Summary: Our value as a person has nothing to do with having our name on the up in lights. God loves us; we can’t improve on that! You don’t have to try and prove you are worthwhile by sneaking your nametag a little higher up on the table. And praise God for that!
“The Religion Police”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
Luke opens chapter 14 by telling us that Jesus “went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee,” on the Sabbath and that “he was being carefully watched.”
You’d think this would make Jesus a bit nervous.
Most people would try their best to fit into the “norm.”
Not to “rock the boat.”
After-all, this wasn’t just a casual gathering of old friends.
This was one of the social occasions of the year.
It was a party for the “haves and the have mores.”
If People Magazine had existed back then, this gathering would have been a featured story.
An invitation to this shin-dig could slingshot a person to the top of the social ladder.
And of course, Jesus didn’t usually hang out at the top of that ladder, but He had been invited because He’d been in the news lately.
The Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus was as good as His reputation.
The local blue-bloods wanted to check Him out.
They needed to know, “Is he one of us or is he going to cause problems? Is he in or out?”
There is a little church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee which was pastored by the now nationally-renowned preacher, Fred Craddock.
There were a whole lot of new people moving into the town, and Rev. Craddock urged the people of the small 112 year old church to visit the newcomers in the area and invite them to church.
“They wouldn’t fit in here,” was the reply.
Eventually, the conflict came to a head.
Someone made a motion at a meeting that no one be admitted into the membership of that church unless they owned property in the county.
The motion passed overwhelmingly.
Years later, the Craddocks moved back to that area, and drove by the old church.
They were surprised to see that the parking lot was filled to overflowing.
Then they saw a big sign out front: “Barbeque—ALL YOU CAN EAT!”
The building was no longer a church.
It had become a restaurant.
The Craddocks went inside.
Several of the old pews were over against a wall.
The old organ had been pushed into a corner.
And sitting around all the plastic and aluminum restaurant tables were all kinds of people.
Craddock said to his wife, “It’s a good thing this place is not still a church, otherwise all these people couldn’t be here.”
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were basically “The Religion Police.”
They were kind of like the “bouncers” at a club.
If you didn’t follow their rules to the tee—you were out on the street!
And it didn’t take long for them to decide that Jesus just wasn’t gonna do.
This meal was taking place on the Sabbath.
And the Law had its meticulous regulations about Sabbath meals.
These rules included the most miniscule details of what a person was permitted and not permitted to do from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
For example, no food could be cooked on the Sabbath; that would have been work.
Everything had to be cooked on Friday; and, if the food needed to be kept hot, it had to be done in such a way that it wasn’t cooked any more!
According to the Law, in order for food to be kept warm for the Sabbath it must not be put into “oil, manure, salt, chalk or sand--whether moist or dry.
Nor into straw, grape-skins, or vegetables—if these are damp.
If they were not damp, however, it was okay.
Food, could be, put into cloths, amid fruits, pigeon’s feathers and flax tow.”
It was the inflexible observance of regulations like these that the Pharisees and scribes considered as “religion.”
No wonder Jesus didn’t fit in!!!
For Jesus is about Love, mercy, and grace!
Jesus is about people.
Therefore, it was only natural that Jesus heal the man with dropsy right there in the middle of this great religious social event.
Dropsy was edema—an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the tissues.
The guy probably had swollen ankles.
Not a real big deal, but can you imagine the gasps, and the words of “I never!” floating from the lips of the dinner guests?
This was considered to be work!
Then Jesus asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?”
“And they had nothing to say.”
And no doubt knowing that He was taking a risk, Jesus did not let up.
He was on a role.
Jesus must have noticed how the guests at this feast had jostled for the best seats at the table.
It was kind of like playing musical chairs or yelling “shot gun” as a kid.