The Gospel of Luke - Part 63: Are You a Dabbler or a Disciple? — Luke 14:1-11
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Review:

Last week we finished Luke Chapter 13 which we titled, What God cares about, which turned out to be Sin, and Our Response to It; People, for both our physical and spiritual needs; and His Kingdom.

As we get into Chapter 14 of Luke, we start to see what True Disciples of Jesus are like. This raises a question which can be the title of Luke Chapter 14:

Are you a dabbler or a disciple?

Do you know what it means to "dabble"?  Webster's Dictionary defines dabble as "to do something superficially, not seriously; [for example] to dabble in art".  Can you think of something that you “dabble” in?

A lot of people "dabble" at following Jesus. They go to church, maybe even plug into a Bible Study class, but are they committed to doing His will in their lives wherever they are, whatever they are doing, seven days a week?

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and theologian in the mid 1800’s, told a story about a goose who was wounded and who landed in a barnyard with some chickens. He played with the chickens and ate with the chickens. After a while that goose thought he was a chicken. One day a flight of geese came over, migrating to their home. They gave a honk up there in the sky, and he heard it.

Kierkegaard said, "Something stirred within the breast of this goose. Something called him to the skies. He began to flap the wings he hadn't used, and he rose a few feet into the air. Then he stopped, and he settled back again into the mud of the barnyard. He heard the cry, but he settled for less."

This chapter is about not settling for less when we hear Jesus “cry” out to us.

In this chapter, Jesus helps us understand that following Him means being totally committed to being His disciple. We see Jesus model this commitment in the way He faces up to the Pharisees. We see Jesus contrast this commitment with people who are always making excuses. Finally, we see Jesus spell out this commitment in terms of what it means to be His disciple.

Let's pray that God will work in our hearts, help us see any areas where we are just "dabbling" at following Him, and give us the heart to be totally committed to following Him!

Today we are going to see that True Disciples:

  1. Help Others
  2. Humble Themselves

 

True Disciples Help Others:
It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” And they could make no reply to this. —Luke 14:1-6
Though similar events are described in the other Gospels, only Luke recorded this particular incident. In fact, all of this chapter (except for the last two verses) is unique to Luke.  What jumps out to you from this passage?
He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread... —verse 1.
Remember back in Chapter 13, Jesus stated His heart’s desire that these Jews come to Him. Now He demonstrates this in a very practical way — by continuing to associate with the Pharisees, eating with them and reasoning with them. And He does this in spite of their on-going hostility and criticism.

Don't you think that we would have given up on these guys by now?  But Jesus didn't.  In the same way, we need to do all we can to draw others to Jesus — loving them, spending time with them, praying for them, reasoning with them.

...they were watching Him closely.
More literally, They were watching Him carefully.

Why were they watching Him? They were looking for any fault, any reason to reject His teaching. They weren't open to the truth; in fact, their desire was to discredit Him as they had showed on previous occasions:

The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.   . . .   But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. —Luke 6:7,11

When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say. —Luke 11:53-54

And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. —Luke 14:2
Was this guy a "plant" by the Pharisees? He may have been but we aren't told.  However, considering that this occurs in the house of a leader of the Pharisees, we can assume that this determined who was invited to this meal with Jesus.

According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, dropsy  "is a condition of excess fluid in the tissues of the body, caused perhaps by a type of cancer or possibly liver or kidney problems." (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

This is the only reference in the Bible to this condition.

And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” —Luke 14:3
Notice how Jesus takes the initiative here in cutting to the heart of the matter. No one has said anything and yet Jesus "answered" the question they were bringing up by presenting this man to Him. He answered them with a question. Jesus often used questions with the Pharisees to put them in the very "hot seat" they had prepared for Him!
But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. —Luke 14:4
What a contrast between Jesus and these Pharisees. Jesus had the courage of His convictions. Both His actions and His reasoning backed up His conviction. We can learn a lot for Jesus' example of courage here. Jesus didn't hesitate to declare where He stood or to act upon His beliefs. He made no apology for doing what was right.

But what about the Pharisees? Their silence reveals their cowardice. They were unwilling to back up their position by words or actions.

And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” And they could make no reply to this. —Luke 14:5-6
Jesus reasoned with the Pharisees. We need to know not only what we believe but also why we believe it. The Pharisees had no answer to Jesus' reasoning but still refused to believe. This shows us that faith is not just an issue of the intellect.

Are we more like the Pharisees or Jesus? Do we hesitate to do what is right for fear of what people may think? Part of what it means to be a disciple is to be willing to take a stand for Jesus even when the crowd may be against us. Jesus needs Christians who are willing to speak up!

In the following verses, the same Greek word is used although it is translated as courage, boldness and fearlessly. The Greek word is παρησια [parrhesia] meaning "freedom of speech, to speak unreservedly". It means simply to say what I think I ought to say without holding back for fear of what others may think or say or do. It doesn't mean that I am fearless, that is without fear. Rather, it means that I don't allow my fears to control my behavior. I think "bold, boldly, boldness" are the best translations of this word. This is the quality we see in Jesus in this passage. Today, Jesus needs disciples who are bold, who are willing to speak up and speak out.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. —Acts 4:13

“And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence"   ...   And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. —Acts 4:29,31

But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. —Acts 9:27-28

...and pray on my
[Paul's] behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. —Ephesians 6:19-20
As Christians we need to learn to defend our faith. We need to be able to explain the reasons behind what we believe. That's why it's really important to take a class like "The Bridge" seminar where you can learn to answer the questions and objections that non-Christians frequently ask.

Then Jesus compares this situation to a banquet.  Jesus now takes the situation He is in — eating dinner (a banquet?) at the home of this prominent Pharisee — to teach a number of truths about the kingdom of God. Jesus seems always alert to situations in every day living that drive home a spiritual truth: He uses this dinner to affirm values that matter to the Lord. And these are values that need to be equally important to us.

True Disciples Humble Themselves:

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” —Luke 14:7-11
What stands out to you in this passage?
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table...
As Jesus watched the guests at this banquet, He noticed how they sought out the best seats. This is the world's way. Exalt yourself, draw attention to yourself. We live in a self-centered culture. Someone humorously observed, "All I ask of life is a constant and exaggerated sense of my own importance." We’re not exempt from this attitude in churches today. We can be equally guilty of seeking “the places of honor”.

Someone told a story that has happened so many times, everywhere: moved to another town and started attending a local church. The first thing anyone said to them was when a man walked up and said, “You're sitting in my seat.”

Jesus then said to them:

When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor.
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest and prolific Christian writer, is quoted in Christianity Today as saying: “Everything in me wants to move upward. Downward mobility with Jesus goes radically against my inclinations, against the advice of the world surrounding me, and against the culture of which I am a part.” (Henri Nouwen)
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
What are some different ways we can seek to exalt ourselves? Pastor and author in the mid-1900’s Alan Redpath wrote: “The secret of every conflict in Christian homes and communities and churches is that we seek our own way and our own glory.”

What are some wrong ideas people have about humility?

There are a lot of wrong ideas about humility. Some people think it is thinking badly about yourself. Others see humility as letting people walk all over you. Still others view humility as being like Gary Cooper, scuffing your foot in the dirt and saying, "Aw shucks, ma'am, 'tweren't nothing."

But none of these were true of Jesus. And none of these are a Biblical view of humility. Biblical humility involves having an accurate view of myself in relationship to God and to others. To humble myself before God is to submit myself to His authority, to acknowledge Him as my Creator and my Lord:

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. —James 4;10
The command here is to humble ourselves. It’s our responsibility. We need to understand humility, seek humility, esteem humility.

Norman Vincent Peale observed, “Humble people don't think less of themselves . . . they just think about themselves less.”

If we want to learn about true humility, all we have to do is consider the life of Jesus. There is no greater example of humility we can learn from. Jesus said:

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. —Matthew 11:29
What are some different ways that Jesus modeled humility for us? Consider this description of Jesus found in Philippians:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. —Philippians 2:5-8
Thomas à Kempis, a Christian writer in the 1300’s, said, "Take delight in being unknown and unregarded. A true understanding and humble estimate of oneself is the highest and most valuable of all lessons. To take no account of oneself, but always to think well and highly of others, is the highest wisdom. ... We are all frail; consider none more frail than yourself.”

Benjamin Franklin vividly remembered a visit he made as a young man to see the Puritan preacher Cotton Mather and the life lesson learned. Franklin recalled:

He was showing me out of the house, and there was a very low beam near the doorway. I was still talking when Mather began shouting, "Stoop! Stoop!" I didn't understand what he meant and banged my head on the beam. "You're young," he said, "and have the world before you. Stoop as you go through it, and you will avoid many hard thumps." That advice has been very useful to me. I avoided many misfortunes by not carrying my head too high in pride.

When you get home, read through the handout and consider what we can learn about humility from these verses.

It brings wisdom, brings exaltation, shows love, raises others, shows that you belong to God, brings God’s grace, causes God to lift you up, and accompanies compassion. We should want to be humble just for the rewards it brings.

What do you think are some keys to growing in humility?

Johnathan Edwards, a colonial American Congregational preacher and theologian said: “The more excellent something is the more likely it will be imitated. There are many false diamonds and rubies, but who goes about making counterfeit pebbles? However, the more excellent things are the more difficult it is to imitate them in their essential character and intrinsic virtues. So it is with Christian virtues and graces. The devil and men's own deceitful hearts tend to imitate those things that have the highest value. So no graces are more counterfeited than love and humility. For these are the virtues where the beauty of a true Christian is seen most clearly.”

We should humble ourselves before others for God's purposes, not out of some sense of inferiority or unworthiness. Jesus, even though He was God, lived a life of humility and service in order to accomplish God's purposes on earth. He has called us to the same kind of life. Maybe one of the best descriptions of humility is found in Philippians 2:3-4:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. —Philippians 2:3-4
The issue here is not worth (we are all of equal worth before the Lord) but of priority. Whose needs, whose welfare, whose interests come first? The world says, "Me first!". The Lord says, "God first, then others, and Me last". Jesus demonstrated this definition in the way He lived.

Is your life characterized by exalting yourself (putting a priority on your needs, preferences, etc.) or on humbling yourself (putting priority on the Lord's preferences and on the needs, preferences of those around you)? What are some specific things we can do to humble ourselves before the Lord?

David Livingston, the famous Christian missionary to Africa, wrote, “Do not think me mad. It is not to make money that I believe a Christian should live. ... The noblest thing a man can do is just humbly to receive, and then go among others and give.”

__________

Next week — we will continue in Luke 14 where we will see the Real Disciples have a heart for people and a heart for God.

Read Luke 14 again.