One of the leading Pharisees invites Jesus to dinner.
Seriously, when are they going to learn their lesson? These dinners never end well (rewind to 7:36-50 and 11:37-54).
The Pharisee's intention is probably not all that good. It's basically a way of keeping an eye on Jesus.
It happens to be the Sabbath—how convenient!—and a man with dropsy is there.
Jesus immediately brings up an old argument, "Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?" (14:3)
Of course, we already know what everyone involved thinks about this issue—check out 6:6-11 and 13:10-17 if you've forgotten.
Everyone's silent. Typical.
Jesus continues. Let's say your son or even your cow falls into a pit. You'll try to get them out of there even on a sabbath, right?
Again, no answer.
Jesus goes on the offensive with another illustration of the highbrows' inadequacy.
Jesus observes how all the guests were clamoring for the best seats upon their arrival.
Let's say you're invited to a wedding reception. You don't go up and sit next to the bride's mom, do you? We sure hope not.
Why? Someone like the bride's brother, who's more important than you, will arrive, and the groom will have to ask you to move so that the bride's brother can sit where he's supposed to.
Then you'll have to go sit with the DJ next to the exit. Everyone will think you're an idiot, and you'll be really embarrassed.
You should go to the party with a totally different strategy: sit with the DJ next to the exit first. Then there's no place to move but upward.
The person who sent you the invitation will lead you to a much better seat, and everyone will think, "Wow, what an important fellow!"
Jesus is really on a roll, and now he directs a little story to the host of the dinner party.
When you're throwing a big party, don't invite all your friends, relatives, and rich neighbors. The real reason you're doing that anyway is that you want them to return the favor. Then you can go to all of the cool parties.
Instead, you should invite all the people who can't repay you. But your favor will be returned at the end of time when the just are resurrected.
One of Jesus's co-recliners actually seems to agree for once and excitedly exclaims, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" (14:54).
This eggs Jesus on and he tells another story.
A man's planning a big party and sends out a ton of invitations. When the day comes, he sends forth his servant to round up all of those invited, "Come; for everything is ready now" (14:17). But each one of them has a reason why they are unable to attend.
The first guy's purchased a field and it's very urgent that he see what he bought.
The second guy's purchased five oxen and he wants to test them out.
The third guy just got married and he's got new responsibilities at home.
The servant returns and reports to his master that everyone's busy, which, naturally, doesn't go over well.
The master orders his slave to go forth into the city's squares and alleyways, where he is supposed to invite "the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame." When that's not enough, he brings even more people in.
The master concludes: "none of those invited will taste my dinner" (14:24).