What are we hiding behind? Reflections on Luke 14.
October 10, 2016 | by: Jason Shiels | 0 Comments
Posted in: Kingdom of God
Picture this. You are a guest at a banquet of a ruler of the Pharisees, and in walks Jesus of Nazareth. You notice a certain charged atmosphere and tension in the air. Then a round of questioning begins. Its clear that the Pharisees and their lawyer friends are on a mission to showcase their own knowledge of the Law, and to find ways to catch out, humiliate and undermine Jesus in the process and reveal him to be the upstart that they believe he truly is. Then, all of a sudden, Jesus turns the tables and responds, "is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? (Luke 14:3). The room falls silent and then to the astonishment of everyone there Jesus brings a man with dropsy before him and heals him right in front of everyones eyes, Sabbath day and all! The inquest hardly has time to gather pace and then Jesus is at it again. He tells a Parable (wedding feast) and uses the story to rebuke people hogging the 'top table' seats and introduces the 'up-to-then-unknown' value of humility, encouraging people to prefer others and sit in the 'cheap seats'. Who is this guy? Doesn't he know that such action would be weakness? What in this world is this kingdom that he is introducing to his increasingly uncomfortable hosts?
In this passage Jesus exposes the shady world of religious and legal posturing. He opens up a window to another realm where the greatest is the least not the guy who wants to hog the limelight. Just when you think the tense part of the evening is over, and the festivities can really begin, Jesus launches into another story (Parable of the Great Banquet verses 12-24) causing massive offense and rising blood pressure in the room in the process. Jesus begins attacking the nepotism of the hosts and their chums. Looking around the room eyes begin to drop as Jesus says,
"When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they invite you in return and your be repaid." He then goes on to list the "poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind" that should be invited instead! When the Pharisee guests tried to change the direction of the conversation and lighten the tone, Jesus ramped up the pressure further and went for the jugular. The guests eyes were out on stalks, neck veins were bulging. Who is this guy? Doesn't he know how he is insulting our tradition and esteem?
In the remainder of this great Parable Jesus basically assassinates the thought that we can hide behind our excuses. He lists a few very lawful endeavours and uses them to rebuke the guests and wider audience for the way they use what is lawful and 'good' in their lives to become an ungodly and inexcusable excuse for rejecting Jesus and His kingdom coming in their lives and community. Having just married a wife, having just bought a field or five yoke of oxen, were all 'good things' certainly. However, Jesus used these to expose the sin of using the 'good' around us to stubbornly reject God's' rule and reign coming into their lives.
Jesus brutally exposed their false spirituality. He was not conned by their moral rectitude, flowing robes, loud prayers or fancy banquets. He came with a gospel that was bad news for the self-reliant. Terrible news for the power-brokers of the religious status quo. On the flip side he came with stunning news for the powerless, for the poor, the sick and the marginalized. They were invited to the banquet. He knew that they were open, teachable and desirous of what Jesus was all about. His kingdom was able to come where the invitation would be welcomed and not spurned with empty excuses, empty seats and other priorities.
What excuses might we be hiding behind?
Maybe, you intend to become a believer when you are older and don't want to miss out on anything you might like before then?! Perhaps you say you 'can't forgive' someone? They hurt you. Is that maybe not 'won't forgive' rather than 'can't?' Some say they are just too busy with family and career to have anything much to do with God or church? Oh how we are experts at excuses? The worst of all is that religious people are also experts at excuses. We can quote all the Scripture of the day but still promote offences and gossip? We might do the right thing in public but at home can be like a bear with a sore head. We can recite our well-reheared list of the 'good' that is keeping us back from surrendering to the king and His kingdom. We are adamant and who would argue with that list?
Well, let me tell you who would and does argue with it. Jesus. Before His holy Presence one day every one of us will have to stand and give an account. This is your life, this is your opportunity. Do not be fooled by a box-ticking adherence to morality. He wants all of you for all of Him.
Don't get taken out by your own excuses, no-matter how 'good' or 'valid' they seem.... See them for what they are, wretched and pitiful in light of God's glory and grace. There is a banquet and you are invited to dine with Jesus. Will you be there?