One Sabbath, when he (Jesus) went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?"
But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go.
And he said to them, "Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?"
And they could not reply to this.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor.., saying to them, "When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' 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, go up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
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 kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (Luke 14:1-14)
Who? Where? When? What?
Our lesson this week follows along the same lines of healing that we studied for last week. It has parallels in Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11, and 13:10-17. However, in somewhat different fashion, the healing described here took place not in a synagogue as the others revealed, but happened as many persons gathered in the house of a ruler. The guest gathered to see and to hear.., and presumably meet Jesus.
Jesus, who was the guest of honor, did something in the home which was over against the host’s tradition. He willed to heal a man who had dropsy, and he did this act on the Sabbath. Therefore from the text, we who now read this account may deduce that for Jesus, the where or when of healing was not at issue. The issue was demonstratively more that the healing took place. Sinful man’s priorities often get askew. As he stated… “Sabbath was made for man, mot man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
Since the person he healed is similarly not named, as in other texts, but just his walking illness was described.., we may say that his quality of faith at the time was not at issue. All we can surmise is that he was likely influential and a Pharisee. More so, we may assume that God saw the man kindly as one of his own. We may conclude then from this writing in Luke that it pleased God to heal the subject’s gait… irregardless of the man’s wealth, position or faith expression. Today, we might rightly ask of the Spirit whether the man and his healing was beheld at center stage primarily as an entry figure for the parable told afterward. The parable that follows the healing was told in comment about the familiar social climbing of the guests. For Jesus, the seating at prominent human events sinfully seems always at issue. This is so even today. One who does not think so, simply has to sit in someone else’s pew in church.
As Jesus relates in the story, however, seating arrangements come from an assumptive human nature that is denounced in the Hebrew scriptures… and he promoted taking a lowly position. In the telling of this story, we see that the Pharisaic ruler’s attitude is directly addressed. Though a ruler and Pharisee, Jesus was told that the person who is of high station is thus invited…and given the opportunity… to minister to the lowly. Jesus said that a person who assumes a lowly nature may more easily care for those who are afflicted. The act, however, is not to be done for earthly reward… for the lowly cannot repay. Jesus stated clearly that payment for this goodness shall be forthcoming at the resurrection.
It was this last, very prophetic statement of our text that rubbed the hardest upon our Lord’s audience. The telling likely caused the most tumult amid the hearers… for you see.., the Pharisees did not believe being lowly in riches was a merit, and also did not envision resurrection. Therefore in one gathering, by the healing of an unknown man without inquiring of the subject’s station… and then telling a parable about the occasion... Jesus turned the traditions in the world of the haughty upside down. All that they had invested in to be seated prominently that evening was challenged. The lowly had been cared for, the high were being brought low, and true reward was said to be beyond their reach.
Why Love Poured Out?
Thus within revealing this lesson in his gospel, Luke taught the readers of his own day and we who read this record, that God challenges us concerning our financial and social positions. God does not use worldly scales when measuring us. In doing mercy, God simply does miraculously what God will do.
We ask then as Sabbath rolls into the modern work week... the same question that the infant churches within Lukan days may have rightly asked, “What shall we who are the chosen and forgiven, do in lowly response?”
Surely we who have been spared the penalty of our sinfulness, and working from that renewed holy place of existence, are called to respond. I offer that we are to praise Him and recognize that we are sent by our Lord out into the world to both feed and heal others. We are not to stand high and mighty, separate and above those others for whom God cares. We are to do as our Lord has done and empower them from alongside.
As well, we need to remember here that according to scripture, Jesus was participating in a feast on that Sabbath, which in the days to come would be considered as a divine dinner likened to a marriage feast held for the Bridegroom of the Church. We today in the church then can hold to the thought that we are subsequently gathered at the same dinner in our own congregations. Indeed, Jesus comes to be with us as well.
You see, Jesus teaches us humility while we are participating in the Sacrament. The Feast transforms us through God’s love. A great healing takes place for us. The festive and holy occasion properly observed should affect us so much that any random un-named someone can walk out of the dinner healed, standing straight and upright before God.
Similar to those Lukan communities then, we today may look back on this instance of healing knowing surely that this is why our God became lowly. As spoken of the prophet, we find that this is why he lovingly took stripes of the whip for our healing. For it was foretold…
For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)
Certainly our Father’s divine and abundant love is the reason why Jesus invited the apostles to the Great Feast. Within that treasure in time he gave and yet gives us His saving and eternal life. His precious body and blood is provided to us in, with, and under the bread and wine. We are yet today invited to this same table!
Finally, when knowing that the Lord of Lords who became lowly to be with us… is the same Son of God who sinful persons lifted up upon the cross unto death for our salvation, and who surely rose again..., do we really now have the impertinence to ask where in his assembly the Master shall have us sit… and where He shall have us go in thanksgiving? I think not. We are indeed blessed even to be present.