In chapter 14 we begin with Jesus dining at the house of one of the Pharisees on the sabbath. While there he observes that one of the people is suffering from some sort of swelling. Jesus takes the opportunity to challenge the religious leaders with a question. He asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (v 3, NASB) While the answer would seem obvious to us, we need to remember laws and rules that had been set up surrounding the sabbath, even including how far you could walk on the sabbath. So you know they are torn. Their understanding of the law would have them say know, but to say yes was to say that caring for a sick person was not important. So, they simply remained silent. Jesus seized the opportunity and pointed out that they would help their own sons or their oxen if the fell in a whole and while that would be “work” it would be the right thing to do. And again, they remained silent.
Jesus then tells a parable about a dinner party. He begins by telling people that when they arrive they should not seek the place of honor. It might not be for them and it would be humiliating to be asked to move “down” in front of everyone. Rather he tells them that they should seek the lowest place, then if they are asked to move it will be up and they will be honored. He concludes by saying, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v 11)
He continues the imagery of the dinner party by speaking of the host and saying not to invite friends, family, and wealthy neighbors. This seems an odd instruction from Jesus. Why should it matter about our relationship with those we invite. Jesus explains his reasoning by saying, “they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment.” (v 12) His point is to do things without looking for reward or repayment. He says, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Vv 13 – 14)
Jesus continues his imagery of the dinner party with yet another parable. This time, the host has invited many people but when the time comes for the party, none of them will come. Instead, they all make excuses. The host becomes angry and has his servants “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” (v 21) When this does not fill the seats, he sends the servants even further out to do the same thing along the highways. I believe the point of the parable is that those who do not respond to Christ call, will be shut out and instead, the call has been opened up to all who will respond.
For the final part of the chapter, we transition away from the dinner party image. Now Jesus says a peculiar thing. He says, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (v 26) Is Jesus really saying that hating these people is necessary to follow him? I think what Jesus is using here an extreme to make his point. He is not saying to hate them, rather he is saying that if you truly follow him, then your relationships with others will seem like hate in comparison. This is not a new concept, it is an image that God himself used in the Old Testament when he says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Malachi 1:2 – 3)
He follows this immediately by saying, “ Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (v 27) From here Jesus expounds upon needed to know the cost before beginning anything. And while we may not know the exact cost of following Christ, Jesus makes it very clear that it will be high, one way or another.
He concludes with the image of salt that has lost its saltiness. Salt is used for flavor and preservation and it represents the followers of Christ in the world. When we fail to count the cost, when we fail to take up our cross, and when we fail to make the needed sacrifices, we lose our saltiness in the world.
My takeaways from this passage are: 1) It is always lawful (right) to do good. 2) We are not to seek our own glory, but to take the humblest of positions. Let any honor we receive comes from God. 3) We do not do things, to be repaid but to serve those who are most needy. 4) God’s invitation is to all who will respond. 5) We are to love God totally and unconditionally, beyond any relationship we have on earth. 6) There will be a cost to following Christ. And 7) we are worthless if we are not willing to make sacrifices to serve God.