55. Sermon in parables (1 of 4)
Sermon in parables (1 of 4)….ON a sabbath day, as Jesus went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread, they watched him. And, behold, there was a man which had the dropsy. And Jesus spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying,
Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
They held their peace. Jesus healed the man, and let him go, saying unto them,
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?
They could not answer him.
¶To those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms, he put forth a parable, saying,
When thou are bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; 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.
But when thou are 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.
¶Then said he to the Pharisee 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. 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.
One of them that sat at meat with Jesus said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said Jesus,
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. 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. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
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.
And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.
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. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
There went multitudes with Jesus: 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. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he havesufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold itbegin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
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? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
¶Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 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.
Scripture: Luke 14: 1-6
Meditation 1 of 6:
Would that Christians today would be as attentive to honoring Sunday as the Lord’s Day as the Pharisees were attentive to observing the Sabbath as a holy day! The gospels record seven incidents in which Jesus heals on the Sabbath. You would think Jesus’ miracles on the Sabbath would draw admiration and gratitude from all. Unfortunately, each incident seemed to incite increasing hostility from the religious leaders. They were certain that Jesus was a dangerous and irreligious man, a Sabbath-breaker, who must be stopped at all costs! Why did the Pharisees invite Jesus to dinner on the Sabbath, after he had already repeatedly broken their Sabbath regulations?
Luke, the physician and keen observer of the human condition, notes the disposition of the Pharisees as they bring Jesus into their table fellowship. Body language often communicates more truthfully than words. Luke says the scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus, no doubt with great suspicion. They wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God’s law. Jesus’ attention and affection, however, was fixed on meeting the needs of a man who had dropsy. How did such a pitiable man get into this dinner party? In the hot, arid climate of Palestine, homes were open and people freely dropped in without much ado. It would be uncharitable to exclude beggars. And if a rabbi came to dinner, it would be expected for him to speak a few words. So, famous rabbis obviously drew crowds wherever they went.
Jesus already knew that his hosts wanted to catch him in the act of breaking their Sabbath rituals. So when Jesus gave his defense, they treated him with cold silence. They were ensnared in their own legalism and could not understand or see the purpose of God. Why did God give the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath and enjoined his people to refrain from work on that day? The “Sabbath rest” was meant to be a time to remember and celebrate God’s goodness and the goodness of his works, both in creation and redemption. It was a day set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on our behalf. It was intended to bring everyday work to a halt and to provide needed rest and refreshment. It was not, however, intended to put a stop to love of God and love of neighbor. The law of love supercedes the law of rest! Jesus shows the fallacy of the Pharisees’ legalism by pointing to God’s intention for the Sabbath: to do good and to heal. God’s word has power to heal and to set free from ignorance, error, intolerance, and prejudice. Do you honor the Lord’s Day with appropriate rest and worship, and do you treat your neighbor with love and compassion at all times?
“Lord, may I honor you in my work and in my rest and in the way I treat my neighbor. Fill me with your love and keep me free from a critical and intolerant spirit that I may seek the good of my neighbor in all situations.”
Scripture: Luke 14:7-11
Meditation 2 of 6:
Who wants to be last? Isn’t it only natural to desire respect and esteem from others? Jesus’ parable of the guests invited to the marriage feast probes our motives for seeking honor and position. Self-promotion is most often achieved at the expense of others! Jesus’ parable reinforces the teaching of Proverbs: Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of the prince (Prov. 25:6-7).
What is true humility and why should we make it a characteristic mark of our life and action? True humility is not feeling bad about yourself, or having a low opinion of yourself, or thinking of yourself as inferior to others. True humility frees us from preoccupation with ourselves, whereas a low self-opinion tends to focus our attention on ourselves. Humility is truth in self-understanding and truth in action. Viewing ourselves truthfully, with sober judgment, means seeing ourselves the way God sees us (Psalm 139:1- 4). A humble person makes a realistic assessment of himself without illusion or pretense to be something he is not. He regards himself neither smaller nor larger than he truly is. True humility frees us to be ourselves and to avoid despair and pride. A humble person does not have to wear a mask or put on a facade in order to look good to others who do not know who he really is. He is not swayed by accidentals, such as fame, reputation, success, or failure.
Humility is the queen or foundation of all the other virtues because it enables us to see and judge correctly, the way God sees. Humility leads to knowledge, honesty, realism, strength, and dedication to give ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Humility frees us to love and serve others selflessly, for their sake, rather than our own. Paul the Apostles, gives us the greatest example and model of humility is the person of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, …who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:7-8). The Lord gives grace to those who seek him humbly. Do you want to be a servant as Jesus served?
“Lord Jesus, you became a servant for my sake to set me free from the tyranny of selfishness, fear, and conceit. Help me to be humble as you are humble and to love freely and graciously all whom you call me to serve.”
Scripture: Luke 14:12-14
Meditation 3 of 6:
Who do you honor at your table? The Lord is always ready to receive us at his table. As far as we can tell from the gospel accounts, Jesus never refused a dinner invitation! Why, in this particular instance, does Jesus lecture his host on who he should or shouldn’t invite to dinner? Did his host expect some favor or reward from Jesus? Did he want to impress his neighbors with the honor of hosting the “miracle worker” from Galilee? Jesus probes our hearts as well. Do you show favor and generosity to those who will repay you in kind? What about those who do not have the means to repay you — the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged? Generosity demands a measure of self-sacrifice. It doesn’t impoverish, but rather enriches the soul of the giver. True generosity springs from a heart full of mercy and compassion. God loved us first, and our love is a response of gratitude to his great mercy and kindness towards us. We cannot outgive God in his generosity towards us. Do you give freely as Jesus gives without expectation for personal gain or reward?
“Lord, fill me with gratitude for your unboundless love and mercy towards me. And purify my love for others that I may seek their good rather than my own benefit or gain. Free me to love others as you love.”
Scripture: Luke 14:15-24
Meditation 4 of 6:
What can a state dinner or royal banquet tell us about God’s kingdom? One of the most beautiful images of heaven in the scriptures is the royal banquet and wedding celebration given by the King. We, in fact, have been invited to the most important banquet of all! The last book in the bible ends with an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb and his Bride, the church: The Spirit and the Bride say, Come! (Rev. 22:17). Jesus’ parable takes an unexpected twist when the invited guests make excuses. Why is this the case. A king or great lord normally sent out invitations well in advance to his subjects, so they would have plenty of time to prepare for coming to the banquet. How insulting for the invited guests to then refuse when the time for celebrating came! They made light of the King’s request because they put their own interests above his.
Jesus probes the reasons why people make excuses to God’s great invitation. The first excuse allows the claims of one’s business to take precedence over God’s claim. Do you allow your work to totally absorb you and to keep you from the thought of God? The second excuse allows other goods or possessions to come before God. Does television or other diversions crowd out time for God in prayer and worship? The third excuse puts home and family ahead of God. God never meant for our home and relationships to be used selfishly. We serve God best when we invite him into our work and homes and when we share our possessions with others.
The second part of the story focuses on those who had no claim on the king and who would never have considered getting such an invitation. The “poor, maimed, blind, and lame” represent the outcasts of society — those who can make no claim on the King. There is even ample room at the feast of God for outsiders from the highways and hedges — the gentiles. This is certainly an invitation of grace — undeserved, unmerited favor and kindness! But this invitation also contains a warning for those who refuse it or who approach the wedding feast unworthily. Grace is a free gift, but it is also an awesome responsibility. Dieterich Bonhoeffer contrasts “cheap grace” and “costly grace”. “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves ..the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance ..grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. ..Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” God invites each of us to his banquet that we may share in his joy. Are you ready to feast at the Lord’s banquet table?
“Lord, you withhold no good thing from us and you lavish us with the treasures of heaven. Help me to seek your kingdom first and to lay aside anything that might hinder me from doing your will.”
Scripture: Luke 14:25-33
Meditation 5 of 6:
What does Christianity have to offer that’s worth giving up everything else for, including one’s own life? More than we can fathom! Jesus offered his disciples a priceless treasure– true happiness, peace, and joy unending with the everlasting Father in his heavenly kingdom. (See the hidden in the field and the in Matthew 13:44-45). And what does it cost to be a disciple of so generous a Lord who wishes to share everything he has with his beloved disciples? Jesus was utterly honest and spared no words to tell his disciples that it would cost them dearly to follow after him. To gain all, one must be willing to give all. There can be no room for compromise or concession with God. We either give our lives over to him completely or we keep them for ourselves. Paul the Apostle says, “We are not our own. We were bought with a price” ( 1 Cor. 6:19b,20). That price is the blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross. Is your life given over to God?
Why does Jesus say we must “hate” our families and even ourselves? The expression “to hate” often meant to “prefer less”. Jesus used strong language to make clear that nothing should take precedence or first place in our lives over God. Jesus knew that the way of the cross was the Father’s way to glory and victory over sin and death. He counted the cost and said “yes” to his Father’s will. We, too, must “count the cost” and be ready to follow Jesus in the way of the cross if we want to share in his glory and victory. What is the “way of the cross” for you and for me? When my will crosses with God’s will, then his will must be done. The way of the cross involves sacrifice, the sacrifice of laying down my life each and every day for Jesus’ sake. What makes such sacrifice possible and “sweet” for us is the love of God poured out for us in the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul the Apostle reminds us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). We can never outgive God. He always gives us more than we can expect or imagine. Do you allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with the love of God?
The love of God compels us to choose who or what will be first in our lives. To place any relationship or any possession above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first. Jesus’ way to glory and power is opposite the world’s way of glory and power. The choice is ours, but the Lord does not leave us alone if we choose to follow him. Does the love of Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (see 2 Cor. 5)?
“Lord, may your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Help me to count the cost and to joyfully embrace the cross for your sake.”
Scripture: Luke 14:34-35
Meditation 6 of 6:
Jesus used ordinary images, such as salt, to convey extraordinary truths. What can salt teach us about the kingdom or reign of God? Salt was a valuable commodity in the ancient world. People traded with it, like we trade with gold and stock. Salt also served a very useful purpose in hot climates before the invention of electricity and refrigeration. Salt not only gave food flavor, it also preserved meat from spoiling. Salt was used as a symbol of fellowship and the common meal. The near-Eastern expression to betray the salt meant to betray one’s Master or some person who was owed loyalty and devotion. Leonardo da Vinci in his painting of the Last Supper depicts Judas in the act of tipping over the salt shaker, thus symbolically identifying himself as the betrayer of his Master. Jesus used the image of salt to describe how his disciples are to live in the world. As salt purifies, preserves, and penetrates, so the disciple must be as salt in the world of human society to purify, preserve, and penetrate that society for the kingdom of God and of his righteousness and peace. Why did Jesus speak of discarded salt as being useless? Salt was often put in ovens to intensify the heat. When the salt was burned off and no longer useful it was thrown out on the road or on the roof top where it would easily get trodden upon. Perhaps Jesus wanted to contrast useful salt used for giving flavor and for preserving food with salt which was burned and no longer of much benefit, to encourage his disciples to be faithful witnesses and to not neglect the opportunity to influence others for the kingdom of God through the witness of their lives and their testimony to the power of the kingdom of God.
“Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may radiate the joy of the gospel to others. May your light and truth shine through me that others may find new life and freedom from sin and the corruption of evil.”