The Review and Herald


March 3, 1896

Christ's Words at the House of the Pharisee


Christ was invited to be a guest at the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath day. Some of the chief men of the Jewish nation were present on this occasion, and Jesus had accepted the invitation, in order that he might improve the opportunity of speaking words of truth, that like precious seed would drop into the hearts of those who were prepared to receive it. But the “Pharisees watched him,” for there was a certain man before him who had the dropsy, and they were looking for some occasion that would afford them an excuse for accusing him. Jesus knew their thoughts, and “answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? And they held their peace.” They had counseled among themselves concerning this occasion, and had said that no doubt Jesus would do as he had done in times past,—would have compassion on this afflicted man, and heal him on the Sabbath day. If he did this, they would condemn him for violating the Sabbath law. Jesus knew their reasoning, but “he took him, and healed him, and let him go” He could read the intents of their hearts, and he answered their unspoken thoughts, saying: “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things.” RH March 3, 1896, par. 1

The manner in which Christ anticipated their question was inexplainable, and they were so perplexed by his manner of dealing with them that they could not carry out their plans of accusing him, taking him before the council, and pronouncing him worthy of death. With these words he passed by their accusations, and put forth a parable to those that were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms. He said to them: “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher; then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” RH March 3, 1896, par. 2

Some who heard this important lesson felt the force of Christ's words, and put into practise the principles which he announced. The wise man had spoken these same words hundreds of years before: “A man's pride shall bring him low; but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.” Jesus had said to his disciples: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” RH March 3, 1896, par. 3

In inviting Christ to this feast on the Sabbath day, the lawyers and Pharisees had thought to awe him with their greatness and dignity. They represented the religious instructors of the day, and were among the chief men of Jerusalem. But Christ had just pronounced a woe upon Jerusalem, pointing out the manner in which they had used the servants of God, and would treat the Lord they professed to serve. He had said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” He had also spoken in reproof to those who had made the feast, saying: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” RH March 3, 1896, par. 4

These words came altogether too close to suit the self-righteous, ostentatious dignitaries who were at the feast; and one of the self-conceited Pharisees, endeavoring to close the channel of such remarks, exclaimed, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” These words seemed to be in line with the remarks of Christ, but they were spoken with the purpose of breaking up his conversation. Under the guise of piety, this man thought to turn the conversation away from the close personal application which the Saviour gave it, to vague generalities which would affect no one for good. But the Lord read the heart of this pretender as an open book, and fastening his eyes upon him, he continued his remarks as though he had not recognized the design of this man to stop his conversation: “Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it; I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and showed his Lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.” RH March 3, 1896, par. 5

Our Lord presented this parable to search the man's feigned sanctity, and to make manifest the fact that he had no true appreciation of the kingdom of heaven. The religious teachers of the Jewish nation were zealous in their professions of godliness, while they refused to be doers of the word of God. They knew that this parable was spoken against them. One of their number had declared that those who ate bread in the kingdom of God should be blessed, but at the same time they were refusing the invitation to the feast that had been prepared for them. How difficult a matter it was to find guests for the table which the Lord had provided! In the parable he showed them that the first and second invitations had been given them by the prophets and by John the Baptist, but that they had made worldly enterprises and interests an excuse for refusing to accept the invitation. They were professing to look for the Messiah, and yet were misinterpreting the Scriptures in regard to his advent and work. They did not recognize him when he appeared among them, and proclaimed the blessing that would come upon those who accepted his invitation to the spiritual feast of truth. Around the family board, when breaking their daily bread, many uttered the words, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God;” and yet how few respected the gracious invitation to partake of the heavenly feast provided for them at infinite cost. Jesus represented the matter in its true light, and showed that in order to furnish his table with guests, he would have to send out his invitations into the highways and byways, to the lame, the poor, and the outcast. He would have to press his invitation upon men, and by the manifestation of redeeming love, compel them to come in. RH March 3, 1896, par. 6

Those who were sitting at the table understood the parable, and knew that their cases were represented by the different classes who began to make excuse; but they closed their eyes to the convincing facts, and would not believe that the threatened retribution would come upon them. They continued to despise the message of warning. RH March 3, 1896, par. 7

Jesus had spoken these words in answer to a self-righteous Pharisee who counted himself among those who should eat bread in the kingdom of God, but the lesson of warning given to him had a general application. The invitation of mercy had been refused by the Jewish nation, and the message was to be sent to the highways and hedges,—to the whole Gentile world. The way in which the message was treated in that age is an illustration of the way in which it is treated in every age of the world. The very same means are used in presenting the truth in every generation, and the same excuses are offered in refusing the invitation. Some declare that they cannot follow Christ, because to do so would interfere with their business interests. Others urge the difficulties that would arise in their social relations should they obey the commandments of God. They say they cannot afford to be out of harmony with their neighbors, acquaintances, and relatives. They make light of the message, but the Master of the feast regards their flimsy excuses as contempt of his invitation of mercy. These apologies which men offer for refusing the invitation to the heavenly supper will appear again in their true character in the day of God. The rich feast of God's grace has been provided at infinite cost, and an invitation to that feast confers special honor upon the human race. Those who accept the invitation are authorized and commissioned of God to extend it to every creature. Though the invitation was at first given to the Jewish nation, it was to be extended to all the world. Christ presents the character of the feast to which we are invited. He says: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.... Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.... It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Shall we not accept the invitation to the gospel feast, feed upon Christ, and thus have everlasting life? RH March 3, 1896, par. 8