Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on Luke 14:1-14

Hospitality and Humility

by Rev. Bryan Findlayson, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons

Scripture: Luke 14:1-14


Our passage for study focuses on a churchman's dinner party and teaches that religious status-seekers will have no part in the kingdom of God. The passage is made up of a healing, v1-6, followed by two extended proverbs, v7-11, 12-14. The setting is a dinner provided for a visiting preacher by the local minister. It looks very much like a setup. The sick man is placed before Jesus while the religious crew carefully watch to see if Jesus will break the law and heal on the Sabbath.

The passage

v1-6. The dinner was at the home of a member of the Sanhedrin. He was an important Pharisee. The sick person brought before Jesus was most likely a plant. He had dropsy, an accumulation of fluid in the body which, at the time, was believed to be a venereal disease (a false association). Jesus supports the "correctness" of his healing on the Sabbath with a typically rabbinic argument. First, he asks (even answers their thoughts) whether it is permitted, under the law, to heal on the Sabbath. The legalists would obviously like to say "no", on the basis of their tradition, but can they deny healing to a person they have actually invited to the dinner? Jesus then asks, if it is right to pull an "ass or an ox" (RSV is better than NIV "a son or an ox") out of a well on the Sabbath, is it not also right to heal a sick person on the Sabbath? The lawyers and the other Pharisees were simply unable to make a decent argument in response, so they didn't answer. In the ancient world silence was counted as approval. So again, Jesus demonstrates an understanding of the law which far exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisee, namely that the law is summed up in love toward a neighbor, a love full of mercy and compassion.

v7-11. In this little parable about social climbing, Jesus exposes the self-righteous blindness of these churchman, and thus, their state of loss before God. They can't even get their status games right. Better to take the lower seat and be called up higher, than the higher seat and be moved down lower. The pretense of false humility gains more status than a push and shove move. Jesus concludes in v11 with a reference to the coming day of judgment. These blind self-righteous "churchies", whose lives are focused on status, will find themselves overturned in the "last day", devoid of status in the sight of God.

v12-14. Jesus goes on to develop the judgement theme evident in v11. If these self-righteous "churchies" are to survive the day of judgement and "be raised at the resurrection of the righteous", they are going to have to handle the issue of hospitality a bit better than they have done so far. It's easy to invite a friend to dinner, but not so easy to invite an outcast like the "unclean" man with "dropsy." Since such a person can't repay the kindness, God will repay it. Generous hospitality toward the stranger fulfills the law and secures a righteous standing in the sight of God. Yet, where can we find such a generous person? These "churchies" certainly don't fit the bill. Obviously, they are like everyone else, sinners who face judgement. The churchmen had sought to demonstrate that Jesus didn't keep the law, now find themselves condemned. In typical fashion, Jesus has used the law to expose sin. Hopefully some of the guests got the message and turned to God for mercy.

Who am I?

He was the most unlikely person to be elected class captain. He never said a word and could hardly ever look you in the face. But then, we were teenage high school students, out of control and in total rebellion mode. Why support the system by electing the typical self-confident "leader of man". We wanted someone who would never push us around.

Self-esteem is a quality difficult to measure. With it we are self-controlled, self-contained, self-assured.... without it, well! There are many elements that can contribute to a sense of low self-esteem. Our family background can damage us, or the school playground can destroy us. With our self-worth eroded, we then lose confidence and are inevitably immobilized.

Religion too can be a destructive element in our lives. If we believe that our worth in the sight of God is somehow related to religious performance, we soon become worthless, because our performance is always second rate. We are then forced to hide our worthlessness with a created self-worth - a self-righteous pharisaism.

In our passage for study, Jesus exposes the true condition of some supposedly "godly" church attenders. They believed their piety not only gained them the best seat in the house, it secured their eternal seat at the heavenly feast. Too much religion had blinded them to their condition of loss. In claiming their own worth they found themselves worthless before God. Yet, they could still claim eternal worth, and this just for the asking.

"Humble we must be, if to heaven we go; High is the roof there, but the gate is low", George Herbert.


1. Is it "lawful" to do good on the Sabbath?

2. Why "take the lowest place"? v7-11.

3. Discuss the danger of "religiosity" as a mechanism to hide low self esteem.

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentaries for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost

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