, neither good nor bad, the highest nor the lowest, can endure those who are self-exalted; but if you are willing to take your right place, which is probably the lowest, you shall soon find honour in the midst of your brethren.
Luke 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 neighbour; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.
Our Saviour, you see, keeps to one line of instruction. It was a feast, so he used the feast to teach another lesson. It is always well, when men’s minds are running in a certain direction, to make use of that particular current. When a feast is uppermost in the minds of men, it is no use starting another subject. So the Saviour rides upon the back of the banquet, making it to be his steed. Note his advice to his host: “Try to avoid doing that for which you will be recompensed. If you are rewarded for it the transaction is over; but if not, then it stands recorded in the book of God, and it will be recompensed to you in the great day of account.”
Luke 14:13-14. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
It should be your ambition to have something set down to your credit “at the resurrection of the just.” If you do someone a kindness with a view to gaining gratitude, you will probably be disappointed; and even if you should succeed, what is the gratitude worth? You have burned your firework, you have seen the brief blaze, and there is an end of it. But if you get no present return for your holy charity, so much the better for you.
Luke 14:15-16. 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. Then said he unto him, —
As if to prove what a privilege it is to be permitted to “eat bread” there, and that the persons who appear most likely to do so will never taste of it and that the most unlikely persons will be brought into it, Jesus “said unto him,” —
Luke 14:16-17. A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
They had accepted the invitation, so they were pledged to be present but, in the meantime, they had changed their minds with regard to their intended host, and they were unwilling to grace his feast.
Luke 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.
Yet it was supper time, and people do not generally go to see pieces of ground at night; and if the man had bought the land he ought to have seen it before he bought it. People do not generally buy land without looking at it. A bad excuse is worse than none; and this is one of those excuses which will not hold water for a minute.
Luke 14:19. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
He pretended that he had bought five yoke of oxen without proving them, and that he wanted to prove them after he had bought them, when, of course, he could not cancel the bargain: a likely story! But, when men want to make an excuse, and they have no truth to raw as the raw material, they can always make one out of a lie.
Luke 14:20. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
This man did not ask to be excused; he had married a wife, so that settled the matter, of course he could not go to the feast.
Luke 14:21. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things.
Every true servant of Christ should go to his Lord, and tell him what reception his Master’s message has had. After service, we sometimes have an enquirers’ meeting; but after every sermon there ought to be a meeting of the servant with his Lord to tell the result of the errand on which he has been sent. Sometimes, as in this case, it will be a very painful meeting, as the servant tells how his Master’s message has been despised, and his invitation rejected.
Luke 14:21. When the master of the house being angry —
Notice what the Lord does even when he is angry, he just invents some new way of showing mercy to men: “The master of the house being angry” —
Luke 14:21. 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.
Happy anger that explodes in blessing! The justly angry master turns away from the bidden ones who had insulted him, and sends for those who had not hitherto been bidden, that they might come to the feast.
Luke 14:22. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.
They fetched in all the poor people, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind whom they could find, it was a great gathering, and a strange gathering, yet there was still room for more guests at the banquet.
Luke 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.
“Bring in highway-men and hedge-birds, those that have no place whereon to lay their heads; fetch them in by force if necessary, ‘that my house may be filled.’”
Luke 14:24. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
They were invited, yet they would not come; but others shall come, and fill the tables, and the great feast shall be furnished with guests. No provisions of mercy will ever be wasted. If you who are the sons and daughters of godly parents, or you who are the regular hearers of the Word, will not have Christ, then others shall. If you hear, but hear in vain, then the rank outsiders shall be brought in, and they shall feed upon the blessed provisions of the infinite mercy of God, and God shall be glorified; but terrible will be your doom when the great Giver of the gospel feast says concerning you and those like you, “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.”
Luke 14:25. And there went great multitudes with him:
During at least a part of his earthly ministry, Christ was very popular. The people crowded to his feet, and they were willing to make him a king; but you must have observed that he was always faithful in speaking to the populace, he did not flatter them. He dealt in the same fashion also with those who professed to be his followers. He winnowed the heap that was laid upon the floor, and drove away the chaff from the midst of the wheat.
Luke 14:25-26. 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 my disciple.
Do not misunderstand this passage. Our Lord does not use the word “hate” in our common acceptation of the term, for no man would hate his own life; but he means that the love of all these must be secondary to the love we bear to him. Compared with our love to our Lord, all lower love must be more like hate. We must be willing to give up everything — to give up even ourselves — our entire selves — to him, for Christ will have all or nothing. He will never divide the human heart with any rival. If we profess to serve him, we must have him for our only Master, and not attempt to serve two masters. I fear that this truth greatly needs to be enforced nowadays, for we have numbers of so-called Christians, who are worldlings first, and then Christians afterwards. We have a great many professors who might be accurately described by the words of a little girl concerning her father. When someone asked her, “Is your father a Christian?” she replied, “Yes, but he has not worked much at it lately.” There are plenty of that sort. Christianity is their trade, their business, their profession; but they have not worked much at it lately, they carry it on very slightly indeed. Let it not be so with us; if we would be followers of Christ, our whole hearts must be his.
Luke 14:27. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
If there is any cross-bearing involved in Christianity, — such as the cross of holy living, or the cross of believing old-fashioned doctrines, and not being “abreast of the times,” — if there is any sort of cross which is involved in the conscientious discharge of our duty as followers of Christ, we must bear it, or else we cannot be his disciples. Our Lord’s words are very clear and explicit: “ ‘And whosoever doth not bear his cross,’ — be he who he may, whatever pretensions or professions he may make, — if he does not bear his cross, ‘and come after me, cannot be my disciple.’ “
Luke 14:28-30. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and count the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest happily, 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.
Do you not think that there are a great many towers of that kind about in our day? I mean, unfinished Christian characters, persons who profess to be followers of Christ, but are not. They just exhibit to you their own shortcomings; they are people with good intentions, who did make some attempt to follow Jesus; but, since it involved too much self-denial, they were not able to go that length, so they turned back, and walked no more with him. They began to build a tower, but never finished it. May God, in his mercy, prevent you and me becoming a laughing-stock to all eternity! I believe that, in the last great day, and forever, those persons, who knew enough about the gospel to wish to be Christians, and who were somewhat actuated by right motives, but yet who never went so far as to give up their hearts to Christ, will stand forth as monuments of their own folly and even the demons in hell will point at them, and say, “These men began to build, and were not able to finish.” Such persons will be unable to answer that contemptuous sneer. If you have conscience enough to begin to follow Christ, even reason itself requires you to go the whole length. If you know that it is right for you to do so, why do you not go through with it? If you are sufficiently convinced of its rightness to go as far as you do, why not go still farther? God grant that you may! Better never begin to build than to commence without having counted the cost, and then to find that you have not sufficient to finish.
Luke 14:31-32. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consult whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassador, and desireth conditions of peace.
If you cannot fight the world, the flesh, and the devil, — if there is no power that can help you to do it, or if you are not willing to be helped by the only power that can help you, — if you will not surrender yourself to Christ that he may baffle all the hosts of the adversary, then it is of no use for you to begin the war.
Luke 14:33. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
In Christ’s days, and afterwards, discipleship usually involved the absolute giving up of everything that his followers had, for those were times of persecution; and if such seasons should come to us, we must have such love to Christ that, for his sake, we could forsake all that we have; otherwise we cannot be his disciples.
Luke 14:34. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?
Christianity is good; but if the very life has gone out of it, what can you do with it? A dead professor is the most corrupt thing under heaven. Some there are who think that God’s salt can lose its savour, and yet get it back again. I remember one who told me that he knew a person who had been born again four times. That doctrine of re-re-re-regeneration is one that I have never found in the Word of God. I believe that true regeneration never fails to take effect, and that it never loses that effect. It begets within the soul a life that cannot die; but, if that life could die, it could never be brought back again. The apostle Paul puts this matter beyond dispute in Hebrews 6:4-6 : “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
Luke 14:35. It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out.
A dead profession of religion is utterly useless; and if it could be possible that a man should be really quickened by the Spirit of God, and yet that the new life should depart from him, he would be in a hopeless case indeed.
Luke 14:35. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Let all of us give good heed to this injunction, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.