Dining with a Pharisee. Sabbath Healing and Three Lessons Suggested by the Event.
(Probably Peræa.)

^C Luke XIV.1-24.

^c 1 And it came to pass, when he went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees on a sabbath to eat bread, that they were watching him. [The Pharisees were an unorganized party, hence their rulers were such not by office, but by influence. Those who were members of the Sanhedrin, or who were distinguished among the rabbis, might fitly be spoken of as rulers among them. The context favors the idea that Jesus was invited for the purpose of being watched -- a carrying out of the Pharisaic purpose declared at Luke xi.53, 54. Bountiful feasts on the Sabbath day were common among the Jews; the food, however, was cooked the previous day in obedience to the precept at Ex. xvi.23.] 2 And behold, there was before him a certain man that had the dropsy. [The phrase "let him go" of verse 4 shows that the man was not a guest, but rather one who seems to have taken advantage of the freedom of an Oriental house to stand among the lookers-on. He may have been there purely from his own choice, but the evil intention with which Jesus was invited makes it highly probable that the man's presence was no accident, but part of a deep-laid plot to entrap Jesus.] 3 And Jesus answering [replying to their unspoken thoughts, in which they were assuming that he would heal the sick man] spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not? 4 And they held their peace. [They evidently expected Jesus to act on the impulse, and were confused by his calm, deliberate question. If they declared it lawful, they defeated their plot, and if they said otherwise, they involved themselves in an argument with him in which, as experience taught them, they would be humiliated before the people. Hence, they kept silence, but their silence only justified him, since it was the duty of every lawyer to pronounce this act unlawful if it had been so.] And he took him, and healed him, and let him go.5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a well, and will not straightway draw him up on a sabbath day? 6 And they could not answer again unto these things. [Here Jesus again asserts that the Sabbath law did not forbid acts of mercy. See pp.212, 213, 215. Though silenced, the Pharisees relented not, either as to their bigotry or their hatred.] 7 And he spake a parable unto those that were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief seats [The triclinia, or Grecian table, then in use had three sections which were placed together so as to form a flat-bottomed letter U. The space enclosed by the table was not occupied. It was left vacant that the servants might enter it and attend to the wants of the guests who reclined around the outer margin of the table. The central seat of each of these three sections were deemed a place of honor. This struggle for precedence was a small ambition, but many of the ambitions of our day are equally small] ; saying unto them, 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a marriage feast [Jesus mentions another kind of feast than the one in progress, that he may not be needlessly personal], sit not down in the chief seat; lest haply a more honorable man [Phil. ii.3] than thou be bidden of him, 9 and he that bade thee and him shall come and say to thee, Give this man place; and then thou shalt begin with shame to take the lowest place. [Because when ousted from the top he would find every place full except the bottom.] 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest place; that when he that hath bidden thee cometh, he may say to thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have glory in the presence of all that sit at meat with thee. [The words here used by our Lord teach how to avoid earthly shame and to obtain worldly honor. But they form a parable which is intended to teach the great spiritual truth that true humility leads to exaltation.] 11 For everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. [This is one of our Lord's favorite maxims (Luke xviii.14; Matt. xxiii.12). Both man and God look upon humiliation as the just punishment of pride; but it is a pleasure to every right-minded spirit to give joy to the humble by showing him respect and honor.] 12 And he said to him also that had bidden him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich neighbors; lest haply they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.13 But when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 and thou shalt be blessed; for they have not wherewith to recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed in the resurrection of the just. [According to the Oriental mode of speech Jesus here emphatically commands one course of action by prohibiting a contrary course. But his prohibition is not to be construed strictly. He does not forbid the exercise of social hospitality, but discountenances that interested form of it which seeks a return. His teaching is positive rather than negative, and should constrain us to live more for charity and less for sociability. Some think that this verse teaches that there shall be two resurrections, but the contrast is not between two times, but rather between two parties or divisions of one resurrection. If one has part in the resurrection of the just, he may expect recompense for his most trivial act. But if he be resurrected among the unjust, he need expect no reward, even for the most meritorious deeds of his whole life.] 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. [The language of Christ implied that God himself would feast those who feasted the poor, and this implication accorded with the Jewish notion that the kingdom of God would be ushered in with a great festival. Inspired by this thought, and feeling confident that he should have been part of the festivities, this guest exclaimed upon the anticipated blessedness.] 16 But he said unto him, A certain man made a great supper; and he bade many: 17 And he sent forth his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. [The custom of sending a second invitation at the supper hour is a very old one ( Esth. v.8; vi.14), and is still observed.] 18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a field, and I must needs go out and see it; I pray thee have me excused.19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused.20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. [These three excuses show: 1. That the guests had made their engagements, either for business or pleasure, without the least regard for the hour of the banquet; 2. That they set little value upon either the friendship or the feast of the one who had invited them. Moreover, the excuses progress in disrespect, for the first excuse is on the ground of necessity, the second simply offers a reason, and the third is almost impudent in its bluntness. Viewing the excuses spiritually, we note that each one contains an element of newness -- new field, new oxen, new wife. Thus the things of the earth seem new and sweet in comparison with the gospel invitation. Again, all the excuses are trifling, for the parable is intended to teach that men forego their rights to heaven for trifles. Again, the "sacred hate" of Luke xiv.25, 26 would have eliminated all these excuses. Possibly Paul had this parable in mind when he wrote I. Cor. vii.29-33. The three excuses warn us not to be hindered by 1. the love of possessions; 2. the affairs of business; 3. Our social ties.] 21 And the servant came, and told 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 maimed and blind and lame.22 And the servant said, Lord, what thou didst command is done, and yet there is room.23 And the lord said to the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled.24 For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper. [We have a preliminary or general invitation followed by three special invitations. We may regard the general invitation as given by Moses and the prophets in the ages before the feast was prepared. Then the first special one would be given by John the Baptist and Christ to the Jewish nation in the first stages of Christ's ministry. The second special invitation was given by Christ, the twelve and the seventy, and came more especially to the poor and outcast, the publicans and sinners, because the leading men of the nation spurned the invitation. The third invitation was begun by the apostles after the Lord's ascension and is still borne forward by those who have come after them and includes all nations. The three conditions of Jew, outcast and Gentiles are indicated by the three orders of guests: 1. The honorable citizens of the city; 2. Those who frequent the streets and lanes, but are still in and out of the city; 3. Those who live without the city and are found upon the highways and in the hedgepaths of the vineyards and gardens. The second and third classes are depicted as needing to be constrained. This would be so, because they would hold themselves unworthy of the invitation. But they were to be constrained by moral and not by physical means ( Matt. xiv.22; II. Cor. xii.11; Gal. ii.14). Physical constraint would have been contrary to all custom, as well as impossible to one servant. Incidentally the parable shows the roominess of heaven and the largeness of divine hospitality, so that Bengel aptly observes, "Grace, no less than nature, abhors a vacuum."]

lxxxix the strait gate warned
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