Beth has provided the notes this week. The passage can be read here.
In today’s passage Jesus eats with Pharisees and teaches them something about humility. I remember when I was a teenager going to a small bible study on humility and as a benchmark at the beginning, we were asked to give ourselves marks out of ten for humility. (Perhaps not the best thought out task!) I gave myself ten, of course; I’m incredibly humble! (Joke!)
I’m sure you’ve noticed in the last few weeks of reading Luke that the Pharisees seem out to get Jesus. They seem to be constantly trying to catch him out and cause him trouble. It’s significant here then that Jesus ‘went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee’. Why would he do this? Is it because he’s hoping to get ‘in’ with the powerful people? Is it because they serve good food, unlike the poor? I don’t think so somehow.
It’s so challenging to look at who Jesus eats with. Eating is such a sociable thing; even today, thousands of years later, we still invite friends around for meals or go out for meals in restaurants in order to socialise. As a result, when we’re looking at who Jesus eats with, we’re looking at who he socialises with; who he spends time with. He eats with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors – people who would make him unpopular; people who he would be criticised for eating with. But here, he eats with Pharisees; people who didn’t like him, who wanted to cause him harm. What a challenge! When we’re trying to do God’s work, sometimes we need to spend time with the people who are ignored in society, the lowest of the low but sometimes, maybe we need to meet with the people who don’t like us; maybe, we need to be meeting with the snakes of the world and trying to bring them to Jesus too.
When Jesus is eating with the Pharisees, he’s aware that he’s being watched, ‘carefully’. At the table is a man with swelling in his body; apparently, this is likely to be a relative of one of the Pharisees. Knowing that he would be criticised for healing the man on the Sabbath, Jesus asks them the question, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’ Why does he ask this? Is it because they know more than him? No! It’s because he wants to challenge them. If the man wasn’t there, they would undoubtedly say that it wasn’t lawful but, with the man sitting there and probably being a relative, they would feel ashamed to say this. I love the next verse. ‘So taking hold of the man, he healed him’. See, Jesus isn’t interested in following rules; he’s not interested in people pleasing in a powerful man’s house; he’s interested in helping this man and serving his Father. Apparently, ‘taking hold of him’, probably means that he embraced him. I love that even more. Jesus loves this man and cares about him, even when he knows he is being scrutinised for it. Jesus then deals with the Pharisees until they have ‘nothing to say’.
While at the meal, Jesus doesn’t chat to the Pharisees about current affairs, he challenges them. He talks about humility because ‘he noticed how the guests picked places of honour’. How ironic! The King of Kings is there and they’re taking the places of honour! Praise the Lord that Jesus is seated in a place of honour in heaven now! It’s so important to remember that there are people who are more important than you and, if there’s not, Jesus is and who are we before the Son of God? Stay humble.
He then challenges social conventions that still exist today. Wining and dining friends and rich neighbours is criticised. Does this mean we can’t socialise with friends? I really don’t think so. What Jesus seems to be pointing out here is that we shouldn’t be doing things to be repaid; we should be doing them to serve God. We should be serving the poor and the outcasts. So much of our time, of my time, is spent with people like me. This shouldn’t be the focus. We should be serving people who need us; people we can help. It shouldn’t be about being repaid. I know and admire people who behave like this. It wouldn’t be appropriate to name them but they constantly seek out people who don’t quite fit in and welcome them into their home and, although they may not be repaid, Jesus will never see them short changed for serving him because they ‘will be blessed’ in heaven.
Lord, help us to serve you with people who don’t like us, people who are out to catch us out and people who are poor and need us. Lord, help us to love and embrace people and thank you for reaching out and embracing us. Lord help us to be more like you, speaking out and challenging what needs to be challenged.
I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.” (Psalm 39:1-2)