Several months ago we began a series of sermons covering “The Parables of Jesus”. We have been reading and learning much from the various parables that Jesus told. Over the course of this entire study, we will discuss 40 parables in all. This morning we are going to focus upon the 32nd and 33rd selections on the list. These 2 stories, while not identical in meaning, do teach similar lessons. They are called “The Parable of the Wedding Feast” and “The Parable of the Master and the Slave”.
In our previous message, we considered the importance of shining Jesus’ light brightly in and through our lives. The parables that we will examine today provide us with a powerful way to do just that. Christ had an unassuming character and sought no acclaim for Himself but rather gave all glory to the Father. We can put Jesus on display for others to see by practicing this same type of humility...
I. DON’T EXALT YOURSELF - Luke 14:7-11
Jesus has been invited to the home of a prominent Pharisee to enjoy a delicious meal. It is the Sabbath day, and just prior to telling “The Parable of the Wedding Feast” Jesus heals a man who’d been suffering from dropsy. His actions have upset many of the lawyers and religious leaders who are present. As Jesus watches them grumble, He notices that some are picking out the most honorable seats at the table for themselves. This observation leads Jesus to share a brief parable.
He presents this parable directly those who are listening and includes them in the story. In other words, unlike most of His other parables which are told in the third person, this story is told in the second person. Jesus speaks of a man who is holding and wedding feast and has invited them to come. He then advises them not to sit in a place of distinction or honor, because the host may have invited someone more notable and might ask them to move. Such an occurrence would be humiliating and disgraceful. Instead, Jesus instructs them to intentionally sit in a more lowly seat. Seeing this, the host might come and ask them to move up to a more prominent seat, thereby elevating them in the presence of others.
In this parable, Jesus is focused upon the behavior of the guests. He is teaching them to practice humility. He is comparing an earthly wedding feast to a spiritual Wedding Feast in which Christ Himself is the host. The Lord will ultimately humble those who are pridefully puffed up and who place themselves in positions of honor, and will ultimately honor and exalt those who practice lowliness and humility.
II. DON’T SERVE CONDITIONALLY - Luke 14:12-14
After directing the Pharisees and other guests not to seek notoriety for themselves, Jesus elaborates even further. He now turns His attention to the one particular Pharisee who had invited Him to the meal. Jesus points out that this man has only invited his friends, relatives, rich neighbors, and other notable persons in the community to the dinner. Apparently he did not want other less desirable types in his house…
Jesus identifies an underlying motivation that drives many to act in such a manner. People expect to be repaid. “If I invite someone to my party, I expect them to invite me to theirs. If I buy your lunch today, then you’d better buy mine next time. If I do you a favor, then you owe me one in return. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” These are the sentiments of a person who gives conditionally, showing kindness because they anticipate receiving something back. Thus, they favor certain people who can be of benefit to them. Under these circumstances, a person receives their full reward here on earth.
Jesus encourages the host to invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind to his receptions instead. These do not have the means to repay or reciprocate his hospitality. By doing this, the host will be blessed and will be repaid bountifully at the resurrection of the righteous in the life to come. The LORD will lavish His everlasting blessings upon those who love, give, and serve others unconditionally without any expectation of repayment.
III. DON’T EXPECT GRATITUDE - Luke 17:7-10
Later in Luke’s gospel we read of another occasion in which Jesus is speaking to His disciples. He is giving them several different instructions, urging them not to become stumbling blocks for others, to practice ongoing forgiveness, and to remain faithful. During this educational discourse, the Lord shares yet another parable. This brief story is called “The Parable of the Master and the Slave”.
This parable is also presented in the second person. Jesus presents a scenario in which one of the disciples (to whom He is speaking) has a slave. This hypothetical slave has just come in after working all day in the field. Would they, as the slave’s master, allow this slave to sit and eat first or would they expect him to change clothes, prepare dinner, and serve them first? The logical conclusion is the later - after all, he is a slave...
Jesus explains that this hardworking slave should not expect to receive thanks or be rewarded simply for doing that which his master required. Spiritually speaking, Christians should not serve God in order to receive His praise or recognition. Nor should they serve other people for this reason. The LORD is the holy, divine Master of all and even the most righteous believer is still just an unworthy slave. God’s children should not expect gratitude for simply doing what He has commanded them to do.
We have examined 2 parables this morning which, when considered together, paint a grim picture of a particular type of person. Jesus describes someone who lacks humility and associates only with those who can be beneficial to him personally. Furthermore, this person expects others to praise him for the things that he does. On the contrary, Jesus teaches His followers to be humble and not exalt themselves. He adds that they should lovingly serve those who can’t repay them and not expect a “pat on the back” for doing so.
Don’t get me wrong… it is nice to say thank you to those who have blessed you, and it’s okay to graciously receive such thanks from others. In addition, it is wonderful when someone repays you for a kind deed that you’ve done previously. Furthermore, it is a blessing to be acknowledged and honored for something good you’ve accomplished. These parables do not necessarily condemn such things. Rather, Jesus is simply teaching that it is inappropriate to exalt yourself, or to serve conditionally in order to receive either repayment or gratitude.
If you never garnered any benefit for yourself or received any measure of thanks for serving Jesus from anyone in this life, would you continue to humbly serve Him anyway? Would I?