(14:1-6) It’s another Sabbath encounter. Some background here may help. Because the Israelite people had been sent into exile for breaking God’s law, worshipping idols, and breaking the Sabbath, the Pharisees—known for their purity—were focused on ensuring that such liberalization of God’s intention could not happen again. Therefore, Jesus’ apparent infringements of the Sabbath, even for obvious humanitarian need, and even if miraculous by methodology, still provoked suspicion and indeed wrath. They had overreacted to a liberalization idolatry to produce a legalism that was, in its own way, equally idolatrous.
Jesus takes this man suffering from edema of some sort, dropsy, and asks a dramatic question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (14:3). They have nothing to say in response. Jesus then asks a follow-up question to underline the confusion in their minds. If a son or an ox falls into a well on a Sabbath, would you not immediately pull him out? Of course! Well why not then allow healing on a Sabbath. They “could not reply to these things” (14:6). They are speechless. Their silence does not suggest acceptance but an inability to find an answer to Jesus’ question within the frame of reference of their own current ideology. They need to realize that someone greater than the Sabbath was before them: Jesus the Lord Himself.
Sometimes it is hard for us to make room for God to work. We either turn our backs on God by moral license or attempt to tame God by moral legalism. In either case, we are not turning to God asking him for grace and forgiveness.
(14:7-14) To point to this need for humility, then, Jesus tells a parable to the guests of the dinner party. He uses an example with which they would have been familiar. Noticing that they are choosing the places of honor, he points out that even at a human level this is a mistaken idea. If you go and sit in the lowest place and someone asks you to come and sit higher up, you will be exalted. But if you aggrandize to yourself the higher place and someone asks you to sit lower down, you will be ashamed.
Similarly, in the spiritual realm do not be like the Pharisees who think they know it all and take the higher honor seats, but instead come humbly to learn from Jesus. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (14:11).
See the paradoxical virtue of humility! Go humbly to God and ask for forgiveness, go humbly to Christ and ask him to teach you, ask humbly for God’s Spirit to fill you anew, and you will be exalted. Refuse to bend the knee and, like the Pharisees at this dinner party, you will be ashamed in front of all.
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