For an introduction to this series, click here.
March 16, 2007
This chapter opens with the healing of a man on the Sabbath, something Jesus seemed to take delight in. Jesus seems to do most of His healing on Saturday, I guess because the stories are more compelling. As a journalist, I know a little bit about that. It's not that you're ignoring the other things that go on, but the events that are controversial or have more drama are the ones you gravitate to. I guess I read the Gospels with a little bit different view than most people, but that's OK.
The rest of this chapter has a lot of practical teaching in it. Of course Jesus always taught with some sort of lesson in mind, and most of the time He did teach to try to stir people up, or at least get them thinking. It is worthwhile to point out that the first set of lessons Jesus gives were at a meal, since they involve meals.
Jesus gives instruction about going to a feast. Instead of taking the best seat, and being embarrassed when we are asked to move down, we should take the lowest seat, and then when we are invited up, we will be honored. I guess the opposite of that would be that if we are not invited up, we won't be embarrassed. I think Jesus probably lived this out in His life to a great extent. I can't see Jesus demanding to be the center of attention (even though He was most of the time) and making a fool of himself.
Next Jesus says: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (14:12-14) The Jews were very particular about whom they ate with. That is why they were so angry with Jesus that He ate with publicans and sinners. Jews saw themselves as being on the level of the people they ate with: therefore, the higher class people you ate with, the better you were. Of course there is something about eating with someone that is almost spiritual, but that is no excuse to look down on people, which is exactly what most respectable Jews did.
After Jesus said this, some (presumably) self-righteous person said, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" (14:15) This man was trying to make himself look good by making a pious comment. Jesus sees through his hypocrisy, and tells the parable of the great feast, where the man's guests all refused to come, citing some sort of excuse. Jesus ends the parable by putting this statement in the mouth of the host: "For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet." (14:24, ESV) Now of course, you know who the "invited" were, don't you? They were the very Jews Jesus was talking to. The Jews got their invitation years ago: we call it the Old Testament. But they were refusing to accept the invitation, and so God was about to turn to the rejects: us Gentiles.