One Sabbath, the Lord’s day of rest and worship (which had become the Jewish day of rules and one-upmanship), Jesus was invited to an influential house to share a meal with controlling religious leaders. The false motive of the host was obvious–to watch for an opportunity to gain advantage over Jesus.
He didn’t have to wait long, for there at the door, right in front of Jesus was a sick man in urgent need. Would Jesus heal the man on this the ‘holy’ day? The man suffered from dropsy, a condition that caused parts of his body to swell hideously out of proportion and a thirst that could not be quenched. This not only disqualified him from ‘righteous’ company, because he was judged greedy, it also imprisoned him in poverty.
Now all those who looked into the rules did not see what was coming next. Jesus asked them a question, “Is it righteous to heal on the Sabbath or is it against the rules?” The question hung in the air. In their unwillingness to bend they chose silence. Jesus did not speak; he acted on behalf of the ‘untouchable’ man, by offering a healing touch. He released the man, who walked free.
Now Jesus had a captive audience. So he continued to test their motives. “Let’s say one of you has an heir to your inheritance or an ox your business depends upon. Now imagine you found this dear boy or animal dying in a deep pit on your property. Would you not in all haste free him, with all the power available to you?” Again, in their pride they chose to be silent.
Jesus saw each for who they really were. He saw how each had chosen places around the table that would show everyone present where they were on the ladder of the powerful. So he told them a story to help them see what he saw and sit where he was sitting. Jesus began, “When you go to a wedding and you’re asked to sit at the feast, who in their right mind would find a seat at the table of the bride and groom? It is plainly obvious that a person of greater importance than you is there too. If this is true, the host who invited you both will have to choose. Imagine your embarrassment when you are told ‘You are sitting in this man’s seat–can you move to another one? How humbled would you be if every seat was taken and you had to sit with the servants?!’”
Jesus continued, “Take note, when you are invited (as I have been), sit with the humble guest (as I have done), so that when your host notices you, he will say, ‘Come, come, that is not your rightful seat, let me set a place for you at my table’–then you will find yourself equally favoured in the eyes of everyone in the room (just as I have been).” And just to make his point even sharper Jesus declared, “For everyone who chooses to bar others from entering God’s blessing will himself choose to be shut out. Furthermore, he who is willing to act on behalf of another will be highly favoured.
Then Jesus, without skipping a beat, turned to the host who had treated him without esteem, saying, “When you give a lunch or dinner, here’s whom not to invite: the people you call equal; those who are part of your powerful network of unquenchable greed; those with whom you divide land and power, without concern for those who you place in debt and push down and out. If you do invite them you will expect to receive some advantage.” Then Jesus turned their idea of righteousness inside-out saying, “But when you give a feast, take these people by the hand and lead them to the table: those who have been prevented from coming–the indebted poor; those who cannot move, needing you to carry them; those who need you to bear their weight; and those who cannot see, relying on the grace of your guidance. Then you will know what it is to be rich, and willing, and free, and clearly seeing–this is true blessing. Yes, be willing to receive no advantage from these humble children, then you will share God’s blessing with them, both here, and at the resurrection of the righteous to come.
Finally there was room to respond to Jesus’ humbling words. This time someone broke the silence, saying to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast of the kingdom of God”. His statement was intended to prove they qualified for the feast and were not shut out, where others clearly did not deserve an invitation in the first place.
Jesus seized upon this sly retort saying, “There was a man who began to prepare an extravagant feast and invited many guests. When all had been made ready, he sent his servant to tell those waiting in the next room, ‘Come, sit and eat and share in my company’. But each in turn, when asked, refused the invitation. Their eyes and hearts followed after their own selfish craving that would never be truly satisfied. The first said, ‘See here, I have enlarged my property and I must go and manage my responsibilities. There’s no one else whom I can trust, so I cannot stay.
“Another said, ‘I’m in a hurry to oversee my newly acquired ploughing team. I’ve earned all I have. There’s too much at stake, so I cannot stay.
“Yet another said, ‘I’ve just married into money. I’ve waited so long for an opportunity like this. I cannot pass this up, so I obviously cannot stay.’”
“The one who was sent returned to an empty banquet hall. The master of the house was rightly angered that the guests had shunned his all-satisfying feast. He acted swiftly, sending his servant, saying, ‘Go now to the ordinary places outside and lead these people to my door: those who have been prevented from coming–the indebted poor; those who cannot move, needing you to carry them; those who cannot see, relying on the grace of your guidance; and those who need you to bear their weight. Yes, invite the marginalized, the rejected, and the outcasts.’”
“It was not long before the hall was filling with people and excitement. Then the servant exclaimed, “Sir, we’ve brought everyone who would come, just as you requested, but we still seem to have room!’”
“The master threw his arms wide open and said, ‘Well then, let’s go and get everyone we can find on the road–the outsider, the foreigner, and the wanderer, saying, “Come, come!” and see if my house will ever be too full to turn any person away who is willing. The truth is, not one of those proud guests who have chosen to reject me will taste my cup of welcome.’”
As Jesus journeyed on from that place, many people were tagging along with Jesus and his disciples as they travelled from town to town. Wanting them to examine the desires in their own hearts, Jesus stopped in the middle of the road, turned around and walked toward everyone, saying, “If you want to journey with me, you must be willing to be rejected. You may be asked to walk against the crowd and its ever-changing opinion. Esteem the opinion of God, who holds life even in death, not your own family and friends. Then and only then will you find yourself free to walk in step with me–even if we are paired carrying a torturous roman cross; to be gotten rid of like despised human waste outside the city walls! For it will be the same crowd lining both sides of that street out of town and heaping abuse on me, that once ushered me in with songs of praise and allegiance. Choose the crowd or choose me–I leave the choice to you.”
“Who among you is willing? You are like the engineer who has sat down and reflected on the bigger picture, to see if a bridging project can be done. You have believed the resources available to you, beyond your own, are more than enough to finish what you have started. How foolish would you be to stop and give up, just when your own resources are about to fall short?”
“Who among you is willing? You are like the general of an army about to go to war to see if he is able to beat the enemy. You have considered who it is who opposes you and also who is with you. You believe the strength available to you, beyond your own, and you are able to stand up. You have not decided to lie down and be subject to anyone else. This is precisely how it will be with those who come to the end of their own resources and strength and even passion: each of them will find more than enough faith to journey with me, though it cost them everything.”
Can you see that this kind of life is very good? It’s like pure salt; it’s good for many purposes and is of great value–proving its full essence. But a life lived only for self interest and self gain is the one that is really thrown away. Life like that has no understanding of real worth. It’s cheap and lifeless–a wasteful loss.
You’ve all heard my words, now act on my message.
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