(Luke 14)

What is the "price" we Christians must pay to be Christians? Jesus indicated in many ways that the "price" existed. The fact that a "price" exists should not surprise us. If his sacrificial life and death on a cross was his "price" for becoming our Savior, it should not surprise us that there would be a "price" for belonging to him as Savior.

But what is the "price" that Jesus had in mind? The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes that (1) we are saved by grace through faith; (2) we are not saved on the basis of human deeds; (3) we cannot earn our salvation; and (4) we cannot place God in debt to us. All that being true, what is this "price"?

Tonight let Jesus give us some important insights into the "price" by studying Luke 14. I encourage you to take your Bibles and follow with me as we study.

  1. Understanding the situation is important.
    1. Jesus was invited into the home of one of Israel's prominent religious leaders.
      1. The man was a leading Pharisee--a Pharisee who was a member of the Sanhedrin.
        1. If the Sanhedrin was the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, the man was a nationally recognized scholar who was a member of their highest court.
        2. This man invited Jesus and some guests into his home to eat.
        3. It was an honor to be invited to have a meal in this man's home.
      2. It was a Sabbath day--the day that Jews honored God by not working.
        1. The Pharisees strictly honored the Sabbath by strictly doing nothing that could be considered work.
        2. All human acts of work were divided into thirty-nine different categories.
        3. Ask a Pharisee about any human act, and he would tell you if that act was an act of work that would violate the Sabbath.
    2. Carefully note two facts.
      1. First, note that Jesus accepted the invitation.
        1. Jesus associated with all kinds of people and went into the homes and ate with all kinds of people.
        2. He was so willing to associate and eat with anyone that he was criticized by the Pharisees because he associated with sinners and tax collectors.
        3. Luke 5:29,30 records the occasion when Jesus attended a huge reception for tax collectors in Levi's house--tax collectors were on the bottom of Jewish society because they had an earned reputation of dishonesty and greed.
        4. In Luke 7:36-50 and in Luke 14:1-24 Jesus had meals in the homes of Pharisees, and this Pharisee was at the top of approved, religious society.
        5. Jesus associated with everybody.
      2. Second, note that Jesus had a teaching for everybody.
        1. Everybody needed to learn something.
        2. Depending on what they needed to learn, Jesus taught different people different lessons.

  2. Carefully consider the lessons Jesus taught different people who were in the Pharisee's home.
    1. First, Jesus taught a lesson to the Pharisee who invited him and to the guests who were experts in the teachings of the Old Testament.
      1. One of the guests was a diseased person; he visibly had signs of a person suffering from heart, kidney, or liver disease.
      2. The Pharisees classified healing on the Sabbath day to be an act of work if the person healed was not dying that day.
      3. Jesus did not ask them if healing was an act of work.
      4. Jesus asked them, "Does it violate the law of Moses to heal someone on the Sabbath day?"
        1. They did not answer his question.
        2. So Jesus healed the sick man.
      5. Then Jesus asked them, "If you had an animal that fell into a well on the Sabbath, would you pull it out of the well?" Their laws permitted them to do that.
    2. Second, Jesus had a lesson for the invited guests.
      1. Your seat at the meal indicated your importance, your social significance.
      2. Each guest was busy trying to determine where he would sit.
      3. They wanted the most honorable, privileged seat they could have.
      4. Jesus taught them by using a parable.
        1. "When you are invited to a wedding feast, don't take the most important seat."
        2. "If you do, someone more distinguished than you will arrive, and you will be asked to move."
        3. "You will be embarrassed in two ways: you will be disgraced in front of everyone, and the only seat available will be the most unimportant place at the feast."
        4. "Sit down at the most unimportant seat, then you will be asked to move to a more important seat and be honored before everyone."
        5. "The person who exalts himself will be humbled; the person who humbles himself will be exalted."
    3. Third, Jesus had a personal lesson for the Pharisee who was his host.
      1. "The next time you invite guests into your home for a meal, do not invite friends, relatives, or wealthy neighbors."
      2. "They will repay you by later inviting you to pay you back."
      3. "Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind--invite people who need your kindness and cannot repay you."
      4. "If you do that, God will repay your deeds when the righteous are resurrected."
      5. Jesus said, "Instead of playing the social game of "who is who," concentrate on helping people who need your help."
    4. One of the guests who heard Jesus' statement said, "Blessed is everyone who eats bread in God's kingdom."
      1. There were things in that statement that they understood that you and I would not see.
        1. A very popular idea was that God's kingdom would be an earthly kingdom.
        2. A common symbol of the resurrection of the righteous was the banquet--in the same way that we use the idea of heaven they used the idea of the feast.
      2. I don't know what the guest was trying to do--he may have made that comment to break the tension or to ease the awkwardness of the moment.
      3. Jesus responded by giving another parable about the feast , the Pharisees' common concept of heaven.
        1. In the parable a wealthy man prepared an enormous, expensive feast.
        2. When the food was ready [remember slaughtering, preparing, and cooking took a long time in those days], the man sent a slave to tell all the invited guest to come.
        3. The guests made excuses and refused to come.
        4. The man was angry, and told the slave to go into the streets of the city and invite anyone he saw--including the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.
        5. The slave did, returned, and told him that there was still room for more people at the feast.
        6. The man said, "Go out into the countryside and invite anyone and everyone--my house will be filled for this feast."
        7. "None of the guests that I invited will eat this meal."
      4. Jesus point: those who are at God's feast truly will be blessed, but they will not be the people that you expect to be there.

  3. When Jesus left the Pharisee's home, the enormous crowd waiting on him followed him.
    1. He turned to the crowd and said, "If you want to be my disciple, there are some things you need to understand."
      1. "Your commitment to me must be more important than your family."
      2. "You must not be ashamed to carry your cross and follow me."
      3. "Just like a king that declares war, or a man who begins to build a castle, you need to count the cost before you begin."
      4. "If you are to be salt, you must keep your saltiness--or you are not useful."
    2. There are sermons upon sermons in these statements.
      1. He is not teaching that people who follow him must neglect their families to be faithful.
        1. The New Testament is quite clear: Christians have special responsibilities in family relationships; denying those responsibilities make the Christian worse than a person who does not even believe in Jesus Christ.
        2. He is teaching that our top priority in life is following Jesus.
      2. The cross was a horrible symbol of shame and disgrace in that time.
        1. Jesus said they must realize that following him would not lead them to earthly prestige and honor, but to public shame and disgrace.
        2. Their desire to be his disciples was a commitment that was not afraid of shame or disgrace.
      3. The salt statement basically declared that if they were not willing to be an influence for him, they were of no value to him.
      4. Considering these realities, they needed to consider the cost of following Jesus and know that they were willing to pay that price.

  4. I want you to see something that is extremely important in this chapter.
    1. This is not just a collection of parables and situations that were just thrown together for no reason at all.
      1. Luke had a reason for placing these things together.
      2. Notice that no one had it "all figured out" and had nothing to learn.
        1. The Pharisee host had something to learn.
        2. The experts in scripture had something to learn.
        3. The guests had something to learn.
        4. The "tension breaker" guest had something to learn.
        5. The people waiting to follow him had something to learn.
        6. It is obvious that the tax collectors and sinners in chapter 15 had something to learn.
      3. Please note that they had different lessons to learn.
    2. No one has all the answers, no one has it all "figured out," no one has come to the perfect knowledge of all the right conclusions.
      1. The roots that spiritually nourish and develop a Christian are not developed in a system that binds religious rules and requirements.
      2. The roots that spiritually nourish and develop a Christian are developed by having a heart and mind that constantly grow toward the mind and heart of Christ.
      3. There certainly are commands to be obeyed.
      4. There certainly are things that are required of the Christian.
      5. But maturing as a Christian is not as simple as listing the commands and requirements and doing them.
    3. Let me illustrate the point in this way.
      1. If Jesus visited with us, he would do the same thing with us that he did in the Pharisee's home.
      2. He would say to me, "David, you need to think about and understand this."
      3. He would say to the elders, "Men, you need to understand this."
      4. He would say to each group in this congregation, "What you need to understand is this."
      5. Truthfully, he would say to each individually, "This is the lesson you need to understand."
      6. And the lessons would not be the same for each of us.

Why? Because each Christian is growing in mind and heart closer to the mind and heart of Jesus, closer to the mind and heart of God. None of us, on this earth, will ever develop the mind and heart of Jesus and of God.

That is the "price." We learn. We understand. We change. We develop. We mature. We become more and more Christ-like. And that is hard. That is the most difficult, expensive price that we can pay to belong to Christ. But that is the basic price of following Jesus.

As Christians, we must never be afraid to grow spiritually. We must never be afraid to learn anything scripture teaches us. We must never be afraid to understand anything that we did not understand in the past. As long as Christ and the Bible is the teacher, we must not be afraid.

As we grow, we are always leaving good growth for better growth.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 18 January 1998

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