Grace For The Journey
Our passage today centers upon a dinner invitation. I like food and I like to read about food, so I am immediately drawn into this text as Jesus is invited to eat in the home of one of the rulers of the Pharisees. There are other Pharisees there as we learn later and there are a number of scribes there, too. There were a lot of religious people there, most of them opposed to the teachings of Christ. But Jesus has been invited to dinner. What the religious host and all of his friends do not know is that, while they have invited Jesus to eat with them, He has brought a meal of His own. Jesus has brought spiritual food with Him and He is serving it up through what He says and does. That is really what we have here in these verses. Really, the dinner scene goes from verse 1 all the way to verse 24, but this morning we’re going to be looking at roughly the first half of this dinner scene, verses 1-14.
In keeping with the theme of food here, I want to treat this text as something of a sandwich. Now do not get hungry on me! There is a recipe here for Christian living and there are three main ingredients. I want to study about these three ingredients of the sandwich and treat them like two pieces of bread with meat in the middle. The main part of the sandwich is what is in the middle, everyone knows that. All three parts are necessary, but it is what’s in the middle that really makes it, so I want to spend the greater portion of our time talking about the second ingredient.
If you will allow that imagery, I want to share these three ingredients for Christian living. Every Christian, every person born twice – physically and then spiritually – by God’s grace will demonstrate these behaviors.
First . . .
I. We Must Have Mercy: Verses 1-6.
Verse 1 says, “Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely.” The fact that these religious people were watching Jesus closely suggests that the whole thing may have been a setup. Some have referred to the scribes and Pharisees as “The Let’s Get Jesus Committee.” Back in chapter 6 Jesus had healed a person on the Sabbath day and they did not like that; they said healing was “work” and you are not supposed to work on the Sabbath. It looks like the perfect storm: you have got all these powerful religious leaders present, gathered together on the Sabbath day, and you have got Jesus there, now all you need is someone who needs to be healed.
Verse 2 tells us, “And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy.” Dropsy in the Greek is the word “hydropikob.” The root “hydro” is the word we use to refer to water. This condition was some kind of disease in which various parts of the body became very swollen with fluid. It would have been obvious that this man was very sick, if not critically or terminally ill. Jesus knows they are all watching, so, verse 3 says, “And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’” Note that it says, “And Jesus, answering.” He “answered,” but they had not asked anything – or had they? Jesus knows all things. He is God. He knows their thoughts; He answers their thoughts. He asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” What is their answer? Verse 4 tells us, “But they kept silent.” By this point in Luke’s Gospel, they are learning that you cannot win an argument with the Master.
Verse 4 goes on to say, “And He took him and healed him, and let him go.” I would love to have witnessed that healing! Then verse 5 tells us that Jesus, again knowing what they are thinking, says, “Then He answered them, saying, ‘Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?’” If something you care about has fallen into a pit you would get them out as soon as possible.
Verse 6 says, “And they could not answer Him regarding these things.” They go from being silent in verse 4 to being unable to answer in verse 6. They go from “would not” to “could not.” Jesus is the Master of the conversation here.
The framework of the Old Testament Law; the Books of Moses, allowed for acts of mercy on the Sabbath day. Jesus’ teaching here has less to do with whether it is right to heal on the Sabbath than the fact that true followers of the Lord should show mercy towards others. That is really the takeaway point here. We should have mercy.
The scribes and Pharisees had allowed their concern
For ritual and religion to blind them to the
Need to show mercy towards others.
The Law requires love that leads to action.
One of the best ways to honor the Sabbath then, is to heal someone! How merciful is that?
Now this point is very similar to the latter point, the third point – or the other piece of bread in our sandwich – so I want to jump down to the last two verses of our text and look at point three before we address the meat in the middle. I realize this is going to stress some of us out, those of us who are neat and orderly, to have to write down point three before we write down point two may get us thoroughly out of sorts. Hang in there!
The third ingredient in the recipe for Christlike behavior is, point three . . .
III. We Must Have Charity: Verses 12-14.
We must have love, a love for all people. Look at verses 12 through 14, “Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Jesus tells his dinner guests, when you are having one of these feasts, rather than inviting the “easy” people: relatives, friends, rich people; rather than inviting them, invite the “not so easy” people: the poor, maimed, lame, and blind. Now, of course, Jesus does not mean that one can NEVER invite his or her relatives or friends, and so forth, but that the blessing is found in inviting people who are in no position to reciprocate your kindness.
Note verse 14 again, “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” The other people are in a position to repay you. You invite your friends, relatives, and rich people to your parties, they will probably invite you to their parties. In fact, that is the very reason why some people invite the rich to their homes, that they might be invited in to their home, to rub elbows with popular, friendly, rich, easy people. If that is what you want to live for, then you will receive that earthly reward of social status, popularity, and reciprocal kindness.
But Jesus says if you want a heavenly reward, be in the habit of showing charity and love to the less fortunate, to the outcasts; poor, maimed, lame, and blind. They will not be able to “repay” you, but, note the last part of verse 14, “you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” You will receive your heavenly reward on the day of judgment.
How natural does this come to you, showing love to the outcasts? Showing love to the less fortunate co-workers, showing love to the less fortunate boy or girl at school? Every true Christian will do this. It is the worldly who have their own parties and seek to position themselves among the popular, the well-liked, and the rich and famous. Those of the kingdom, however, true followers of Christ, will show love to all people. Someone said that in God’s kingdom,
But, wait! Me must take care NOT to show love to the outcasts so that everyone can see how truly “spiritual” we are! This would be the epitome of pride, the very thing we want to avoid.
And this is what is the real root of the problem.
Our failure to show mercy, our failure to show charity,
Comes most often because of a failure to have humility.
That is the second point. So go back to the space you left for point two and let’s look at this middle ingredient in the recipe for Christlike behavior.
II. We Must Have Humility: Verses 7-11.
Humility really is the key ingredient, the main thing, the meat-in-the-middle of the bread. Apparently after this man is healed of dropsy, there is something of an awkward silence and then the scribes and Pharisees make their way into the dining room to eat. Jesus – ever a keen observer of human nature – watches how they hurry and scurry to get the best seats. Verses seven to nine tells us, “So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: ‘When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place..” The term “best places,” in verse 7 is literally “first seats.” The image is one with which most of us can relate. If you have ever been in a position to wait on a shuttle bus at a theme park or at the airport, there is a good bit of hurrying and scurrying when that shuttle makes its way to the curb and a crowd of 150 people start jockeying for 15 lousy seats. It is something of an embarrassing trait of the human race, isn’t it? And I am right there with the rest of you, getting on that shuttle seems like the most important act of our lives. God save us from waiting another 20 minutes for the next shuttle!
That is a bit the way these scribes and Pharisees were scurrying to the seats for the dinner. Jesus watched them jostling with one another for the best seats at the feast. The setting suggests there may have been the arrangement of furniture like the Roman triclinium, three couches set around a central table. These reclining couches were U-shaped and the best seat – the seat of honor – was the one right in the middle of the U. Imagine rushing over to get the prime seat in the middle of the U and then other people getting in on the right and the left so that you are hemmed-in and then the host comes and tells you, “Uh, actually that seat is for Bob.” How embarrassing! Your face is flushed and you hang your head while everyone awkwardly and uncomfortably moves to one side so you can get out of the U and take your seat back in 59F!
In verses 10 and 11, Jesus tells us, “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place (sit in seat 59F first!), so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.” For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” When you are invited to a dinner, take a seat in the lowly places – not in false humility, acting all spiritual-like, you know, “Oh, I’m not worthy to sit in the best seats!” That is being as prideful as sitting in the best seats. Just sit down! Make like you are a kid again at the family get-togethers on the holidays. If you are family’s like mine, all the important people were in the fine, dining room with the gold silverware and plates used just once a year. We kids sat at the rickety old card table in the rec-room with paper plates and plastic–sporks! So what; we were happy. Jesus says, “Humble yourself and you will be exalted.” On the other hand, exalt yourself and you will be – what? – humbled . . . or even, humiliated. Humiliation is not the same as humility. Humiliation is what happens if you do not have humility. That is a good anecdote, isn’t it? Humiliation is what happens when you do not have humility.
If you like Greek grammar, you will find it significant that these verbal phrases in verse 11– “will be humbled” and “will be exalted” – are what scholars call “theological passives.” In other words . . .
You do not do them yourself,
They are done to you by God.
You are passive in it. If you don’t humble yourself, then God will see that you are humbled. On the other hand, if you do humble yourself, then God will see that you are exalted. Exaltation may happen in this life, but it may not happen until the life to come. But the key is, show humility. True followers of Christ are in the habit of humbling themselves. It’s the meat-in-the-middle. It’s the main thing.
Remember that humility is NOT the main thing in the world in which we live; humility is not natural in our world. By default, we are not humble people. We do not humble ourselves. We exalt ourselves. So, Jesus’ axiom here in verse 11 about humbling ourselves is actually at odds with what is believed to be popular, trendy, and right. Pastor Kent Hughes observes:
“Jesus’ axiom (of having and showing humility) is equally penetrating and appropriate today–because it is not believed! Washington, DC doesn’t believe it, despite its nods to the likes of Billy Graham and Mother Teresa. The Democratic and Republican Parties do not believe it. Listen to the campaign rhetoric. Professional athletes do not believe it. Business executives do not believe it. Has Wall Street ever advertised executive positions as especially available to the humble and lowly of heart?”
It is true, isn’t it? We are always tempted to exalt ourselves because that is the way our culture rolls. Exalt yourself and then you will succeed. Work hard, play tough and then you can write a book entitled, Humility and How I Attained It! There is something offensive about that kind of self-exalting attitude, isn’t there? Something repulsive about pride to those who are striving to enter the narrow gate of the kingdom.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”