This week’s Gospel passage is from Luke 14:1-14. The scene is set in verses 1-2 as Jesus has apparently been invited by some Pharisees to dine on the Sabbath. In this setting he is presented with a man who is ill. In verse 3 Jesus asks the “elephant in the room” question. This shows that Jesus will not shy away from a difficult question or a hard situation.
The question is not whether it is appropriate for Jesus to heal the man. That is clear. The question is whether the healing work is appropriate for the Sabbath, as it is a day of rest. Healing someone will constitute work. The Pharisees have placed Jesus in a situation which they think will show him as unmerciful or as a violator of God’s Law.
In verse 3 Jesus asks the question to make sure it is clear to the Pharisees that he understands exactly what they are doing. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He receives no answer from the Pharisees.
Jesus then takes up two important tasks. First, he cares for the man by healing him. Then, Jesus explains his actions. He uses Scripture from Exodus 23, reminding the Pharisees that God values doing right and showing mercy. Exodus 23 does not mention a day of the week on which it is inappropriate to show mercy.
The lack of response to Jesus’ mercy tells a great deal. How do scoffers react when Christians are merciful and kind? It is much more difficult to find fault with someone engaging in kindness than with someone failing to do good or, in fact, doing evil.
Jesus’ move to tell a parable starting in verse 7 seems, in Luke’s mind, tied to the lack of an answer. This is a parable with two sides to it. First, it discusses how to act when invited to a festive occasion. Second, it discusses how to handle inviting people. Both scenarios are tied to our attitude of self-interest. This is presumably what Luke sees as the connection.
First, when you are invited to an occasion, assume that you are of little importance. This is related to Proverbs 25:6-7, also in this week’s readings. As an example, we see that Jesus, the creator and ruler of all creation, came to dine with someone and healed a person who is not even named in the passage. Jesus, Lord of all, cares for nameless, faceless individuals, such as you and me. We can also make little of ourselves so as to care for others.
Second, when we are arranging a festive time, we do not arrange it for our own self interest. We invite those who are not able to pay us back. We welcome those who need our care and welcome.
The entirety of this passage is tied to Jesus’ genuine humility. It serves to illustrate the way that, no matter the situation, Jesus has come to care for those who cannot care for themselves. He gives his people rest from their troubles, the true meaning of a Sabbath.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.