Chapter fourteen is actually only two stories, though it may seem like more. The first four sections (vs. 1-6, 7-11, 12-14, and 15-24) all took place at the same event – a Sabbath dinner at a leading Pharisee’s house (see vs. 1, 7, 12, 15). First, the religious leaders allowed a sick man to sit right next to Jesus. When Jesus challenged their continual resistance about his healing on the Sabbath, they were unable to respond, humiliating themselves. Second, Jesus spoke to the crowd at large, giving what might be taken as PR or business advice. Instead of choosing the best seat for oneself at public gatherings, when you may be asked to move, choose a less public seat, and you may be publicly asked to move forward. Rather than simple business advice, though, Jesus was teaching that humility is honored in nearly every aspect of life. Third, continuing the theme of personal humility, Jesus advised the dinner host to invite people who could not repay him for his kindness, because God will reward that kind of attitude toward others. Fourth, Jesus told the parable of the great banquet. Understanding God to be the banquet host (vs. 15), Jesus not-so-subtly told all of the rich people around him that one’s station in life will not guarantee a seat in God’s coming kingdom. In fact, God would open it up to anyone and everyone, which he did by crucifying Jesus for all people. The gospel message is available to all and must be shared with all, especially after those who initially received the offer rejected it.
The second part of the chapter seems connected to the first, but it is unlikely that “large crowds” were at the Sabbath dinner with Jesus (vs. 25). Instead, Luke placed this teaching here to connect with Jesus’ parable but not necessarily with the event itself. Although everyone is invited into Jesus’ kingdom, it is not something that can be taken lightly. In fact, truly following Jesus means to bear the shame and ridicule (“cross”) that comes with being associated with him. It also requires loving him more than even our family members. Many will not follow Jesus for fear of what their parents or family will say; Jesus said that is not good enough. While we are not necessarily called to “burn bridges” with our loved ones, there may be a time that we are called to make a choice between them and Jesus, and Jesus demands our full allegiance. Still, he wants this to be an intentional choice, not an emotional one. “Think it through,” he said. “See if you are willing to do whatever I ask. Ultimately, nothing else can be more important to you than I am.”