How to follow Jesus
Jesus is cordially invited1 Jesus went into the home of a leading Pharisee. He went there to eat a meal on the Sabbath. People kept a close eye on him. 2 Right in front of Jesus there was a man suffering from edema—swelling.
3 Jesus had a question for the Pharisees and the scholars who were experts in Jewish law. “Does the law allow us to heal people on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 Nothing but silence. Jesus grabbed hold of the man and healed him right there. Then Jesus sent him on his way. 5 Jesus asked the Jewish leaders, “If your son or your ox fell into a well, which one of you would not instantly pull the child or the critter to safety—even on the Sabbath day?” 6 No one had an answer for that question.
Keep it humble, or get humbled7 Jesus started teaching the still-gathering group by telling them stories known as parables. He noticed that the people invited to the meal were beginning to jockey for seats generally reserved for the most honored guests. So he told the group, 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, don’t grab a seat near the head of the table—or any other seat of honor. If you do, you take the risk that the host may have invited someone even more important to him. 9 If that happens, the host who invited both of you will have to say to you, ‘I’m sorry but I need you to give your seat to this person.’ My goodness, when that happens think of the shame you’ll feel when you move to a seat at the far end of the table.
10 Here’s another approach. When you’re invited to a meal like this, take a seat at the least important spot around the table. That way, when your host sees you there he may say to you, ‘Buddy, get up out of there and come sit close to me!’ My goodness, when that happens think of how glorious you’ll feel in front of all those other people around the table.
11 Here’s how it works. If you make yourself out to be a big deal, people will cut you down to size. But if you keep it humble, people will honor you for that.” 12 Jesus turned to his host and said, “When you serve a banquet like this for lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, brothers, other relatives, or rich neighbors—because you know they’ll return the favor and feed you a good meal sometime. 13 When you serve a meal like this, go ahead and invite the poor, the lame, and the blind. 14 You’ll be happy you did. Those people don’t have any way of paying you back. But I can assure you that a payday is coming on Resurrection Day, when good souls rise from the dead."
The banquet in heaven15 Reacting to this, one of the men at the table said, “It will be wonderful to eat bread in the Kingdom of God!”
16 Jesus told the man a story. “One day a man decided to host a huge banquet. He invited a lot of people. 17 Later, when the meal was ready, he sent his slave out to deliver the message: ‘Come and get it. Everything is ready now.’ 18 But one guest after another declined, making all kinds of excuses. The first excuse: ‘Hey, I just bought a field and I’ve got to go make sure everything is okay there. So give my apologies.’
19 Another guest said, ‘Well, I just bought myself five teams of oxen. I have to go try them out. The host will understand.’ 20 Another guest said, ‘OK it’s like this, I just married myself a wife. I can’t come.’
21 The slave came back and delivered the news to the man of the house who was throwing the party. The man, mad as all get out, gave his slave new instructions. ‘Right now, go out into the streets and the alleys of this city and bring back the poor, the lame, and the blind.’ 22 Job done, the slave reported, ‘Sir, I did what you told me to do, but there’s still room for more people.’
23 The man told his slave, ‘Doggone it, go outside the city if you have to—down the caravan trails and out to the farms. Do whatever you can to compel people to come here and fill up my house. 24 I’ll tell you this much, not one of those men I first invited to this party will get a single bite of this meal.’”
Expensive cost of following Jesus25 There was a huge crowd of people following Jesus as he traveled. At one point he turned to the crowd and said, 26 “So, you want to follow me. Let me tell you something, you can never truly follow me unless you love me more than you love everyone else in your life. By comparison, you would despise even your own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—and even yourself. Unless you love me that much, you can’t be my disciple.
27 There’s a cross of suffering we have to carry. If you can’t carry your cross as you follow me, you can’t follow me. 28 If you decide to build a tower, don’t you first figure out how much it’s going to cost so you know if you’ve got enough to finish the job? 29 If you don’t have enough, and you lay the foundation but aren’t able to finish the job, people are going to tear into you and say, 30 ‘This guy starts jobs he can’t finish.’ 31 And won’t a king, headed into war, first see if he can develop a strategy to take his 10,000 men into battle and fight off an army of 20,000? 32 And if the king can’t figure out a way to do that, he’ll send a delegation to the other king to ask what it would take to make peace.
33 In the same way, if you don’t surrender to me by loving me more than you love all the stuff you own, you can’t be my disciple. 34 Salt is a wonderful seasoning. But if salt goes stale, how can it possibly get that flavor back? 35 At that point it’s good for nothing. It can’t help the dirt. It can’t even help the manure pile. We just have to throw it away. Are you listening to me? If you’re listening, I sure hope you’re hearing me.”
Some Bible translations use the older term “dropsy.” It refers to the swelling of soft tissue caused by excess water in the body. When the heart isn’t pumping efficiently, soft tissue in the body picks up and stores the extra fluid the heart should have pumped. By the end of the day, gravity has pulled a lot of the fluid into the lower legs and feet.
We can only imagine why.
Pharisees and Jewish scholars knew what Jesus was teaching, and most of them didn’t seem to like it. So why do you think they kept inviting him over for a meal?
Could the sick man “suffering from edema” (14:2) have been a plant that the Pharisee put there to test Jesus? Or do you think it was more likely a coincidence?
Jewish scholars didn’t have a comeback for Jesus when he asked them if they would save their own son who had fallen into a well on the Sabbath (14:5). It’s a pretty strong argument. Can you think of a comeback they might have used?
Jesus said that instead of inviting family and friends to a meal, we should invite “the poor, the lame, and the blind” (14:13). Do you think he means that literally, or is he more likely talking about simply staying alert to the needs of those folks and helping them when we can?
In the parable about the “huge banquet” (14:16), what might lead you to believe that the people in the story who got the initial invitation but rejected it might represent Jewish leaders like those who hosted this meal for Jesus?
Just for fun, let’s say the people in the story who made excuses not to come to the meal represent Jews who refused to embrace the teachings of Jesus. What excuses do you think Jews of that generation made for not joining the Jesus-is-Messiah movement that became the Christian church?
In Jesus’s story about the huge meal, the people who ended up sitting around the table were “the poor, the lame, and the blind” (14:21) along with anyone else the host’s slave could find out on the roads and in the farmland. Who do you think those people represented?
What cross do you think Jesus is talking about when he says “If you can’t carry your cross as you follow me, you can’t follow me” (14:27).
Jesus says it’s important to figure out the cost of building a tower or going to war. He seems to apply that to people who want to follow him, as though it’s possible to do the math and figure out what it’s going to cost to follow him. What do you think he’s talking about? Could it be less about the math and more about taking seriously the struggles we’ll face, and in developing strategies to overcome them?
“If salt goes stale, how can it possibly get that flavor back?” (14:34). If salt is a reference to people of faith, how do they get spiritually stale?
LIFE APPLICATION. If you had been one of the people jockeying for a good seat at the dinner table when Jesus started talking about why it wasn’t a good idea to do that sort of thing (14:7), how do you think you would have felt? Pick one description: angry, embarrassed, humiliated, a wish to be invisible. Also, do you think this would have been an effective way of convincing people to dial down the ego?
LIFE APPLICATION. It’s pretty clear that Jesus is trying to teach people to keep it humble: “If you make yourself out to be a big deal, people will cut you down to size” (14:11). Do you think there is a time and place for self-promotion?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus said if we want to follow him we need to love him more than we love anyone else in our life, including ourselves (14:26). Frankly, for many people, if not most, it’s impossible to love someone we have never met in the flesh more than we love our family—with notable exceptions that include certain family members no one wants to talk about at the dinner table. Do you think Jesus was serious, or was this another one of his exaggerations in an effort to nudge people at least a little in the direction of putting him first when it comes to critical decisions in life?