Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath. He tells the Parable of the Wedding Feast. He tells the Parable of the Great Banquet. He reminds the huge crowds of the cost of discipleship. Salt without taste is worthless.
As I write in every chapter:
This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
The translation is mine. It tends to be literal, but pure literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
The links are provided for further study.
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-6)
1 And so it happened that on the Sabbath he entered the house of a certain leading Pharisee and ate bread, and they were lying in wait for him. 2 And look! a certain man with dropsy was right in front of him. 3 So in reply, Jesus said to the legal experts and Pharisees: “Is it permitted on the Sabbath to heal or not?” 4 But they were quiet. Then he took and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he told them, “Which one of you whose child or ox fell down a well would not immediately pull him up on the Sabbath day?” 6 And they were unable to reply to these things.
Jesus honored the Sabbath, but he did not keep it according to the traditions of the legal experts, traditions that piled up over the centuries. So now we have another episode in which he broke the Sabbath traditions and rules. There is a lot of activity at the dinner—servants bringing out dishes and bustling around—so this Pharisee does not seem so legalistic as certain Jewish sects today, if the popular reports are true.
“lying in wait” it is the verb paratēreō (pronounced pah-rah-tay-reh-oh), and it is built on para– (alongside, near) and tēreō (keep or watch). Picture watchdogs sitting right by you and glowering at you. So it means, depending on the context: “watch closely, observe carefully” (1) “watch (maliciously), lie in wait … Watch, guard”; (2) “observe religiously.” Here it means to watch maliciously or lie in wait.
“Their enmity reminds the reader that, despite this Sabbath respite, Jesus is on a journey to his death. It recalls Ps. 37:32: ‘The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death.’ Because of this, this Pharisee’s house will also be ‘abandoned of salvation’ (13:35)” (Garland, comment on 14:1).
“look!” I like this verb. It is usually translated as “behold.” But I updated it here. It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follow. Professional grammarians say that when “look!” introduces a character, then he or she will play a major role in the pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea) or section. Alternatively, when a verb follows “look!” then a significant act is about to take place and the person or people are less significant (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 21). Here it introduces a man with dropsy. Apparently he barged into the dinner, or he may have been related to one of the guests. In any case, he stood right in front of Jesus. It must have been moving to the guests to observe the scene. The man was desperate, and his silence spoke loudly. For all we know he held out his hands, palms open, to implore Jesus to help him. He may have been in tears of desperation. We don’t know, but the silence is telling.
Dropsy is swelling by liquid retention. It appears only here in the entire NT, through the pen of Dr. Luke.
“… the Pharisees’ inadequacies as interpreters of the law, and the examples Jesus will give of their violations of the Sabbath reveal that they are motivated more by self-interest than by obedience to God” (Garland, comment on 14:3).
“A set-up is likely. Regardless, the man now sits before Jesus, so that a response is possible. Jesus will take the initiative. Trap or no, Sabbath or no, he will help the man” (Bock, p. 1257).
“in reply”: In reply to what? In reply to their lying in wait for him, religiously speaking. It was a tense dinner. He could read their minds and faces. It is amazing how Jesus would submit himself to tense situations and then come out on top. Courage is a virtue, and he displayed it often, especially on the cross. On a human level, he was quite a man.
“legal experts and Pharisees”: you can learn more about them at this link:
Both groups were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (cf. Garland, p. 243), like the puritans of the seventeenth century. In the case of these two Jewish groups of enforcers, it is a sad fact that religious people—even extra-spiritual ones—can miss God’s purpose or will for them. They are too smart for their own good. The Pharisees and legal experts valued their traditions over healing a man with a disease.
Further, the problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7, ESV). Overdoing righteousness damages one’s relationship with God and others.
Speaking of healing the man with swelling, Jesus asked a snappy question: Is it lawful (or permitted) to heal on the Sabbath or not? The tag-on “or not” speaks to me of being a little terse with them. He dared them to interrupt him so the sick man would not be healed. The Pharisees and legal experts were baffled. They still had a few molecules of compassion, so they did not have the courage to prevent the oncoming healing, but they must have felt the urge to stop it, to obey their traditions.
Jewish law permitted healing on the Sabbath when a man’s life was in imminent danger, but this man was not about to die. He probably had this malady for some time now. He could have waited to be healed on any of the other six days, as the ruler of a synagogue had said (Luke 13:14).
“healed”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.”
As to the Sabbath, the Spirit, inspiring the writers of the New Covenant Scriptures after Pentecost, frees us from Sabbath obligations (Luke 6:5; Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16-19). But if you want to take a day or two off, go for it. Just don’t do it because one of the Ten Commandments tells you to. The Ten Commandments contain theological truths and moral laws. Learn and obey them. The Sabbath, in contrast, is a ritual, and the New Covenant frees us from all such rituals.
To expand on the previous point, the Sabbath was the fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:8-11 and Deut. 5:12-15), but those verses do not describe how to keep it. In Num. 15:32-36, people found a man gathering wood, and Moses ordered them to stone him to death. So what kind of interpretations can come from that illegal act and punishment? Was plucking heads of grain the same thing? But the disciples—not Jesus, incidentally—were eating them, so does that excuse them, since they were saving their own lives (if we stretch things)? Apparently not, because healing on the Sabbath was questionable behavior, too (Luke 6:6-11). Or in the next passage, maybe the man with the withered hand was not in a life-or-death situation, while the disciples were.
Here are the Mishnah’s thirty-nine categories of work that were not allowed. This comes from the second century, but it does reflect the times of Jesus:
- Sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking.
- Shearing wool, bleaching, hackling, dyeing, spinning, stretching the threads, the making of two meshes, weaving two threads, dividing two threads, tying [knotting] and untying, sewing two stitches, and tearing in order to sew two stitches.
- Capturing a deer, slaughtering, or flaying, or salting it, curing its hide, scraping it [of its hair], cutting it up, writing two letters, and erasing in order to write two letters [over the erasure].
- Building, pulling down, extinguishing, kindling, striking with a hammer, and carrying out from one domain to another.
These are the forty primary labors less one.
The rest of the tractate at another source goes on to define the parameters more precisely.
Religious teachers debated these issues endlessly. In effect, these strict teachers of the law said it was better that people should virtually do nothing on the Sabbath. It is better to be safe than sorry, to be severe and austere than risk too much questionable behavior before a holy God. This is called building a wall or fence around the Torah, so that people would not really break the Torah, but the traditions. Problem: the extra-rules became so strict that people felt oppressed.
And so they were quiet. This shows they had a few molecules of compassion in them, because they did not interrupt him. Alternatively, they did not want the people to turn against them, because Jesus had a reputation of being a healer, and everyone knew what would happen next—the man was going to be healed. It’s one thing for the uptight religious leaders to impose all kinds of heavy laws on people; it is quite another to publicly stop the healer from helping a needy commoner.
“took and healed”: this phrase is made of two verbs, and the first one is the common lambanō (pronounced lahm-bah-noh), and it means “to take” or “receive,” but here it means “to take.” Evidently, Jesus must have taken ahold of him in some way. We don’t know what he did. My hunch is that he took him by the shoulders and spoke healing to him.
“healed”: this verb is iaomai (pronounced ee-ah-oh-my), and it means, unsurprisingly, “healed, cure, restore.” The noun, incidentally, is iasis (pronounced ee-ah-seess), and it means “healing, cure.” The noun is used three times: Luke 13:22; Acts 4:22, 30. In other words, only Luke uses the noun.
The word “heal” in this verse is a synonym for the verb “heal” in v. 3.
It is amazing to me that Jesus could have such confidence to heal someone who stood in front of him, while everyone was watching. He even announced the healing before it happened, to make a point about the law—Sabbath keeping. I for one never view these healing miracles casually.
Incidentally, the verb translated “dismissed” could have just as easily been rendered “freed” or “loosed.” But “dismissed” is the intent here, though I wonder whether Luke did not intend the double meaning.
Of course the leader of the Pharisees, the Pharisees themselves, and the legal experts, would have rushed to lifted their son or ox out of the well.
Here’s how the parallel case went down for the disabled woman bent double, when the synagogue ruler complained about her healing on the Sabbath:
14 In reply, the synagogue ruler, indignant that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, proceeded to tell the crowd, “There are six days you ought to work; on one of them come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day!” 15 In reply to him, the Lord said, “Hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from its stall and lead it to drink on the Sabbath? 16 Shouldn’t this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan had bound—look at her!—eighteen years, be loosed from this bondage on the Sabbath day? (Luke 13:14-16)
Here Jesus was equally indignant as he was back then, but his indignation was righteous, while theirs was misguided.
Bock points out that the Mishnah, a compilation of oral traditions and laws, written down in about 200 AD, mentions that cattle could be fed and watered—taking them there, as long as they are not loaded down (m. Šab. 5; 15.2; m. ‘Erub. 2:1-4) (Bock, p. 1258). So what is really happening is that they oppose Jesus as a threat to their institutions.
“child”: it is literally “son,” but in context it is generic.
It also may seem incongruous to link a child to a beast of burden. But the text yields a paronomasia [play on words] when translated back into Aramaic: bera (“son”) and becira (“ox”) and bera (“well”). The wording also matches the fourth commandment in Deut. 5:14: “But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your make and female servants may rest, as you do.” “Son” stands first in the list among family members, and “ox” stands first among farm animals” (Garland, comment on 14:5).
These religious leaders were silenced to submission by the reality of the healing that just took place. Here is how the parallel verse is reported by Luke: “After saying these things, his opponents were put to shame” … (Luke 13:17). It is the same idea here in v. 6.
As noted in the previous chapter, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus healed the man with dropsy, so he won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with religious leaders who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. Jesus shamed the leaders to silence. He won. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.
More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he replied to the religious leaders and defeated them and their bad traditions. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus!
Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her.
Here Jesus does not, however, get into an intense verbal sparring match about healing on the Sabbath, because the feast is still going on, and he is about to tell the invited guests to stop looking for the seats of honor and the Pharisee who invited him to look for the outcasts to invite. But he still won in the public contest.
GrowApp for Luke 14:1-6
A.. How have you broken down religious traditions that keep you from a clear perspective about what is really important?
Advice to the Guests and Host (Luke 14:7-14)
7 He proceeded to tell a parable to those who had been invited, when he observed how they were choosing the first seats, saying to them: 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding, don’t sit down in the first seat, in case someone more honored than you has been invited by him, 9 and the one who invited you and him comes and will say to you, ‘Give the seat to this one’; and then in shame you begin to take the last seat. 10 Instead, when you are invited, go and take the last seat, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will tell you, ‘Friend, come up here to the first seat.’ Then there will be honor for you in front of all those seated with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and the one who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
12 And he also proceeded to say to the one who had invited him, “Whenever you set out a midday meal or evening supper, do not call your friends nor your siblings nor your relatives nor your rich neighbors, so that they themselves don’t invite you in return, and that is your reward. 13 But whenever you set out a reception, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. 14 You will be blessed because they do not have anything to repay you; for it will be repaid to you at the resurrection of the righteous.”
We are still at the dinner provided by the Pharisee and his friends—other religious leaders.
“parable”: literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable.
Jesus observed things going on around him, another sign that he was very bright. He was socially aware. Many people just put one foot in front of another and don’t notice the finer things of life and people’s behavior. He did, however.
As noted under v. 6, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame culture. If you become shamed, then the social stigma was powerful.
“give the seat to this one”: This one is the more honored guest than the lowlier man who was seeking to horn in on the prominent seats.
“you begin”: it was added in order to prolong the humbling as you walk to the far end of the table.
“Honor and shame were matters of life and death, and saving one’s face was more important than garnering wealth. Jesus wishes to wake up his audience to life and death issues that are truly life and death with eternal ramifications. If self-admiration and exaltation can lead to disastrous consequences in human social settings, it will lead to even more disastrous consequences in the final judgment” (Garland on 14:8-9).
The opposite scenario is presented with a strong contrast: “instead.” You are supposed to take the lowlier seat. The host will recognize your importance and call you up to the front or first seats. I can add that he may leave you there, and if that happens, then at least you are not humbled in front of the others. But Jesus’s illustration shows you being honored. “honor” could be translated as “glory.” But it’s best, culturally speaking, to keep it as “honor.” You get the social honor as you walk towards the chief seats in front of all the guests.
“There will be honor for you”: this is another divine passive. Stein is right: “In the parable the honor came from the host who publicly acknowledged the humble guest. In the reality part of the parable the honor came from God, for the passive ‘will be honored’ is a divine passive” (comment on v. 10). Recall that a divine passive is an understated way of saying that God, working behind the scenes, is the one giving you honor. God is the one who promotes you.
Morris quotes Rabbi Akiva (Akiba), who lived later than Jesus, who is reported to have said, in order to advise guests to take the lower seats: “Better that people say to you ‘come up, come up,’ and not to say to you, ‘go down, go down’ (Leviticus Rabbah I.5)” (comment on v. 10).
Here is the payoff or punchline. This is another verse spelling out the Great Reversal. In Luke 1:51-53 Mary sang that Jesus and his kingdom would exalt the poor and humble, while the rich and powerful will be demoted. In Luke 2:34 Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed to be the “falling and rising of many.” Now it is expressed in self-exaltation leading to humiliation, while self-humbling leading to exaltation.
So we have more instances of divine passives. The kingdom of the real and true and living God is about humility and then allowing God to promote you.
Now Jesus shifts gears and directs his attention at the hosts, in revealing what the kingdom of God is really like. Everyone invites those groups of people. This is socially acceptable and even normal. However, these groups will invite you in return, and then your reward will be earthbound and minimal. Jesus calls his kingdom citizens to rise above the earthbound, in the next verse.
These undesirable people were excluded from full participation of worship at the temple (Lev. 21:16-23; 2 Sam. 5:8).
16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; 23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.’” (Lev. 21:16-23, NIV)
This reversal is unexpected. We are called to invite the least, the last, and the lost. They can’t pay you back, but God can. Here again is the Great Reversal (Luke 1:51-52; 2:34). Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.
Parallel Jewish teaching reflects a different spirit. In m. ‘Abot 1.5, the needy can enter a household which has doors wide open, but they are probably there to serve, as 1.3 suggests (Bock, p. 1266).
“The cultural conventions governing giving and receiving meant that when one person outgave another, that person gained more status as the superior in the relationship while the other moved down a rung on the status ladder” (Garland, comment on 14:14). This teaching guts out the standard cultural convention because the poor, crippled, lame and blind were already outcasts. Now the host will be repaid at the resurrection.
I admit this to you that according to the Way, which they call a faction, I worship in the way of God of the fathers, believing in everything which is according to our law and written in the prophets, 15 having hope in God, which they themselves accept, for the resurrection to come, of the righteous and unrighteous. (Acts 24:14-15, my tentative translation)
Luke believed in the final resurrection of the unrighteous and righteous.
However, here in v. 14 of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus omitted the resurrection of the unjust because he is not fully teaching on the resurrection but on repayment and rewards for the generous people. This is the opposite of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-30). The ungenerous rich man was getting no rewards—but punishment.
“blessed”: it is the adjective makarios (pronounced mah-kah-ree-oss and is used 50 times). It has an extensive meaning: “happy” or “fortunate” or “privileged” (Mounce, pp. 67-71).
Let’s look more deeply at it.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (and Aramaic), and the main word for blessing is the verb barak, used 327 times throughout the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 76 times, Deuteronomy 40 times, and Psalms 76 times. Each time it is people-related. The noun is beraka, used 71 times, and “denotes the pronouncement of good things on the recipient or the collection of good things” (Mounce, p. 70).
The New Testament was written in Greek, and the verb is eulogeō (pronounced yew-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard as in “get”), which is used 41 times and means to “bless, thank, or praise.” The adjective eulogētos (pronounced yew-loh-gay-toss, and the “g” is hard), which is used 8 times, means “blessed, praised.” The noun is eulogia (pronounced yew-lo-gee-ah, the “g” is hard, and we get our word eulogy from it), and is used 16 times. It means to “speak well.” It is mostly translated as “praise.” The log– stem is rich in Greek, and it can include speaking a word.
So be sure that God is speaking over you blessedness when you do the unexpected thing and invite the least, the last, and the lost, who can’t repay you. God will reward you, if only at the resurrection of the righteous.
And so in this verse, illustrated by the feast, God’s kingdom welcomes the socially unacceptable and dishonored and shamed. They are the expendables, and God loves them too.
Note, finally, that the invitation went out. The people did not strut into the kingdom on their own and by their own willpower. God invited them, just as he invited you, whether you realize it or not. He was wooing your heart.
“anything”: it is inserted in English, for the Greek is silent, but the word is implied. Other words could have been inserted: “ability” or “capacity.”
“You will be blessed … it will be repaid”: These are divine passives again. God will be the one blessing and repaying you at the final resurrection.
A quick and final word about the resurrection. Everyone’s body is in the ground or dissolved in the ocean or disintegrated in some other way. Yet God is so powerful and omniscient (all-knowing) that he can reconstitute everyone’s body when the trumpet of God sounds, and Jesus himself calls our bodies out of our decayed condition and raises us up with a new, glorified, transformed body. The righteous will go to their judgment, and the wicked will go to theirs. Jesus is following Jewish belief that says the righteous and the wicked will be separated (see Gen. 18:25 and then Matt. 25:31-45).
Make no mistake. God takes human behavior very seriously. Those who behave wickedly will get a negative judgment; those who behave righteously will get a positive judgment. They will get some rewards, on some level, and of some kind (or at least a lenient sentence)—the details are not revealed to us in Scripture.
GrowApp for Luke 14:7-14
A.. Study 1 Peter 5:6. Why is it important to humble yourself before God?
B.. Why is it important to reach out to the outcasts? What does this say about the Father’s heart?
Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24)
15 Someone of the dinner guests heard these things and said to him, “Blessed is the one who eats bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A certain man spread out a big banquet and invited many people 17 and sent out his servant at the time of the banquet to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come because it is already prepared!’ 18 And everyone began, each one, to decline. The first one said to him, ‘I bought a field, and I am required to go out and see it. I ask you to accept my excuse.’ 19 And another one said, ‘I bought five yokes of oxen and I am going to examine them. I ask you to accept my excuses.’ 20 And another one said, ‘I married a woman and therefore I can’t come.’
21 And the servant arrived and reported these things to his master. Then the householder got angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the town and bring here the poor, the crippled, and blind and the lame!’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, what you have ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 23 The master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the roads and hedges and compel them to come in, so that my house is filled up!’ 24 I say to you that no one of those invited men will taste my banquet!”
This parable is about reaching farther and farther out from the banquet in the house. Those who were invited first were the Chosen People. The second group are the unclean and degraded—the expendables—who were popularly considered rejects. Those invited last are the Gentiles, while the Chosen People would in turn be rejected as a nation because they had rejected their true Messiah. Judaism, expressed in Jerusalem temple worship, is about to be subjected to judgment (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45), though numerous individual priests (Acts 6:7) and thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Judea converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4; Acts 21:20). God loves people, but he is not enamored with systems. Therefore one should not see the Jews as completely excluded, because Jesus said to reach them first (Acts 1:8). We must preach Jesus the Messiah to them.
Morris on his introduction to this parable: “This story of a banquet emphasizes the truth that people are saved by responding to God’s invitation, not by their own effort, whereas if they are lost it is by their own fault. It is tragically possible to refuse the gracious invitation” (p. 250). (Also see his comments on vv. 22-23.)
The man who blurted out the blessing is right. It is good to eat bread, if he meant spiritual bread, in the kingdom of God. Jesus said he is the bread of life (John 6:35-40).
“blessed”: see the comments at v. 14.
“kingdom of God”: The man who asked the question did not understand it. But let’s explore what it means. As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were bringing to the world. The powerful and people of high status are brought low, while the humble and those of low status are raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective.
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
Luke says “a certain man,” while Matthew has a “king” who hosted a wedding banquet for his son (22:1). In Luke’s version, who is the certain man and who is the servant? If God is the head of household (v. 21), then Jesus and the apostles and other messengers are the servant, rolled into one. If Jesus is the head of household, then his servant are his apostles and other messengers, rolled into one. What is the banquet? It is salvation in the kingdom of God, or the kingdom and salvation found within it. Either one works equally well.
“servant”: The word servant here is doulos (pronounced doo-loss) and could be translated as slave, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
It is a sure thing, however, that Luke’s Greek audience would have heard “slave” in the word doulos. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.
“each one”: it is probably an Aramaic idiom meaning “all at once,” or more likely it means of “one consent” or “unanimously” (Bock, vol. 2, p. 1273).
The first excuse: In some land deals, a man could go out and inspect the field after he had bought it, but usually the inspection was done before the deal was finalized. So this excuse may not be legitimate.
“required”: it is the key noun anagkē (pronounced ah-nahg-kay), which appears in v. 23 in the command verb form. It could be translated here as “I must” or “I’m compelled” or “it is necessary for me.”
The second excuse: a man bought five yokes of oxen—ten oxen. (A yoke means a pair.) This indicates his wealth. He owned a lot of land. But he could have stopped by to enjoy the banquet, so his excuse was flimsy.
The third excuse: a man just married a woman, as it literally says in Greek, but it could be translated as “wife.” Note that Jesus said that the third invitee just married a woman, not a man. This detail may seem small and irrelevant, but in today’s world people believe Jesus was silent about the same-sex commitment ceremony, commonly called “same-sex marriage.” (Also see Matt. 19:5-6, where Jesus endorsed the Edenic model of one man and one woman). But here he assumed that the man married a woman. When Jesus seems silent on an issue, it is best to go towards the default setting for relationships and moral law: the Torah.
These classes of people were excluded from full service in the Israelite theocracy. These may not approach the altar of God to offer bread. See Lev. 21:16-23, quoted under v. 13,
Jesus is overturning these old rules (HT: Garland, comments on 14:21)
Then the servant came back and reported the excuses. The householder’s (the head of household’s or the original inviter’s) response indicates judgment. The wrath of God does not occur apart from judgment. Picture an old English judge wearing his wig. Do not picture a man who flies off the handle and abuses his wife, for example.
God’s wrath is judicial.
It is not like this:
But like this:
That is a picture of God in judgment.
In fact, Matthew’s version depicts the king sending out an army to slay the refusers, because they had mistreated and killed the messengers (22:7). In Luke’s version the “certain man” did not have the authority to send out an army, yet his wrath does express judgment. Jesus had already pronounced judgment on his generation for all the deaths of God’s prophets, from Abel to Zechariah (Luke 12:49-51). Then when the Pharisees tried to scare him off by invoking Herod’s name, he said, ironically, it is not possible that a prophet would die outside the super-holy (so to speak) city of Jerusalem! Therefore he would complete his mission and die there (Luke 13:33-34)!
Then the householder told the servant to invite society’s rejects. In Lev. 21:17-23, the maim could not serve in the temple. No doubt this class of rejects played on the imagination of people that the lame and maimed and all other disabled were unacceptable to God who may have judged them and punished them by making them disabled. Of course, Jesus is overturning this popular misconception. This is another expression of the Great Reversal, revealed in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary sang that Jesus and his kingdom would exalt the poor and humble, while the rich and powerful would be demoted. In Luke 2:34, which says Simeon predicted that Jesus would cause the falling and rising of many, and in this case bad ideas must fall, and better ones must rise. He is reversing expectations, when he says that the servant must invite the rejects.
“servant” see v. 17 for more comments.
The change in plans must happen quickly, which suggests that the table is already open for visitors. “Jesus’ current kingdom offer is in view here, an offer that culminates on the meal of God’s blessing (14:24). Jesus does not postpone the banquet or withdraw the meal. He gets a new audience. The time of blessing is now and continues into the future … One can accept or reject the invitation, but in this case, the party is coming and it will not be rescheduled or postponed” (Bock, p. 1275).
The servant informed the householder that this call to the rejects had already been done. So there is compressed time from v. 21 to v. 22. It is the storyteller’s privilege to compress time as he wished. In any case, after this call, there is still room or places unoccupied at the banquet. “To ‘make them come in’ is not compulsion but ‘insistent hospitality’” (Liefeld and Pao, comment on 22-23, quoting partly from another commentator named Manson).
Then the head of household ordered the servant to the paths and hedges, where the poor often congregated, and compel them to come in. So what does compulsion mean here? It does not mean dragging them in because would the poor need to be dragged to a great feast? When I have offered food to the homeless, they eagerly take it. So it cannot mean dragging. Rather compulsion here means first informing them that a feast is open to them and strongly urging and persuading them that the invitation really is open to them. Why would they need this urging and persuading? They probably had disbelief when they heard about the feast, because it was originally for the Chosen People. Now it is open the Gentiles. Really? Nonetheless, some may have run towards the banquet (= kingdom of God and salvation), but others may have hesitated. Is this some kind of prank? When I get to the door, will it be slammed shut in my face and then insiders laugh through the door? But it was or is no prank. The offer has been going out for the past 2000 years.
“servant” see v. 17 for more comments.
“compel”: the verb is anagkazō (pronounced ah-nahg-kah-zoh), and BDAG, considered the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, says it means, depending on the context: (1) “to compel someone to act in a particular manner, compel, force”; (2) “strongly urge / invite, urge upon, press.” This verb is a virtual synonym to another passage, which baffles scholars: Luke 16:16 says, “everyone is powerfully compelled [biazō] into it.” It is best to see both verbs as rhetorical hyperbole (strategic exaggeration to make a point; cf. Luke 6:41-42).
In the parable, the master is God or Jesus, while the servant is the proclaimer of the kingdom. The kingdom is very compelling. It draws people in, even when they have strong wills. Yes, everyone has free will, but powerful preaching and signs and wonders lowers the will’s resistance, until they themselves choose to come, after they are drawn to enter the kingdom by Spirit-filled preaching of the kingdom, backed up by signs and wonders that bless people, the kinds of signs and wonders that Jesus and his disciples performed. That is the overall context of Luke-Acts, which is a very charismatic double work.
There is little doubt that we should see a reference to the mission of the church. God’s invitation had gone out to the people through the prophets. Now in Jesus the second invitation was given. When the religious elite refused it, the church was to bring in both those within the city (the Jews) and those outside (the Gentiles). The slave is not said to have fulfilled the commission to those outside. Bringing in the Gentiles was still future when Jesus spoke, and for that matter for the most part when Luke wrote. (comments on vv. 22-23).
“I tell you”: the “you” here is in the plural, so Jesus is now addressing the people at the Pharisee’s feast (v. 1).
Here is the punchline of the parable. As a nation, the invitation is about to be closed to that generation of Israelites, because they rejected their Messiah, though, as noted, thousands of individual Jews in Jerusalem and Judea accepted the Messiah after the resurrection and outpouring of the Spirit (see comments at the beginning of this section).
Once again, God loves people, but he is not enamored with religious systems, particularly when they oppress and hinder people from coming into the kingdom of God. It was time to judge and reject the old Levitical system and usher in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-13).
GrowApp for Luke 14:15-24
A.. Which excuses did you offer before you entered salvation in God’s kingdom? How did you overcome them?
B.. Each one of us is disabled inwardly in one way or another. How does God’s invitation to you show his love for you?
C.. How has God’s kingdom salvation begun to heal your inner disability?
The Cost of Discipleship (Luke 14:25-33)
25 Huge crowds were going along with him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even his own life, he is unable to be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me is unable to be my disciple. 28 For who among you wanting to build a tower does not first, after sitting down, calculate the expense, if he has enough to complete it? 29 So that after he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete it, everyone observing him never begins to laugh at him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and is unable to complete it!’ 31 Or which king going to war against another king, after he has sat down, will not first plan out whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Otherwise, while he is still far away, after he has sent an emissary, he sues for peace. 33 In this manner, everyone of you who does not give up all of his possessions is unable to be my disciple.”
Let’s first take all of these verses in context. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, for the ultimate purpose of dying. There is no more room and no more time to monkey about. Crowds can get caught up in a low-level or high-level hysteria; they can follow the latest fads. Think of the pop band the Beatles in the 1960s. Girls shrieked and carried on. There doesn’t seem to be any shrieking here, but huge crowds were gathering around him and following him.
Crowds loved his teaching and his healing miracles. No doubt they loved his magnetic personality as well. He seems friendly and serious at the same time or at differing times. Here he is about to get serious and whittle down the crowds. John the Baptist said of Jesus: “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear out his threshing floor and gather together the wheat into his storehouse, but he shall burn the chaff with unquenchable fire!” Here is Jesus taking his winnowing fork and throwing up the harvest. The heavy grains fall to the ground, while the chaff gets blown away. But it will accumulate off to the side, and it can be used for fuel for fire. (See my comments at Luke 3:17). This verse is a perfect application of John’s words.
Jesus is not eager to have shallow disciples follow him. He is not so needy that he must receive the adulation of the crowds. He doesn’t need lots of friends.
“unable”: it comes from the standard verb dunamai (pronounced doo-nah-my) for “can” or “able.” And the verb or its cognates appears in this section three more times (in v. 29 another synonym is used). So the possible disciple cannot even begin the journey of discipleship. He does not have the capacity in his soul to begin.
This verse presents a condition (“if”). If anyone comes to Jesus, then he must not show any divided love. Note that the potential follower of Jesus seems to have a lot of free will. But let’s not get bogged down in this discussion.
If you are curious about the topic, however, see my post on God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will:
Jesus lived in a Jewish culture, and he had already said that family division is coming. In Luke 12; the family was about initiate division:
For from now on there shall be a dividing of a household, three against two and two against three!
53 Father will be divided against son,
And son against father,
Mother against daughter
And daughter against mother,
Mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
And daughter-in-law against mother-in-law! [Micah 7:6] (Luke 12:52-53)
Now the disciple will initiate division, if necessary—if necessary. No need to provoke it without a cause. Disciples have to be ready to follow Jesus no matter what the cost.
One main point about the musical Fiddler on the Roof is the head of household disowns one of his daughters for marrying a Christian. Recall that Jesus said in v. 20 (above) that a man loved his marriage and wife more than following Jesus. Jesus’s disciples are about to give their all for him, after the resurrection. Peter and Paul were martyred, and tradition says the eleven were also martyred.
In v. 26 here, Jesus said you must be willing to “hate” your own family. So why such a strong term? First, it is rhetorical, designed to startle the audience. Second, it is the language of covenant (Rom. 9:13). You must join the New Covenant he is about to establish, to the point of rejecting the old Sinai Covenant. Third, the strong term reveals your priority. If your family is left behind in the Old and refuses to come with you, you must leave them behind. So “hate” could be translated as “love less” or “renounce.” Keener says in his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel: “Hate … could mean ‘love less’ (Mt. 10:37) in both the Hebrew Bible [Old Testament] and later Jewish literature … Jesus undoubtedly employed the more graphic expression originally as hyperbole” (A Commentary on Matthew’s Gospel [Eerdmans, 1999] p. 330).
In Gen. 29:30-31, Jacob loved Rachel so much that he worked seven years, which seemed to pass by in a few days, so one’s love for the Lord must be tantamount.
Deut. 21:15-17 says that if a man has married two women and loves one less than the other, he must still be fair. So in a household, one must not have divided loyalty. Bigamy divides the family and is not a good idea. Divided love is wrong.
In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus said to a large crowd, so that they would count the cost:
37 The one loving father or mother more than me is not deserving of me; and the one loving son or daughter more than me is not deserving of me. 38 And so anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not deserving of me. 39 The one finding his life will lose it, and the one losing his life because of me will find it. (Matt. 10:37-39)
So we are to prefer Jesus and the kingdom over all other rivals.
Now back to Luke.
Garland: “It may seem odd to instruct disciples to love their enemies (6:35) but to hate their family. But Jesus is using hyperbole [deliberate exaggeration for rhetorical effect or impact] to capture the seriousness of his demand. ‘To hate’ does not refer to enmity but is a Semitic expression that conveys indifference to one and preference for another: ‘I love A and hate B,’ which means ‘I prefer A to B’ (see Gen 29:30-33; Deut 21:15-17; Mal 1:2-3; Luke 16:13; Rom 9:13)” (comments on 14:26).
Bock agrees: “The call to ‘hate’ is not literal but rhetorical … Otherwise, Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor as oneself as a summation of what God desires makes no sense (Luke 10:25-37). The call to hate simply means to ‘love less’ (Gen. 29:30-31; Deut. 21:15-17; Judg. 14:16). The image is strong, but it is not a call to be insensitive or to leave all feeling behind … Following Jesus is to be the disciple’s ‘first love.’ This pursuit is to have priority over any family member and one’s own life, which means that other concerns are to take second place to following Jesus (Luke 8:19-21; 9:59-62; 12:4, 49-53; 16:13)” (pp. 1284-85). One possible translation is “renounce” instead of “hate.”
Once again, Jesus is using startling imagery to grab the listener’s sleepy and complacent mind. He often does this (e.g. chopping off hands or gouging out eyes, or getting a beam out of you own eyes).
“life”: it is the noun psuchē (pronounced ps-oo-khay, and be sure to pronounce the ps-, and our word psychology comes from it). It can mean, depending on the context: “soul, life” and it is hard to draw a firm line between the two. “Breath, life principle, soul”; “earthly life”; “the soul as seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects, desires, feelings, emotions”; “self’; or “that which possesses life, a soul, creature, person.” In this verse, one must be willing to renounce one’s own way of living and follow God. Jesus said to die daily. “He proceeded to tell all of them, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and pick up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life shall lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
Bottom line here: you must not have divided loyalty, but you renounce (“hate”) your other loves that you had placed on an equal plane with Jesus. No divided love. Your love for him must enable you to leave behind your other loves, which may appear like hatred to the ones you leave behind.
Jesus could have added any relationship. Did you have to give up your boyfriend or girlfriend, for example? How difficult was that?
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun that it means (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“Jesus ultimatum to would-be disciples is similar to Joshua defiant bugle call to the Israelites” (Garland, comment on v. 27). Here’s the passage:
24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. 26 And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.
27 “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” (Josh 24:19-27, NIV)
The ancient Israelites accepted the challenge and said they would serve the Lord. In their conquest of the land, they were united in most cases.
Jesus is to be your first love. Following him is to become the highest priority, even over one’s own life. In Luke 9:23 Jesus had already said that everyone must take up his cross and follow him—take it up daily. So there is a daily dying to your own self-will, your stubborn self that refuses to die, but gets you into trouble. Your death must be so complete that when he raises you up, you have new life in him.
Rom. 6 is clear. At water baptism, we are dead and buried with Christ. And if we have died and been buried with him, we will be raised with Christ “from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (v. 4, ESV). “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (v. 5). That happens right now. You die and are raised up. If it happens daily (without daily water baptism!), then that means you have a heart God can use; your daily dying to self-centeredness pleases him.
“disciple”: see 26 for more comments.
In these verses Jesus inserts a brief parable (see. v. 7 for more comments about what a parable is). The lesson is obvious: count the cost before you build a tower or begin to follow Christ. My brother had some level of a conversion experience in high school, but after he joined the Navy he fell away soon enough. Apparently he did not count the cost. I don’t recall anyone laughing at or mocking him for abandoning his faith, but he must have felt guilty about it. (He later came back around to it, before he passed.)
Recall the Parable of the Sower (or Soils) in Luke 8:4-15. Some received the word, but the devil stole it before it took root. Some received the word with joy, but quickly fell away because of a time of testing. They did not stay true. Others received it, and bore some fruit, but the cares of the world choked out their commitment to Christ. The final group received it and stayed with it, even to the very end. Jesus approves only of the final group. Here in this section of Scripture, Jesus is similarly challenging the huge multitudes to be sure to understand that following him won’t be easy or popular.
“Connected to discipleship, the enemy onslaught comes from Satan. Satan will enter Judas (22:3) and sift Peter (22:31). Disciples require a defensive fortification to withstand satanic assault or they will be overrun and utterly fail” (Garland, comment on 14:28).
This is another quick parable. You are the king about to go to war, and you must count the cost before you launch out from your own territory with ten thousand soldiers. You are outnumbered two to one. Can you face in opposition the king with twenty-thousand soldiers? If not, you better send out a representative when you are a long way off and sue for peace.
By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
4 through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures. …
5 The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
6 Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers. (Prov. 24:3-6)
Does this speak of spiritual warfare with Satan? Perhaps. Jesus had been expelling demons throughout his ministry. He said that he had already bound the strong man, so you can defeat him as well (Luke 11:21-23). So even though you have ten thousand soldiers, you can still defeat Satan with twice as many soldiers on his side.
But let’s not wander too far from the original purpose of the brief parable. It boils down to this: count the cost before you follow Jesus.
Liefeld and Pao say the parable goes deeper than counting the cost. Instead, “In building towers and waging war with a strong opponent, the inadequacy of one’s resources should be noted. In following Jesus, one should likewise renounce all claims to power and resources in the presence of God. Instead of carefully ‘counting the cost,’ disciples are called to decisive and urgent actions in their carrying Jesus’ cross” (comments on vv. 28-32). Perhaps. But this is too complicated. It is better and clearer to see it as calling us to count the cost (but see v. 33).
Even Luke, the beloved physician, apparently gave up his doctoring career to follow Paul and his team on various occasions in the Acts of the Apostles. Yet I sense that he would have recommended some herbal medicine or other first-century remedies if he had met a sick person along the way. So be open to allow God to use your strengths while you die daily to him.
Morris, quoting another scholar, has an interesting interpretation, first, of the man intending to build a tower and, second, the king planning to go to war: “In the first parable Jesus says, ‘Sit down and reckon whether you can afford to follow me.’ In the second he says, ‘Sit down and reckon whether you can afford to refuse my demands.’ Both ways of looking at it are important” (comments on vv. 31-32).
Here is the punchline or payoff verse. The verb for “give up” is apotassō (pronounced ah-poh-tahs-soh), and it can mean, depending on the context, “to renounce” or “to give up.” It literally means “away” (apo-) and “place” or “station” and other things (tassō). So it means “to place” your possessions “away from” you. On the other hand, recall that wealthy women funded Jesus’s ministry out of their own resources (Luke 8:3). “Possessions” here and “resources” in 8:3 is the same noun in Greek. Jesus never told the women to give up all of their possessions.
So why the seeming contradiction?
The context is key, again. It is about whittling down or winnowing out the large crowds here in this pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-coh-pea) or section of Scripture. The women had already showed their devotion to him. As it turns out, they were about to go with him all the way to his death on the cross and his resurrection (Luke 24:49, 55; 24:1-11). They had already been proving their willingness to carry their own cross and follow Jesus, no matter the cost. Here in this pericope Jesus was speaking to the massive crowds who had not (yet) shown themselves able or willing to do this.
Faith that leads to a decision to follow Christ is the first step, but it is not the only one. You must follow him in faith all the way to the very end.
“disciple”: see v. 26 for more comments.
Liefeld and Pao say this verse interprets the previous verses. “His thought is probably that of abandonment of things, the yielding up of the right of ownership, rather than outright disposal of material possessions. The disciple of Jesus may be given the use of things in trust of stewardship, but they are no longer his own. The present tense [of apotassō] implies that what Jesus requires in relation to possessions is a continual attitude of abandonment … But the principle of stewardship makes a spirit of abandonment—i.e. the willingness to part with our goods (which are not ultimately ours anyway)—necessary today. This is consistent with the command to use our possession wisely (cf. 16:1-12)” (comment on v. 33).
I think I see Liefeld’s and Pao’s point. The builder of the tower and the king about to go to war must use their resources wisely, as if the possessions belong to God, before the men take control of them. But I still say that counting the cost before total commitment to Jesus is a possible interpretation.
GrowApp for Luke 14:25-33
A.. How did you count the cost before you followed Jesus?
B.. What or whom did you give up to follow him?
C.. Why is it important to surrender or crucify your stubborn self-will daily?
Tasteless Salt (Luke 14:34-35)
34 “Salt, then, is good. But if even it became tasteless, by what will it be salty again? 35 It is useable neither for the soil nor for manure. They throw it away. He who has ears to hear let him hear!”
Many commentators point out that these two verses should be attached to the previous long section. Another commentator says that it summarized all that Jesus said in this chapter, highlighting another aspect of deeper discipleship.
Two basic interpretations:
First, some say that salt never loses its flavor. If so, then Jesus is giving a hypothetical (“if”) to highlight how important it is to continue on with discipleship, so that the disciple can always be a good witness and live a productive life. “If salt were to lose its saltiness” ….
Second, other commentators say that salt, when it becomes contaminated, can lose its flavor. Salt came from pools around the Dead Sea and “was mixed with gypsum and other impurities. When moisture hit the salt, it evaporated and left behind these impurities, which were mixed with it in the soil. The salt loses its saltiness and is thrown away” (Bock, vol. 2, p. 1291). In that case, Jesus is saying no one should allow himself to become contaminated and therefore become useless for his kingdom.
The second interpretation is to be preferred because Jesus does say the salt becomes good for nothing—not even to fertilize the soil. It is thrown away.
Finally, salt acts (1) as a preservative for things like meat, and (2) as a seasoning agent, to make food tasty. The follower of Jesus should preserve his discipleship for the kingdom, and his life should make the kingdom appealing by its flavor to outsiders. His distinctive kingdom words and actions should call people to join God’s kingdom.
The last clause is the punchline to this brief parable. It is a warning. If you are not a true disciple of Jesus, you will easily become contaminated and lose your saltiness. The saltless disciple is no longer used by God. Indeed, God throws it outside, as the Greek literally says. Outside from what? From his kingdom. Can a man reenter the kingdom after being thrown out? I say yes, but that would take a miracle of resalting saltless salt! In any case, that is not the main point in this quick parable. Rather, it is a severe warning.
“In Luke’s context, the image of salt relates to discipleship and applies to the characteristics Jesus has enumerated: the readiness ‘to renounce kin, comfortable living, and life itself for the sake of being Jesus’ disciple.’ A false form of discipleship may look like salt, but the gradual process of leaching leaves only a zestless pile of waste” (Garland, comment on 14:34, citing a commentary by Summers).
Since this is a parable, the idea of salt becoming “unsalty” need not cause difficulty, even if in actuality this were not possible. However, the thought here may reflect the fact that most salt came from the Dead Sea and contained carnallite or gypsum. If carelessly processed, it would become insipid or poor tasting. Such salt was of little or no use; in fact, it was a distinct liability because it now had to be discarded. Although salt was used in sacrifices (Lev 2:13), here the focus is on its function as a seasoning. The verb “loses its saltiness” is translated everywhere else in the NT as “to become foolish.” Yet how can salt become “foolish”? It may be that the reality part of this analogy, which involves the “foolishness” of an unconsidered decision to follow Jesus, has intruded into the analogy itself, with the salt becoming equally worthless/foolish by losing its taste. (comment on v. 34)
GrowApp for Luke 14:34-35
A.. How does God so season your life that your words and actions can appeal to outsiders?
B.. How would you become saltless? How do you not get to that point? Come up with some preventative measures.
Summary and Conclusion
Luke announced in 9:51 that Jesus was firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem, to the time of his death. Then Luke 13:22 says that he journeyed through towns and villages, on his way to Jerusalem, so he is taking the “ministry route.” He is in no hurry because he must minister to people. Therefore, we should see this chapter in the context of his ultimate mission or final goal, and this chapter reveals five episodes about the kingdom.
First, in the context of a feast at a leading Pharisee’s house on the Sabbath, he once again heals. His goal was not to frivolously provoke religious leaders, but first to heal the sick man. And if he can provoke the traditionalists secondarily, then he is up for that. Helping people is better than leaving them in their sad condition. People loved him for it, so a little later in the chapter, massive crowds will accompany him. One side note: the leading Pharisee called for a feast, in which servants worked to serve the people dinner. So maybe Sabbath keeping was not as strict in this Pharisee’s house.
Second, he observed people vying for the first seats, so he initiates one of his parables. The main point: Don’t choose the prominent seat, because the host may give it to a more honored guest, and you have to walk in front of everyone as you go to the back of the seating arrangements. Instead, choose the humbler seat away from the head of the table. If the host spots you and calls you forward, then you can walk in front of the other guests and receive public honor. He who exalts himself will be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted. This is the variation of the theme announced n Luke 2:34. Simeon had prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rise and fall of many in Israel. Call it the Great Reversal, which happens in the kingdom of God. It is unlike worldly kingdoms.
Third, in another parable at the same feast laid out by the leading Pharisee, Jesus puts another spin on the Great Reversal in the kingdom. You are called not to invite the rich and your friends and family to a great banquet, because they can pay you back. Instead, invite society’s rejects, and God will pay you back at the resurrection of the righteous.
Fourth, Jesus told yet another parable about a banquet. A man laid it out and invited familiar friends and prosperous, the acceptable people. But they turned him down, one by one. Then he told his servant to invite the rejects, which the servant did, but he still had room at his banquet. To get the final group, the master told his servant to go outside the town and extend the invitation to outsiders, the ones living outside the town.
The message is that the nation of Israel (the first group of invitees) is about to reject their true Messiah, but the unclean and degraded in Israel (still in the town, presumably) will accept the invitation. But there is still room at the banquet (God’s kingdom), so the master of the household told his servant to go outside the town (the Gentiles) and compel them with persuasion to come in and enjoy the feast. The kingdom of God is offered to everyone.
Fifth and finally, Jesus observed massive crowds gathering, so he intended to whittle them down. John the Baptist had predicted that Jesus would pick up his winnowing fork and separate the wheat from the chaff (Luke 3:17). In this chapter he was doing just that. Do the crowds know that he was on his way to Jerusalem to die? Were they ready to count the cost? In truth, he was doing them a favor, for if they followed him to Jerusalem, they placed their lives at risk. His movement was being watched. In any case, everyone must calculate that following Jesus will cost them something. If they don’t go deeper with Jesus, they will be like salt that has lost its saltiness. They will be thrown outside. A severe warning.
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