Scripture: Luke 14:1-24
Last week we talked about Jesus sitting at the table with tax collectors and sinners. This week we find Jesus again at the table, but at the house of a prominent Pharisee with other lawyers.
The table Jesus sat at last week is like one you share with friends or family. This week Jesus is sitting at a work lunch or an interview dinner. All the eyes in the room are focused on Jesus and what he’s doing, scrutinizing his every action. They are looking closely at what Jesus is about, his priorities, what drives his actions.
Jesus addresses the room and asks if it is lawful to heal on the sabbath. When he gets no response, he heals a man right then and there, and immediately follows it with a question; wouldn’t you save your own animal on the Sabbath if something bad happened?
Jesus healed a man who in their eyes was guilty of greed and excess, which is why he suffered from swelling. He does this in the presence of those who are guilty of those same sins themselves, in their desire for status and prestige. He is challenging the priorities of the religious leaders by saying “you would save your animal today. How much more so should you value the life of another human?” Jesus is presenting them with an important choice on a day that is supposed to be dedicated to God, asking them: where are your hearts?
It can be easy to get our priorities mixed up. We do it all the time. We sacrifice our family to work harder, our weekends to different vices instead of healthy spiritual and physical practices, our relationships for mindless entertainment, the list could go on. What we prioritize shapes our actions and lives. As Christians, we are called to think deeply about the things we value most by examining our hearts and actions. What we do, and why we do it, matters.
We learned last week that during Jesus’ day who you ate with was of importance to your social status and purity. It was not simply who you ate with, but where you sat. Where you sat at a banquet event was of importance and a statement on your social status and prestige. It was common practice at this time for those who held high importance to show up late to an event. When this happened whoever held the place of honor would be asked to leave so as to give the seat to the more important guests.
Jesus speaks a parable of social wisdom to the context he is in, and then translates that wisdom into an invitation. Instead of caring about social status, Jesus is calling them to value human life – the poor, and outcasts, as the kingdom of God does. Following Jesus’ wisdom, the topic of the kingdom of God is brought up, which Jesus uses as a moment to teach on what God’s kingdom prioritizes.
In the parable the host, after having his guests reject his invitation, invites the poor, lame, and broken. Not only that he sends for outsiders and non-Jewish people in surrounding areas. The word “compel” we see used as they go to get more guests can be translated as “urge,” and might be connected to an oriental custom of the time “to lead by the arm”. The conclusion of the parable makes it clear there are those who accept the invitation and are a part of God’s kingdom who will take part in the blessing at the end of the age and those who reject it who will not be a part.
In the last verse the word “you” is addressed to the listeners of the story, not the servants in the story. This section is a clear distinction in choice by Jesus, those who follow him prioritize the kingdom of God above other things, such as social status. COVID-19, unlike anything else in recent history, has taught us that our actions affect one another. What we do and prioritize affects those around us and vise versa, the actions and priorities of others affects our lives. No doubt you’ve heard the phrase “social distancing” recently. The practice of social distancing isn’t just about us staying healthy, but to help others who are the most vulnerable in this world. Doctors are asking us to practice Christian faith, to care for others in this world more than ourselves.
What are the most important priorities in your life?
What have you spent the most energy and thought on?
What have your real priorities been recently?
Where does God and caring for others rank on your list of priorities?
What’s something you can do to help others in a season where social distancing is a reality?
Setting the Stage (Luke 14:1-6)
- Just like last week our scripture today is Jesus at the table. This time he is with lawyers and Pharisees at the home of a prominent Pharisee on the sabbath as they share a meal.
- Jesus begins the dinner by healing a man with dropsy (what would in modern day be called generalized edema) which is a swelling of different parts of the body due to excess fluid.
- This condition was seen as a result of the sin of excess and greed.
- Before healing the man, Jesus addresses the room and asks if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. With no response, he heals the man and immediately follows the healing with a question; wouldn’t you save your own animal on the Sabbath if something bad happened?
- As Jesus heals the man who in their eyes is guilty of greed and excess as he is surrounded by those who are guilty of doing that in their desire for status and prestige.
- He is challenging their priorities. You would save your animal, how much more so should you value the life of another human?
- Jesus is presenting a choice on a day that’s supposed to be dedicated to God. Where are their hearts?
Social Wisdom and Teaching (Luke 14:7-14)
- We learned last week that who you ate with was of importance to your social status and purity. It was not simply who you ate with but where you sat.
- Where you sat at a banquet event was of importance and a statement on your social status and prestige.
- It was common practice at this time for those who held high importance to show up to an event later. When this happened whoever held the place of honor would be asked to leave so as to give the seat to the more important guests.
- As Jesus in this moment speaks a word of ancient Jewish social wisdom (Proverbs 25: 6-7).
- This moment is also a presentation of a theme found elsewhere in the Bible, of Jesus teaching the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God. Those who humble themselves will be lifted up and those who exalt themselves will be humbled (Luke 18:14; Matthew 18:4; Matthew 23:12).
- After speaking the word of wisdom, Jesus tells the host that he should invite those who can not repay him.
- Instead of caring about social status, Jesus is calling him to value life and the poor and outcast as the Kingdom of God does, and be counted as those blessed at the end of times.
The Kingdom’s Fest
- Jesus has challenged them by addressing where they placed their values and challenged their priority on social status and prestige.
- The topic is brought up regarding the Kingdom of God, which Jesus uses to speak about God’s kingdom and the final banquet.