I wonder, if when Jesus accepted the invite to dinner at this prominent Pharisee’s house (Luke 14.1-14), if that man went home and said to his wife, “Dear, you’ll never guess who’s coming to dinner!” So when the time came and the guests arrived including Jesus at the appointed hour, everything including the trap. And by trap, I mean the one man they had invited that would never get an invitation otherwise. The trap was a man with dropsy. The Pharisees and the Scribes were looking for something that they could use against Jesus as a charge so that they could silence him. But then something else happened, something that they did not expect. These men were also being watched; being watch by Jesus.
So before dinner was served, Jesus, knowing that he was being watched started the confrontation with a question and therefore a challenge: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” In doing so, he anticipates the objections of those who are trying to ensnare him. His potential accusers remain quiet, perhaps because after last week they learned that to try and accuse him of anything immediately would bring about refutation and shame of their position.
Jesus does then, what Jesus does – he heals the man with dropsy. Still the religious men say nothing.
As they moved into the meal, Jesus recognized how these men were choosing their seats – decided who was who and who ranked higher than another. Jesus seizes the opportunity to turn this into a bit of a lesson on humbleness and humility. He challenges them not to take the place of honour but to take a lower place. By taking the lower place, you enable your host to honour you with a higher position. It causes both you and your host to be honoured – you get to move up and your host is shown to be attentive to his guests. And in doing so, your collective worth in the eyes of those around you is raised.
In fact Jesus goes so far as to suggest to his host and to the other invited guests that when you have a reception like the one they were having, it is important to include others where God is concerned. In particular, we should invite the poor, the blind, the crippled and the lame into our lives and call them friends. This is about sharing with them the good things that God has given to you. In doing so, you raise the level of honour that the people whom the world says has none and shows to God that you are aware that he is watching us. Moreover we show that we are keeping an eye on eternity and the fact that there will be another greater feast at the end of time. Where will you sit at that feast?
Move to being a faithful servant of God than being humble. One needs to act with mercy. Jesus points out to the dinner party that it is easy to invite those that are going to make you look good, give you brownie points and invite you to their house for the same purpose and reasons. If that is all you want then that is all that you shall receive and your account is paid in full. But one needs to recognize that in hosting those who can invite you back is not the kind of generosity God is looking for. Real and true generosity comes from giving to those who are without and cannot repay you for what you have done.
Think of it this way: last Sunday I was on my way to another community in the diocese to celebrate a Eucharist for the congregation because their clergy was away. I left before first light on that Sunday morning and when I came to a Tim Horton’s I stopped to get something to eat and to drink to enable the rest of the journey. When I returned to my car, there was a young couple struggling to get in car because the dogs had managed to lock the doors. Part of me just wanted to mind my own business and get on my way. After all I was on a mission from God, right?
But then I chose to take a few moments to help them out by taking my window scraper and we jimmied the door open. There was much relief and then some happiness that I had taken the time on a Sunday morning to help this couple continue their move home to another province in Canada. Why is this important and why would I mention it? Remember what the Scriptures say, ”Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13.16 NRSV). It was only a few moments to open the car door and I was on my way with my breakfast and tea but it meant the world to that young couple who were so stuck in the rain.
Take time to give and to be generous this week and remember, God is watching and rejoicing when we do. After all, we always know that Jesus will be there for dinner and he is the same: yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13.8).