The Gospel of Luke - Part 64: True Disciples Have a Heart for People and for God — Luke 14:12-24
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Review:

Last week we started into Luke Chapter 14 where we learn what true disciples are like. We couched this topic in the question, "Are you a dabbler or a disciple?

As Søren Kierkegaard raised the question in his story of the goose living in the barnyard with the chickens, who settled with living with the chickens when his peers honked for him to join them in flight, he heard the cry, but he settled for less.

Is that what we do when we feel the call from Jesus?

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

Last week se saw that we need to:

Jesus helped the man with dropsy, even though He knew He would be criticized. But He showed us that we need to be able to defend our beliefs, to reason with unbelievers.

He also taught that we need to take the back seat, not the front seat. We need to be humble and exhibit that humility. That is what He did and He expects us to do the same.

We also talked about the misconceptions about humility. It does not mean that we are worth less, but that we recognize that other people are also important to God.

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

We saw that there are many rewards promised for humility:

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.

Today we will see that True Disciples Have a Heart for People and for God.   Next week we will see that True Disciples Have Commitment.

Remember that last week Luke reported that Jesus had been invited to lunch at the house of a Pharisee.

It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread . . . And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests. —Luke 14:1,7
Jesus uses the banquet at the Pharisee's house to illustrate several truths related to the Kingdom of God.  Why do you think that Jesus spoke in parables?  To get people to think.  Consider this paraphrase of Matthew 13:13 from The Message (a paraphrase of the New Testament published by NavPress):
That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.
Jesus knows that it is difficult for us to understand spiritual truths:

Paul told us (from the NIV):

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. —1 Corinthians 2:14
True Disciples Have a Heart for People:
And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” —Luke 14:12
First, in verse 12, Jesus addresses His host. Remember that Jesus had been invited into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees. He was a wheel. Though this man probably considered himself deeply religious, Jesus highlighted a serious flaw in his values.
And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors...” —Luke 14:12
You could ask why, but we will get to that. This concept is not new as a teaching from Jesus. It is similar to what He taught in Luke Chapter 6.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. —Luke 6:32-33
The world's way is "to love those who love you". That is what Jesus is talking about.  The world's way is to pay special attention to the rich, the influential, the attractive. James talked about that.
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? . . . If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. —James 2:1-4,8-9
We need to understand that we all can be guilty of this same sin — the sin of favoritism.

But this wasn't the example that Jesus left for us.

An aside from verses 8-9 — When James speaks in verse 9 of being “lawbreakers” and being “convicted by the law”, I don’t think he is referring to the Old Testament laws. In the previous verse (verse 8), James mentioned a specific law we are to keep. This “Royal Law” found in Scripture and emphasized by Jesus is: “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

Jesus says don’t just include "your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors".

Not much has changed in the past 2,000 years since Jesus spoke these words.

Aren’t these people — our friends, our relatives, “successful” people we know — the ones we’re most likely to invite into our homes?

Instead, Jesus says, “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind...”

All of these were people who were “marginalized” by society in Jesus’ time. These people were ignored even avoided. Jesus sees the worth of every person and loves every person, even "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind". Jesus loved and helped people regardless of what they could do for Him. Jesus recognized the intrinsic worth of every person, even those the world considered worthless.

Someone observed that “A church's most effective tool for gaining a good reputation in its community may be its willingness to help those in need.”

Did you know people are giving less today to charitable institutions? Consider this — during the Great Depression, on average in the U.S., people gave 2.9% of their personal income to charities. In a report in Time Magazine a few years ago, it was down to 2.5%.

Proverbs is full of admonitions to be kind to the needy. Read through the handout when you get home today. Maybe you need to leave it out on your counter to remind you more than one time.

Notice any thread in the following verses?

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." —Matthew 19:21

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed... —Luke 4:18

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." —Luke 19:8

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. —Acts 4:34-35

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. —Galatians 2:10
Here is what Augustine had to say in a sermon to the rich: “That bread which you keep, belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe, to the naked; those shoes which are rotting in your possession, to the shoeless; that gold which you have hidden in the ground, to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you were able to help others, and refused, so often did you do them wrong.”

Then back in Luke, Jesus says that if you invite the needy, ...you will be blessed. —verse 14

Of course we should help people simply from a desire to obey and please the Lord. But Jesus gives us an additional incentive — He promises to bless us as we reach out and seek to help those in need. Look back over those verses on “God’s Heart for the Poor and Needy”. Notice how often God repeats this promise to bless us as we help others.

And Jesus completes the thought:

“...and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” —Luke 14:14
When we help the needy, not only does God promise to bless us in this life, He also promises to reward us in heaven! Another great incentive to obey Him.

There are many different ministries here in Albuquerque that major on ministering to the poor, the needy, those who are “marginalized” in our society:

Of course there are many more. One way to help the needy is to personally support a ministry like one of these.

If you do, God promises to bless you now and to reward you later!

True Disciples have a Heart for God:

When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’ ” —Luke 14:15-24
One of the guests replied to Jesus
Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God! —Luke 14:15
Probably the man who said this was a Pharisee. What he says is really kind of a "pat on the back" to everyone at this Pharisee's banquet. It's almost like saying, "Isn't it great that we're all going to heaven, that we are God's chosen?" In response to this attitude, Jesus tells another story using the banquet to illustrate who will be in God's kingdom.

Consider understanding Jesus' story this way:

Most Jews, like the invited guests, basically refused the invitation Jesus brought; they rejected His ministry and His message. They thought of themselves as the citizens of God's kingdom but they were wrong. Those other Jews and Gentiles that the Pharisees considered outcasts, those were the ones that actually responded in faith to the Lord's message and became the true citizen's of God's kingdom.

Here are some things we can learn from this parable.

Don't fall into the "assumption trap" that the Pharisees did. Just because I'm Baptist, just because I'm a church member, doesn't mean I'm a citizen of God's kingdom. 1 John 5:11-13 makes it clear that only one factor determines who will be in heaven

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. —1 John 5:11-13
You have Him or you don’t.

Don't fall into the "excuses trap". Some people always have a good reason for doing the wrong thing! There is no legitimate excuse for disobeying the Lord. If you took the excuses people use for not going to church and applied them to other important areas of life, you'd realize how inconsistent we can be in our logic. For example:

  Ten Reasons Not to Wash

  1. I was forced to as a child.
  2. People who make soap are only after your money.
  3. I wash on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.
  4. People who wash are hypocrites—they think they are cleaner than everyone else.
  5. There are so many different kinds of soap, I can't decide which one is best.
  6. I used to wash. It got boring, though, so I stopped.
  7. None of my friends wash.
  8. The bathroom is never warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer.
  9. I'll start washing when I get older and dirtier.
  10. I can't spare the time.
One clear message from Jesus’ story is that He wants everyone to be invited to His table. And communicating this invitation is the responsibility of every Christian. The slave was not held responsible for how people responded. He was only responsible for communicating the invitation.

And that’s our task as well. Jesus has given each of the responsibility of communicating to others, to as many people as possible, His invitation to come to Him.

In response to those who make excuses why they cannot serve the Lord, Rick Warren writes:

Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was co-dependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you too if you stop making excuses.

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Pat and I are traveling again starting next week, so Terry Heames will continue the teaching here in Luke. Please support him by attending and participating in the lessons and the discussion. We will be gone for three weeks and will pick up where Terry ends.