Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jesus, the awkward dinner guest - Luke 14 - The cost of discipleship and the Great Reversal

Luke 14:7-11 (ESV)
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus continues to challenge his disciples with the cost of following him. His is the way of the cross (Luke 9:23-27), execution as an insurrectionist at the hands of the empire. A life of true Justice and humble Love is also a life of resistance. The law of the new Kingdom is to love one's neighbour as one's self, to give one's life in service to the poor, outcast, and marginalized.

At the end of the chapter, Jesus reminds his disciples of the cross again (vv25-35). But if they do count the cost and follow, they will be a salt in the world, a preservative sustaining life, and a flavour of the Kingdom to Come.

Luke 14:12-24 (ESV)
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

Jesus is a tough dinner guest. Luke records frequent awkward conversations with religious people around their dinner tables. This chapter repeats the theme. Once again, Jesus is confronts the religious elite with the radical difference between the Kingdom of God as they conceive it, and the Truth and Justice and Freedom that he demonstrates.

The proper religious folk still prefer to demonstrate their faithfulness by following their interpretations of godly customs blindly, whatever the consequence. When given the opportunity once again to heal on the Sabbath, Jesus challenges the faithful to consider the value of rules that contradict living according to love and freedom (vv1-6).

In verse 5, he reminds his hosts that they would certainly help one of their own animals in need on the Sabbath. It must be right to be compassionate to a person in need, even if it seems to contradict the strict literal rules of religion. His brief analogy here is expanded to three stories in chapter 15, the lost coin, sheep, and son, and ties the two chapters together (click here to read Luke 15, and here to read notes on the "lost" parables).

(the second link will work when the notes are posted on May 31, 2012)

It seems it may have been trendy to have Popular Rabbi Jesus visiting your home. Perhaps he was seen as hip and bohemian. Certainly he was popular. Thousands listened to him. But when alone among other contemporary teachers, Jesus did not pander. Instead, he challenges them to open their homes to the crowds whom he loves, to expand their hospitality far beyond their own benefit, even sacrificially for the benefit of others.

Such is the order of the Kingdom of God. It is costly, but it is worth infinitely more.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the next chapter reveals their continued misunderstanding. The religious elite have no complaint with Jesus eating with them or they him, no matter how awkward a guest he may be. But when Jesus demonstrates exactly what he had been teaching them simply by sharing life with the scallywags and scoundrels, they simply cannot abide it.

Luke 15:1-2 (ESV)
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Such judgment and loss of reputation is only one part of the cost of following in the footsteps of Jesus. Would we rather be counted among the poor, or the wealthy? Would we rather have a spotless reputation, or be known as a friend of the outcasts?

Jesus demonstrates the love of the Kingdom as his love for sinners. A love at his own expense. A love even for us. Even for you. Will we do the same?


The first part reminds my wife of Godspell.
vv12-14 – Again Jesus is teaching about taking care of the poor.
When you are generous with the poor, God will repay you.
vv25-35 – It seems that Jesus is saying to take great consideration and care before being his disciple.
Jesus’ teachings are a bit more cryptic in this gospel. Perhaps this had something to do with Luke being a doctor. Maybe he was speaking to an upper crust crowd. Maybe he’s challenging them to be generous because he’s writing to people who have a lot.

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