A Meal with Jesus - Luke 14:1-14

I love to eat. Surprise, Surprise!! I love food. It does not matter if it is cold or hot, sweet or spicy, American or Mexican, I love food and I am not alone. We Americans love to eat. Listen to what comedian Jim
Gaffigan says in his Mr. Universe special, “We eat to have a good time. Really that is all a vacation is. Just us eating in a place we have never been. Well, why don’t we eat something, then go and get something to eat. Let’s go see that thing we are supposed to see, I bet they have a snack bar there and after that we should get something to eat though, then we should eat something.” Food is a great gift from God. We never need a reason to eat good food: Holidays, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Weddings, Funerals, Graduations, or Tuesdays etc. We love to celebrate and when we celebrate food is right at the center. The reason food is such a blessing is not the food itself, but what happens around the food, the laughter and fellowship.

Ellen and I have an old family table that has been in her family for over 100 years. It sits in our dining, and every time I eat at that table, I reflect on how many meals have been shared at that table, how many stories told, and how many birthdays were celebrated at that table. Table fellowship is a great gift from God. Jesus was a big fan of table fellowship. In the gospel of Luke, we find Jesus going to a meal, at a meal or leaving a meal. Tim Chester in his book, “A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table,” writes,

How would you complete the sentence: “The Son of Man came…”? The Son of Man came…preaching the Word…to establish the kingdom of God…to die on the cross. Perhaps the question is more revealing if we make it, “We should go…?” We should go…campaign for political change…preach on street corners…make most of new media…adapt to the culture we want to reach. There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came…” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” Luke 19:10; “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking…” (Luke 7:34). The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.[1]
Jesus fulfilled his mission to seek and save the lost by sharing his life around the table.

This morning, we see a window into a meal with Jesus. This is the last time Jesus eats with the Pharisees in Luke’s gospel. He continues to give them an opportunity to repent in spending time with them around the table. Throughout the meal, Jesus provides several lessons for the Pharisees and for us. The first lesson,

A Lesson in Helping Others

Verse 1 starts out with the timing of this meal, “One Sabbath,” which should remind us of the previous scenes that have occurred on the Sabbath. Jesus has stirred a lot conflict among the Pharisees in his healing on the Sabbath. They would have known where he stood, but they invited him over for a meal not to bless him, but rather to build a case against him. Verse 1,

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out? And they could not reply to these things.

Notice in the end of verse 1 it says, “they were watching him carefully.” The term means to “watch lurkingly.”[2] It is written in a way that clearly displays the motives of the Pharisees. In Luke 11:54, the Pharisees were said to be, “lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.” Here they go a step farther in that they actually step up a trap for him.

Verse 2 begins with, “And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy” (emphasis added). Dropsy was a swelling of the legs and arms believed by the Jews to be God’s judgment against sin. It was not incurable, but it was clear that help was needed. It was surprising that he was at the house of this Pharisee. People who had medical issues were often outcasts and were not welcome in the synagogue and certainly not welcome in the house of the ruler of the synagogue. Jesus knew their hearts and responds, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” He asks a similar question in Luke 6:9, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or destroy it?”

The repetition of this question is important. There has been a lot of teaching and opportunities for the Pharisees to change their tune since when the first question was asked. So, have they changed? Would they come to the truth? Would they believe? And what was their response, “They remained silent.” We do not know here why they remained silent. I believe they remained silent so Jesus would heal on the Sabbath and
in their minds break the Sabbath law. This was the whole point of having a man with dropsy there. Regardless of the trap, Jesus does what Jesus does: he helped this man and sent him away. It is as if the healing in this section was an afterthought. It is barely mentioned. Then Jesus asked another question, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” Jesus flips the trap back onto the Pharisees. The Pharisees are silent again, but this time we know why they are silent, “They could not reply to these things.”

Jesus exposed their hypocrisy and shamed their valuing of traditions more than helping those in need. They know that if their son falls into a well, they will immediately go and pull him out. If you are willing to do that, why not help those in need? The whole matter of the law summed up in two commandments: To love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus is asking, “Is it lawful to love your neighbor on the Sabbath?” The answer is clearly yes. For the Pharisees, the traditions of man became more important than people. Rules dominated Relationships. Order controlled love.

I pray that our church would never value tradition over people. I pray that we would never use rules to hurt relationships. Traditions and rules are not bad in and of themselves, but they should serve people, not hurt them. During this meal with Jesus, he gave us a lesson in valuing people over traditions; in loving our neighbors more than loving our rules. What traditions are you allowing to control your love towards others? Style of music? Order of service? Dress? Activities? Events? One way we can see if we are valuing tradition more than people is how we handle change. When things change, do we ask why? Do we seek to understand how the potential changes could help us love our neighbors or do we feel threatened? Do we get angry? Change can be good or bad, but are we willing to analyze our traditions to see if they serve people? And if they do not serve people, will we be bold enough to change? And if our leadership is bold enough to make changes to better serve people, will you be bold enough to follow?

A Lesson in Humbling Ourselves
Jesus knows the hearts of men. He wants us to help others and to love our neighbors, so He shares a parable to expose one the underlying problems with the hearts of the Pharisee. Verse 7-11,

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honour, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honour, 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. 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 honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. 

People came to the party and sought out the places of honor. The principle established is to allow others to exalt you to the place of honor. Do not exalt yourself for if you do you may be asked to move and take the long way of shame to the lowest place.

We live in a very dangerous time for our souls. The era of social media gives a place and an opportunity for us to exalt ourselves. We post pictures, pithy quotes, or rants to demonstrate our intellectual prowess. The dangers lie in our heart, but the technological revolution now gives a platform to display the pride of our hearts. Christians should never be those who exalt themselves, for we know he who humbles himself will be exalted. Listen to this story of Doug Nichols, the Founder of Action International Ministries:

In 1966 I joined Operation Mobilization for a year of ministry in France, but spent two years in India instead. While in London that summer, at the one-month OM orientation, I volunteered to work on a clean-up crew late one night. Around 12:30am I was sweeping the front steps of the Conference Centre when an older gentleman approached and asked if this was the OM conference. I told him it was, but most everyone was in bed.

He had a small bag with him and was dressed very simply. He said he was attending the conference, so I said, "Let me see if I can find you a place to sleep." Since there were many different age groups at OM, I thought he was an older OM’er. I took him to the room where I had been sleeping on the floor with about 50 others and, seeing that he had nothing to sleep on, laid some padding and a blanket on the floor and used a towel for a pillow. He said it would be fine and he appreciated it very much.

As he was preparing for bed, I asked him if he had eaten. He had not as he had been travelling all day. I took him to the dining room but it was locked. So after picking the lock I found cornflakes, milk, bread, butter and jam—all of which he appreciated very much. As he ate, we began to fellowship. I asked where he was from. He said he and his wife had been working in Switzerland for several years in a ministry mainly to hippies and travelers. It was wonderful to talk with him and hear about his work and those who had come to Christ. When he finished eating, we turned in for the night.
However, the next day I was in trouble! The leaders of OM really "got on my case." "Don't you know who that man is on the floor next to you?" they asked. "It is Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the speaker for the conference!" I did not know they were going to have a speaker, nor did I know who Francis Schaeffer was, nor did I know they had a special room prepared for him!

This is the kind of man we should strive to be: one who had a place of honor, but chose to sleep in humility. Christians should never be known for our pride, because our Savior was never known for His, Philippians 2:6-11:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

For the Christian, like our Lord, humility always comes before honor. If we want to follow Christ, we must humble ourselves, then and only then will he lift us up. The Christian life is a paradox, we die to live. We do not seek our own glory, but the glory of another.

A Lesson in the Harvest of Outcasts

Jesus shares one more lesson with his host to reorient his man’s thinking away from self to focus on others. Jesus has already exposed this man’s love for his traditions more than his love for people, and exposed his guest’s pride. Jesus now wants to reorient him to think like God for God came to invite the outcasts. Verse 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. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
It is the heart of God to invite the outcasts to his table.

God wants us to do what He has done for us. We have been invited to the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb. God is preparing a feast and who did he invite? He invited the spiritually poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He invited the spiritually crippled; rise up and walk. He invited the blind; believe and see. God came to us; the spiritually crippled and invited us to his table through his Son. The bible says that because of our sin we are deformed from God’s original design. We do not walk upright or see clearly, but rather our hearts our corrupt and even our best offerings are filthy rags in his presence. Sin affects our whole being, therefore it is impossible for us to be right with God. Therefore, God sent Jesus with an invitation. He is the only one who should be invited to the meal because he is the only one without sin. And yet, Jesus gave himself up as our ransom to bring us to God. He died for us so we could have a place at His table. And after he died, God raised him from the dead giving everyone hope for the resurrection to come. Sin has crippled you, but Jesus says I can make you straight. Sin has blinded you, but Jesus says I can make you see. Jesus is willing to heal you, but you must believe in Him. He offers the only real invitation to the Table and that is by faith in his life, death and resurrection. The invitation has been made, will you accept? We accept his invitation by turning from our sin to God. We renounce our pride and self-centeredness and chose to follow Christ in humility. Jesus invites you to the table, have you accepted his invitation?

Jesus offered the invitation to us and now he is sending us out into the world with the same invitation to world. He says, “When you give a dinner or a banquet.” He does not say if, but when. We love to eat. We host dinners and parties all the time, but the question is, “who is on our invite list?” Do you only invite those who can pay you back? Do you only invite those that will get you ahead or improve your reputations? Or do you invite the outcasts, the lame, the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lost?

One of the reasons the American church is dying is because we have forgotten that we were once outcasts,
but were brought near through the blood of Christ. We focus on our own health and ignore the spiritually sick that surround us. When we take our eyes off of ourselves and focus on the lost, we will be blessed and be repaid at the resurrection of the just. Do you see how pouring yourselves out to those who can’t pay you back, shows that you put your trust in the resurrection of Christ? We give of ourselves to the hurting and the lame, because we know that God will repay us in the resurrection. We offer our homes to the spiritually broken, because God has promised us a place in his home when we were spiritually broken.

Jim Peterson tells the story of friend Mario. Mario was a prideful, Marxist intellectual and loved to read Western philosophers. He was spiritually crippled. After 4 years of reading the Bible together Mario became a Christian. A few years after conversion, Jim and Mario were talking, and Mario asked, “Do you know what it really was that made me decide to become a Christian?” Peterson was sure it would be one of their bible studies or possible a sermon at church, but Mario’s answer surprised him. Mario said, “Remember the first time I stopped by your house? We were on our way someplace together, and I had a bowl of soup with you and your family. As I sat there observing you, your wife and your children, and how you related to each other, I asked myself, ‘When will I have a relationship like this with my fiancée?’ When I realized that the answer was ‘never,’ I concluded I had to become a Christian for the sake of my own survival. Peterson reflected on the grace of Christ that Mario saw bind that family together:

Our family was unaware of its influence on Mario, God had done this work through our family without knowing it…We tend to see the weaknesses and incongruities in our lives, and our reaction is to recoil at the thought of letting outsiders close enough to see us as we really are. Even if our assessment is accurate, it is my observation that any Christian who is sincerely seeking to walk with God, in spite of all his flaws is reflecting something of Christ.[4]

Beloved, let us reflect a glimpse of the glory of Christ by inviting the outcasts to our table so they will accept the invitation to God’s table.

God invited us to his table when we had nothing to offer. We can never pay back what the Lord has given us. We brought nothing to the table, but sin, unrighteousness, shame and regret. We brought nothing to the table, but have been given everything. Jesus gives us his righteousness, his perfect life, his glory, and his presence. As Isaac Watts so eloquently writes,

     Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;

     Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

We can never pay God back for what he has done for us, but since God has invited us, we have the great privilege to go and invite others. If you have accepted the invitation of Jesus Christ, the only proper response is to invite others. Will you invite the outcasts and the outsiders to your table so they can catch a glimpse of the glory of Christ who is inviting them to eat with him at his table at the great banquet at the end of time? Jesus has invited you, will you invite others?

[1] Cheter, Tim. A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table. Crossway. Wheaton, Il. p.11-12 2011. 

[2] Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke: 9:51–24:53 (Vol. 2). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Commentary on Verse 14:1 

[4] Cheter, Tim. A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table. Crossway. Wheaton, Il. p.94-95 2011.