1. Regardless of previous experiences, Jesus once again went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee on a particular Sabbath. And, as was always the case in such an environment, He was being carefully watched and scrutinized.
2. Right there in front of Him was a man who was suffering from a condition like dropsy, which caused abnormal swelling in his body.
3. So Jesus said to the Pharisees and the experts in the law who were present, "Let me ask you gentlemen something...is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?"
4. Even though this was a repeat of a previous scenario, the men still didn't have a reasonable answer to Jesus' provocative question, so they remained completely silent. Then Jesus authoritatively but compassionately took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him on his way.
5. Once the man was gone, He asked them, "If one of you has a child, or even an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, won't you immediately pull it out?"
6. But still they had nothing to say. They just sat there in silence, unable to be even the slightest bit objective about their tradition and belief system.
7. So, moving on from this dead-end of a subject, He noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, and spoke to that, instead. He told them this illustration:
8. "Listen...when someone invites you to a formal wedding feast, don't be presumptuous enough to take the place of honor. You never know if a person more distinguished than you may have been invited, and that place was intended for him or her.
9. If, indeed, that is the case, the host who invited both of you will have to come and say to you, 'Please give this person your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place, creating an awkward situation for everyone involved.
10. So when you are invited, just automatically take the lowest place. That way, when your host comes to greet you he will say to you, 'Friend, please...I insist that you move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored and admired right there in the presence of all the other guests.
11. You see, all those who exalt themselves will be humbled...and all those who humble themselves will be exalted."
12. Then Jesus turned to His host and said, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, don't invite your friends...don't invite your brothers or your sisters...in fact, don't invite any of your relatives...and, by all means, don't invite your rich neighbors. If you invite any of them, they will most likely invite you back, and so you will be repaid.
13. No...when you give a banquet, invite the poor and the disenfranchised...invite the crippled and the helpless...invite the lame...invite the blind;
14. If you do that you will be fully blessed. And although these people can't repay you, you will be repaid in the bigger picture with resurrection life and the benefits of righteousness."
15. When one of the guests at the table heard Him say this, he blurted out, "How blessed are those who will eat at the celebration feast in the Kingdom of God!"
16. This prompted Jesus to expound some more on the subject. He said, "There was a certain man who prepared an extravagant banquet, and invited many guests to it.
17. When it was time for the banquet to commence, he sent his personal servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come now...the table is set...everything is ready.'
18. But each of the invited guests that he approached began to make ridiculous excuses. The first one to whom he spoke said, 'You know what? I've just bought a field, and I have to go right now and see it. Please send my regrets.'
19. The next one said, 'Listen, I've just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way, even as we speak, to try them out. Thanks, anyway.'
20. Still another said, 'Hey, I just got married, so I obviously can't come.'
21. So the servant came back and reported all of this to his employer. Then the owner of the house felt insulted, and became incensed. So he ordered his servant, 'Go out immediately into the streets and back-alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.'
22. In a short while the servant responded, 'Sir, what you've ordered has been done, but there is still room at your table.'
23. Undaunted, the host told his servant, 'All right then...go out to the dirt roads and country lanes, and compel the rest of them to come in...drag them in if you have to...I want my house to be full!'"
24. Then Jesus said, "I tell you the truth...not one of those who were privileged to be originally invited to My feast will get so much as a taste of the food at My Kingdom-banquet."
25. Right after this, a huge crowd was walking along with Jesus on a particular day, and He stopped, turned to them, and said,
26. "Listen...if anyone comes to Me and does not make God his or her top priority, he or she can't be My disciple. Let me put it this way...if you don't have a relative disregard for your parents, wife, husband, children, or siblings, in comparison with your attitude and affection toward God...even if you love your own life more than Him...you can't really follow Me.
27. And whoever does not persevere and carry his or her own cross, even as I carry Mine, can't be My true disciple.
28. I mean, which of you, planning to build a building on your farm, or for your business, doesn't first sit down and calculate the cost to see whether or not you have sufficient means to finish it?
29. You know full well that if you don't do that, when you've laid the foundation and are unable to complete the structure, everyone who sees it will begin to mock and jeer at you.
30. They'll say, 'This man began to build something, but was not able to finish what he started.'
31. Or, to put it another way, what king going out to engage in war with another king will not first sit down and consider the big picture. No, he'll take counsel with his advisers to see whether he is able, even with ten thousand men, to meet the one who opposes him with possibly twenty thousand?
32. And, if after the war-counsel has examined the situation from every angle, he realizes that it just can't be done, he devises another strategy. When the other king is still very far away, he sends an envoy to appease him, and begins peace talks with the enemy.
33. The bottom line is this for any and all of you...if you do not forsake all, or if you're not at least willing to do whatever has to be done for the Kingdom...you just can't be My disciple.
34. Look...salt is good...in fact, it's an excellent thing when it's used properly. But if salt loses its strength and becomes flat, how can its saltiness ever be restored?
35. It's not fit for anything....completely useless. I'm speaking in abstract terms, but I ask you to listen with real comprehension...hear this with your spiritual ear."