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Kitchen Talk

Luke 14:1 -- 24

Lesson audio

Christ, it seems, attended a lot of banquets and wedding receptions. This, of course, does not seem reconcilable to the pious, sober – and particularly sour – attitude required of “real Christians.” The truth is, however, that he was accused of only two things: blasphemy – and too much partying with the wrong people. His reasoning was simple: the very Son of God was here – isn’t that cause enough for celebration?

He also used banquets, weddings and parties as construction material for his parables and warnings, as we shall see today.

Preliminary items

It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?" But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, "Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?" And they could make no reply to this.

(Luk 14:1-6 NASB)

There are many good lessons in this passage; we shall mine a couple of simple things from it while hurrying on to the party.

First, a little background and translation help. Dropsy is the old word for what the doctors today call edema – a swelling of the body due to retention of fluids. It usually signifies something wrong with the kidneys, liver or other such organs. But is also would mean that the victim would be accorded a low social status – because the disease would be seen as God’s judgment upon his secret sins. Such a person in this stratified society would have been accorded a place at the lowest, least prestigious table. Which therefore implies that Jesus was reclining at the same table, which shows you what the Pharisees really thought of this itinerant rabbi from Galilee.

To aid our understanding of these things, we need a little background:

  • Guests were placed in order of importance – those most important got a place nearest to the kitchen, and got first pick of everything.
  • Banquets were more frequent in that time – as there was no refrigeration. You gave the banquet this week; I came and stuffed myself. Next week it’s my turn. Being paid back is a very real issue. \
  • With no wristwatches, the exact time of the banquet was always, “when the cook thinks it’s ready.” A servant would be sent out to gather the guests as the time neared.

Humble yourself

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

(Luk 14:7-11 NASB)

It is difficult for most of us to underestimate ourselves. Puffing ourselves up in our own minds is a very human trait. This can lead to embarrassment when you find out that the wonderful person the speaker is introducing is someone else. So just what is humility?

  • It is honesty about your self. It is not saying that you are short when you are tall, dumb when you are smart. It is looking at yourself honestly – and taking the facts about yourself as just that – facts. Not things to be proud of, just facts.
  • If you measure yourself, you must have a measuring stick. If you want to practice humility, then consider what God expects of you as being the measure of all things.

Another quick test is this: who is recommending you? If the answer is that you are so wonderful that only you could accurately recommend you, then I recommend that you don’t recommend. Let others praise you; let God lift you up.

You might well ask, “Why does God insist on humility? It’s pretty obvious we’re no threat to Him.”

  • Without humility you will never be pure in heart, for you will always be looking to feed your ego. Without the pure heart, you cannot see God.
  • If you have humility, you are among the gentle and kind spirits – and you shall inherit the earth, as Christ says
  • Indeed, more than the earth, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

There it is: God wants you humble so that he can bless you immensely. God is love; love so great that Jesus humbled himself to the Cross. The example and the challenge are before us.

Banquet Rules

And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. "But when you give a reception, 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."

(Luk 14:12-14 NASB)

There is a very pragmatic test of your love for Christ in this. It is still considered socially graceful to return an invitation. In those days, it would have been even more strongly done. The thought of inviting those who could not repay would have been seen as a waste – unless you were sure that God would repay you for it. The Old Testament has many injunctions and warnings on this; so this was not a new thought.

But it might have been a new practice. Consider those who come to your parties:

  • How about those who don’t fit in your social structure? Those whose clothes are not fashionable, whose use of English is more than quaint?
  • Perhaps those who “just don’t fit in.” The misfits, the outcasts, the loners – are they seen at your affairs?
  • Worse yet, how about those who are a positive embarrassment? You uncle who repeats all those war stories, for example.
  • Any others who could not repay?

We often think that those who are physically poor are not in our church. But you might look around. There are those whose lives are formed around the social life of the church.

You might think such people do not exist in our day. But they do. They’re just quiet about it in front of the majority for whom money is not really a problem. They exist; they just need seeking out.

The reader will pardon my strange sense of humor in this, please. At our previous church, we had a lady who lived on the pittance Social Security provided for one who was totally disabled. She does not drive; her back is so painful that she uses morphine regularly. Such people often count their months in terms of the day the check arrives. It is not uncommon to be out of food for the last few days of the month.

My wife heard this from our friend, and she offered to bring over something for dinner. Our friend politely said that this would be too much trouble. Betty replied, “Oh, I could just bring some leftovers from ours.” That’s what she says she said; that’s not what I and the kids heard. We heard “Leftovers From Mars.” It’s a family tradition that such meals are now described that way.

Wherever your leftovers come from, make it a point to share them with those who have little or none. God will repay you for it.

Excuses, excuses

When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" But He said to him, "A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' "Another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' "Another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' "And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' "And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. 'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'"

(Luk 14:15-24 NASB)

We’re rather good at excuses; I suspect it’s all the practice we have. Look at the ones given to Christ for the wedding supper of the Lamb:

  • There is the press of ordinary business. Hey, I have a job to put beans on the table. I don’t have time to help out.
  • Some of us have good jobs indeed. Jobs that pay for new toys! I can’t get to church this weekend, I’m testing out the Hummer in the desert.
  • Sometimes it comes down to great reasoning: I can’t go – I’m too busy taking care of my lovely new wife.

None of these things are necessarily evil. Some of them are recommended in the Scripture. But any and all can get in the way of your walk with Jesus Christ. The good is often the enemy of the best.

Will you now take a close look at the Master’s orders to his slave in this passage? We usually see the parable as applying to those with excuses, but it also gives us an insight on what Christ expects his servants to do, explicitly in terms of evangelism:

  • First, we are to invite the obvious guests. We are not to overlook those who grew up in the church and left. Round them up, by all means.
  • Invite those who don’t look like such likely candidates. The poor – those who have never seen the riches of Christ. The crippled – those whose lives have been marred by horror (e.g. incest). The blind – even the hypocrites are to be called to see. The lame – those who are broken in spirit, having given up. Call them all.
  • If that isn’t enough, go out and get the enemies of God – the criminals such as the highwayman or the hedge robber. Bring the Good News to them too.

To what purpose? To fill the house of God, to fill the wedding supper of the lamb. Those who were invited first and have rejected God will not be there – this refers to the Jews who did not receive Christ. But it seems a logical extension that those born in the church may receive the same treatment – if they reject Him. It is not ours to make that decision; it is ours to make his appeal to them.

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