Proper 17 • Luke 14:1–14 • August 28, 2016
By Wayne J. Knolhoff
“They were watching him carefully.” Luke observes that the Pharisees kept a close eye on Jesus. They watched him so they could witness him violating the Sabbath and expose him to the people as a law breaker. They brought a man with edema (retention of water and swelling that was a symptom of something more serious) hoping that Jesus would heal him and transgress the Sabbath law. Their watching was not with wonder at the miracle Jesus could do, but with evil intent to tempt him, trap him, and accuse him.
Jesus poses a question to the Pharisees that is similar to one he had asked earlier (Lk 6:9) “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Or to put it another way, does Jesus have the authority to heal on the Sabbath? Not wanting to be caught in a trap, the Pharisees were reduced to silence and Jesus healed the man. Jesus follows this miracle with another question, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” Jesus makes it clear to the Pharisees that his orientation toward the Sabbath is different from theirs. For Jesus, healing a man with a disease or saving a life was beyond debate. He teaches them that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). Again, the response of the Pharisees is silence.
Robert Sorenson makes this point in his commentary on Luke,
By means of another Sabbath healing, Jesus exposes His enemies’ misunderstanding of God’s will as expressed in the Law. Today, we are similarly tempted to shape our religious practices according to our own whims and desires and then to condemn those who disagree. But Jesus teaches the primacy of love. He places the well-being of God’s children above all. He reaches out in mercy and calls us to do the same.¹
The willingness of Jesus to eat in the house of a ruler of the Pharisees demonstrates his love for all people. He continues this encounter with two short parables. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach both the guests and the host an important lesson in how to show love.
He instructs the guests about humility (vv. 7–11). Overestimating one’s importance can be both offensive and embarrassing. Sorenson suggests this spiritual application: “When we get out of place by acting haughtily, we not only offend a more deserving neighbor but also the Lord, who has established each in his own station.”²
He then instructs the hosts to be hospitable and kind by inviting to the banquet those who are not able to reciprocate (vv. 12–14). By this act of unselfishness to the poor, crippled, lame, and blind the hosts are blessed. That is how it is in the kingdom of God. Jesus says that they will be repaid for their unselfish act of kindness “at the resurrection of the righteous.” These acts of kindness do not merit righteousness and salvation, but are a response of faith. The Lord acknowledges the fruits of faith and gives mercy and grace.
The preacher has the opportunity to invite his hearers to “Watch Jesus Closely.” The focus is on Jesus who first loved us and gives us the privilege of stewarding that love to others.
1. The Pharisees were watching Jesus closely with evil intent. (Mk 3:2)
2. We watch Jesus closely with eyes of faith following him and learning from him. (Heb 12:2)
3. We watch Jesus closely and love others as he first loved us in humility and unselfishness. (Mic 6:8) (Mt 25:40)
¹ Robert A. Sorensen, Luke, Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014), 257.