Summary: People are Important to God
Two Prejudices – Luke 14.1-14
Prejudice of any kind is hard to deal with, let alone live with so, seen from that perspective, the story of the Great Banquet might prove something of a challenge for some.
To be sure, there’s nothing in it to indicate racial prejudice but it’s hard to miss the religious and class prejudice that seeps from pretty much every word. Jesus has gone out to eat at the home of a very prominent Pharisee and it appears that He’s not the only one to have been invited.
Luke doesn’t tell us, but it appears that Jesus may have been the guest of honour at this meal. It also seems that many of the community’s best had come just to see this new teacher. Here they were at dinner with the other big nobs from church and society.
It’s the equivalent of being invited by the Archbishop to come to his place for dinner and to find a whole bunch of others there who you didn’t expect to see: clerics, politicians, captains of industry, business people and spouses in abundance, all waiting this Special Guest. We all love a good party.
One might think that by attending this banquet, Jesus was taking a break from his busy schedule; but that’d be a mistake. Jesus was on another mission: teaching people about the coming of his Kingdom. He is seeking to help people understand what God intended and how He was going to accomplish it.
Look at what Jesus does at this banquet. First, he heals the bloke with dropsy. I don’t suppose this man asked Jesus to be healed. The guy was just there. In fact, like everyone else, my guess he was there to eat and to hob-nob it with some of his mates.
Dropsy is a condition symptomatic of congestive cardiac failure and, in itself, isn’t usually a life threatening condition, just an uncomfortable one. It’s also unsightly and it’s obvious.
Everybody in the room knew this man had dropsy so it’s an interesting twist to know that this man was selected to receive the lucky door prize: he’s going to be relieved of this discomforting condition.
Now, why should Jesus do this? Why heal a man who hasn’t asked for help? Because, beginning with this man, Jesus intends to teach this audience some important facts about salvation and the coming Kingdom. And everyone else thought it was just going to be just another spiffy nosh-up.
That’s the first prejudice: the prejudice that contests the view that people are important to God. You’d think this would be obvious. However, you and I know that religious people sometimes forget the obvious. Religious people sometimes get sidetracked into doing religious things and then, mistakenly, believe that this is what pleases God.
When greeting people at the church door equates to a description of pastoral care and visitation, then I’d have to say we’ve moved away from a people-focus and gone into a doing-religious-things-focus as a substitute.
At some time or other, we’ve all been more impressed with an ecclesiastical building and the things that go on there than we are about by changed lives. The Pharisees had, that’s for sure.
They’d forgotten this simple fact because the most important thing in the world to them was to keep the rules. They were more intent on being right than on being righteous.
You see, this meal was being eaten on the Sabbath and, according to the Law of God, you weren’t supposed to work on the Sabbath; it was a day of rest. The Pharisees felt that the Bible was too vague on this subject, so they decided to help God out by defining what “work” was.
You may laugh but did you know that there were, in Jesus day, 1521 ways of breaking the Sabbath Law? (One that always intrigued me is the one that says a person with an artificial limb was not allowed to put it on because it was tantamount to ‘carrying a burden’.)
When it comes to today, well, I reckon I could find more than that in the number of ways we have of avoiding people and of doing religion instead. Things don’t change much, do they?
None of those 1521 things are in Scripture but the Pharisees taught that this was how you had to behave to impress God.
In other words: the Pharisees cared more about rules than they did about people. And it’s people who are the foundation on which the Kingdom of God was to be built. Is it surprising that Jesus, The Cornerstone, spent so much time with folk?
The second prejudice Jesus confronts is the one that says that God is selective about which people are important. This was the lesson that those who fought for the best seats needed to hear. It also applies to those who don’t believe the best seats are for them anyway. There is such a thing as false humility.