The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 18, 2022
Luke 14: 1, 7-14
Christian— Live a Christ-Like Life!
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Do you have anyone in your life that you consider to be your mentor? Have you ever had someone that you looked up to so much that either consciously or unconsciously you said to yourself, “Someday I want to be just like him!” or, “Someday I want to be just like her!” For me it was my Grandpa. When I was young I spent a good deal of time with my Grandpa and I loved it. He was kind. He was gentle. He was funny. He was serious. My Grandpa was a very good example of a person who says what he means and means what he says. I learned that truth when I was very little. Looking back on my life I can see that my Grandpa had a huge influence on who I am today. He had certain sayings that I can still hear in my head. For example, if I told my Grandpa that I would do something and then I didn’t do it, he would look at me and say, “Stevie, a man is only as good as his word. Don’t tell me that you are going to do something unless you plan on doing it.” While it may have been an unconscious decision at first, as I grew older I consciously decided that I wanted to be like my Grandpa.
I couldn’t help but think of my Grandpa as I was studying our sermon text for today. Here in Luke chapter 14 God the Holy Spirit not only gives us a glimpse into the types of situations Jesus encountered in His life, but the Holy Spirit has also preserved for us yet another parable— a parable which gives us insight as to how we are to live our lives. Since we all consciously make decisions as to how we are going to live our lives, let’s study this portion of Scripture with this encouragement in mind: Christian— Live a Christ-Like Life!
Luke gives us the setting when he says in the opening verse of our text, “One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.” This “prominent Pharisee” was probably a member of the Sanhedrin— the religious “Supreme Court” of God’s Chosen People. While it is possible that this “prominent Pharisee” had invited Jesus of Nazareth over to his house for dinner because he wanted to become better acquainted with Jesus and with Jesus’ teachings, the fact that Jesus was being “carefully watched” reveals to us that this Pharisee and all the other Pharisees who had been invited to dinner that day were hoping that they could catch Jesus doing something or saying something that they could use against Him. They were getting desperate in their attempts to diminish Jesus in the eyes of the people!
While the Pharisees were “carefully watching” Jesus, Jesus was also observing them. Luke tells us, “When he (Jesus) noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable.” The Pharisees were the type of people who considered themselves “better” than everyone else. That’s why Jesus gave us the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the Temple. (See Luke 18:9-14) Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples against following the example of the Pharisees with words such as “the teachers of the law and the Pharisees…love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogue.” (See Matthew 23:1-7) Even amongst themselves it was not unusual for the Pharisees to be jostling each other because they wanted a place of prominence, a place of honor at the table near the master of the house.
This is the situation which led Jesus to speak the parable that we find here in our text. In this parable we find guidance and insight as to how we are to live our lives as Christians. We need to be careful, however, that we do not look at this parable as some kind of morality lesson in humility and unselfishness. Jesus is not teaching us that the more humble we are the greater “reward” we can expect to receive from God. What Jesus is teaching us is that as Christians we are to keep our heart and our life focused on Him (Pointing to the cross) and consciously strive to live a Christ-like life!
Since Jesus begins this parable by saying, “When someone invites you to a wedding feast,” our goal today is to apply this parable to ourselves in a way that reminds us of the fact that our God has graciously invited us to enjoy the greatest “wedding feast” of all— the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! With that goal in mind let’s begin by focusing on the fact that we are guests in the Kingdom of our God. As guests in the Kingdom of our God we are to conduct ourselves accordingly. What does this mean? Let’s start by emphasizing what we do not want to do as guests in God’s Kingdom! Jesus says, “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important seat.”
Our old sinful nature is essentially a little Pharisee who lives inside of us. Our old sinful nature is constantly clamoring for a “place of honor”— even among our fellow Christians! Our old sinful nature wants our brothers and sisters in the faith to look up to us, to see us as the example of who they want to be— someday. Our old sinful nature wants us to look at other people— even our fellow Christians— and say, “It’s unfortunate that they are not more like me!” Our old sinful nature is very good at taking the first of the two Great Commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (See Matthew 22:37-40) and twisting it to put ourselves in the #1 spot in our hearts and in our lives.
When we allow that to happen we would do well to remember what we are told in James 4:6, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” As Christians we understand that it is not a disgrace to sit at the “lowest” place at God’s wedding banquet. As Christians we understand that it is not a disgrace to have a “lowly” position in the Kingdom of God. In fact, as Christians we understand that it is an honor to be there at all! But to seek a place of honor, to assume that you deserve to have a better place than others can lead to the humiliation of having our pride and our arrogance openly revealed to all.
What does Jesus want us to do as guests in the Kingdom of God? He answers that question when He says, “But when you are invited, take the lowest place so when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.”
As Christians our goal is to live our lives in Christ-like humility. This is the humility that Jesus revealed when He washed His disciples’ feet. (See John 13) This is the humility that Jesus encouraged His disciples to have when He said to them, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (See Matthew 20:20-28). This is the humility that Paul highlighted when he wrote to the Philippians, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… (who) humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (See Philippians 2:5, 8) Genuine humility allows us to take the “lowest seat” and be thankful that we have been invited to the Wedding Feast! Genuine humility enables us to be thankful for whatever gifts and whatever blessings the good Lord has given to us and always “consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) Genuine humility will lead us to live a Christ-like life— a life where we humbly serve others, a life where we humbly serve our God. Genuine humility leads us to understand exactly what our Savior is telling us when He says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
After revealing to us how we are to conduct ourselves as guests in God’s Kingdom, Jesus goes on to remind us of how we are to conduct ourselves as hosts in God’s Kingdom! He does this by saying to the “prominent Pharisee” who invited Him to have dinner at his house, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Let me ask you: When’s the last time you stopped to consider the fact that you are not only a guest in God’s Kingdom, but you are also a host? God has given you everything you need to invite others to come and enjoy the rich spiritual banquet that God Himself has prepared! Who do you invite? Our first inclination is to invite our friends, our relatives and our “rich neighbors”— that is, the people we think will have something to offer us and/or our congregation. Our second inclination is to invite people who look like us, people who talk like us, people who share a common background with us. Does Jesus say that as a host in His Kingdom we shouldn’t do this? Not at all! Remember that Jesus Himself centered His public ministry on proclaiming God’s Truth to His fellow Jews. But, Jesus’ public ministry was not exclusively centered on only Jewish people, was it. Jesus shared the Truth with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, with the Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon, with a Roman centurion in the city of Capernaum and with many other Gentiles.
Living a Christ-like life means that we strive to do the very same thing, my friends. If as hosts in God’s Kingdom we extend the invitation to come and enjoy God’s rich spiritual banquet with only certain people of our own choosing, well, then we have lost sight of the fact that Jesus, the perfect Host, graciously extended that wonderful invitation to people like us— people who look and speak and act very differently from the Rabbi from Nazareth!
Living a Christ-like life means that as hosts in God’s Kingdom we extend this glorious invitation to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” that is, to those who from an earthly perspective cannot “repay” us. When this attitude lives in our hearts, when this attitude is visible in our life then the words that Jesus speaks here in our text will most certainly apply to us: “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Who do you have on your personal evangelism list? As you look around in your life, as you look around in this world are there people you would hesitate to invite to come to church with you? As hosts in the Kingdom of God we need to strive to have a Christ-like attitude when it comes to inviting people to God’s free banquet of salvation. Just as Jesus reached out to the “poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind,” just as Jesus was willing to eat with a “prominent Pharisee” as well as with “tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 9:11), so also we need to be willing to do the same. When as hosts in God’s Kingdom we strive to live a Christ-like life we will be blessed! We will be blessed “at the resurrection of the righteous.” We will be blessed on Judgement Day when we hear our King say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34, 40).
It is not unusual for someone to have a mentor, a role-model in their life— someone they look at and say, “I want to be just like him!” or, “I want to be just like her!” My prayer this morning is that as Christians we will take that truth to an even higher level. As Christians we understand that Jesus is not just a “role model,” a “good example” for us to follow. As Christians we stay focused on Who Jesus is, we stay focused on what Jesus has done for us (Pointing to the cross). As Christians we let the cross of Jesus Christ empower us so that we can indeed strive to live a Christ-like life— both as a guest in God’s Kingdom and as a host in God’s Kingdom!
To God be the glory!