Week of November 8
Luke begins a section in his gospel addressing the cost of discipleship. This idea will span a couple of chapters. The banquet with the Pharisees in chapter 14, (describing who is and is not appropriate people to invite to such events) carries over to chapter 15, where Jesus describes people’s response to those who are lost.
Our passage begins with Jesus being closely watched at a Pharisee’s house, where he has been invited for a meal on the Sabbath. We already have been made aware of the Pharisee’s desire to trap him in something he says or does (Luke 11.53-54). As so often seems to be the case, Jesus finds someone who is ill at the meal. Jesus heals this man, but not without asking the Pharisee’s as to the lawfulness of doing so. The proper answer would have been no, it was not lawful, but they refuse to answer. Although they were trying to trap him, they were at least smart enough to realize Jesus would turn the tables on them.
Jesus proceeds with asking the Pharisees about a son or an ox falling into the well on the Sabbath. Here the law was not quite as clear. Some rabbis would accept rescuing the ox, but there were others who claimed you could feed it, but not pull it out. It was generally accepted that if a child fell into a well, rescue was an appropriate response. Jesus challenges these teachers to compare the need for rescue of a son or ox and the need for rescue of this man. I think we would all agree with the importance of healing this man, yet I think we need to carefully inspect the ways we often find our “important” things to do getting in the way of showing love to others.
The banquet Jesus is attending creates the context for his next example: ways that seats are chosen at banquets. It would have been the practice of people to get the “best seats” at the table. I compare it to getting a table close to the speaker at a fundraising dinner. We all want the closest seat, but only those who donate the most money who get those seats, so if you pick that seat, you may be moved to the back of the room. Jesus’ instructions are to humble ourselves and pick the lesser seats.
Not only should we pick the less honorable seats, but we should also take care who we invite to our dinners. Do not, Jesus says, invite only those who can repay you with a similar invitation. Invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. (Notice this list appears again in verse 21.) Our focus should be on those on the fringe or the outside. This idea will be more fully fleshed out in chapter 15.
Jesus’ comment about the “resurrection of the righteous” leads someone at the banquet to comment on enjoying the feast in the kingdom of God. The implication is that this man would be at that great banquet. Jesus then tells a parable about a man preparing a great banquet, only to have all of his initially invited guests turn him down with various excuses. It was customary to invite people early (think a “Save the Date” type invitation), then to follow up with them when the banquet was ready. There could have been many days between the initial invitation and the actual banquet.
Some have tried to use Deuteronomy 20 as the basis for these excuses; others try to show the lack of validity of the excuses. I think Jesus’ point was that people did not come even though they initially said they would. In other words, the point is not why they did not come, but that they did not come. Jesus then goes on to say that the poor, crippled, lame, and blind should be invited. This parable serves to connect the story of who to invite to a banquet with the focus of chapter 15: those who are lost. The parable also serves warning to the man expressing joy for the upcoming banquet in the kingdom of God and others that those who assume they will get into the banquet may discover they do not actually make it.
The final story in this chapter is one describing the cost of discipleship. In short, the cost is everything, including your life. To take up one’s cross would be to embrace death. Remember that the cross would not have been the smooth, polished piece of gold we often think of, but would have been an instrument of death. While I am not sure we can always know everything that will come our way when we choose to follow Jesus, we can make a commitment to follow him no matter what does come our way. This is Jesus’ admonition to the crowds, but to us, as well.
Every week our lessons will include seven questions (really question sets) that you may either pick and choose those questions that best suit your family unit, or you may use one question set for each day.
- Is there anything that would prevent you from rescuing a child or a pet if they had fallen in a well or hole in the ground? Why do you think the Pharisees and experts in the law would have laws that prevent such rescues? In reality, they would have rescued their child, even on the Sabbath. What does this tell us about how they viewed the law and how they practiced those laws? (Luke 14.1-6)
- Have you ever been in a position where you thought you were the guest of honor or at least an important guest, only to discover you were no where near the top of the list as far as importance? How did you feel in this situation? Give an example of a way you can be sure to not pick the place of honor at something you are involved in today. (Luke 14.7-11)
- In what ways do you see people today “inviting” or perhaps befriending people who have status or prestige? How would our parties look if we spent our time and resources inviting and befriending the poor, crippled, lame, and blind? (Luke 14.12-14)
- Have you ever had to back out of an event after you said you would attend? What reason did you have for backing out? In what ways do the reasons given by these people to not attend the banquet seem like reasonable excuses? In what ways do they seem like poor excuses? What excuses do we give for not following God today? How can we be sure we are not making those excuses? (Luke 14.15-20)
- How different do you think the tone of this banquet would have been once the poor, crippled, blind, and lame were invited to the party? Is the point of Jesus’ parable for us to invite these people only after the original guests refused to attend? What is the point of the parable? (Luke 14.21-24)
- How would the large crowds following Jesus have heard his comment to “take up your cross?” What does it mean for us to take up our cross today? What examples can you give of people following Jesus who have taken up their cross? How can we do a better job of taking up our own crosses? (Luke 14.25-33)
- What purposes did salt have in Jesus’ day and age? What purposes do we have as “salt” today? How can we be sure to not be worthless salt? (Luke 14.34-35)
Every week this section will list possible activities you and your family unit can do. You may pick one or perhaps do several during the course of a week. All are intended to be suitable for any age.
- The Pharisees had specific laws as to what was and was not allowed on the Sabbath. When Jesus asks them if it is lawful heal on the Sabbath and to pull out a son or ox that had fallen into a pit, what would the “right” answer have been, according to Jewish writings? Research what the laws were for these questions.
- Inviting someone to a banquet and then inviting again seems like an odd system. Study the customs of Jesus’ day to determine the protocol people used for banquets and such.
- Make a list of people you might invite to a dinner party or birthday party at you house. Then make another list of people you would never think to invite to this party. What would it take for you to invite people from the second list?
- Draw or paint a picture showing the two examples Jesus gives about counting the cost.
- Our struggles may not be healing others on the Sabbath, but rather showing love to people when we have something “good” we need to be doing. This week, be aware of people who need your love and let them mess up your schedule, allowing time to show them love even when you have something else you need to be doing.
- Invite someone from your second list above over for a meal.
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This work by South Plains Church of Christ and Robert A. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attributions-NonCommerical-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.