Story 138: Status in the Kingdom

Luke 14:1-24catering food table set decoration

The Pharisees were looking for a way to accuse Jesus. If only He would do something that they could use against Him…if only they could get Him to break the Law. Then they could humble Him before the nation, and His troublesome voice would be silenced. So they contrived to draw Him out on the Sabbath. Many stories were told of Jesus violating their Sabbath rules. Surely if they brought a man who needed healing, Jesus would not be able to resist taking care of him. There was something about Him that could not resist the chance to help the broken.

So Jesus was invited into the home of a powerful Pharisee of great influence and name. Other Pharisees joined them. They came in with their fine clothes and their elegant words, each seeking to take the proper position of power at the table to show the honor that their status demanded.

Imagine how simple and contemptible Jesus must have seemed to them in His common carpenter’s clothes? Imagine how His calloused feet and simple village ways must have irked them. How could this country bumpkin have won such popularity with the people? Where did He get His power to heal, and where did He learn to talk the way He did? It was infuriating that this young Man refused to show respect for the protocols and positions of power long established in Israel.

As Jesus came in, there just happened to be a man who suffered from a disease called dropsy right there in front of Him.

Jesus didn’t hide the fact that He knew exactly what the religious leaders were up to. He turned to the scribes and Pharisees and asked, “‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day or not?’” They didn’t say a word. I wonder why? Perhaps it is because they had learned that it was better not to try to pick an argument with Jesus.

So Jesus turned to the man and touched Him. He was healed. Then He sent the man home.

The leaders had some choices. They could have allowed their hearts to be amazed at the healing. They could have rejoiced. They could have repented from their anger and pride against the One who healed him.

Instead, the leaders saw it as a chance to harm the Healer. It shows how hard their hearts were towards Jesus, which means their hearts were hard towards God. It also shows how hard their hearts were toward their fellow people.

Jesus said to them, “‘If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?’” The Pharisees had nothing to say to this obvious truth, so they kept silent.

As the men took their seats at the meal, each worked to make sure that he had the place of highest honor possible for himself. For the Jewish people, the place where you sat around the table said many things about how highly esteemed you were in the eyes of the host and in the eyes of society. Each man wanted to claim the place of highest dignity possible.

Little did their blind eyes see that the Son of the Living God…the One most worthy of honor and praise…was sitting in the very same room, utterly careless of which seat He was given. The honors of this world meant little to Him. He was there to serve.

Jesus also knew that one day, He would be sitting at the right hand of His Father in the throne room of Heaven.   If these men had any spiritual insight at all, they would have offered Jesus the seat of highest honor. They would have listened to His every word with humble, repentant hearts. They would have declared to the nation of Israel and to the world that He was the Savior.

Instead, Jesus watched them in their selfish pursuits. Then He told them a parable:

“‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this man your seat.” Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”’”

Luke 14:8-11

Wow. What a gentle way to help these men understand how to act with humility and grace. What a wise word for us as well as we move out in our world and make choices about how we will relate to others.

Then Jesus turned to His host. There he was, a prominent man, surrounded by other influential men of power and name and fortune. These were the guests that he valued…the ones that made him feel honored and important.  This was the world he wanted to live in. But it was not the world of God’s Kingdom. Jesus said:

“‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite you friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’”

Luke 14:12-14

Jesus’ parable was such a clear rebuke.  Imagine if they obeyed Him.  What if they started having dinners where they invited the poor and fed them well?  Imagine if they helped the crippled into their homes and washed their feet.  It is such a beautiful image that it is impossible to deny it’s goodness.  Yet the world has heard Christ’s message for 2,000 years and it is still a rare thing to see.

Imagine how uncomfortable Jesus had made everyone in the room. Their own selfishness and greed was being laid out before them by the Man they were trying to have killed. His clean, pure goodness showed the utter shabbiness and filth of their hearts. It was true they had brought a lame man to the dinner, but only to use him to trap Jesus. How kind, persevering, and patient Jesus was with these men of such arrogance and distortion.

Why? Why did Jesus keep trying? What did He see that we cannot? We can see the answer in the words of Christ Himself. He was continually offering the better way, the cleansing of sin and the way of repentance. These men could turn around and be changed, if they would only follow Him! They could fling open their doors to the poor and shine the love of God. They could change their nation! They could embrace their Messiah.

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