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Bible: What Does Luke 14 Teach Us About Humility, Missed Opportunity, and the Cost of Discipleship?

Updated on September 8, 2016

Jesus Confronts Pharisees

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A Wonderful Healing

While supping with a Pharisee leader in his home on the Sabbath, Jesus finds Himself under continual scrutiny (v. 1).

Someone appearing to be a Pharisaical “plant”—a man with dropsy (a disease caused by excessive water retention)—approaches the Lord (v. 2).

Before healing him, Christ questions the religious leaders present about the legality of healing on the Jewish rest day (v. 3).

Having received no response from them, He nevertheless cures the man and then argues with His opponents in a fashion similar to other times (vv. 4-5; cf. 13:15-16; Mt. 12:10ff).

Again, the Jews remain silent, having no legitimate defense for their position (v. 6).

Humility or Self-Promotion?

In your daily life, do you humble yourself or promote yourself?

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Apparently upon the same festive occasion, Jesus tells two parables: one unnamed—half of it directed toward the invited, advocating their taking the lowly place at the table (vv. 7-11), and the other half directed toward the host, exhorting him to invite the poor (vv. 12-14)—and the other labeled “The Parable of the Great Supper,” admonishing the indifferent among the invitees (vv. 15-24).

Observing humanity’s altogether too pervasive tendency toward self-promotion—“He noted how they chose the best places” (v. 7)—the Lord instructs those in error not to sit in “the best place” (v. 8), but “in the lowest place” (v. 10).

Near-Eastern social custom dictates that the most distinguished dignitaries sit in the places of honor; consequently, it is better for a guest to humble himself and take the lowliest seat.

In this way, he may avoid humiliation by not having to hear the host tell him to move to the last seat in order to make room for a personage of greater distinction (v. 9).

If one humbly places oneself in the lowliest position, the only way one can go is up (v. 10b).

Jesus summarizes His parable with a wise dictum about exaltation and humiliation (v. 11).

Turning now to His host, Christ counsels him about “invitees”: both who and who not to invite to a meal (vv. 12-13).

To possess the right kingdom mindset, the one who entertains guests should invite the poor (those who cannot repay) [v. 13], not the well-to-do and relatives (those who can repay) [v. 12].

Jesus promises that blessings will accrue at the Resurrection to the one who follows His wisdom here (v. 14).

[How so completely opposite is the human bent!]

The Parable of the Great Supper

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Identity of the "Poor"


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A guest’s “seemingly pious remark” (purposed to dull the truths the Lord had made in the first parable) [v. 15; Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible 137] motivates Christ to drive home His last strong point with a second story—“The Parable of the Great Supper” (vv. 16-24).

In this account, a prosperous man (God) invites many people (Jews) to a great supper (a millennial celebration) [v. 16].

His herald/servant returns to him with a sad report (v. 21a): everyone invited sends his RSVP (viz., must see newly-purchased land, v. 18; must test newly-purchased oxen, v. 19; must enjoy newly-married wife, v. 20), declining the offer.

The “master of the house,” incensed over the insults, commands his servant to assemble the poor and other assorted dregs to his supper (v. 21b).

Even after these unfortunates enter the dining hall, room still remains (v. 22); therefore, the master orders his servant to “compel” those walking on the highways and living in the hedges to come (v. 23).

Because the house is now full, those men previously invited have forfeited their part in the blessing (v. 24).

[If those invited represent the Jews, then whom do the “poor” symbolize?

If the “master of the house” represents God, why did not He invite the poor in the first place?]

True Discipleship

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Are You a True Disciple of Jesus?

Do you consider Jesus' kingdom to be of more value than your own life?

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On another occasion, Jesus addresses a large crowd following Him, directing them to count the cost of discipleship (that is, of following His ways) [vv. 26-33].

By repeating a particular phrase three times (“cannot be My disciple,” vv. 26-27, 33), Christ emphasizes that a believer can disqualify himself from being a true disciple in three ways:

(1) If his devotion to the Lord does not exceed that which he has toward close relatives or even toward himself (v. 26);

(2) If he does not “bear his cross” and come after Jesus (v. 27); and

(3) If he does not “forsake all that he has” (v. 33).

[Ryrie explains what Jesus’ strong word “hate” means (New Testament Study Bible, 38).

“Bearing one’s cross” signifies a willingness to suffer for Christ’s sake to the point of death.

The phrase “forsaking all” does not mean that one must give away all possessions as a prerequisite for salvation, but merely signifies that one must be willing to part with this world’s goods for the kingdom’s sake.]

The Lord explains His point with two illustrations (vv. 28-32).

The first example stresses the importance of assessing the exact cost of accomplishing a task—here, building a tower—before starting it.

Embarrassment ensues if one does not have “what it takes” to finish the job (vv. 28-30).

Jesus’ second scenario depicts a king’s need to consider if he can win with half the troops his enemy possesses before he decides to declare war.

Not doing so leads to surrender and defeat (vv. 31-32).

[Actually, Jesus’ questions are rhetorical; they present the gathering of assessments as something any wise person would do first before proceeding with a project.]

Christ’s final words assert the goodness of salt as a seasoning agent when it is fresh but its worthlessness when it has lost its flavor (vv. 34-35).

[Professing believers become useless when they fail the test of true discipleship.

The concluding statement “He who has ears, let him hear” admonishes His people to take heed to His instruction.]

© 2013 glynch1

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    • Smireles profile image

      Sandra Mireles 3 years ago from Texas

      Very nice look at the parables of Jesus Christ. I tend to think that when Jesus said "Take up your cross daily... " he meant we are never to forget our purpose and calling as believers. God must be first in our lives and we need to live every day with that in mind. Thank you for a great hub. Voted up and interesting.

    • glynch1 profile image
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      glynch1 3 years ago

      I appreciate your interest; you have encouraged me once again.

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