The Saviour at Supper on the Sabbath
The beloved physician’s record of our saviour in this social setting of Luke 14 takes us through a 5-course meal. In these five sections of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is going to unfold to us the true cost of following Him. He is going to challenge us as He challenges the customs of the Pharisees and in doing so will give us a seemingly impossible picture of what it looks like to be a part of the kingdom of God.
Jesus starts with an appetizer of supernatural proportions (Luke 14:1-6), when he is attending a dinner at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. In front of him is a man with dropsy, (edema) in modern medical terms. According to an article by J. Worth Estes entitled “Major Human Diseases Past and Present” published online by Cambridge University Press, “Dropsy is an accumulation of fluid throughout the body, a sign of underlying disease of the heart, liver, or kidneys, or of malnutrition. Untreated dropsy was, eventually, always fatal.” In the midst of the Pharisee’s glaring, silent judgementalism, He pushes aside his plate, takes the man, heals him and sends him away whole.
A man so filled with fluid that he was near death, in the company of men so full of themselves, that it took a man so full of compassion that he would stare straight down the barrel of their hypocrisy and give this man life. What fearless resolve in the face of adversity! First course, am I watching to judge or watching to serve?
The second course (Luke 14:7-11) is by no means lighter fare. How am I doing with humility? The Lord now has had a turn at watching how the guests have arrived and given themselves the best seats in the house. He admonishes them that when they are invited to a wedding feast, to “go and sit in the lowest place so that when your host comes (A reference to the return of Christ) He may say to you ‘friend, move up higher.’ For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
The third course (Luke 14:12-24) is the largest portion of this meal, the entree so to speak. Jesus is now boldly instructing his host on invitational etiquette in kingdom terms.
The who’s who of who not to invite. Did we read it right? Friends? Don’t invite them. Brothers and relatives? Don’t invite them. Really? Rich neighbours? Don’t invite them. Who then? The poor! The handicapped and the blind! How am I digesting the kingdom agenda for dinner invitations?
The gospel invitation is clear: “Come, for everything is now ready.” There is nothing anyone can bring. It’s not a potluck, God has provided a full and free salvation! Forgiveness of sin and peace with God is offered. Christ has died, the just one for the unjust, and the work is finished! Sadly, the excuses given as to why the invitation cannot be accepted, as lawful and legitimate as they may seem, cannot be recognized as having any value by the host, and the excuse-makers are forever barred from the feast.
The fourth course (Luke 14:25-33) is probably the least appetizing and most difficult to stomach and yet holds the greatest reward. How am I doing with the cost of discipleship? Have I really weighed up the cost of this meal? Do I realize the price that was paid to be a guest? Jesus’ words leave little room for the imagination in verse 33, ‘So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’ How many people have stood at the entrance to the kingdom, looked back at their possessions, friendships and families and like Lot’s wife, looking longingly back to the burning city Sodom of Gomorrah, chosen to turn back and reject the invitation
The final course (Luke 14:34-35) is dessert and the only item on the menu is salt. One item, one ingredient so important that if it has lost its essence, it is useless. If something loses its essence it turns into something it was never created to be. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” That’s our ‘essence.’
From the very onset of this meal, the Lord is letting us know that in this kingdom life that we have so graciously been invited and welcomed into, we will have adversity, we will be afflicted by pride, we will make errors in judgement and we will be tempted to turn back. But, like the man who Jesus sent away healed, let us remember the touch of the master’s hand, the wounds in His side that He bore for us at Calvary and in doing so, be encouraged as we keep our eyes on Him.
Our heavenly Father, thank You for the feast You have prepared for us in the life-giving message of the gospel. We have been redeemed and reconciled to You. We have been raised to walk in newness of life. Help us to walk with You Lord through adversity, in humility with our eyes fixed on Christ and our hearts in tune with You and Your will for us so that we can run the race that is set before us with confidence. We don’t want to lose the essence of who we are meant to be in Christ. For it is in His name we ask Lord Jesus Christ amen.