Luke 14: 1 – 14 Jesus at a Pharisee’s house
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’ But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.
Then he asked them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into the well on a Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?’ And they had nothing to say.
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, 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 person 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 honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; 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.’
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Jesus re-affirms his argument for healing on the Sabbath day. Healing is urgent; you wouldn’t leave your child or your ox down a well until sunset even to keep the Sabbath.
Jesus then tells a parable that emphasises the need for humility. When you enter the kingdom of God, take the lowest place and wait for your host, God the Father, to place you in a suitable position. The superficial meaning of this parable is that judgment of the self-important will be humiliation when they realise they’re not so significant after all. But I think as well that it’s a lead-in to the next piece of teaching.
Jesus says, “Don’t plan your social functions just with those whose patronage can help you. There is no merit in just entertaining those who can respond in kind. Instead, invite those who can’t return your hospitality because they have nothing, neither money nor status.”
You could read this as a general call to charity towards the least well-off, and that’s certainly part of it. However, I think it goes well beyond that. I think Jesus is speaking pretty much literally. We need, for our soul’s sake, to socialise with those who have nothing, those who are social outcasts. If we don’t, we risk losing our compassion, for how will we know what they are suffering if we don’t know them face to face? How will we know how best to help them unless we’ve heard their story?
And that’s where the previous parable hits home. We all need to enter the kingdom of God with humility. The task of feeding and befriending those who have little or nothing requires us to be humble, and to accept a menial role. It requires us to mix with those we may feel are beneath us – and we must open our hearts until we realise that to God, each one of us is precious. How dare we belittle anybody, when to God we are all precious?
This seems to me to be important, and it’s something at which I fail. I must give it serious thought and work out how I can do better. That’s a pretty feeble resolution but it’s the best I can manage right now. I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that I haven’t done your will and made friends with the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Please help me to do better.
In Jesus name, Amen