Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Luke 14. The various Discourses of Jesus at a Banquet. “The Son of Man eating and drinking.”
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.1-6. Sabbath healing of a Man with the Dropsy.
1. of one of the chief Pharisees] Rather, of the Rulers of the Pharisees. The rendering of our version gives the general sense but is inadmissible. It is perhaps due to the translators being aware that the Pharisees had (strictly speaking) no Rulers. There were no grades of distinction between-Pharisees as such. But obviously the expression would be popularly used of a Pharisee who was an eminent Rabbi like Hillel or Shammai, or of one who was also a Sanhedrist.
to eat bread on the sabbath day] Sabbath entertainments of a luxurious and joyous character were the rule among the Jews, and were even regarded as a religious duty (Nehemiah 8:9-12). All the food was however cooked on the previous day (Exodus 16:23). That our Lord accepted the invitation, though He was well aware of the implacable hostility of the Pharisaic party towards Him, was due to His gracious spirit of forgiving friendliness; and to this we owe the beautiful picture of His discourse and bearing throughout the feast which this chapter preserves for us. Every incident and remark of the banquet was turned to good. We have first the scene in the house (Luke 14:1-6); then the manoeuvres to secure precedence at the meal (Luke 14:7-11); then the lesson to the host about the choice of guests (Luke 14:12-14); then the Parable of the King’s Feast suggested by the vapid exclamation of one of the company (Luke 14:15-24).
that they watched him] More emphatically in the original ‘and they themselves were carefully watching Him,’ comp. Luke 6:7. The invitation in fact even more than those in Luke 7:36, Luke 11:37 was a mere plot;—part of that elaborate espionage, and malignant heresy-hunting (Luke 11:53-54, Luke 20:20; Mark 12:13), which is the mark of a decadent religion, and which the Pharisees performed with exemplary diligence. The Pharisees regarded it as their great object in life to exalt their sacred books; had they never read so much as this? “the wicked watcheth the righteous and seeketh occasion to slay him,” Psalm 37:32; “all that watch for iniquity are cut off, that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate,” Isaiah 29:20-21.
And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.2. And behold, there was a certain man before him, which had the dropsy] The verse represents with inimitable vividness the flash of recognition with which the Lord at once grasped the whole meaning of the scene. The dropsical man was not one of the guests; he stood as though by accident in the promiscuous throng which may always enter an Oriental house during a meal. But his presence was no accident. The dropsy is an unsightly, and was regarded as an incurable, disease. The Pharisaic plot had therefore been concocted with that complex astuteness which marks in other instances (Luke 20:19-38; John 8:5) also the deadliness of their purpose. They argued (i) that He could not ignore the presence of a man conspicuously placed in front of Him; (ii) that perhaps He might fail .in the cure of a disease exceptionally inveterate; (iii) that if He did heal the man on the Sabbath day there would be room for another charge before the synagogue or the Sanhedrin. One element which kindled our Lord’s indignation against the Pharisees for these crafty schemes was the way in which they made a mere tool of human misery and human shame.
And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?3. answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees] See on Luke 5:22. He took the initiative, and answered their unspoken thoughts.
Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?] We have already seen (Luke 6:1-11, Luke 13:11-17; comp. John 5:11; John 9:14), that these Sabbath disputes lay at the very centre of the Pharisaic hatred to him, because around the ordinance of the Sabbath they had concentrated the worst puerilities and formalisms of the Oral Law; and because the Sabbath had sunk from a religious ordinance into a national institution, the badge of their exclusiveness and pride. But this perfectly simple and transparent question at once defeated their views. If they said ‘It is not lawful’ they exposed themselves before the people to those varied and overwhelming refutations which they had already undergone (see on Luke 13:15). If they said ‘It is lawful’ then cecidit quaestio, and their plot had come to nothing.
And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;4. they held their peace] It was the silence of a splenetic pride and obstinacy which while secretly convinced determined to remain unconvinced. But such silence was His complete public justification. If the contemplated miracle was unlawful why did not they—the great religious authorities of Judaism—forbid it?
he took him] Rather, taking hold of him, i.e. laying his hand upon him.
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?5. an ass or an ox] The unquestionable reading if we are to follow the MSS. is ‘a son or an ox.’ The strangeness of the collocation (which however may be taken to imply ‘a son—nay even an ox’) has led to the conjectural emendation of huios into ois ‘a sheep’ (whence the reading probaton ‘a sheep’ in D) or onos ‘an ass’ which was suggested by Deuteronomy 22:4. When however it is a question between two readings it is an almost invariable rule that the more difficult is to be preferred as the more likely to have been tampered with. Further (i) Scripture never has “ass and ox” but always “ox and ass and (ii) “son” is a probable allusion to Exodus 23:12, “thine ox and thine ass and the son of thine handmaid shall rest on the sabbath,” and (iii) the collocation ‘son and ox’ is actually found in some Rabbinic parallels. If it be said that ‘a son falling into a well’ is an unusual incident, the answer seems to be that it may be an allusion to the man’s disease (dropsy=the watery disease); also that pits and wells are so common and often so unprotected in Palestine that the incident must have been less rare than it is among us.
straightway pull him out] although the Sabbath labour thus involved would be considerable. And why would they do this? because they had been taught, and in their better mind distinctly felt, that mercy was above the ceremonial law (Deuteronomy 22:4). An instance which had happened not many years before shews how completely they were blinding and stultifying their own better instincts in their Sabbath quibblings against our Lord. When Hillel—then a poor porter—had been found half-frozen under masses of snow in the window of the lecture-room of Shemaiah and Abtalion where he had hidden himself to profit by their wisdom because he had been unable to earn the small fee for entrance, they had rubbed and resuscitated him though it was the Sabbath day, and had said that he was one for whose sake it was well worth while to break the Sabbath.
And they could not answer him again to these things.6. they could not answer him again to these things] A fact which never makes any difference to the convictions of ignorant hatred and superstitious narrowness.
And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them,7-11. Humility; a Lesson for the Guests.
7. he put forth a parable] See on Luke 4:23.
to those which were bidden] to the invited guests, as distinguished from the onlookers.
they chose out] Rather, they were picking out for themselves. The selfish struggle for precedence as they were taking their places—a small ambition so universal that it even affected the Apostles (Mark 9:34)—gave Him the opportunity for a lesson of Humility.
the chief rooms] i.e. the chief places at table. These at each of the various triclinia would be those numbered 2, 5, and 8. The host usually sat at 9.
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 bidden of him;8. to a wedding] The term is used generally for any great feast; but perhaps our Lord here adopted it to make His lesson less immediately personal.
a more honourable man than thou] Php 2:3, “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
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.9. thou begin with shame to take the lowest room] If, by the time that the guests are seated, it be found that some one has thrust himself into too high a position for his rank, when he is removed he will find all the other good places occupied. There is an obvious reference to Proverbs 25:6-7. How much the lesson was needed to check the arrogant pretensions of the Jewish theologians, is shewn again and again in the Talmud, where they assert no reward to be too good or too exalted for their merits. Thus at a banquet of King Alexander Jannaeus, the Rabbi Simeon Ben Shetach, in spite of the presence of some great Persian Satraps, had thrust himself at table between the King and Queen, and when rebuked for his intrusion, quoted in his defence Sir 15:5, “Exalt wisdom, and she...shall make thee sit among princes.”
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.10. then shalt thou have worship] Rather, glory. It need, however, hardly be said that nothing is farther from our Lord’s intentions than to teach mere calculating worldly politeness. From the simple facts of life that an intrusive person renders himself liable to just rebuffs, he draws the great spiritual lesson so much needed by the haughty religious professors by whom He was surrounded, that
“Humble we must be if to heaven we go;
High is the roof there, but the door is low.”
For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.11. whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased] Rather, humbled. See on Luke 1:52, Luke 13:30, and Matthew 23:12. A similar lesson is prominent in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 16:18-19, Proverbs 29:23), and is strongly enforced by St Peter (1 Peter 5:5).
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 neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.12-14. Whom to invite; a Lesson to the Host.
12. call not thy friends, nor thy brethren] In this, as many of our Lord’s utterances, we must take into account (1) the idioms of Oriental speech; (2) the rules of common sense, which teach us to distinguish between the letter and the spirit. It is obvious that our Lord did not mean to forbid the common hospitalities between kinsmen and equals, but only, as the context shews, (1) to discourage a mere interested hospitality intended to secure a return; and (2) to assert that unselfish generosity is superior to the common civilities of friendliness. The “not” therefore means, as often elsewhere in Scripture, “not only, but also,’ or “not so much...as,” as in Proverbs 8:10; John 6:27; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Timothy 2:9, &c. In other words, “not” sometimes denies “not absolutely but conditionally (Galatians 5:21) and comparatively (1 Corinthians 1:17).” See Matthew 9:13; Jeremiah 7:22; Joel 2:13; Hebrews 8:11and a recompence be made thee] In a similar case Martial says, “You are asking for gifts, Sextus, not for friends.” There is a remarkable parallel in Plato’s Phaedrus.
But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:13. call the poor] Matthew 25:35. The duty is recognised in another form by Nehemiah. “Eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared,” Nehemiah 8:10.
And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.14. at the resurrection of the just] The same duty is enforced with the same motive by St Paul, 1 Timothy 6:17-19. By the phrase “the resurrection of the just,” our Lord possibly referred to the twofold resurrection, Luke 20:35; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, &c. But the allusion may be more general, Acts 24:15.
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.15-21. The Refused Banquet; a Lesson to a Guest.
15. when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things] He may have wanted to diminish the force of the rebukes implied in the previous lessons by a vapid general remark. At any rate, he seems to have assumed that he would be one of those who would sit at the heavenly feast which should inaugurate the new aeon, and from which, like all Jews, he held it to be almost inconceivable that any circumcised son of Abraham should be excluded. Hence the warning involved in this parable which was meant to prove how small was the real anxiety to accept the divine invitation.
shall eat bread in the kingdom of God] Almost the same words occur in Revelation 19:9. The Jews connected the advent of the Messianic
Kingdom with banquets of food more delicious than manna, the flesh of Leviathan, and the bird Bar Juchne.
Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:16. A certain man made a great supper] The difference between this parable and that of the King’s Supper will be clear to any one who will read it side by side with Matthew 22:1-10. He who gives the invitation is God. Psalm 25:6.
and bade many] The breadth and ultimate universality of the Gospel message. But as yet the “many,” are the Jews, who (in the first applition) are indicated by those who refuse.
And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.17. sent his servant at supper time] This is still a custom in the East, Proverbs 9:1-5; Thomson, Land and Book, i. ch. 9: The message of the servant corresponds to the ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus Himself.
Come; for all things are now ready] “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Luke 10:1; Luke 10:9; Matthew 3:1-2.
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.18. with one consent] i.e. apo mias gnomes; or ‘with one voice,’ if we understand phones.
to make excuse] The Greek word is the exact equivalent of our ‘to beg off.’ The same fact is indicated in John 1:11; John 5:40, and in the “ye would not” of Luke 13:34; and the reason is the antipathy of the natural or carnal man (ὁ ψυχικὸς) to God, John 15:24.
have me excused] The original is consider me as having been excused. The very form of the expression involves the consciousness that his excuse of necessity (ἀνάγκην ἔχω) was merely an excuse. There is, too,
an emphasis on the me—“excusatum me habeas”—it may be the duty of others to go; I am an exception.
And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.19. I go to prove them] The second has not even the decency to plead any necessity. He merely says ‘I am going to test my oxen,’ and implies ‘my will is sufficient reason.’
And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.20. I cannot come] The ‘I cannot,’ as in Luke 11:7, is only an euphemism for ‘I will not.’ He thinks his reason so strong that there can be no question about it. He relies doubtless on the principle of the exemption from war, granted to newly-married bridegrooms in Deuteronomy 24:5. Perhaps St Paul is alluding to this parable in 1 Corinthians 7:29-33, “The time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;...and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not using it to the full.” Thus the three hindrances are possessions, wealth, pleasures. But, as Bengel says, neither the field (Matthew 13:44), nor the plowing (Luke 9:62), nor the wedding (2 Corinthians 11:2) need have been any real hindrance. The ‘sacred hate’ of Luke 14:26 would have cured all these excuses.
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.21. that servant came, and shewed his lord these things] We have here a shadow of the complaints and lamentations of our Lord over the stiffnecked obstinacy of the Jews in rejecting Him.
Then the master of the house being angry ]
“God, when He’s angry here with any one His wrath is free from perturbation;
And when we think His looks are sour and grim The alteration is in us, not Him.”
the streets and lanes of the city] This corresponds to the call of the , publicans, sinners, and harlots—the lost sheep of the House of Israel, Luke 4:18; Mark 12:37; Matthew 21:32; James 2:5.
And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.22. and yet there is room] ‘Grace, no less than Nature, abhors a vacuum.’ Bengel.
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.23. into the highways and hedges] i.e. outside the city; intimating the ultimate call of the Gentiles.
compel them to come in] By such moral suasion as that described in 2 Timothy 4:2. The compulsion wanted is that used by Paul the Apostle, not by Saul the Inquisitor. The abuse of the word “Compel” in the cause of intolerance is one of the many instances which prove the deadliness of that mechanical letter-worship which attributes infallibility not only to Scripture, but even to its own ignorant misinterpretations. The compulsion is merciful, not sanguinary; it is a compulsion to inward acceptance, not to outward conformity; it is employed to overcome the humble despair of the penitent, not the proud resistance of the heretic. Otherwise it would have been applied, not to the poor suffering outcasts, but to the haughty and privileged persons who had refused the first invitation. Yet even Augustine shews some tendency to this immoral perversion of the words in his “Foris invefiiatur necessitas, nascitur intus voluntas.” Others apply it to threats of eternal punishment, and a ministry which dwells on lessons of wrath.
For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.24. For I say unto you] Since the ‘you’ is plural this verse is probably the language of our Lord, indirectly assuming that His hearers would see the bearing of this parable.
none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper] It must be remembered that Jesus had now been distinctly and deliberately rejected at Nazareth (Luke 4:29) and Jerusalem (John 8:59); in Judaea, Samaria (Luke 9:53), Galilee (Luke 10:13), and Peraea (Luke 8:37). “Seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles,” Acts 13:46; Hebrews 12:25; Matthew 21:43; Matthew 22:8.
And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,25-35. Lessons of Whole-heartedness, and of Counting the Cost; the Tower-builder; the warring King; the SAVOURLESS SALT.
25. And there went great multitudes with him] This is evidently a scene of the journey, when multitudes of the Galilaean pilgrims were accompanying Him on their way to one of the great Jewish feasts. The warning might have prevented them from following Him now, and shouting ‘Crucify Him’ afterwards.
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.26. and hate not his father and mother] It is not so much the true explanation to say that hate here means love less (Genesis 29:31), as to say that when our nearest and dearest relationships prove to be positive obstacles in coming to Christ, then all natural affections must be flung aside; comp. Deuteronomy 13:6-9; Deu 21:19-21; Deu 33:8-9. A reference to Matthew 10:37 will shew that ‘hate’ means hate by comparison. Our Lord purposely stated great principles in their boldest and even most paradoxical form by which He alone has succeeded in impressing them for ever as principles on the hearts of His disciples. The ‘love of love’ involves a necessity for the possible ‘hate of hate,’ as even worldly poets have understood.
“Va, je t’aimais trop pour ne pas te hair.”
“I could not love thee, dear, so much
Loved I not honour more.”
yea, and his own life also] This further explains the meaning of the word ‘hate.’ The psuche ‘soul’ or ‘animal life’ is the seat of the passions and temptations which naturally alienate the spirit from Christ. These must be hated, mortified, crucified if they cannot be controlled; and life itself must be cheerfully sacrificed, Revelation 12:11; Acts 20:24.
“Il faut vivre dans ce monde,” says St Francis de Sales, “comme si nous avions l’esprit au ciel, et le corps au tombeau.”
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.27. doth not bear his cross] Not only must self be mortified, but even the worst sufferings endured, 1 Thessalonians 3:4-5. The allusion to the cross must still have been mysterious to the hearers (Matthew 10:38), the more so since they were dreaming of Messianic triumphs and festivities.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?28. intending to build a tower] This and the next similitude are meant, like the previous teachings, to warn the expectant multitudes that to follow Christ in the true sense might be a far more serious matter than they imagined. They are significant lessons on the duty of deliberate choice which will not shrink from the ultimate consequences— the duty of counting the cost (see Matthew 20:22). Thus they involve that lesson of “patient continuance in well-doing,” which is so often inculcated in the New Testament.
Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,29. all that behold it begin to mock him] Very possibly this might have actually happened in some well-known instance, since the Herodian family had a passion for great buildings and probably found many imitators. First failure, then shame awaits renegade professions and extinguished enthusiasms.
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?31. what king, going to make war against another king] Rather, to meet another king in battle. There may be an historical allusion here to the disturbed relations between Herod Antipas and his injured father-in-law Hareth, king of Arabia, which (after this time) ended in the total defeat of the former (Jos. Antt. xviii. 5, § 3).
Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.32. desireth conditions 0f peace] This is sufficient to overthrow the interpretation which sees Man and Satan in the warring kings. Another view is that it implies the hostility of man to God, and the urgent need of being reconciled to Him (e.g. Bengel says on the word ‘king,’ “Christiana militia regale quiddam”). That however is never a calculated hostility which deliberately sits down and expects to win the victory; otherwise it would be a good inference that “a Christian’s weakness is his strength.” It is a mistake, and one which often leads to serious errors, to press unduly the details of parables; as when for instance some would see in the 10,000 soldiers a reference to the Ten Commandments. The general lesson is—Do not undertake what you have neither the strength nor will to achieve, nor that in which you are not prepared, if need be, to sacrifice life itself.
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.33. forsaketh not all that he hath] i.e. every affection, gift or possession that interferes with true discipleship. We must be ready ‘to count all things but loss for Christ,’ Php 3:7-8.
Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?34. Salt is good] The true reading is Salt therefore is good, connecting this verse with what has gone before. This similitude was thrice used by Christ with different applications. “Ye are the salt of the earth,” Matthew 5:13. “Have salt in yourselves,” Mark 9:50. Here the salt is the inward energy of holiness and devotion, and in the fate of salt which has lost its savour we see the peril which ensues from neglect of the previous lessons.
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.35. men cast it out] There is nothing stronger than salt which can restore to it its lost pungency. Hence, if it have been spoilt by rain or exposure, it is only fit to be used for paths. The peril of backsliding, the worthlessness of the state produced by apostasy, is represented in St John (Luke 15:6) by the cutting off and burning of the dead and withered branch. The main lesson of these three similitudes is expressed with its full force in Hebrews 6:4-12; Heb 10:26-39; and the importance of it is emphasized by the proverbial expression, “He that hath ears to hear,” &c. (Matthew 11:15; Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 6:9-10).