Some hard sayings of Jesus appeared in Luke Chapter 14. Why did Jesus say these? Why did he make discipleship seem so tough?
26 “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard[a] his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple.Luke 14:26-27
The two verses seem to place conditions on becoming Jesus’ disciples. Do I need to renounce my family? Is it really what Jesus is saying? What is Luke Chapter 14 really about?
Luke 14 and Luke 15
Jesus interacted with a lot of people in these two chapters. When we compare his reactions and words towards the different groups of people appearing in these two chapters, an interesting pattern emerges.
Let us see who these people are in order of appearance:
- The ruler of the Pharisees and His party guests (Luke 14:1-24)
- The multitudes (Luke 14:25-35)
- The sinners and tax collectors (Luke 15:1-32)
1. Ruler of the Pharisees and His Party Guests (Luke 14:1-24)
Jesus was at a party thrown by a ruler of the Pharisees. It happened to be a Sabbath day. Verse 1 already hinted that he wasn’t genuinely welcomed for they were scrutinizing Him.
14 When he went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees on a Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching him.Luke 14:1 WEB
Do you like every step of yours to be watched? I don’t. Jesus knew their intention and responded to a couple of things at the party.
a. Jesus chided the Pharisees for their legalism and lack of sympathy (Luke 14:1-6)
Jesus healed a man with dropsy and he knew that the Pharisees were unhappy that he broke the Sabbath law for they kept silent when he asked them whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath.
Why keep silent? They could have either say yes, it is lawful or no, it isn’t lawful. The problem is because healing is such a tricky thing. If they say no, it is not lawful, they appear unkind and heartless, but in their hearts, they disapprove because they are legalistic.
He chided them by comparing the healing to the rescuing of a donkey or ox in a pit. They have no problem doing the latter during Sabbath.
b. Jesus spoke out against the party guests’ behaviour of vying for the best seats (Luke 14:7-11)
Jesus saw the way the party guests vie for the best seats in the house for themselves. He saw their pride.
c. Jesus told his host to be truly generous (Luke 14:12-15)
Jesus saw through the ruler’s motive for throwing the party. It isn’t out of generosity but out of political motivation. He has a hidden agenda.
d. Jesus corrected a stingy view of God (Luke 14:17-24)
When Jesus had finished speaking to the host, a man responded by saying “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” It seems to imply a strict and stingy God and Jesus told the Parable of the Great Supper to refute him and illustrate man’s rejection of God’s generous banquet.
Look at the excuses of the invited from verse 17 to 24.
- Who buy land before seeing the land first?
- Who buy oxen without testing them first?
- Who marry without seeing the bride first?
In the end, God have to compel people to come to the feast. He went out into the streets and the lanes, the highways and the hedges to force people to come and fill His house. He didn’t just invite, He compelled. What is it about man that we need compelling to receive the blessings of God? Why should God bother with man to compel him?
2. The Multitudes (Luke 14:25-35)
The next 10 verses recorded the encounter he had with the multitudes (Luke 14: 25-35). He said some of the hardest stuff here to the multitudes.
33 So therefore whoever of you who doesn’t renounce all that he has, he can’t be my disciple.Luke 14:33 WEB
34 Salt is good, but if the salt becomes flat and tasteless, with what do you season it? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”Luke 14:34-35 WEB
Why did he unleash such difficult demands on the people? It seemed that He was deliberately dissuading them from following Him.
“Who doesn’t sit down first and count the cost?”
He is literally telling them to think carefully. To the builder, he spoke of mockery. To the king, he spoke of surrender.
Why? Because amongst the multitudes are people who didn’t see Him as Messiah. They thronged him but are they really there to listen to Him or follow Him?
No, they are just curious. They came to see what the commotion is about. They came to see if He can be a banner for their own causes. As an example or teacher to follow. A novelty. He turned them away with His demands and this thinned the multitudes. He was not what they expected him to be, so they left.
3. Tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1-32)
Then, in Luke 15, we see the last group of people. They came only after everyone else have left. They are the outcasts, shunned by the others.
15 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming close to him to hear him.Luke 15:1 WEB
The tax collectors and sinners drew near…to hear Him.
Not that the Pharisees, party guests or multitudes have no sin but these people knew that they were sinful and was looking for salvation. They have nothing to offer Him. They didn’t come to Him looking for a teacher or a king or an example to follow. They came looking for a saviour. They have ears to hear.
The Pharisees and scribes started to complain:
2 The Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”Luke 15:2 WEB
We can tell that the Pharisees did not like the tax collectors and sinners. They see these as undesirable characters that respectable people do not associate with.
What was Jesus’ reaction to their complaints? He told them three parables: The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Coin and The Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Joy of the Lord When He Encounter Sinners
The essence of the 3 parables is the same. All 3 parables speak of the Lord’s joy when He encounters sinners. In the parables, He did not demand any renouncement of sins or counting of costs. He did not recommend humility and generosity. The lost was found, and that was sufficient.
This was a big difference from Luke Chapter 14.
What about repentance? Surely the lost or the sinners repented and that is why God accepted them.
“How did the sheep who was lost repent?” Let’s look at the parable (Luke 15:4-7)
4 “Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? 5 When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.Luke 15:4-7 WEB
We read the parable and then define repentance in terms that we understand. Is that right? How DID the sheep repent? Did it do it the way we are taught to?
Read carefully. The man went looking for the lost sheep. He found it. He carried it back. He rejoices. He threw a party. What did the sheep do? Nothing. Except to lay quietly on the man’s shoulder. It didn’t writhe and struggle to get off.
The same spirit of the Lord can be found in the other 2 parables. He was happy when He found sinners. He went all out to find them. As long as the Lost did not object.
We saw Jesus’ reactions to 4 different groups of people – Pharisees, Party Guests, Multitudes, and Sinners. From chiding, teaching, demanding, to rejoicing, can we not notice what delight His heart?
He wants people to rely on Him.
Isn’t He concerned with holiness?
Of course, He is. But holiness is a result of knowing that we are forgiven unconditionally and not a condition for salvation.
I want to be in that group that Jesus eat and party with.
This short personal study on the hard sayings of Jesus in Luke chapter 14 is inspired by a sermon entitled “Enjoy Jesus’ Supply and Delight His Heart” by Joseph Prince of New Creation Church, Singapore.
Watch an excerpt:
Find the full videostream sermon at https://www.josephprince.com/sermons/enjoy-jesus-supply-and-delight-his-heart/video?sku=20120729VJ