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Humbling the Exalted--Exalting the Humble

Grace To You / John MacArthur
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May 24, 2024 4:00 am

Humbling the Exalted--Exalting the Humble

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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May 24, 2024 4:00 am

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He speaks to them always about the sin of hypocrisy and pride. He unmasks their evil intentions toward Him and yet there is a mercy in what He says because it is also a call for them to repent, being unmasked if they can only see the truth of who they are. They can turn and come to Him and enter the kingdom. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. What would you do if you were invited by the President of the United States to a state dinner at the White House? Well, Jesus experienced something similar during His earthly ministry. We find one example in Luke 14 where Jesus dines with some of the most powerful influencers in Israel, men who in fact were among the Lord's greatest enemies. What did Jesus say to these men, the Pharisees?

Well, one thing is certain, He didn't pander to His hosts. He rebuked them, telling a parable about another banquet and teaching a hard lesson on humility. So why did He speak in a parable and how did Jesus' words apply to you? Find out as John MacArthur continues his study on Grace to You, titled, Stories with Purpose. Here's John with today's lesson. Luke 14, 7 through 14. Some of you will remember some years back a very famous incident with a religious cult leader by the name of Jim Jones.

It's become pretty much legendary. Jim Jones led his followers down to a South American country known as Guyana and there he managed to convince them to all drink Kool-Aid laced with cyanide and hundreds of people committed suicide in a mass demonstration of how effective a leader Jim Jones was. What happened that day in Guyana when all of those people, men, women and children, committed suicide and believed that they were following Jim Jones into heaven was really a parable, it was really a metaphor, really a picture.

In fact, it was a very dramatic and unforgettable picture of what all false leaders do to their followers. The real tragedy of Jonestown was not that all those people died physically. The real tragedy was that they died eternally.

The real tragedy was not that their bodies were left in the South American jungle, the real tragedy was their souls will spend eternity in eternal hell, everlasting punishment. But Jim Jones is no solitary monster, by the way, he is no solitary figure, though there have been, I suppose, few who have been so dramatic in the way they have led their followers to physical death. All false teachers, in effect, do the same thing spiritually. The great tragedy of false leaders is that they lead people into hell. And like so many in the history of the world who follow false teachers, the Jews trusted their religious leaders. They trusted their religious leaders with their lives as people do today. All across the planet and always since there has been religion, people have put their souls in the hands of their trusted religious leaders who like Jim Jones lead them down the path to eternal destruction. And the leaders of the Jews were no different. The people expected to follow their leaders into heaven and instead they followed their leaders into hell. That is standard for people in a religion. They trust their leaders. They expect that their leaders know the path to life, that they know the way to heaven. But the horrible reality is, people follow their religious leaders away from God forever. There is only one way to heaven and that is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

He alone is the Savior and the true gospel is the only way to enter heaven. The leaders of Israel, as they had done throughout the Old Testament, led their people into judgment and they were doing it again during the ministry of Jesus Christ. Chapter 13 ends, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, you have always done it this way.

How often I wanted to gather your children together just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you would not have it. Behold your house is left to you desolate. This is their history. Kill the prophets that are sent from God with the truth.

Stone the messengers that come from heaven with the message of salvation. They will take this all the way to the point where they will kill the Son of God, the Messiah Himself and the people will do it under the leadership of their trusted religious leaders. This is nothing new.

This is the way it always is. People follow their false leaders into deception and lies and destruction. We have come to understand that the leaders of the people during the time of our Lord were a group called the Pharisees and though there were only six thousand of them, they were the influencers. Pharisee comes from a word that means separated. They found their prominence before Christ. They found it in a period between the Old and the New Testament called the intertestamental period. They rose to prominence in that time when Greek culture was having tremendous inroads into Israel and into the thinking of the Jewish people and they wanted to pull the people back from the influences of pagan culture. They were the fundamentalists.

They are a kind of branch of the Hasidim, the pious ones. They opposed the encroaching influence of Greek and Roman culture, especially under Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek ruler who did such horrific things in Israel. Their arch rivals in Jewish society were a group called the Sadducees. They were wealthy, the Sadducees were. They were aristocratic. They were priests and Levites at the top of the sort of social food chain. While the Pharisees were middle class and they were lay people, but they had the influence with the people. And even though they knew their movement needed to reach the people, they treated the people with a great measure of contempt, as we read in John 7 49.

They viewed the people in a condescending fashion as contemptuous and ignorant and beneath them. But at the same time, they felt the responsibility to the Law of God to protect the people from the encroaching influences of pagan idolatry. It was 70 A.D. after our Lord had gone back to heaven and three decades later or so when the temple was destroyed. With the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. and the destruction of the city, the Sadducees disappeared from history because they basically were concentrated in the temple. They were concentrated in the leadership of the nation and when the temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was destroyed, it was the end for them. That left one other somewhat well-known group called the Zealots. They were the terrorists. They went around stabbing Romans, as we know. They had a revolt in the year 135 A.D. and it was called the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

It was crushed and the Zealots were eliminated. The Pharisees then in the second century became the dominant Jewish leadership. The dominant viewpoint of Judaism was a Pharisaic viewpoint. They codified that in writings called the Mishnah. You may have heard of the Mishnah. It is the written compilation of the oral Law, the oral rituals and the oral tradition.

They finally wrote it all down. The Mishnah when it was all written down in that second century sealed their leadership. Sadducees were gone, Pharisees were gone, the Essenes were gone and Phariseeism is synonymous with historic Judaism. From the second century on, Phariseeism is Judaism and today Orthodox Judaism is the vestiges of Phariseeism.

So they have been around a long time. And so because they captured the people through the synagogues. They were the ones that got into the synagogues, disseminated their teaching in the synagogues and synagogues were the grass roots, local meeting places where the people went to school and were taught. At the time of Christ, they were ritualized, they were external but their hearts were not changed, they were full of pride. As I said, they were condescending even to the people they were trying to reach and they were hypocritical. Jesus blistered them in Matthew 23 with the worst kind of denunciation He gave to anybody. They became the arch-hypocrites and Jesus denounced them for it. In fact, they were so hypocritical, and this is almost humorous if it weren't so sad, that the Jewish Talmud...the Jewish Talmud which is the compilation of rabbinic writings from antiquity, lists seven classes of Pharisees, six of which are hypocrites. So even the Jewish rabbis saw them as hypocrites and certainly they were.

Jesus called them blind leaders of the blind, Matthew 15, 14, and truly they were. They went around making proselytes and Matthew 23, 15 says, they made them far more the sons of hell than they themselves were. Now naturally they came into conflict with Jesus. In fact, most of the conflict in the ministry of Jesus is with the Pharisees and their underlings, the scribes who were the legal experts that basically built the academic and interpretive foundation for Phariseeism. So as we know, studying the life of Jesus, He was ever and always in conflict with the Pharisees and the scribes, or lawyers. They saw Him as a threat to their popularity.

They saw Him having grass roots impact in synagogues and towns and villages and being a threat to their power base, a threat to their religious system, a threat to their viewpoints because He was swaying the people. Now our text is one of the confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes among many. And our Lord directs His words at them and while He minces no words, there is a measure of mercy in what He says. He speaks to them always about the sin of hypocrisy and pride. He unmasks their evil intentions toward Him and yet there is a mercy in what He says because it is also a call for them to repent, being unmasked if they can only see the truth of who they are, they can turn and recover and come to Him and enter the Kingdom. But they must humble themselves. And so Jesus directs His words at their pride and calls for humility. Let me read this section here in chapter 14 very quickly.

We'll start at verse 1 so you get the setting. It came about when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread. They were watching Him closely.

There in front of them was a certain man suffering from dropsy or edema. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? But they kept silent and He took hold of him and healed him and sent him away. And He said to them, Which one of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a well and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?

They could make no reply to this. And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him. And he who invited you both shall come and say to you, Give place to this man and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, Friend, move up higher. Then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted. And he also went on to say to the one who invited him, When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors lest they also invite you in return and repayment come to you.

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." Research at the home of a Pharisee. Jesus violating their Sabbath tradition but not violating the Law of God, there is no such prohibition for healing on the Sabbath in the Bible. This was their own embellishments. But He unmasked their hypocrisy by saying, You think I'm breaking your Law to heal this man who's drowning in this fluid in his body, but if you had a son or an ox that fell into a well of fluid and it was a Sabbath day, you'd get him out because you love your son and because your ox is worth money.

And He unmasked their hypocrisy and that's why they couldn't reply. Having done that, He then turns to speak in verse 7 and He speaks, it says, a parable. There are a couple of stories, a couple of scenarios that He paints here that are so fascinating. Let's just look at three things. First the illustration, then the assumption behind the illustration and then the application. Very simple.

The illustration. Jesus uses this social event on a Sabbath afternoon following the synagogue service in the morning where He has been invited to be a guest at the home of a Pharisee, not because they wanted to honor Him, but because they wanted to discredit Him. That's why they had the man with dropsy there right in front of Him. They wanted Him to violate the Sabbath so they could then have in the view of everyone a violation of the Law that would prove to everyone that He had no regard for the Law of God, no regard for the Law of Moses, no regard for the religious traditions of Judaism and therefore He could not be from God. So they were setting Him up. But in the end, they were unmasked as hypocrites and sat there in silence.

And so He had then commanded the attention of everyone. They had nothing to say and He had plenty to say. And so He says, does Luke, that Jesus began speaking a parable to the invited guests, the invited guests back in three lawyers and Pharisees.

They hung out and they didn't open up to embrace anybody outside their circle. They were the spiritually superior and they didn't like the riffraff to be in their midst. The only reason Jesus was there was to set Him up.

The only reason the sick man with edema which was believed to be related to sin, particularly sexual sin, or some horrible bodily uncleanness, the only reason they would allow an unclean man like that and a sinner which they believed was under the judgment of God in their midst was to be part of the setup to discredit Jesus. And so Jesus speaks to these Pharisees and their scribes a parable, a parableae. Now let me tell you what a parable is because it's very broad. I think sometimes you think of a parable and you think it's kind of an allegory.

It isn't. A parable has a variety of meanings. It is not an allegory. That is to say, it is not a kind of story where everything has a secret meaning. It's not a story where there's some mystical spiritual meaning that is the true meaning.

It's simply a story to make a point. It is a figurative story. It is a figurative example.

It is a metaphor. It is an analogy, a story that illustrates. And in this case, as typical in the use that Jesus gives to them, they are earthly stories that illustrate heavenly issues.

They are a simple story about something with which people are familiar that opens to their understanding something with which they are not familiar. This is just an earthly kind of behavior that illustrates a heavenly kind of behavior. As I said, the silence has set the stage for Jesus to speak.

The miracle has been done. The questions that they would not answer leave them in silence and He launches His teaching. And He does it, verse 7, when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table. While they were watching Him, as it says back in verse 1, watching Him closely, He was watching them. They were watching Him to try to catch Him in a violation of the Law. He was watching them for the moment when they would reveal their self-promoting hearts. And there it was, middle voice in the Greek, picking out for themselves the places of honor at the table. This is a mad Pharisaic scramble for the best seats.

Now if I can just give you a little bit of a background in terms of Jewish history. In later years they wrote a lot about this. Typically the table would be in the middle, it would be a long table and around the table would be people seated in a U-shaped fashion. There was only one head of the table and then down both sides to the far end.

It could be a long table or a series of tables so that it could be a long way. The host would sit in the middle at the head of the table and then in importance the guest would sit on his right and his left and then it would begin to flow all the way down to the least important people being way down at the other end. That's pretty much how it still is at important events. The places of honor were not marked with a sign.

They were determined by the host. But the nearer you were to the host, the more honor you had. And honor was a big thing to them. I mean, they lived in an honor-shame kind of world and that was a part of the culture itself. But in particular was a part of their perspective because they were desperately desirous of being elevated in the eyes of men. In Matthew chapter 23 and verse 5, they do all their deeds to be noticed by men.

That is an indictment of the Pharisees and the scribes. They do all their deeds to be noticed by men. They love the place, verse 6, of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues. And they love to be called rabbi and teacher and father and leader, and so forth.

They love that. And so there was this mad scramble to get the seats nearest to the host who was a prominent Pharisee. In Luke 11 42, woe to you Pharisees, you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb he says. And then in verse 43, woe to you again, you love the front seats in the synagogues.

They were into the front seat, the seats that were reserved for those to be honored. And this is...this is such an obvious characteristic that it appears a number of times in the Scripture. I'm thinking just here off the top of my head, Luke 20 46, beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes and love respectful greetings in the marketplaces and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets but who devour widows' houses and for appearance sake offer long prayers. It was all about appearance.

So here they are, a mad scramble to get the best seats nearest the host. The display gave the Lord the necessary parable to teach the truth that was so critical and at the same time a gracious truth as well. He gives them essentially what amounts to an indictment of their pride and an invitation to the Kingdom. If you go down in verse 15, he even says, "'Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the Kingdom.'" This is one of the guests who says this and he knows that Jesus has been talking about the Kingdom. I mean, His people got the message, the people sitting around, one of those reclining at the table says to Him, "'Blessed is everyone who eats bread in the King.'" They knew what He was talking about.

These illustrations had to do with the Kingdom of God and they knew it. Now how did you get the chief seat? How did that work? How did you get to the front? Well, Jesus explains how you get to the front because you have the capability to reciprocate. The verse 12, repayment come to you. This is how the whole system worked, okay? The host honored you because you honored Him.

That was the game they played. The closer to the host, the more important you were. Because the host honored you, you then had to honor the host.

If you show him honor, he'll show you honor. It was all about reciprocation. And so, in a sense, only the people who were able to reciprocate could scramble for the chief seats. The rest who didn't have what it took to reciprocate wouldn't want to be held to that standard.

So it was the more prominent ones, perhaps the more wealthy ones. It's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. The title of his current series here on Grace to You is Stories with Purpose. Now, John, you pointed out today that Jesus has a lot to say about false teachers, not only in his parables, but throughout his ministry. So talk about why Jesus did that. Why did he spend so much time warning his followers about false teachers? Because false teachers propagate damnable heresies, the Bible says. Because false teachers lead people astray. Because false teachers represent the kingdom of darkness and they are by design deceivers. It isn't just Jesus that warned against false teachers. You have a warning against false teachers starting in the garden. We ought to learn the ultimate false teacher, Satan himself, the arch deceiver, sent the whole human race catapulting into corruption by one act of deception on Adam and Eve. The devastating results.

And they've continued throughout all of human history. When our Lord stepped into the world, he just carried on the same divine concern over the damage, the deadly destructive damage that false teaching does. And he did correct it by teaching the truth.

And he also confronted it in a remarkable way. Jesus confronted false teachers with parables. That's right, with parables. One of the things his parables did was expose the false religious teachers of Judaism. If you think the parables are just nice stories about helping people and practical wisdom in life, you don't have any idea what they're about.

You're in the dark. They are stories of kingdom salvation. They are stories that expose bad theology, error, deception, false teachers, the work of Satan, and reveal God's divine way of salvation. I've written a book called Parables, subtitled The Mysteries of God's Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told. You'll never see the parables the same again, and you need to understand them correctly. It's a clear, in-depth analysis of 12 of the most famous parables, 200-plus page book titled Parables.

You can order one today. Thanks, Jon. And friend, the parables are tales with profound truth about salvation and eternal life. Jon's book, simply titled Parables, can help you grasp that life-changing truth in a fresh way. And keep in mind that through Friday, May 31, nearly all of our resources are available for 25% off the regular price. So take advantage and order the Parables book today. You can order by calling our customer service line at 800-55-GRACE or by visiting our website, And again, the discount pricing doesn't apply only to the book Parables.

For a limited time, nearly everything we sell is discounted 25% off. It's a sale we trust will make it easier for you to get your hands on Jon's books, commentaries, and study Bibles. Again, to order Parables or any other resource from Grace to you, call us at 800-55-GRACE or shop online at And while you're online, keep in mind there are thousands of free resources there for you to use. You can download over 3,600 sermons, and that includes all eight messages from Jon's current study, Stories with Purpose, for free in MP3 format. Transcripts for those messages are also available free of charge at Now for Jon MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Be sure to join us for Grace to You television this Sunday, Direct TV Channel 378, and then be back on Monday when Jon continues unlocking the parables of Jesus in his series, Stories with Purpose. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-24 05:40:01 / 2024-05-24 05:49:52 / 10

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