Hardness of Heart II

We discussed the roots of Hardness of Heart in last week's article. This week, we will discuss Y'shua's remedy as found in Luke 14.

The setting is a dinner given by one of the leaders of the Pharisees on Shabbat. The action starts when Y'shua askes the assembly whether it is lawful to heal on Shabbat. The silence indicates that their answer is 'NO' but they don't have the courage to take Him on. He then heals a man of dropsy and launches into a series of lessons on pride and the cost of discipleship. The rest of Luke 14 must be read in the context of the initial healing. That healing is what shows the hardness of heart of the Pharisaic elite - at least those at the meal.

The stage being set, Y'shua gives a brilliant discourse on pride and hardness of heart beginning with the seating arrangements at the meal. Noting the guests' jockying for position at the table, He remarks that the proud will be humbled by the master of the house.(Lk 14:7-11) This is aimed directly at the Jewish leadership who would have assumed that their positions at the Great Banquet at the end would be very high.

He follows with an observation that the host has invited only those of a similar social status in the expectation that he will be repaid.(Lk 14:12-14) The clear implication here is that invitations to the Great Banquet will not be on the basis of the ability of the guests to repay the host. In addition to an expression of the grace of God, this is again a shot at the Pharisees and foreshadows the point of the next parable.

Next He tells a parable about a rich man who throws a great banquet and is snubbed by his friends.1(Lk 14:16-24) The snub infuriates the rich man who sends his servants out to bring in the 'the poor and crippled and blind and lame' of the house of Israel(implied). When that is not enough to fill his house, he sends his servant to the 'highways and hedges'. This second sweep goes beyond Israel to the nations.

In this parable the guests who snubbed the rich man are the religeous elites who believe that it is their presence which will make or break the Kingdom. The parable is also saying that they will reject Y'shua Himself just as the unworthy guests rejected the rich man. Notice that each of these examples deals with the effects of pride.

Next the scene shifts to a public place where Y'shua continues the lesson more pointedly, shifting His foil from the Pharisees to all those who would be His disciples. The section begins in Luke 14:26-27 and ends at Luke 14:33. Both the beginning and the end contain the phrase, 'cannot be my disciple'. Between those two bookends, are two parables. The first saying that no one would begin a tower without making sure he could finish it lest he be embarassed. The second says that no king would make war if he thought he would loose and so be embarassed.

If we notice that both of these parables deal with pride, we may infer that the enclosing conditions for discipleship also deal with pride. Y'shua says, "So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."(Luke 14:33) Notice the word, 'therefore'. In other words all that has preceeded points to this verse.

When He says, 'renounce all', He is referring specifically to pride. We each are our own dearest posession and we must get over that. If we cannot, our pride will harden our hearts and we will not be effective disciples. Consider Moshe, the humblest of men. He was also the closest to God and arguably the most influential man in history.

This is yet another place where God is counterintuitive. Those who are exalted in the Kingdom are the very ones who are most successful in humbling themselves.

1For a thorough discussion of the parable of the great banquet, see 'Through Peasant Eyes' by Kenneth E Bailey, Eerdmans, 1979.