An Ox in the Ditch 1-6
This is one of the three healings of Jesus on the Sabbath recorded by Luke that provided Jesus with the opportunity to explain His actions.
Jesus was a quest of a Pharisee in his home and they were watching Him, apparently with the hope that He would do something wrong. It is possible that the Pharisees were using the sick man to trap Jesus; but it is more likely that the man came on His own. In this healing Jesus combined the points of the two previous healings on the Sabbath. It is lawful to help people of the Sabbath. If animals can be helped on the Sabbath then man can also be helped.
The debate of who could be helped on the Sabbath was an academic exercise for the Pharisees. But if the one needing healing was a close person to the Pharisees then that would have been a different situation. Especially if the sick person was a son of a Pharisee. In this case the Pharisee would declare that this would have been an emergency. The implication of Jesus was is it not the same thing if the son was someone else’s?
Seeking the Chief Place 7-11
These verses are a parable and not a lesson on social etiquette. Greater than any social embarrassment would be the shame of being excluded from the feast in the coming Kingdom of God. In the pride of the Pharisees they would have expected the chief seats at the feast. But their pride will exclude them, and their places will be taken by the humble who make no claims for themselves. The one who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
The point of this parable of Jesus is that a self-seeking pride is contrary to God’s order of things. The irony of this is that the Pharisees were supposed to be God’s most faithful servants, yet they acted no better that the pagans scrambling for the place of honor. There were other occasions when Jesus accused them of using religion to seek to satisfy their hunger for praise and special honor. (Matthew 6:1-6, 16:18) More times than not the arrogant self-assertion gains the chief seats, but faith believes that the meek ultimately will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
This is not a lesson on who will gain the seat of honor, as genuine humility is not a strategy to get what we want. Humility is an approach to life that sees one’s self in proper relations to God and others. Humility is the opposite of self-seeking pride.
Making the Guest List 12-14
Although verses 12-14 seen as a parable they are not labeled as one. In the background of these verses are the teaching of Jesus about God accepting the unacceptable into His Kingdom excluding those who presume that they are. In the religion of the Pharisees the poor, maimed, lame, and blind were excluded from full participation in religious privileges. Jesus taught that God accepted such people into His Kingdom. Those who have been accepted by God have been accepted by God’s grace, whether they are rich and healthy or poor and sick. Those who have been accepted on this bases should be as open as God is towards all kind of people.
The social snobbishness of the Pharisees was no different than that of the pagans. This was the norm in society that the underprivileged was not acceptable in society, but the standards of the Kingdom challenge this norm and was a radically different way of treating others, the way of self-less love. This is the standard that God will ultimately judge our actions.
Come to the Feast 15-24
The Pharisees had missed the point as we see by their pious attitude. They understood enough of what Jesus said that it was about the feast of the coming Kingdom, but his attitude assumed that he would be breaking bread at the feast. Jesus then gave the parable of the great supper which was designed to challenge the Pharisee’s pride.
Jesus viewed God’s Kingdom as joyful in which God had offered a gracious invitation. Verse 16 was the initial invitation and verse 17 is the announcement that all is ready.
It is presumed that all had accepted the initial invitation but when the slave had announced the feast they all had excuses as to why they would not come. All three of the excuses are lame given by the entire group.
Their excuses are poor and have a sarcastic humor to them. Who would buy a field without first seeing it? Or buy an oxen without first examining it? The law allowed one year exemption from military service and business, but this exemption did not extend to social occasions to which one had already accepted an invitation? (Deuteronomy 24:5)
This was the invitation of God to His people, an invitation they had accepted when they accepted their covenant relationship with God. Jesus and John the Baptist had made the declaration of the feast with their announcement that the Kingdom of God was at hand. The excuse makers are those like the Pharisees who found various reasons to reject the invitation of John and Jesus.
Jesus now refers to the same groups of people as He had before. These were people that the Pharisees considered unworthy of the Kingdom. Some were physically maimed, some were tax collectors and sinners who did not keep the traditions as the Pharisees. The point that Jesus made is that as the Pharisees had excluded them and God invites them. The other side of the picture is that the Pharisees will be the ones excluded.
Those of the highways and hedges are those who live outside of the city. They would be the Gentiles who would eventually be welcomed in. The slave was to compel the others to come to the feast and this shows the urgency that the Kingdom is close at hand.
Count the Cost 25-35
Jesus still had large crowds following to hear Him speak and these words in in these verses were addressed to them. Although they followed Him they were not real followers. This may explain the harshness of His tone in these verses. Jesus was not trying to frighten them away but trying to challenge them to genuine commitment. For the most of them they had not faced up to what real commitment meant.
Jesus uses the word hate here to stress the point that He was making about commitment. Jesus makes the same point in Matthew but the writer uses a softer tone. (Matthew 10:37) The statement came when family commitment comes into conflict with our commitment to Jesus. (Matthew 10:34-36) The verse speaks to the man in verses 20 who could not come because of his wife, as well as the man in Luke 9:59 because he had to bury his father. The New Testament speaks about the need for family loyalty but even family loyalty must not stand between a person and his commitment to Jesus. Our loyalty to Jesus must be so strong that it appears that we have hate towards any distraction. This is also how some families react to a family member who chooses to follow Jesus against their wishes.
In that day to bear a cross meant they were willing to die a martyr’s death. Jesus had used this same challenge on His disciples to deny self in total commitment to Him. In Verse 27 we see the same idea as in the last of verse 26. In the context of this passage hating one’s life means a willingness to give one’s lift for Christ’s sake.
We now see two more parables and there point is summed up in verse 33. Jesus wanted these superficial followers to become real followers of His. He did not want them to think that they were real followers just because they tagged along with Him, listened to what He taught, and said good things about Him.
The parable makes only one point and that is to count the cost before becoming a follower of Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus is costly and one must be willing to pay that cost. Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. Salvation involves repentance, commitment, and renunciation of anything that stands in the way of the abundant life to which Christ calls. One must allow Christ to take center stage in their life.
The parables were not meant to teach that no one should become a follower of Jesus if there was the slightest chance of failing along the way. To interpret it that way would undercut the whole meaning of faith. Faith without risk is not faith. Part of the total commitment is the trust that Jesus would be sufficient for whatever the future may hold.
In that day the salt was not pure. Therefore, it could lose its saltiness. The use of salt appears in several settings in Matthew 5:13 and Mark 9:50. The point here is that a disciple without total commitment is useless.