oday's meal with Jesus is the last he has with a Pharisee - so it's fitting its a chief Pharisee. It doesn't go well for the Pharisee, but it does for a man with dropsy. Dropsy is the old-fashioned name for oedema - water retention in the body often caused by kidney failure or heart problems
skin discolouration, aching, tender limbs, stiff joints, weight gain or weight loss, raised blood pressure and pulse rate. He's going to get healed, we are going to see some cross-cultural stuff that Brits probably miss and we're going to get encouraged to invite everyone to the party. So ready to dive in?
When is it right to heal the sick?
Well what do you think?
What a silly question! But it wasn't to the religious leaders of Jesus' day.
They had taken the OT law - that which the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 7:12 is holy, good and righteous. They had taken that and added to it, making it not just impossible, but burdensome and impossible. So that Jesus had to come to fulfil it, the first and only one ever. And the die on the cross, so that when we put our faith in Him, we too have died to the law and are not under it, but under grace.
So these leaders had taken the law that Jesus summed up as Love God and Love your neighbour and forgotten love and compassion and made it a bad thing to heal someone on the Sabbath because that's work. They'll lift their ox or child out of a well, but lay a hand on someone's shoulder to heal them.
So when is it right to heal the sick? When you love God and your neighbour.
In Luke 9 Jesus gave the 12 authority to heal the sick and in Luke 11 he gave the 72 the same authority to heal the sick. His last words before ascending to the right hand of the Father were go and make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.
In John 14 Jesus told his followers that He must ascend to the right hand of the Father so that the Spirit could come and inhabit us so that we could do great works than He did - greater means more!
i) So we have Authority to heal the sick in Jesus name
ii) We have our identity as children of God, dearly loved by the Gather who fills us with love and compassion for others
iii) We have the power of the Spirit residing in us - the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
When we read the red bits and the book of Acts, we find Jesus and his followers healing the sick whenever and wherever they find them and the challenge to go and do likewise.
I know that we haven't always seen people healed and I don't understand and there are passages I don't understand too. Anyone that has glib answers like not enough faith is just plain wrong at best and profoundly damaging too.
There are some things I know - God is love, God is good and some things I don't know - like why some don't get healed, this side of glory anyway. But I tell you what - what I do know helps me to make sense of the things I don't. The things I do know trump the things I don't and I am happy to let God be God!
Sad story of vicar going to visit a dying child who ran over his toddler and killed her on the drive. Awful, just awful. Why? And he shouted at the funeral There are thing I do know - God is love and they trump the things I don't.
God is love. God is good. God's kingdom is spreading and ever increasing towards the time when Jesus wraps this present age and makes a new heaven and earth for us with no more crying or pain. And until he comes - filled with His love, knowing that we have authority and the power of the Spirit we will heal the sick and make sure every encounter we have with people leaves them in no doubt that there is a God who loves them.
For some of you that's on the streets and for others it'll be with friends and colleagues.
I'm hungry for a culture where we are doing the stuff, where everyone is a witness and healing is part of that.
There's no one method or formula - otherwise we'd have the church of rubbing mud in people's eyes (actually they probably do in the USA) or any of the other ways that we read of in Scripture. Go with what fits you.
You don't need to work up your faith - it's not dependent on you. It's not faith in faith. It's not the size of my faith, it's the size of my God. a mustard seed size of faith, will be used by God.
A little bit of honour shame
Watching him carefully v1
- Pharisees wanting to look good
- Man who exclaimed "Blessed who eats bread in the kingdom of God" v15 - If you don't get the bread reference that's about a party and a feast. You either a) eat bad bread because you're British! b) need to grasp teh bread metaphor in the meals with Jesus that is leading towards the breasking of bread ceremony of the last supper
Pharisees had no love for the poor sick man, for them it was about the Law and being seen to be studying it, practicing it and being better at it than everyone else.
Last week we saw they love the best seats in the synagogue.
They were well trained in the OT law and look down on those that aren't or are too poor to be worried about such thing.
In the middle east then and now - honour/shame is a big thing
Honour is the worth or value that someone has both in their own eyes and in the eyes of the people around them.
There's two types of honour
Achieved honour - because you have done something that means people honour you and
Ascribed honour - where your are given honour without having done something
Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing your are flawed and therefore not worthy of love or belonging
So the man with dropsy would have been living in shame - when Jesus healed him, he gave him ascribed honour. Not just the amazing miracle of health but dignity and value in the eyes of others. The religious leader who are living in achieved honour and hoping for ascribed honour would have hated that, looking down on him for their betterment as the people God has chosen, at the exclusion of others.
So Jesus tells the story of the wedding feast - where even in our culture there's a top table for the family. And of course the nearer you are the top table the better your position or honour! Jan and I were once invited to her pen pals wedding - and we were the only people that were from out of town and when we sat down, it was pretty clear we were on the oddbods table - I couldn't get away quick enough.
Tom Wright has a lovely story about preaching on this passage. He says " Once, many years ago, I preached a sermon on this passage. I emphasized the extraordinary way in which Jesus tells his hearers to do something that must have been as puzzling to them as it is now. Don’t invite friends, relatives and neighbours – invite the poor and the disabled. The sermon had a strange effect. In the course of the next week my wife and I had received dinner invitations from no fewer than three people who had been in church that day. Which category of guest we came into we were too polite – or anxious – to ask."
You won't be the only one, who like me have been in that all been in that scenario, or am I really an oddball? No, don't answer!
In the story, people come to the wedding and jostle for the top places, looking for honour. But if you get it wrong, then there is some serious loosing face (that's a huge honour/shame culture thing) and you undergo the shame of being placed on the oddballs table.
At first glance this seems like some self-help advice - be humble, sit at the lowly table and you may get invited up - receiving some ascribed honour. And in one sense it is good advice!
But Jesus is making the deeper point that this jostling for ascribed honour doesn't work. Earning honour, earning God's favour, or thinking you have it because you are religious, a respected member of society, a churchgoer doesn't mean you are part of the kingdom of God. If you think you are in because of your position, or because you are a good person, you are going to get a rude awakening.
We can't earn God's favour. We can't achieve honour in the kingdom by our efforts, doing our best under the law.
The ten commandments or indeed the whole law - aren't a SAT's paper or GCSEs where they adjust the passmark depending on how that year group is doing. If you go for the law its 100%. Christianity is finding grace. Finding that you can't achieve honour, finding that we have lived in shame, dishonouring God by ignoring him. But fining that God loves you and made a way to take away your shame and give you ascribed honour - come be my adopted son or daughter. We get that not by working, being good, going to church. We get it by coming to Jesus and asking him to take away our guilt and shame because of what He did on the cross for us. Dying to take our shame and exchanging it for honour.
Who is invited?
The final story is about having a banquet
The first level of meaning is clear Jesus has been travelling around inviting people to God's great supper. The Feast that is the kingdom of God. The moment Israel has been waiting for has finally arrived. Those who have been long invited must hurry up and come and enjoy the feast!
The invited honoured guests, turn out to be not interested. They are too busy looking at new property, new animals or their new trophy wife. The poor, the disadvantaged, the disabled are delighted to be included.
Right at the start of Jesus ministry in Luke 4 Jesus stood up in a synagogue to read Isaiah 61 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.”
What's fascinating is what He missed out - judgement. Because his first coming and the season we are in now before He returns to judge the world is about good news to the poor, freedom for those in captivity to things that bind us, healing for the blind and favour. That's Jesus mission and it is our too.
that's the twist this story gives - if you are signing up to be part of God's Kingdom to join the feast, the party, then you are signing up to be in it with all sorts of people.
In Luke's time the initial wave of new Christians was entirely Jewish. Then the second wave of Gentiles came in starting with Cornelius and the book of Acts records the struggle for Jewish Christians to accept Gentile believers who never had the law and could see easier that we are not under the law. Their must have been a challenge for the first readers, the Jewish Christians who were expecting to be at top table in the previous story to find people they would have once called "dogs" are now brothers.
So the challenge comes in this story that the kingdom is for all who would receive Jesus' teaching - who put their trust in Jesus death and resurrection to forgive us, make us brand new and wash away all shame.
The challenge that God has a whole load of muddy potatoes he wants to be part of the Kingdom. If you are wondering why I mentioned muddy potatoes - last uyear David Blacklock had a prophetic dream about a harvest of muddy potatoes, that needed washing off before they could be used. The sense that God wanted to bring in the very people Jesus is talking about into the kingdom - and that there was going to be muck to work on!
Jesus is challenging us to reach out not just to nice middle class people, but others who also need him just as much from every nation in this area, every tribe, every tongue, every estate, the rich, the poor, the messed up and the tattooed. To love all, share the gospel with all, to heal the sick, set free the demonised and to care for the poor and broken hearted to they are welcomed into the family and become part of the kingdom.
Have a go - culture setting
I want to set culture that we can have a go. We love to hear testimonies of people going for it with friends, family, colleagues and on the streets. Some are great at it and tell great stories - I hope they don't make you think I can't be them and do that, so you don't bother. I want to hear stories of the less confident having a go too, so that we can build a culture at every level of healing the sick and sharing our faith.
The second challenge in the passage is that God loves humility not pride in making yourself look good. Trouble with pride is that it is like B.O. - everyone else can small it except the person with it. Glorify Jesus. But don't tell us "It wasn't me, it was God" because you're not that good! and that's false humility!!!
Compel them to come
The third challenge is v21 where Jesus sets the urgency "Go out quickly to the streets and lanes..." We need to see God's urgency to go and do the stuff.
We are all on a journey with faith.
- Spectator- watching, keep watching. Sometimes people realise they aren't just watching they are actively seeking.
- Seeker - serious asker of questions. Great keep asking. Sometimes people realise their questions have been answered and they are following Jesus.
- Follower - I'm ready to follow Jesus. Sometimes people realise they want to making a difference with Jesus and become a builder
- Builders - I want to build the kingdom