The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods







the entertainment in the Pharisee's house. the man with the dropsy. observations addressed by Christ to his fellow-guests

(Luk 14:1-24)

About this time Jesus was again invited to one of those entertainments which were repeatedly prepared for Him in houses of the Pharisees, and which in the evangelical narrative we might designate collectively as being the Perilous Entertainments. One of the most eminent of the Pharisee party invited Him on the Sabbath-day to be his guest. We might feel surprised at meeting with such an invitation at a time when the separation of feeling between Jesus and the Pharisees had already gone so far. We might conjecture, that the tradition which Luke followed had shifted the story out of its original connection with occurrences of a similar kind. But we must not overlook the fact, that the Pharisees allowed themselves to go to great lengths in sham acts of friendliness to Jesus, for the purpose of compassing the end of their hostility. This is shown us in the preceding occurrence, in which they affected to be desirous of saving His life. Moreover, there are circumstances in the narrative which indicate that it belongs to a later time, as the sequel will show.

In giving Him this invitation, provision had been also made beforehand for laying a snare for the guest. Care had been taken to secure the presence there of a man afflicted with dropsy. The patient himself can hardly have been aware what a shameful misuse it was proposed to make of him. Probably the hope had been suggested to him that Jesus would heal him, and he had in all honesty resigned himself to the anticipation. But the Pharisees may have had more than one reason for bringing the man thither. In the first place, his illness was a form of disease presenting especial difficulty, and which more than many others resisted all curative processes which wrought through the imagination.1 They might hope, either that Jesus would not venture Himself upon dealing with the case, or else that perhaps He might fail. In either case, means was provided for His humiliation. Next, if Jesus undertook the case and effected the cure, then they had gained new vantage-ground for charging Him with heretical conduct in respect to the Sabbath. First of all they placed the dropsical man in such a situation that Jesus could not overlook him.2

Jesus proceeded in actual fact to heal the man; a proof that the patient was himself honestly disposed towards Him and was susceptible of faith. The restoration, however, He prefaced with some observations of a similar character to those which He made use of when on the Sabbath-day He cured the man with the withered hand in the synagogue.3 There is no difficulty presented by the fact, that at different times, in different neighbourhoods, Jesus is represented as making use of similar observations in relation to similar cases, any more than there is in the supposition, that in the transmission of the account, one narrative of this kind may have received some tincture of colouring from another of a similar kind. Nevertheless, the treatment of the subject in the present instance has its distinctive character. He does not ask them, as He did on that previous occasion, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath-day? but more directly, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? And then, He does not first put forward the example which is to justify His procedure, but forthwith proceeds to the cure and lets the justification follow. The example also is itself different. At the first of the three cures wrought on the Sabbath-day which are recorded by the synoptic Gospels (Mat 12:11), attention was directed to the fact that one would surely draw out of a tank a sheep which had fallen in.4 At the second (Luk 13:15), the case was alleged that even on the Sabbath any one would lead away an ox or an ass to watering. But here the assertion is more comprehensive: There was no one among them (says Christ), who, if his ass,5 or even his ox, were fallen into a tank on the Sabbath-day, would not at once draw it out again. The Lord’s treatment of the subject is thus in every respect more categorical, more home-thrusting, than in the earlier cases.

As soon as Jesus had healed the man with the dropsy, He sent him away. His gainsayers had already through their silence forfeited the right of turning the occasion to account in the way that they would have liked to do.

After this, Jesus went further in endeavouring to influence for good the guests who were around Him. He sought to show them, in three parables, how ill they themselves stood in relation to the kingdom of God. The two first parables He presented in the simple form of exhortation; whence, in truth, it has come to pass that some have mistaken the parabolic element in them in its entire meaning; nay, more, some have even discovered in the first a small lesson of good manners, which individual critics have then been disposed to find as itself a violation of good manners;6 whilst in the second some have discerned nothing more than a commendation of beneficence somewhat hyperbolically expressed.

‘He spake to them that were invited’ (says Luke) ‘a parable, because he observed how much they looked out for the highest places at the table. When thou art invited by any man to a feast, He said, do not sit down in the first place, lest it befall thee, that one higher in rank than thou has been invited, and the entertainer comes and says to thee, Give up to this man your place, and thou then beginnest’ (mortified and vexed) ‘with shame to take the lowest place. But when thou art invited, go and sit down rather in the lowest place; that when he that invited thee comes thither, he may say to thee, Friend, move up higher! That will bring thee honour before all who sit at table with thee.’

The Jews were too well acquainted with the method of their Rabbins in teaching by parable, for the guests to be likely to find in this table-talk of Jesus an unseasonable lesson in manners.7 Also, such a view of its meaning is contradicted by its conclusion: ‘For every one who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.’ Neither can it be taken as if Jesus meant in His exhortation merely to give a graphic illustration of the apophthegm found at the close. Rather this apophthegm forms the general rule, under which the particular object fell which He wished under a parabolic dress to impress upon them. Now what could this have been? These Pharisees were just the very persons who, as Jehovah’s guests, had taken the highest seats. This they showed plainly even by their behaviour to Him. He therefore gives them to understand, that it might perhaps come to pass that the Master of the entertainment might direct them to quit the higher seats for the lowest, and that another man who had modestly seated himself low down would be recognized as the intimate friend of the Master of the house, and be made to move high above them, to the first of those seats which they had themselves occupied. This was the admonition with which Jesus presented His guests.

In this same region of thought moved the second parabolic admonition, which He addressed to the entertainer himself. ‘When, thou makest a dinner or a supper, invite not thy friends, nor thy brethren; neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours. For they will invite thee in return, and thus feasted back, thou wilt have got in full thy recompense. But invite rather the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: then thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just’ (shall receive the return feast there). This table-discourse also is justified in point of courtesy (against several critics) by the consideration that the common feeling of the company present would without doubt at once recognize its parabolic character. The Pharisees invited only kindred spirits to feast with them; that is, it was to them alone that they addressed their favour, their friendliness, their hospitality. And for this they were, of course, asked back again and entertained in the same way; they received equal politeness, friendliness, hospitality. But thereby the real kingdom of love was for them vanished; for beyond the borders of this mutual entertaining their love and generosity did not pass; rather, for the poor folks outside, there was only their hatred or their contempt. On the other hand, within their own strictly fenced kingdom of love, there wrought ever more and more only selfish calculation, the conventional quest of recompense. But it was most especially in their management of the affairs of the kingdom of God, as dispensers of the theocratic promises, that the Pharisees conducted themselves as such selfish entertainers, and it is no doubt to this that the parabolic discourse before us most definitely points. They invited men to participate in the blessings of the theocracy, in the promises of Jehovah. But what men? None but their friends and their kinsfolk, like-minded pharisaical Jews, or perhaps also their rich neighbours, distinguished proselytes. None but these alone should have part in the kingdom of God. The poor, on the contrary, publicans, Samaritans, and heathens, they had no wish to see at this entertainment. But what, according to the word of Christ, shall be the consequence of this narrow-heartedness? Because they renounce the great kingdom of love for the little society of mutual pharisaical friendship and gossipship, they shall also have no part in the rich banquet of love, which shall be celebrated at the resurrection of the just, in the new kingdom of heaven. They will lose all feeling for enjoying the great feast of grace and men’s salvation, and likewise all prospect of being admitted to its enjoyment.

One of the company now gave a very plain indication that he had well perceived that the admonitory discourse of Jesus had reference to the kingdom of God; for when mention was made of the banquet at the resurrection of the just, he exclaimed, ‘Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.’8

This exclamation led our Lord to deliver a parable, bearing the proper garb of a parable, in which He shows to the company present how greatly they were in danger of losing the very blessedness which they so highly extolled; namely, the parable of the invited guests who slighted the precious banquet, and who were in consequence replaced by poor people got together from all quarters; which we have considered above.

The Pharisee had invited Jesus to his house with a sinister purpose. Thereby he had already discovered how little disposed he would be to comply with the great invitation which, in return, Jesus was giving him to the banquet of New Testament life. And yet, how gladly would Christ have brought both him and his partners at the table to just reflection, and have seen them appear among His guests!

But the reason why the Pharisees were about to reject Christ’s entertainment, as the third parable indicated, lay in the fact, that according to the first parable, they raised themselves in their overweening pride above Christ, and seated themselves high in the theocracy; and that, according to the second, they raised themselves in their unloving selfishness above the heathen, and would fain keep the kingdom of heaven exclusively to themselves.





1) See Stier, iv. 68

2) Ἥν ἔμπροσθεν αἰτοῦ.

3) Matt. xii. 9 seqq. (Mark iii.; Luke vi.) Compare also Luke xiii. 15.

4) As only Matthew mentions this feature, as also he on the first only of the three narratives states Jesus’ question under the form, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbathday? we might feel tempted to assume, that in his account elements of the third sure had blended themselves with the first. [But is not this a quite gratuitous assumption of inaccuracy in the Evangelist?—ED.]

5) Lachmann prefers the reading υἱός. If this is to be fitted into the connection, we must find a father’s emphasis in the following paradoxical combination : Who is there of you who would not draw his son, yea, or even his ox, out of the tank on the Sabbath-day? [Alford also reads υἱός. See his note in loc, —ED.]

6) See De Wette, Comm. zu Luk. p. 76; Gfrörer, d. h. Saye, p. 265, Ebrard undertakes the defence of our Lord’s discourse in the second parable by observing, that the entertainer was deserving to be applauded by Jesus, since Jesus Himself did not belong to His friends, brethren, &c. But applying it thus, we must suppose, in opposition to the connection, that this chief Pharisee meant well by Jesus; not to urge further, that this view takes us away from the parabolical meaning of the discourse.

7) [Greswell (Expos, of the Parables, i. 92) quotes from Jerome the following words: ʻFamiliare est Syris, et maxime Palæstinis ad omnem sermonem suum parabolas jungere.ʼ And so Lightfoot (Hor. Heb. on Matt. xiii. 1) says, ‘The Jewish books abound everywhere with these figures,—the nation inclining by a kind of natural genius to this kind of rhetoric.’— ED.]

8) Stier (iv. 79) thinks that in this exclamation he finds a good deal which speaks in disfavour of the man s state of mind. But we cannot fail to perceive that the form in which he expresses himself does not authorize us to infer a pharisaical and carnal assurance on his part, in reference to a future participation in God s kingdom.