BRING IN THE POOR, THE CRIPPLED, THE BLIND, AND THE LAME
Key Verse: 14:21
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’”
There are several lessons in one passage this week. There's a Sabbath healing, how to act at parties, how to throw a party and a story about inviting people to the kingdom of God. Pray we may learn from Jesus how to serve our fellow man and accomplish God's plan in our lives.
1) Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?
Let's read verse 1. "One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched." After doing so many good things, as the time of Jesus crucifixion approaches, the atmosphere is clearly growing hostile. In the perfect world, Jesus would to share the good news with these elders, help them think through their sin problems and repent, looking forward to evangelizing the world together. But the verse says, Jesus was being carefully watched. These Pharisees were looking for reasons to reject Jesus as their savior and Lord.
Many people look diligently for reasons to reject Jesus. They carefully watch the believers and make large headline news when Christians act like hypocrites. Jesus was above reproach in every way during his ministry. As Jesus' followers, we need to be aware that our actions are being observed by Jesus' enemies. Ephesians 5:3 says "... among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." Apostle Peter agrees with Paul. He wrote in 1 Peter 2:20, "But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God." Let us encourage one another to represent Jesus' kingdom in highest degree before the scrutinizing eyes of the lost world.
When Jesus came into the room, what did he see? Verse 2 says, "There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy." I learned that dropsy is a condition where fluids collect in various parts of the body causing swelling. It is usually caused by some underlying conditions that may or may not be "unclean" in the ceremonial cases. Several photos show greatly swollen arms and legs. There must be no treatment for those underlying causes in Jesus' day, but everyone knew that Jesus could help. How sad that the Prominent Pharisee did not invite the man to be healed, but to use him as bait for a trap.
Jesus understood what was happening right away and he turned the situation into teaching moment with a question in verse 3. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" We have seen Jesus heal someone already on the Sabbath. So we understand his perspective toward helping restore people to sound body and mind. He saw the bent over lady as a daughter of Abraham, and considered loosing her from her infirmity imperative, way more important than caring for the animals in your barn. The answer was obvious, but the people in the room remained stoic. They expected Jesus to know their Sabbath laws and follow their traditional interpretations absolutely. How can he be a prophet or messiah if he does not stick to our traditions? They also did not like him questioning them about the regulations they all memorized since the very beginning of their religious educations.
Verse 4 says "... they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away." By doing this, Jesus plainly established that healing people on the Sabbath is a good and godly thing to do. He answered his own question with and act of kindness that revealed God's compassion for the sick and suffering people. Jesus had power to heal so he had to use it for God's glory any chance he got. Here is a lesson about serving our fellow man. I read a verse about this today in Proverbs 3:2. ".... do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act." If God gives us a chance to help others, we must help them every chance we get. To back up his principle, Jesus asked a hypothetical question, right after the man left. "If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?" It was a logical and practical expression of life saving compassion. It was the same as saying, "What do you expect me to do for someone who needs my help?" It was also trying to help the religious leaders open their eyes to see how far they have gone away from God's hope for them. Of course they would help their son or their donkey, but they had become indifferent to the sick people. "Will they say to their son in the well, "Hang in there kid. Keep treading water in the well. We will come back to morrow to help you." No way. The leaders should have said, "Wow. I never thought of it that way. I should do whatever I can to help people whenever I can. Hey Jesus, would you mind staying here a few days while we go find every suffering person in the village and bring them over. We will prepare a nice bed for you and we can work together to bring healing and comfort for everyone." Instead of sharing God's compassion, and inviting the sick people to meet Jesus and be healed, the proud religious leaders were gathering evidence for their case to get rid of Jesus. The result of their legalism was devastating. It made Jesus a criminal for doing good things according to the Bible, and ruined the chance for many Israelites to find God's kingdom. Legalism trapped them in the cult of law keeping that prevented them from trusting Jesus for salvation.
2. Who humbles himself will be exalted
When the man was gone, everyone started to sit down for dinner. Jesus noticed they were doing something peculiar. Each one tried to grab the best seats for themselves. Each one attending wanted everyone else to see how important they are, so they did a mental musical chairs until they noticed which chair was the most important and they tried to grab it. After a few minutes Jesus was the only one standing, with only the lowest chairs remaining. Nobody invited Jesus to the best chair, next to to the host. It was shameful for them to disrespect the son of God like that, but their jostling and wrangling for position, revealed their sinful desires to be the most important in their own eyes. They were the epitome of sinful man who looks down on others, dreaming they are better than everyone else.
At this moment Jesus tried to instruct them about humility. Listen to verses 8-10. 8 "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests." This lesson sounded strange to the leaders. It described an upside down world that they could not imagine. They worked hard in the village to become prominent. The each deserved the best chair. "What, me, sit in the lowest chair." That is for the servants and slaves. Who do you think your are Jesus?Can you lecture us, you are from Nazareth, the most despicable town in Israel." It's is exactly the pride and trouble making that Jesus wanted them to repent of by learning his example. He shared the reason for this story in verse 11. Let's read that together. 11 "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
In this punchline, Jesus reveals a very precious principle of becoming great in God's kingdom. They were all great men in the world, but in God's eyes, they were petty, childish brats at best. To obtain honor from God, they need to learn humility to ser as leaders for God's people. Jesus is the best example of humbling himself, so that God may exalt him. His life revealed this principle as the way to be approved by God and accepted. Philippians described like this: "being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name ..." He is the Lord! Today's lesson, in light of his life show us that exalting ourselves above one another is sinful. It is trying to grasp equality with God, to have authority over someone else. This is a very deep lesson to learn. Even Jesus could not think of having people treat him like God, though he was in very nature God, in the flesh.
Moses is another example of learning humility before doing something for God. The Bible says Moses was the humblest man who ever lived, but he did not start out like that. When God first spoke to him, Moses concluded he was something great, so he tried to do God's plan with his own power and muscles. He killed an Egyptian, as if he could start a revolution and deliver the nation from slavery, but it failed. The Israelites did not trust him so he had to run and hide for his life. God let Moses learn humbleness as a shepherd in the wilderness for 40 years. When he was older and wiser, he could understand that God wanted to deliver the people in his own way. Moses couldn't even speak well any more. Yet, when Moses humbled himself to be God's instrument, Israel escaped from Egypt, and under his leading God brought them to the edge of the Promised Land. Moses humbled himself, and God exalted him in the history of the world as a prophet, a leader and a child of God. Jesus has the same hope for the leaders and everyone else who hears this lesson. Humble ourselves, to serve each other and wait for God to exalt us in his time.
3. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous
In verse 12, Jesus turns to the host of the banquet with some more advice about throwing a party. Let's read verse 12. Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid." It is what sinful man does all the time. They invite one another to make connections and plan their business deals and they want to impress each other with their wealth and achievements. They congratulate each other on how much God blessed them their lives, and they convince themselves that they are blessed because God is happy with them. A natural consequence of pleasing God of course would be assurance of a big reward in the kingdom of God. Right? In this way their parties became a source of false hope & a trap to lead these people away from the narrow door. Jesus saw such banquets as a luxurious extravagance that ultimately had no eternal value. If your friends invite you back for another expensive dinner, you are already repaid. Let's see Jesus' advice to the contrary in verse 13 & 14. "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Inviting such people to their banquet was the last thing anyone in the room ever imagined, except for using a needy person to trap Jesus. Jesus challenged the prominent Pharisee in the heart of his human nature, pressing him to consider who he was serving with his generosity. Is he just looking to make political connections to Jesus, or does he want to understand the heart of God? We proud humans think using all our money to feed those who cannot repay is ridiculous. We can share a dollar with a beggar here and there, but throwing a large banquet many such people is a huge waste of money. Besides that, if I fill the house with people who only eat everything in sight then disappear leaving a mess, my wife will be angry at me for months. Yet Jesus promised that someone who invites the outcast people to a banquet can expect a great reward at the resurrection.
What does this promise tell us about rewards from God? Mainly, the reward we seek must not be in this world. He told them to look forward to a reward at the resurrection of the righteous. This is a challenging proposition. One has to believe God exists and that he will really reward our giving in this way to do so. If we do not absolutely believe in the resurrection, obeying Jesus is a losing business from start to finish.
Secondly, he tells us that the reward is for unconditional generosity that resembles God's own compassion for the lost world. He is inviting the prominent Pharisee to draw close to God in a way his stoic law keeping failed. Keeping laws and rituals meticulously actually led him away from God, by making him judgmental toward unclean, unworthy people who are being punished for their sins by becoming blind. Jesus wants to help us recognize the value and worth of every person, and share his God's blessings anyone and everyone. In the three dimensional world, this is very high bar to meet. Even the opportunities are diminishing because In many places, government welfare programs are largely providing the services Jesus described, but there are still some ministries that maintain the cafe and banquet places where anyone can come for dinner.
In a more abstracted sense, there is a hidden lesson in Jesus instructions about his own invitation to people from all over the world to come to his fathers house for an everlasting banquet. If we consider our need of salvation in light of God's righteous requirements, and understand how Jesus provides everything we need, it is clear we are unable to pay God back for what Jesus provides. Thank god who has compassion on us who were helpless and unable to help ourselves enter God's kingdom. Let's find a way to invite many more sinners like ourselves to dinner with Jesus.
4. ... make them come in so that my house will be full
Look at verse 15. "When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God." This guest was not thinking of the same kingdom Jesus was talking about. He was trying to get Jesus to open up about the new kingdom of Israel, where their savior king is in charge and all the people of the world have all they ever need to eat. He was hoping for a paradise on earth, ruled by the Jews and he expected prominent Jews like himself to be blessed above all. Jesus replied with the story of the big festival, prepared by a certain man to which many had been invited. When everything was ready to share, the people who were invited made many excuses not to come. I just got a new field and need to start developing it, I just got married and will enjoy my honeymoon, I have too much work to do and thus, none wanted to go to the man's banquet. It looks like the banquet in God's kingdom was a washout.
What did the rich man do when people he thought were his friends turned their backs on him, ignoring his invitation? Look at verse 21. "... the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'" He did not let his preparation and supplies go to waste. The master held his banquet anyway, inviting everyone he could to participate. The only ones left in town were the blind, the crippled, the lame and the poor folks. They all came and there was still room, so the master sent the servants again to bring anyone from anywhere who was willing to come. This is an unusually generous guy, but he was also very upset with the original invitees. He promised that he would not share anything with any of them.
This part seems to follow up on the invitation lesson Jesus just gave the host, but it shares the frightening reality that many people are too busy and indifferent about the real kingdom of God. Jesus has been inviting the Jews to come, join him in the kingdom of god, but they were largely indifferent. When Jesus told Levi and the fishermen to come, they got up, left everything and followed Jesus to the banquet. They were the minority. But there were many blind and the like who were healed by Jesus everywhere he went. They were rejoicing to meet their lord, while the ones with the Bible knowledge, the first one to be invited, did not bother to go. In John's gospel Jesus invited them explicitly saying, "Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." When they wanted to see Jesus produce manna from heaven Jesus said, "Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
This story about the guests, passing on their invitations was illustrating how the people simply refused to come to Jesus for salvation by faith. They only wanted to keep their culture, religion and precious, but misdirected Sabbath days. For their stubborn reaction, Jesus was warning them they would never eat the bread of life and live forever if they reject him now.
What can we learn from this last parable? The most obvious lesson to me is, when God invites you to repent of your sins, trusting Jesus for salvation and righteousness, we should not hesitate to accept his invitation.
Another interesting thing to meditate on is God's deep desire to give a truly heavenly banquet for anyone and everyone that is willing to come. Let's read 22 & 23 together again. 22 " 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' 23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full." These seem to describe God's hope for the gospel workers after Jesus death and resurrection. If so, the first wave of the servants gathering the blind, crippled, lame and the poor, seem to represent the ones that came to Jesus while he was ministering in Israel. They were despised by the Jews because they turned to Jesus. They include the apostles and several believers from every class in society. Those disciples on the ground in Jesus' day had no idea how far the gospel had to go. They were waiting for a kingdom on earth and a palace in Jerusalem too. From God's perspective, the country roads Jesus talked about go far beyond their limited knowledge of world geography. The first disciples did not know what to expect when they saw Jesus risen from the dead. They asked him, will your restore Israel's kingdom now? The Jesus asked them to wait saying: ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you shall be my witnesses in both Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. They did not know how to do it, but they worked out their mission over time, growing in the knowledge of God day by day. Praise God, many people are still coming to the heavenly banquet.
While I prepared the message I saw my coworkers banquet preparations. She made lots of sandwiches to eat after choir practice. I said, wow everything is prepared. How can we gather the blind, poor, crippled and lame to come and eat it all up? Then I had a brilliant idea. There was a man outside with a sign saying "will work for food." So I imagined giving him a sign saying "Come to UBF for food at 3PM." Then I wondered how much food I have to give him for holding the sign. How long can he hold it for the cost of eating lunch. Then I wondered, will I be breaking a Sabbath law by asking the man to work for me on the Sabbath day? After thinking a little more about it, I repented. I think Jesus wants me to go and invite people, not hire people to tell others to come in. Let's read verse 23 again. 23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full." Who went to the campus last week to fill up god's house with disciples last week. Who attended Bible study to feast on the bread of life last week? Let's go out to the country roads this week too and invite people to come in. Let's pray.
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