1Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely.
This was a trap.
By this time, Jesus’ enemies have decided they have to get rid of Him.
He’s proven to be far too dangerous.
There’s a substantial movement among the common people that believes Jesus is the Messiah & that any day now He will openly present Himself.
Even though the priests & rabbis have come out in formal opposition to Jesus & threatened people with excommunication from the synagogue if they follow Him, still the support for Him is strong.
Counsel has been taken at the highest levels & the decision has been made that Jesus has to be dealt with.
But it’s difficult to lay a charge against a Man who’s perfect, so all their attempts at cornering & condemning Him have proven fruitless.
The Pharisees were Jesus’ most visible & vehement opponents.
These were the guys who hassled Him the most; so it’s a bit surprising to see one of them inviting Him home for a meal.
But it wasn’t a sincere invitation – it was a set-up, a trap.
That’s made clear by the words, “They watched Him closely.”
They watched Him because He had a habit of doing things on the Sabbath that offended their interpretations of what was & wasn’t allowed on the Sabbath.
Certainly Jesus knew this was a set-up & that the Pharisees were just looking for a way to trap Him. So why did He go?
He went because as the Master of every situation, He had no fear their trap would spring on Him.
No, the trap they had set for Him, He would turn & use to challenge them.
2And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy.
Dropsy, also known as edema, is a condition of excess fluid in the tissues.
It could be caused from cancer or liver or kidney problems.
Whatever the cause, the fluids build up, causing swelling & in many cases, intense pain.
If not relived, the pressure begins to impair the function of the inner organs & can lead to death.
Since the Pharisees considered such maladies as this evidence of God’s judgment for some terrible sin, it’s certain this guy was not one of their number.
He was invited, but as a plant, the trigger for their plot to condemn Him.
The gospels list 7 times Jesus healed on the Sabbath; & in the Pharisees thinking healing was work, something prohibited on the Sabbath day.
So they had invited this guy to come to their Sabbath meal, intending to use him as bait.
Of course, the guy had gladly accepted the invitation when He heard Jesus would be there.
It would have been an honor in itself to be invited to the Pharisee’s home to eat.
But the prospect of being healed was an even greater draw.
So the guy went, probably oblivious to the fact he was being used.
The Pharisees used this poor man’s misery as the means to their ends.
So Jesus arrived, saw the man, & knew what was up.
Without hesitation, He moved to deal with the issue at hand & call the bluff of the Pharisee’s insincere invitation.
3And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers & Pharisees,
Take note who’s there – lawyers & Pharisees!
You see, they’ve carefully assembled a group of unimpeachable witnesses.
When Jesus takes the bait & the trap is sprung, they want plenty of solid witnesses there who can give testimony to what they saw & Jesus’ crime of breaking the Sabbath.
So they have people there who know the law, how to evaluate evidence, & whose testimony will stand up against scrutiny in a court of law.
3And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers & Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
That was the issue. Jesus put it squarely before them.
Work wasn’t allowed on the Sabbath, but what about healing?
Where in Scripture did it say that healing was work?
That’s exactly what Jesus asked them.
You see, they were all operating under the assumption that healing was work, & of course, no one disagreed with the Sabbath’s clear prohibition of work.
Jesus challenged their assumption that healing was equivalent to work.
If someone was in distress & it was within your power to help them, would it be wrong to do so if it fell on the Sabbath?
That was the challenge Jesus laid before them.
And as experts in the law, they ought to have been ready with the answer.
But they knew that if they gave the correct answer, it would disarm their trap. So . . .
4But they kept silent. & He took him & healed him, & let him go.
While the Pharisees might USE this guy’s misery to their own wicked ends, Jesus would never just use someone.
So as soon as He could, He healed the man & told him to go.
Then He followed up . . .
5Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”
Livestock of any kind was a valuable commodity.
Oxen, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, were all of great value.
They represented an investment.
All over the
The ground is mostly a thin layer of soil over limestone bedrock.
Limestone weathers easily & often develops holes that can easily break into larger pits that trap unwary animals.
There are hundreds of wells covered by small boulders.
Sometimes, after watering their flock a shepherd will fail to replace the cover stone, leaving the well open.
Animals smell the water & wander over only to fall in.
If an ox or donkey were to fall into one of these holes, the owner wouldn’t think twice about helping it out, even if it was the Sabbath.
Such assistance would not be considered work – yet it was only rendered to an animal.
The challenge Jesus issued these guys was clear – How could they have more compassion for an animal than for a man?
This rebuke shamed them deeply as they realized not only had their trap failed at snaring Jesus, it had turned round & snared them!
What’s the lesson for us from this?
There’s a couple.
First – We must be careful of our assumptions about what constitutes obedience to God.
Jesus’ enemies knew the Sabbath prohibited work, but they assumed healing was work when it wasn’t.
We must be very careful we don’t confuse traditions & the way people have looked at things as the Word & Will of God itself.
To be frank – there are a lot of things we’ve taken for granted in the Church that really have no basis in Scripture.
Over time denominations & movements develop their own set of traditions that become entrenched & a fixed part of the way people relate to God.
To change them is considered blasphemous.
For years Calvary Chapel prided itself on it’s rejection of empty religious tradition.
But the fact is, we’ve developed our own traditions to replace them.
Listen, there is nothing wrong with tradition.
It can actually be a powerful means of passing on to the next generation the power & truths of identity that mark the move of God.
But what is dangerous are traditions that have lost their meaning; they are just empty rituals.
We must ever & always be in a place of openness before God that is willing to change when we realize our traditions are based on nothing more than air.
Is what we believe – is what we do, in line with God’s Word or not?
Second – When our being doctrinally right causes us to overlook the needy, we’ve become Pharisees!
We must never forget that the fulfillment of the law is the love of God & others.
When our pursuit of doctrinal purity makes tools of people to use them to win an argument – we’ve just stepped into the role of Jesus’ enemies.
The whole point of the work of God in us to produce love.
I have met some people over the years who have been great apologists as far as being able to defend orthodox doctrine.
I don’t say they’ve been great defenders of the Faith though.
They knew the fine points of theology, philosophy, & rhetoric.
They could sell ice to an Eskimo they were so persuasive.
But they could not lead a sinner to faith in Jesus Christ because they demonstrated not an ounce of mercy or compassion.
They were arrogant & proud in their command of apologetics.
But there was nothing lovely about their lifestyle.
In Rev. 2, Jesus commended the
They knew how to sort out false teachers & didn’t allow them in their midst.
But His rebuke of the Ephesians was stern & serious: They stood in danger of loosing their identity as a church for one huge, glaring failure – they were without love.
Listen brothers & sisters – the bottom line is love.
If our religion doesn’t result in love, for God & others, then it’s a waste of time & will get us know where.
7So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: 8“When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9and he who invited you & him come & say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ & then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go & sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, & he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
As Jesus watched the lawyers & Pharisees coming in, they scrambled to grab the best seats at the table.
And as they did,
one of the Proverbs came to mind -
6Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of the great; 7For it is better that he say to you, “Come up here,” Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.
If they were using the table typical of the time, they would be sitting at a triclinium; a 3-sided table shaped in a square U. [Describe]
The host would sit at the 2nd to far right place on the left side, leaving the position to his right as the place for the honored guest.
Then beginning on the host’s left & working around the table to the last place would mark descending honor & prestige.
As the guests arrived that day, they all moved to grab the highest seat they could.
But the host was the one who was supposed to assign the seats.
There were 2 seats that were always assigned, the one to the right & left of the host.
The rest of the seats were often left up for grabs.
The bold guest who assumed he’d be picked for the favored positions next to the host would just take the seat he knew he’d be given at the left or right.
Jesus again challenges them on their assumptions.
What if they assume they’re more important than they are & take a seat in a place they don’t belong?
Then when someone the host intends to honor more arrives, the host will ask them to get up & move down the table to a lower place.
That would be embarrassing!
So why not take the lowest place of all. That way, when the host sees them sitting there, he’ll say, “Hey, what are you doing sitting there? That’s not where I want you – come up & sit here.”
We all agree - It’s better to be shown honor than to be publicly embarrassed.
Jesus concluded by stating a spiritual principle:
Those who lift themselves up will be humiliated, while those who pursue humility will be lifted by another.
What Jesus said here is consistent with His teaching about being a servant.
The servant who’s honored is the one who makes no attempt to lift him/herself above their station, but rather simply serves in the capacity to which they are called.
That servant will know the honor & commendation of the Master & will be promoted for being faithful.
The servant that resists his/her role & assignment & feels he/she deserves something better always looks for a way out & up & so fails to do what they’re supposed to. That servant ends up facing the rebuke of the Master & is demoted.
Christian – are you a lord or servant? We are servants.
Do servants vie for position? No.
What do servants do? They serve.
It’s our task to serve – & it’s God’s right to promote.
12Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, & you be repaid. 13But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
There are segments of society today that can relate to this, but most of us can’t.
When we invite people over, it’s just because we want to have some fun & be hospitable.
We rarely invite people over with a kind of cold calculation that says, “If I invite them, will they invite me to their house?”
But that’s what the uppermost levels of society do.
Their whole lives revolve around strict tiers in which it’s everything to know the right people, have the right connections, be seen with just the right persons.
Life is lived by moving from one event to the next, one party or gala, one celebration to another.
Of course, it’s expected that at some point, you serve as the host.
So when you make up your invite list, you consider carefully who will come & who’s events you want to be invited to.
For those who live in this kind of environment, who you are is determined by whose house you get invited to & who comes to yours.
This was the realm of the lawyers & Pharisees/
So special feasts had turned from being fun times to enjoy life into elaborate & tricky events used to climb the social ladder.
Jesus said, “Forget all that! When you have people over, invite those who can’t return the favor!”
Jesus gives us an important motive in giving here.
We all know that we’re called to give, right?
We’re called to give of our time, talent, & treasure to the
The motive of our giving is for reward.
Don’t think that wanting a reward in giving is wrong; it’s not!
On the contrary, a return or reward for giving is right & proper.
If we gave with not end in sight other than the giving, then it would be wasting, not giving.
It’s waste when there’s no real or lasting outcome for what we give or spend.
When we give to God, whether it’s our time, talent, or treasure, it’s with the hope that what we do will bear fruit, that it will impact someone’s life in a real & tangible way.
But the reward we ought to look for is not that which originates from man & simply reciprocates back to us in the same form we gave.
We want the reward to be the notice & reciprocation of God in eternity.
That’s what Jesus is saying here.
If our giving is measured out & determined by what we’re going to get back in terms of earthly compensation, then that’s what we’ll get.
Mickey wasn’t all that good at baseball, but a large part of the problem was his mitt.
It was an old beat up thing that had probably been passed down from his 3 older brothers.
The laces were busted & the thing was way too floppy.
Half the balls he tried to catch passed through the fingers.
The boys played baseball every day at recess & lunch.
When the teams were uneven, it was usually Mickey who got to sit it out.
Instead of moping around & wander off to the other side of the playground, Mickey stayed at the diamond & served as the bat boy for both teams.
He’d done it so many times he knew what bat each boy used & always had it ready as he stepped into the warm up circle.
He chased down fouls & replaced the bases when they weren’t square.
He never complained & seemed to take real pride in his role as bat boy when he couldn’t play.
The other kids poked fun at him & made constant insults about his goofy mitt.
He took their abuse in stride though it was obvious their words hurt.
The playground supervisor, Mr. McGillicudy, watched the boys playing baseball for months.
He saw how Mickey was treated & how he behaved.
McGillicudy had played ball in College & saw real potential in Mickey, but that mitt was just not cooperating.
So McGillicudy bought a new mitt & presented it to Mickey one day.
He told Mickey that he’d talked to his parents & they had signed him up for City Little League.
He told Mickey he was going to coach him every day after school.
Our role, gifts, & resources may not seem all that remarkable from the world’s perspective.
But God is watching & He sees the potential that’s in us through Christ & the work of His grace.
Be faithful to use & give what you have.
As you do, you’re investing in eternity – & the Bank of Heaven pays eternal rewards.
We will all one day play in the Big Leagues.
one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him,
“Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the
This guy totally misunderstood what Jesus was talking about.
Jesus mentioned inviting people to diner as an illustration for the motive of giving.
But all this guy heard was the remark about eating so he blurts out, “Those who get to eat in the Kingdom are blessed!”
Imagine sitting at a table with a dozen people.
The conversation is serious; they’re discussing how to end world hunger.
One of the world’s most brilliant scientists is there sharing how an end to hunger can be brought about.
Right after he speaks, as the rest of the group digests his words, one guy pipes up & says, “Have you ever had Del Taco’s Combo burrito? It is so good.”
What an idiotic remark! Obviously that guy hasn’t been listening at all.
He heard the others talking about eating & starting thinking about fast food.
That’s precisely what this guy did. He hadn’t understood a thing about what Jesus was saying about the motive of giving.
Now, I find it interesting that at several points when someone would saying something silly, Jesus would just ignore it & keep on with what He was saying.
He doesn’t do that here. He uses this man’s silly comment as a springboard into something important to the context of what was taking place in the Pharisee’s house that day.
16Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper & invited many,
You want to talk about food, about a feast – okay . . .
17and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, & I must go & see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, & I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, & therefore I cannot come.’
This was a massive celebration of some great event.
The way it’s described, it looks like a marriage feast.
You see, the guests had already been notified of the feast, but they had to await the exact time of the announcement.
Jewish weddings were known in advance, but not the exact date.
Shlomo betrothed Naomi, but she would live with her father during the time Shlomo returned home to build a room onto the side of his parent’s house.
As the room neared its completion, the groom’s parents would begin the preparations for the wedding feast.
When the room was finished, Shlomo would go & get his wife, return with her to his city, & the celebration would commence.
That’s the picture here.
Those who were invited knew the feast was coming they just didn’t know the exact date.
Now it’s arrived & the servant is sent out to tell them it’s time to come.
But these guys each has an excuse why they can’t come.
This is ultra silly – no one refused an invitation to a wedding feast!! No one.
Wedding feasts were glorious affairs of all you can eat & drink for days!
Not only do these 3 guys not go, they beg off with some really insulting excuses.
When the servant told his master the reasons why these guys weren’t coming, he heard them as terrible insults!
Who buys land without seeing it first – this was a blatant lie!
Who buys an ox without first checking them out to see if they are healthy – another lie.
The last guy’s excuse makes no sense whatsoever – he has a wife! So? She’d be invited as well as he. This is just a lame excuse.
Jesus’ point here is that these 3 guys are complete idiots!
Who is Jesus referring to by these 3 guys?
It’s the Jewish leaders, the
lawyers, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, the priests – all the guys who were the
most versed & knowledgeable in the law & who ought to have understood
God’s covenant with
If there was anyone who knew God had invited them to be His special people & had invited them to be the first in the Kingdom, it was they.
Jesus had come, telling them that the time was ripe & that God was about to open the doors wide to the great wedding feast of His Son.
But they were rejecting the invitation – & with some really lame reasons.
21So that servant came & reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets & lanes of the city, & bring in here the poor & the maimed & the lame & the blind.’
The Pharisees, lawyers, scribes, priests, & other social
Yet it was these that welcomed Jesus & were pressing in to the Kingdom.
22And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, & still there is room.’ 23Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways & hedges, & compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
There was still plenty of room for any & all that would respond in faith to Jesus.
But faith is the key. Without it, there’s no access & that’s why Jesus says -
24For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”
The Jews lived with the assumption, taught by the rabbis & endorsed by the Pharisees, that entrance to heaven was guaranteed to all of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob.
In fact, the rabbis taught that Abraham had a seat just outside the entrance to hell, making sure no Jew accidentally entered there.
The Jews were indeed invited to the Kingdom.
They were the ones the invitation had originally been given to.
But entrance to the Kingdom isn’t secured by an invitation.
It’s secured by Jesus Christ alone.
Only those who believe in Christ can enter the Kingdom.
The lesson this teaches us is one we’ve already seen in Luke – that we must be careful about our assumptions regarding salvation.
Do not think that just because you grew up under Christian parents, or went to a Christian school, or are an American, that you’re getting into heaven.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to In & Out makes you a Double-double.
So what if you drive a bumper-sticker mobile; with every Christian slogan ever devised?
So what if your T-shirt has a gospel message on it.
There’s only one thing that matters – Is God’s word written on your heart?
Are you born again?
25Now great multitudes went with Him. & He turned & said to them,
The Pharisees weren’t the only ones with false assumptions.
The common people had them as well.
Jesus makes clear to them what it means to follow Him.
They were hoping in a Political & Military Messiah who
would beat back the Romans, remove them from
While that is Jesus’ ultimate mission, it’s not the phase they were in at that time or that we’re in right now.
What He says next exposes the misplaced hopes of the crowd about what it means to follow Him.
26“If anyone comes to Me & does not hate his father & mother, wife & children, brothers & sisters, yes, & his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
To be frank, these are shocking words & seem to fly squarely in the face of so much of what Jesus has taught & lived.
He has been the consummate example of love – so much so His enemies used it as part of their strategy against Him.
But here He conditions following Him with a hatred of those most near & dear.
How can Jesus call for this when the Word says we are to love & honor our parents?
A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church.
Parents are to love their children.
The answer is made clear when Jesus says, “and his own life also.”
It’s against human nature or capacity to hate ourselves.
In Eph. 5:29 we read – “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”
By “flesh” Paul means the physical dimension of the self.
I know this flies in the face of a lot of modern psychobabble with its belief in low self image, esteem, worth, value, whatever label they’re using now.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the Bible says very clearly no one hates himself!
Come, on – we all know it’s true because we are ourselves are human!
The problem isn’t that we don’t love ourselves.
The fact is, everyone loves him/herself. We can’t help it.
Despite what modern psychology fancies, the problem isn’t too little self-love, but too much!
We are all madly in love with ourselves & we can’t help it.
“And I’m madly in love with me. Yes I’m madly in love with me.”
“It’s all about me–Lancie. It’s not about you. It’s me. Just me.”
What Jesus means here is that in comparison to Him, all other affections must be like hatred.
In order to be Jesus’ disciple, our love for & devotion to Him must be so firm & central nothing else, even our love of self, never competes with or weakens our commitment to Him.
Truth be told, a love for Christ, as the supreme affection of our lives, is the only foundation & source for the kind of love we’re to have for others & ourselves.
27And whoever does not bear his cross & come after Me cannot be My disciple.
The cross was an implement of death to the people of that time.
It had not a shred of the romantic or heroic implications that it does for us today.
A piece of jewelry was the last thing they ever would have thought about when someone mentioned the cross.
It was a loathsome, hideous, shameful thing.
The cross meant one thing – Death; a slow, agonizing but inescapable death!
So when Jesus said discipleship was conditioned on taking up one’s cross, here’s what they heard Him to mean – Self must die & be replaced with Me.
Being a disciple meant a whole new center to life, not governed by self-interest but Christ-interest.
Then Jesus calls them all to stop & take stock of what He’s just said.
Will they ante up? If they do, they must count the cost.
28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first & count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29lest, after he has laid the foundation, & is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build & was not able to finish.’
Only the fool decides to remodel his house one day & begins the process by grabbing a sledge hammer & starts knocking out walls.
No – the homeowner realizes that remodeling requires both skill & resources so he calculates the need against his ability & decided if he can do it or not.
31Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first & consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation & asks conditions of peace.
The nation that goes to war without taking inventory of both the enemy & their own forces is just asking for trouble.
33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Here’s the point – Jesus has identified the condition of discipleship – complete surrender. Nothing less will do.
Jesus isn’t interested in just Sunday mornings & Wednesday nights.
He wants you 24/7/365¼.
Discipleship doesn’t just cover your spirituality.
It embraces your total individuality; body, soul as well as your spirit.
It controls you diet, your sex-life, your wallet, check-book, & the TC remote.
It decides where you go on the Internet & how hard you put your foot on the gas pedal.
It shapes the words that come out of your mouth.
34“Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? 35It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
This is similar to something Jesus said 3 years earlier in the Sermon on the Mount.
Salt served 2 purposes in the ancient world; it was both a seasoning that made food tastier, as well as a preservative.
Because they lacked refrigeration, they used salt to cure their foods & so preserve them.
Making salt was a long & difficult procedure, so salt was expensive.
Some unscrupulous merchants would “cut” salt with worthless white powders, then they would sell this as full strength salt.
The salt at the top of the bag would be concentrated but the stuff at the bottom would be useless.
If a person got one of these mixed bags, when they got down to the worthless powder, they’d toss it.
What’s the dominating passion of your life?
What defines you?
What is the very last thing you would give up – by which I mean, if everything was taken from you – what is the one thing you would NOT let go of but would rather die than lose?
If the answer to that is not your faith in Christ, then you’re a mixed bag, a compromised Christian.
We’re not going to read these verses tonight because they’re my text for Sunday.
Let me encourage you to bring someone who needs Christ this Sunday.
 John 3:3