IN THE CLOSING verses of the previous chapter the Lord accepted His rejection and foretold its results for Jerusalem; yet He did not cease His activities in grace nor His teachings of grace, as the opening part of this chapter shows. The Pharisees wished to use their law of the sabbath as a cord wherewith to tie up His hands of mercy and restrain them from action. He broke their rope and showed that He would at least have as much mercy on the afflicted man as they were accustomed to show to their domestic animals. His grace abounded above all their legal prejudice.
From verse 7 Luke resumes the account of His teachings, and we do not find any further record of His works until we come to Luke 17: 11. In the first place, the Lord emphasized the behaviour which should characterize those who are the recipients of grace. Fallen human nature is pushful and self-assertive, but grace can only be received as humility is manifested. The guest invited to a wedding enters the feast as a matter of bounty and not as of right or of merit, and should behave accordingly. It may be remarked that in worldly society today bold self-assertiveness would not be considered good form. We admit that, and it is a witness to the way in which Christian ideals still prevail. In pagan circles such pushfulness would be applauded, and we shall see it increasingly manifested as pagan ideals prevail.
The abasement of the self-exalted and the exaltation of the humbled is sometimes seen in this life, but it will be fully seen when the One, who in supreme measure humbled Himself, even unto the death of the cross, is highly exalted in public, and every knee bows before Him. In verse 11 we can discern the two Adams. The first attempted to exalt himself and fell: the Last humbled Himself, and sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
In the three verses which follow we find the Lord instructing not the guest but the host. He too is to act in the spirit which befits grace. Human nature is selfish even in its benefactions, and will issue its invitations with a view to future profit. If, under the influence of grace, we think of those who have nothing to offer us, we aim at no earthly recompense. There is recompense however even for the actions of grace, but that is found in the resurrection world which lies ahead of us.
Teachings such as these moved someone to ejaculate, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." This was said very probably under the impression that entrance into the kingdom was a matter of great difficulty, and the one to eat bread there must be a particularly fortunate person. This remark led the Lord to give the parable of the "great supper," in which He showed that the door into the kingdom is to be opened to all, and that if any do not enter it is their own fault. In this parable there is a prophetic element; that is, the Lord looked forward and spoke of things which have their fulfilment in the day in which we live. It is pre-eminently the parable of the Gospel.
"A certain man made a great supper and bade many." The cost and labour was his; the benefit was to be conferred upon many. Those first invited were people who were already possessed of something-a piece of ground, oxen, a wife. These represent the Jews with their religious leaders in the land, who first heard the message. Taken as a whole they refused the invitation, and it was the religious privileges they already possessed that blinded them to the value of the Gospel offer.
When their refusal was reported by the servant, the master is represented as "being angry." In Hebrews 10: 28, 29, the doing of "despite unto the Spirit of grace" is said to be worthy of "sorer punishment" than the despising of Moses' law. What we have here is in keeping with that. The anger of the master did indeed mean that none of those who thus despised his invitation should taste of his supper, as verse 24 states, yet it did not shut up his bowels of kindness. The servant was the rather bidden to go out quickly and gather in the poor and needy-those most disqualified from a human standpoint.
But these were to be gathered from "the streets and lanes of the city;" so they represent, we judge, the poor and afflicted and undeserving of Israel-the publicans and sinners, as contrasted with the scribes and Pharisees. The Lord Himself was now turning to these, and amongst such the work continued into the days recorded in the earlier chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. Then the moment arrived when the invitation had been fully declared amongst them, and though many responded, the happy announcement was made by the servant, "Yet there is room."
This led to an extension of the kindly invitation. Still the word is "Go out," and now the poor derelicts of the highways and hedges, outside the bounds of the city, are to be brought in, to fill the house. This pictures the going forth of the Gospel to the Gentiles. It carries us to the end of Acts, where we have Paul saying, "The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and . . . they will hear it."
The parable definitely sets forth the matter from God's side rather than man's. He makes the supper, He sends the Servant, He has His own way, and fills His house in spite of man's perversity. The Servant He sends is the Holy Spirit, for no one less than He can wield a power which is absolutely compelling. The under-servants, even so great an one as the Apostle Paul, cannot go beyond the persuading of men (see 2 Cor. 5: 11); only the Spirit of the living God can so effectually work in the hearts of men as to "compel them to come in." But this, blessed be God, is what He does, and has done for each of us.
Hearing things such as these, great multitudes went with Him. Many there are who like to hear of something which is to be had for nothing. The Lord turned, and set before these the conditions of discipleship. The grace of God imposes no conditions, but the Gospel which announces that grace does conduct our feet into the path of discipleship, which can only be trodden rightly as we submit to very stringent conditions. Four are mentioned here. (1) The Master must be supreme in the affections of the disciple; so much so that all other loves must be as hatred compared with it. (2) There must be the bearing of the cross in our following of Him; that is, a readiness to accept a death sentence as from the world. (3) There must be a counting of the cost as regards our resources; a correct appraisal of all that is ours in the Christ whom we follow. (4) There must equally be a correct appraisal of the powers arrayed against us.
If we do not reckon rightly in either of these directions we shall very likely go beyond our measure, on the one hand, or be filled with fear, and compromise with the adversary, on the other. If, as verse 33 says, we do indeed forsake all that we have, we shall be wholly cast upon the resource" of the great Master whom we follow, and then the path of discipleship becomes gloriously possible for us.
Now the true disciple is salt; and salt is good. In Matthew 5, we find Jesus saying, "Ye are the salt of the earth" (ver. 13), but He said that to "disciples" (ver. 1). If the disciple compromises he becomes like salt that has lost its savour, and he is fit for nothing. What a word for us! Grace has called us, and our feet have been placed in the path of discipleship. Are we complying with its solemn conditions, so that we become disciples indeed? May we indeed have ears to hear!
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