Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Entertained by a Prominent Pharisee
JESUS is a guest in the home of a prominent Pharisee, where he has just healed a man suffering from dropsy. Now, as Jesus observes fellow guests choosing prominent places at the meal, he teaches a lesson in humility.
“When you are invited by someone to a marriage feast,” Jesus counsels, “do not lie down in the most prominent place. Perhaps someone more distinguished than you may at the time have been invited by him, and he that invited you and him will come and say to you, ‘Let this man have the place.’ And then you will start off with shame to occupy the lowest place.”
So Jesus advises: “When you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, that when the man that has invited you comes he will say to you, ‘Friend, go on up higher.’ Then you will have honor in front of all your fellow guests.” Emphasizing the lesson, Jesus concludes: “For everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted.”
Next, Jesus addresses the Pharisee who invited him and describes how to provide a dinner having real merit with God. “When you spread a dinner or evening meal, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors. Perhaps sometime they might also invite you in return and it would become a repayment to you. But when you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you.”
Providing such a meal for the unfortunate will bring happiness to the provider of it because as Jesus explains to his host: “You will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones.” Jesus’ description of this meritorious meal calls to the mind of a fellow guest another kind of meal. “Happy is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God,” this guest says. Yet, not all properly prize that happy prospect, as Jesus goes on to show by an illustration.
“A certain man was spreading a grand evening meal, and he invited many. And he sent his slave out . . . to say to the invited ones, ‘Come, because things are now ready.’ But they all in common started to beg off. The first said to him, ‘I bought a field and need to go out and see it; I ask you, Have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I bought five yoke of cattle and am going to examine them; I ask you, Have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I just married a wife and for this reason I cannot come.’”
What lame excuses! A field or livestock are normally examined before they are bought, so no real urgency exists to look at them afterward. Similarly, a person’s marriage should not prevent him from accepting such an important invitation. So on hearing about these excuses, the master becomes angry and commands his slave:
“‘Go out quickly into the broad ways and the lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ In time the slave said, ‘Master, what you ordered has been done, and yet there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and the fenced-in places, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. . . . None of those men that were invited shall have a taste of my evening meal.’”
What situation is described by the illustration? Well, “the master” providing the meal represents Jehovah God; “the slave” extending the invitation, Jesus Christ; and the “grand evening meal,” the opportunities to be in line for the Kingdom of the heavens.
Those first to receive the invitation to come in line for the Kingdom were, above all others, the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day. However, they rejected the invitation. Thus, beginning particularly at Pentecost 33 C.E., a second invitation was extended to the despised and lowly ones of the Jewish nation. But not enough responded to fill the 144,000 places in God’s heavenly Kingdom. So in 36 C.E., three and a half years later, the third and final invitation was extended to uncircumcised non-Jews, and the gathering of such ones continued into the 20th century. Luke 14:1-24.
◆ What lesson in humility does Jesus teach?
◆ How can a host provide a meal having merit with God, and why will it bring him happiness?
◆ Why are the excuses of the invited guests lame?
◆ What is represented by Jesus’ illustration of the “grand evening meal”?