Introduction: A few years ago a reporter came to do a story about our church. It appeared the next day in the paper and was very positive. But what if his article had neglected to say anything about the service or the sermon; all he wrote about was the lunch he attended afterward? That’s what Luke does in Luke 14. It was apparently the custom in biblical times for the visiting speaker to be entertained in the home of a leading member of the synagogue. We can assume that Jesus was the visiting rabbi. Afterward He was invited to a home for supper. Luke tells us nothing about the service or sermon. Instead he devoted 24 verses to the supper party. There were four shifts in the conversation.
1. It’s Always the Right Time to Help Someone (verses 1-6).
Dropsy was an illness involving swelling of the body due to fluid retention, perhaps due to a diseased liver or kidney. Because of Sabbath regulations, Jesus was being watched to see if He would heal the man. This is the third and last time this issue arises in Luke’s Gospel (6:6-11; 13:10-17). Notice how Luke noted the responses of our Lord critics in these passages. In the healing in chapter 6, they were furious and begin to discuss with one another what they might do with Jesus; in chapter 13, they were humiliated; in chapter 14, they remained silent. Jesus let them know that the Sabbath was a great time to help someone in need.
2. It’s Always the Right Time to Practice Humility (verses 7-11)
Jesus then told a story about a wedding feast. Suppose you arrive early at such an event. Don’t sit down at the head table or look for the best seat, He said. Search out the worst seat in the house. His parable was an illustration of the truth of Proverbs 25:6-7. A man told me earlier this week that his father had taught him this proverb in childhood and that it had been the secret to his ease is being around those who are well known and in positions of power.
3. It’s Always the Right Time to Care for the Needy (verses 12-14)
Jesus was not forbidding us from having our friends over to eat. One commentator suggested the Greek verb tense could be rendered, “Stop continually inviting.” Furthermore, Jesus Himself later hosted His friends at the Passover meal. Instead our Lord was telling us to be generous and hospitable with the poor. Any one of us who has invited a guest to Christmas or Thanksgiving family meals knows the blessings of including others. Jesus was recommending we do it more often.
4. It’s Always the Right Time to Bring Others to Jesus (verses 15-24)
When a guest at the banquet commented about the feast in the kingdom of God, Jesus said, in effect, “Yes, and do you know who will be there?” The invited guests (the Jewish chosen people) made excuses and declined. So the invitation was extended into the streets and alleys, into the roads and country lanes, so that “My house will be full.” Warren Wiersbe said this parable illustrates the importance of accepting God’s invitation to “Salvation’s Supper. Salvation is a feast, not a funeral; everything we need has already been provided. All we must do is accept the invitation, come, and be filled.”
Conclusion: In his book, The Hole in our Gospel, Richard Stearns talks about his job as CEO of Lennox, America’s finest tableware company. He and his wife lived in a ten-bedroom house on five acres in Philadelphia. He drove a Jaguar and traveled first-class around the world. He was also a dedicated Christian and a faithful churchgoer. But one day he was asked to go on a mission trip to Uganda, and while there he met another fellow named Richard. This Richard was a 13-year-old orphan who lived in a thatched hut and was trying to raise his two younger brothers by himself in a small shack with no running water, electricity, or even beds to sleep in. Richard’s parents had both died of AIDS. Richard Stearns thought of his boy who shared his name, who was on the exact opposite of life’s conditions. He later said that was the moment that would ever afterward define him. He said that he had a hole in his Gospel, that something had been missing from his Christian experience — an awareness of his obligation to care for the world beyond his social strata. He later resigned his position at Lennox to become the president of World Vision, a great Christian-based humanitarian organization. Here at the Sabbath Banquet, Jesus seemed deeply concerned for both the physical and spiritual needs of the world. Every day we should do the same. It’s always the right time to help someone, to practice humility, to care for the needy, and to bring others to Christ.