By Berry Kercheville
In Luke 14, Jesus was invited to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. Odd, wouldn’t you think? Even more odd was that there was a man there who had dropsy. A Pharisee had invited a man with dropsy to his dinner party? But the answer comes quickly: “They were watching Him carefully.” Sure enough, this was another trap. It was the Sabbath and these Pharisees wanted to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus did not blink. He healed the man, sent him away (he wasn’t welcome anyway), and then taught the guests concerning the proper understanding of the Sabbath. The silliness of the Pharisees’ rule was that the whole purpose of the Sabbath was to remember how God had rescued Israel from Egyptian bondage (Deut. 5:15). Since the very purpose of the Sabbath was to remember God’s rescue of His people, why would there be any restrictions on rescuing a man from his infirmity?
This brings up one of the major points of all that Jesus taught. God is about rescuing people. God established His kingdom so that people could be rescued. God’s people are to be about the business of rescuing others. Here were the elite Jews of the day, the leaders of God’s people, and yet they had missed the very purpose of God. God is a rescuer, and those who want to be like God will also be rescuers.
But the conversation was not over. Jesus followed up with a parable when He noticed the dinner guests vying for the best seats. Jesus rebuked those who sought honor for themselves instead of choosing a lower seat and allowing others to provide the honor. But note that this was a parable. Jesus was not simply teaching about the kinds of seats one seeks at a dinner party. The true issue had to do with the way we think. If our interest is in self-exaltation, we are doomed as a follower of God. In all areas of our life we will become men-pleasers instead of God-pleasers. Loving God more than self is not befitting a rescuer.
Jesus then rebuked the man who held the feast. I bet that went over well!
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors … But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:12-13)
Jesus is not simply giving a rule of etiquette. “Okay guys, make sure to include everyone when you invite!” The true message again has to do with how we see ourselves; it is about our lack of humility. A person who thinks highly of himself is “too good” to invite those who are seen as outcasts. It is a problem of humility and a problem of truly loving others. This kind of person will never rescue the helpless.
To illustrate, consider how we handle our relationship with those who do not fit in with our “standards.” To us, some people are, to say it kindly, “quirky” or different. If the person is not a Christian, there is little chance we would invite them to our dinner party. After all, he or she might make things uncomfortable with their quirkiness. Besides, our dinners are for our friends and especially for other believers. We are comfortable with them. If this person is a member of our local church we might invite him or her to a dinner, but only because it was our duty to be nice. But there is a difference between learning to truly love and enjoy people that we may initially think quirky, and just being “nice” to them. The problem is, they know the difference too, and soon they, as the man with the dropsy, find some place else to go.
Listen to the words of Peter:
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV)
Few things are more strongly commanded in scripture than loving others. Peter talks about fervency in love. It isn’t casual or to be shown with prejudice. Paul said, “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own sight” (Rom. 12:16). John said, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Local churches are too often filled with people who are all alike. People who are not within a narrow band of “typical” feel unaccepted. When they leave, the rest of us scratch our heads, wondering what their problem was. Our actions were usually not purposeful; we were just acting human – the kind of human that is not God-like. The problem was, we did not notice how we lacked fervent love, a love that accepts and learns to enjoy anyone and everyone. The problem was we aren’t acting like rescuers; we missed the character of God and the nature of His kingdom. No, we were too busy enjoying our “friends, brothers, and relatives” (Luke 14:12).
I wonder how glad the ruler of the Pharisees was about inviting Jesus to his dinner party? The mood surely changed. Doesn’t seem to be anyone laughing and gobbling his food any more. By the way, where is that guy with dropsy?