Summary: We sometimes read the Scriptures at its surface level. It isn’t until we dig in and study that we find the riches hidden there. The Scripture where the Parisee invites Jesus to a Sabbath meal is rich in wisdom if we just search for it.
Sermon: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Scripture: Luke 14: 1-14
Once there was a dinner speaker who was in such a hurry to get to his engagement that when he arrived and sat down at the head table, he suddenly realized that he had forgotten his false teeth.
Turning to the man next to him he said, ‘I forgot my teeth,’
The man said, ‘No problem.’ With that he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of false teeth. ‘Try these’, he said. The speaker tried them…’Too loose’, he said.
The man then said, ‘I have another pair – try these.’
The speaker tried them and responded, ‘They don’t fit right.’
The man didn’t skip a beat, but said, ‘I have one more pair – try them’.
The speaker said, ‘Wow, these fit perfectly.’ With that he ate his meal and gave his address. After the dinner meeting was over, the speaker went over to thank the man who had helped him.
‘I want to thank you for coming to my aid. Where is your office? I’ve been looking for a good dentist.’
The man replied, ‘I’m not a dentist. I’m the local undertaker.’
This humorous story shows that there are sometimes two ways to look at things…two ways to understand what seems so obvious on the surface. And our Scripture this morning is somewhat like that.
On the surface, it seems so innocent…Jesus being invited to have a Sabbath meal with the Pharisee and in the Pharisee’s home, no less…and then, Jesus healing a sick man and then Jesus teaching. This seems to be a pleasant story about Jesus and his ministry.
This morning, I want to help you understand a little better what was really taking place and then also try to explain what Jesus was trying to tell the people there at the Sabbath meal and also what he is saying to us, today. Basically, that His Way…God’s Way is clearly different.
I’ve come to find, that as I study the Scripture more thoroughly, it becomes not just some words on a page, but it becomes a three dimensional picture…a realistic, almost motion picture-like depiction of the life and times being described.
I would like to be able to do that for you this morning. I want this story this morning, to become more realistic, so that you will understand some more of what was really taking place…what were the undercurrents of the feelings and emotions of the people present in this little glimpse of Jesus’ life and ministry. Then, I want us to learn from it…I want us to take a little of Jesus and His teachings home with us today.
So where do we start? Let’s set the stage and then get a little background on the characters in the story. So, first, let’s set the stage…the Pharisee’s home.
What was a Pharisee, in the time of Jesus. The Pharisees constituted one of the largest and most important groups of religious leaders during Jesus’ time. They controlled the activities of the synagogues and exercised great control over much of the Jewish population. Their power also came from their good relations with the occupying Roman Empire. The term Pharisee means, ‘separated ones’. That means they separated themselves from the masses and were eventually considered as the progressives of their day, willing to adopt new ideas and adapt the religious law to new situations.
Having control of the synagogues and then also having some political power with the Roman occupation, the Pharisees became wealthy and their homes were very nice. The outside walls of a Pharisee’s home might meet the street, but just inside those walls, would be an outside courtyard, which would possibly be decorated and very inviting. After leaving the courtyard, you would then enter the home. Most likely you would enter into a large room…one that would be able to hold many people…a room where a dinner party could be held.
So with this image in your mind, let’s follow Jesus along the street and into the entrance of the courtyard. As Jesus, steps inside the court yard, I imagine that there are many guests standing about the area. The Pharisee himself is standing near the entrance, but also between Jesus and the Pharisee and the others, there is a man sitting on a mat…a man that is grossly swollen. It’s obvious that he has ‘dropsy’, that is, swelling caused by the accumulation of water in the tissues.
Jesus stops in front of the man, looks at him compassionately and then looks up at the others that have gathered around. They have heard of Jesus. They know of his great healing works…but this is the Sabbath…no work is allowed on the Sabbath by Jewish Law.
So Jesus says to the Pharisees and the legal experts there, ‘Well, is it within the Law to heal a man on the Sabbath day, or not?’