Luke 14:1-14 – Jesus as a Guest of a Pharisee

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Luke 14:1

  1. When God had created the earth in six days, He rested on the seventh day, the “Sabbath” (Genesis 2:1-3).
    1. The Sabbath is the day of rest that God wants man to keep holy and to rest from work (Exodus 20:8-11).
    2. Originally, Saturday is the Sabbath day, a tradition that is important to the Jewish people. When Judaism and Christianity parted ways, Christians for various reasons began to use Sunday as a day of rest instead.
    3. Celebrating and keeping the Sabbath is one of the main identity markers of the Jewish people, and it is therefore not surprising that many of the quarrels between Jesus and the Pharisees are often about the Sabbath itself.
      1. When you hold on to something very tightly for various reasons, it can be very hard to realise that you have been wrong. In this chapter, Jesus challenges the Pharisees to reprioritise what is more important; God’s will or human traditions.
      2. In the same way, of course, today we can also have human traditions that may be contrary to God’s will and God’s word. It is therefore important to constantly examine oneself and see if there is anything from which one needs to repent.
  2. The Pharisees were a movement among the Jewish people who focused their energy on studying the Law (Torah or the Pentateuch) and how to live by it.
    1. The Pharisees were very careful not to break any of the commandments of the Law. They were so careful that they even put a “fence” of extra rules around the rules of the Law to minimize the risk of accidentally breaking the Law.
      1. These rules were also called “the statutes of the elders”, “the Oral Law/Torah” and later “the Talmud” (Matt 7:3).
    1. Jesus quarreled with the Pharisees when he felt that their extra rules clashed with the rules of the Law (Mk 7:8).
  3. It was not uncommon in Jewish culture to gather for a large and festive Shabbat meal with invited guests. It also seems to have been possible to attend such a feast even as an uninvited guest (Luke 7:37).
    1. Although Jesus often quarreled with the Pharisees, he had no problem going to their homes and eating with them. Jesus sets a good example and shows us concretely how to “love your enemies” as he taught in Matthew 5:43-48.
      1. This is a very good illustration of how much God loves us humans. Even if we are sinners and perhaps even enemies of God, he still wants to visit us, fellowship with us and eat with us (Romans 5:7-8).
  4. Wherever Jesus went and whatever Jesus did, people watched him. When I was in Nepal, a born-again Christian told me that “we are the fifth gospel”. By this he meant that people look at us Christians and form an opinion of the Christian faith based on how we live. People don’t just read the Bible to learn about God, they also look at his disciples. It is therefore important for a Christian, based on the knowledge he has, to think about how he lives and to do the best he can to live a Christian life (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

Luke 14:2

  1. The disease the man suffered from meant that a lot of water accumulated in his body, causing his body to become bloated.
  2. Since the verse before says that the Pharisees “watched him”, one might suspect that the Pharisees had invited this sick man in order to “trick” Jesus into healing him on the Sabbath, something the Pharisees considered forbidden.

Luke 14:3

  1. The Pharisees were not against Jesus healing the sick, but against him healing the sick on the Sabbath. According to the Law, it was forbidden to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-10) and the Pharisees seem to have considered that “healing the sick” was equivalent to “work” and thus could not be done on the Sabbath.
  2. To understand this better, we can go to a similar discussion in Mark 2:23-28, where Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees about whether or not it is work to “pluck the ears of corn”. Since one was not allowed to work on the Sabbath, it was important to define what constitutes work.
    1. It was permissible according to Moses to pick ears of grain in the fields (Deuteronomy 23:26), but it was forbidden to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-10).
    1. According to the oral Torah of the Pharisees, the disciples’ ax-picking meant “threshing”, which according to the Pharisees was forbidden on the Shabbat.
    1. When two rules clash, the most important rule must prevail.
      1. Priests were allowed to work on the Sabbath if certain feasts happened to occur on the Sabbath.
      1. Boys were to be circumcised on the eighth day after their birth, even if that day happened to fall on the Sabbath.
    1. In short, Jesus’ answer in Mark 2 is that under certain circumstances, one may do on the Sabbath what is normally defined as “work” because the Sabbath is for the good of man and not the other way around.
  3. According to the Oral Law, it was permitted to cure the life-threatening sick on the Sabbath, but it was not permitted to cure the “lesser” sick because that would mean doing some kind of work, such as making medicine. Since this man was not suffering from a life-threatening illness, according to the oral tradition he was not allowed to be cured on the Sabbath. Jesus, however, disagrees with this oral tradition and in this and similar arguments with the Pharisees, makes a number of arguments:
    1. It is more important to “do good on the Sabbath” than to argue about the details of the oral tradition (Matthew 12:12).
    2. Who would not help his son or his ox that was in trouble, even though it was the Sabbath? Why shouldn’t God help one of his children? (Luke 14:5).
    3. The Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around. God’s idea of the Sabbath was not to enslave man for a day, but to do good to man. If someone is feeling bad, of course that person should be helped because the Sabbath is about rest and well-being (Mark 2:27).
    4. Since healing comes from God, God confirms that it is permissible to heal the sick on the Sabbath because it is God who performs the healing (John 5:17-18).
  4. One can summarize these arguments between Jesus and the Pharisees as being about the word of God vs. human traditions.
    1. It is not wrong to have human traditions, but when they clash with the Word of God, one must break with one’s traditions.
    2. Since God is a merciful and loving God, our human traditions must not stand in the way of our loving and merciful actions.
    3. It was not necessarily wrong for the Pharisees to discuss the “oral Law” in order to try to live by the “written Law” (the Pentateuch), but if the oral Law, i.e. human tradition, clashes with the written Law, i.e. the Word of God, then the tradition must be broken so that the Word of God can be obeyed instead.
    4. Even we in Sweden today have human traditions that violate God’s Word and that we need to locate and break. In some Free Church traditions a “verbal catalogue of sins” was developed, it was considered sinful to dance, go to the cinema or go to the pub. Dancing, going to the cinema or the like is not necessarily wrong in itself, and therefore we should not be too quick to judge or look down on people who do any of these things for a good reason.

Luke 14:4

  1. Before Jesus heals the man, he asks the Pharisees if it is allowed or not. If the Pharisees answered yes, they could not accuse him afterwards; if they answered no, they would be perceived as harsh and merciless. In other words, the Pharisees can answer neither yes nor no and remain silent instead.
    1. The Pharisees had intended to trap Jesus, but since they are now silent before Jesus heals the man, they show that they can’t really answer whether or not it is allowed to heal the sick on the Sabbath, and thus they can’t accuse Jesus if he heals the man. Thus Jesus does not fall into the trap.
  2. God’s power is often communicated by touching the one you pray for through the laying on of hands. However, Jesus was able to heal the sick in all sorts of ways, because the most important thing is not how you pray for the sick but to whom you pray.

Luke 14:5

  1. This is the answer that Jesus himself gives to the question he asked earlier. If the Pharisees can think of helping their ox or their son who is in trouble, shouldn’t God be able to help his children if they are in trouble?
    1. Although God has commanded us to rest on the day of rest, this rule must not be taken to such an extreme that we stop helping people in need just because it is the day of rest.

Luke 14:7

  1. The closer you were to the host, the more honourable you were.
  2. It must have been very interesting to see Jesus criticizing the host and the guests at the feast in this way.

Luke 14:8

  1. The person who takes the worst place never runs the risk of shamefully having to move. On the other hand, the person who takes the worst place in the first place may have to move to a better place and thus be recognised as humble.

Luke 14:10

  1. One should not take the lowest place just to hope, in false humility, to be recognised for one’s humility and thus get a better place. Living a simple and humble life is part of the Christian life and not something one does just to get something out of it (Phil 2).
    1. It is part of the Christian life to help one’s fellow men selflessly and to the best of one’s ability, “bearing one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2), not in order to eventually gain something for oneself, but simply because one loves one’s fellow men as oneself.
    2. On another occasion, a teacher of the law asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment:”36 “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” 37 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and foremost commandment. 39 Then comes one similar to it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang the whole law and the prophets.” “(Matthew 22:36-40).
      1. This is precisely Jesus’ message to the Pharisees; love your neighbour not by enslaving them with human traditions, rules and prohibitions, but by freeing them from poverty and disease.

Luke 14:11

  1. Although Jesus often quarreled with and criticized the Pharisees, here he tries to help them. The Pharisees wanted to obey God and live according to his will, but they did it the wrong way. They were more interested in being considered “honorable” because of their good works when they obeyed God’s law so well, but when they obeyed God’s law in this way, they missed the very purpose of God’s law, namely to love God and love their fellow man (Matt 22:36-40).
    1. Anyone who truly wants to obey God’s law should love God with all his heart and his fellow man as himself, instead of trying to show off his knowledge of the Bible and God’s law (Gal 6:2).
  2. There is always a risk, even in Christian contexts, that pastors and leaders try to elbow their way up the hierarchy and try to get nice leadership positions. It is important for Christian leaders to understand that the most important thing is not to get a nice title, but to humbly serve the people around you.

Luke 14:12-14

  1. A very nice part of the Christian life is to invite people to food and fellowship. Of course, it is not wrong to invite your friends and relatives, but this cannot be counted as some kind of “righteous deed” that earns you heavenly plus points. Instead, if you want to do something righteous, you should invite the poor and outcast, those who have no friends, those who cannot afford to eat well and those who may be perceived as “uncomfortable”.
    1. A good time for this is Christmas Eve. Many people sit alone with no one to celebrate with, and inviting them to your own Christmas celebrations would be a perfect example of what Jesus wants us to do here.
  2. This selfless life can cost us a great deal on earth. We may not end up at the top of the success scale, we ourselves may eventually not be considered “nice” enough to be invited to other people’s parties, etc. But if we live in this unselfish way, we will get our reward in the afterlife.
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