US: Turn the table upside down

US: Turn the table upside down

Luke 14: 15-16 “When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests …”

 

In v7 Jesus ‘noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table’ and so he told them a parable of humility and exaltation. It brought unease, disquiet and offence especially to the host of the meal. In the awkward short silence a man sitting with Jesus speaks to try and bring unity perhaps.

The Jews believed in the great Messianic banquet. The long awaited Messiah would come just like Moses the Redeemer feeding Israel with manna from heaven. But of course, the Messiah would be greater than Moses and the meal would also be greater than manna.

Now who would be at that heavenly table? Well certainly everyone sitting around the table with Jesus including this man who announces, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’ They truly believed they would make it to the table. The man was quick to see the analogy of their table and the table to come. He was quick because it was steeped in their understanding of the Kingdom of God.

Not only did they know they would make it they knew who would not make it.

Their table was a certain way up, their way up, with them all sitting around it.

Like a flash, Jesus responded. He turned their table upside down and it created the question of whether or not they would actually be anywhere near the table.

When our tables are set and the chairs are arranged and we know which is our favourite seat; when we have ordered our lives in a certain way that highlights us and when we totally believe the future is even brighter for us; when life is only about us because it is only us that have pleased God enough; when we know more importantly who will not be sitting with us; when us overpowers ‘them’; perhaps we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if the table is the right way up? Turning it upside down and making life not about us at all is maybe how the table should lay?

 

 

 

Think less of you

Think less of you

Luke 14: 7-14 “When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person 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 honoured in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

 

There is always someone more important than you, you are not the top, v8

If you are so self-absorbed wanting to be the top and receive the best and most, if you are grabbing at every opportunity for your own selfish gain, you will lose it all and end up less than the least. You will not move down a seat. No. It seems no one else is moving down the line, they are all staying in the same seat. It is you who has to walk down to the bottom of the table and take the least important place, v9.

There are always positions that you can move into that looks like it is not a successful choice, it may look beneath you, that you may be over qualified for that place. Choose such a place because you will always rise from that position, v10.

There is always the temptation to have nice people around your life, people who will give to you, people that you will use for your own ends, v12

Not many invite people into their life for simply the work of grace towards them, v13-14

Selfish exaltation leads to public humiliation.

Open demonstrations of humility lead to public exaltation.

How you treat people and how you view yourself has eternal consequence,v14.

Think less of you.

Love triumphs

Love triumphs

Luke 14: 1-6 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’ But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?’ And they had nothing to say.

Jesus is back in the home of a Pharisee having dinner. He seems to be always invited out for a meal. The majority of the time people are watching him carefully in order to trip him up in some way with his teaching and responses.

The imagery of a child falling in a well is shocking, of course, we must stop everything and immediately lift the child out.

Similarly with an animal that is someone’s livelihood or a family’s future. We must not let it drown.

So when this man who has abnormal swelling of his body stands in front of Jesus then again there cannot be any delay. This man is in a crisis, perhaps his organs were shutting down. Something is wrong right there and it is getting worse. This man could die and he is standing with desperate hope of help.

But it is the Sabbath.

Jesus has healed on many Sabbaths and this will be his last one. They hated him for doing this kind of work on their Sabbath. It was their Sabbath (even though it belongs to the Lord) and they told others what they could or not do on it. However, they would themselves often have lavish dinners on the Sabbath and these would have entertainment. These parties on the Sabbath were acceptable but healing on that day that was appalling! Jesus was attending such a party. He bridges the gap between hypocrisy and the suffering.

Love is not work.

Love is not doing something for a return.

Love helps others.

Love cares for the suffering.

Love is every day of our life.

Love triumphs over religious hypocrisy.

 

 

The fox, the hen and the chicks

The fox, the hen and the chicks

Luke 13: 31-35

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’  In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.]

 

A Jewish fox tale:

A fox was once walking alongside a river and he saw fish swarming from place to place. He said to them, “What are you fleeing from?” “From the nets that humans cast for us,” they answered. The fox said to them, “Wouldn’t you like to come up on the dry land? We could live together, you and I, just like our forefathers.” They answered, “You’re the one they call the cleverest of animals? You aren’t clever. You’re a fool. If we are afraid in our own element, how much more out of our element [literally, in our place of death]!”

The Jewish understanding of the fox:

A certain scholar, thought at first to be brilliant, was by all outward signs inept, and it was remarked about him, “The lion you mentioned turns out to be a fox.”

Jesus calls Herod a fox:

We can imagine those listening and Luke smiling as he writes, “Go tell that fox ..” Jesus was saying Herod was a fool. He thinks he is a lion and that he can kill me but he is only a fox. He is not what he appears to be.

THE ENEMY OF OUR SOUL IS NOT WHAT HE APPEARS TO BE WHETHER IN HIS ATTACK OF FEAR ON US OR HIS TEMPTATION OFFERING US THE WORLD. HE IS NOT WHAT HE SEEMS. SO GO TELL THAT FOX.

A commandment for the hen and the chicks:

Deuteronomy 22:6-7 “If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.”

Jesus’ uses the analogy:

Jesus is the mother bird, the hen, being driven away from the chicks and the nest, but is refusing to do so. Jesus remains but it is the chicks who are fleeing the nest.

THE ENEMY OF OUR SOUL IS CONTINUALLY TRYING TO DISTANCE US FROM JESUS. HE COULD NOT TEMPT JESUS FROM HIS MISSION SO HE CONTINUES WITH US EITHER THROUGH TEMPTATION OR PRESSURE TO RUN FROM JESUS. THERE IS ONE SAFE PLACE AND THAT IS WITH JESUS WHO LONGS TO GATHER US TO HIM. RUN TO HIM TODAY.

The alarming end time message.

The alarming end time message.

Luke 13: 22-30

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them,

24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

 

What Jesus says should be alarming for some.

a. For the generation of that time. The ones who lived amongst Jesus, v26. Jesus is the last and only Messiah. No one else was following him to save them. Let’s pray for those who continue to follow false Messiahs.

b. For those who may wonder if Jesus is the Messiah but are delaying their commitment. There is an end coming for the opportunity to respond, better to do it now before your life ends and the chance is gone, v24. The doorway into heaven is found in earth and the door is Jesus. Let’s pray for those on the fence who are nearly there, they believe perhaps but they have not committed themselves to Jesus.

c. For those who despise the Gentiles, v29-30. The people of this world who have been the cruel enemies of the Jewish people will (even though Israel was chosen first) find themselves in the kingdom, undeservedly perhaps but full of the grace of God as they trust in Jesus. Let us pray for even those who we think will never change their life believing for the power of the gospel which still changes lives today.

d. For those who followed the patriarchs faithfully and who heard the prophets speak of the Messiah to come but have not even today recognised His coming, v28. It will be too late. Let’s pray for the Jews across the world today.

e. But not for all. Jesus doesn’t answer the question of how many get into heaven, v23. But he does encourage that we get there. I used to panic as a child wondering if Jesus would know me, v27. I have come to discover the door is still open and He continues to invite me into His existence and the more I go there I have found the assurance of the narrow door. Let’s thank God for Jesus and for our assurance of eternal life.

Yeast

Yeast

Luke 13: 20-21 “Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

  1. Take the yeast. It’s small but it can actually be hugely significant. A smile. A touch. A word of encouragement. A box of chocolates. Small maybe. But each and every small act of kindness can change a persons day.
  2. Engage it with the larger proponent, the flour. Yeast on its own will do nothing. As Christians we have to be in the world to change our world.
  3. As opposed to the mustard seed the yeast continues to remain hidden. It never surfaces nor does it grow into something else. It remains as an influence to the whole and it is what surrounds it that changes.
  4. Don’t give up. Keep mixing until a dough is created. If you remain committed to the cause then you will soon move into a phase of readiness. The dough ready to be baked.

This is what the kingdom of God is like.

Mustard Seed

Mustard seed

Luke 13:18-19

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”

  1. Take hold of what you have. Don’t despise the smallness. Don’t neglect it nor be embarrassed by its size. When you take hold of it then you assume ownership, commitment and authority of it. Don’t give it to anyone else. You are responsible.
  2. Plant it. This is not burying it though the action looks the same. Both planting and burying are hiding the potential. The difference is that the planting is hiding for a season. Planting involves intent of growth. However initially there is nothing to show for your investment. Patience is plantings friend.
  3. Watch it daily. Build expectation. In your own garden you can see the plant grow. What good would it be to plant in someone else’s garden or plant where you will never go each day. Every day the man would wake up and look out at where he had planted. He expected growth.
  4. Let it become something it had been created to become. In your hand it didn’t look like a tree. You never become what you already are. You are meant to change.
  5. You will attract into your garden what was previously not there. You planted a seed, it became a tree, you got the birds as a bonus. The power of attraction happens because you kept to the law of sowing.

This is what the kingdom of God is like

18

18

Luke 13: 10-17 “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.”

Remember this? “…Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?”

18 is the connection.

I am not an expert in numerology but if it means anything in the 2 stories it means pain and suffering.

Luke positions them together for a reason.

The general thought was that those who died under the collapsing of a tower in Siloam must have done something wrong. That was certainly the thought amongst the religious leaders. “NO” said Jesus. He went further and said unless they repented they would be the ones to perish.

Next, he is in the synagogue. A woman was there who for 18 years was crippled so badly she never saw the sky. No one could help her. No one seemed bothered either. What was of most importance? The rules were kept, rules of the Sabbath.

The synagogue leader is quoting the Ten Commandments, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deut 5:15) Of course he is actually speaking of the interpretation of that verse. Namely, no one can be healed on the Sabbath because that is classed as work. The Sabbath was a celebration of being released from bondage and Luke tells us that this woman was also bound.

18 years of being held captive.

The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years. (Judges 3:4)

For eighteen years they (the Ammonites) oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites. (Judges 10:8)

What happened in the Judges happens in the synagogue that day. God sends a deliverer, a Saviour, to those who are bound. His mission is to release the prisoners from darkness and there was no better day than the Sabbath to do that. The day of celebration from bondage indeed and Luke tells us how the woman straightened up and praised God! She is free!

The synagogue leader is furious but he is humiliated. Jesus has shown that tied-up animals are treated better than this bound woman.

So throwing all that together:

  • It is so easy to have a wrong opinion about a story like the 18 deaths. (Saying ‘I don’t know why’ probably needs to happen more often but it needs to be said with no passing judgment).
  • Don’t build a philosophy of life on a tragedy. (The 18 people that died does not show that unless you are obedient bad things happen).
  • How can someone celebrate a freedom story when for 18 years they have been held in suffering? (We have to answer the many who say, ‘what about me?’)
  • The trauma of 18 (pain and suffering) needs a Saviour. (Look around today and you will see the trapped)
  • Don’t let your interpretation of what God has done (the Exodus Deliverance) cloud who God is (the Sabbath Deliverer).

Don’t give up on people

Don’t give up on people

 

Luke 13: 6-9 “Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

 

Every year for 3 years there was hope of fruit but none came.

How disappointing!

Do you know that disappointment?

Do you know the feelings of failed hope and promise? The thoughts that things will change but they don’t.

Do you know those times when people let you down? They told you they would be there but when it came to it they weren’t.

What it said on the tin wasn’t what you were getting inside.

What do you do?

I am sure you want to get rid of those relationships, walk away from that place, cut it down and start again. It is a waste of your time.

However, the parable says, give it more time and don’t rush into it. Instead work on it, dig around it and fertilize it. Create some space and pour into the good it is needing. Pour grace on it.

Some will call it a waste of time. If after 3 years there is no fruit then it is not going to start now. But Grace waits. Grace hopes. Grace goes again and again.

How easy it is for us to pass judgement on others. Maybe those struck by tragedy, killed at the altar or killed by a wall crashing down on them. How easy to look at those people who are not living our life, bearing the same fruit as us, who are producing nothing in our eyes, to root them out. How many times have we given up on people? Let’s get the axe and chop it all down. How many of us are glad that Jesus didn’t do that with us?

No. He springs into action and gets down into the dirt and he works for our salvation. He pours out his life. He gives of Himself that we might live.

Yes there will come a time for judgment but it doesn’t come quickly. It waits. And we are so pleased it did. So how about us waiting on a few people? Let’s not get rid just yet. Why not pour manure on them and help them to grow?

The blame game

The blame game

 

Luke 13: 1-5 “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

 

Many years ago I went to speak to a group of Christians from different Church backgrounds on the subject of suffering. After my talk an old man came to me who clearly hadn’t heard much of my talk and said, “They should be forced not to have more than one child and then they wouldn’t have so many mouths to feed.” I was appalled at his understanding of why there is famine today.

We continually live our lives surrounded by blame. Whose fault is it? That’s what we want to know.

When sharing of what someone has gone through, do you know that awkward feeling of needing to hide what they may have done wrong because you know the listener is going to pick up on that and exploit it? Maybe the person over-reacted. Maybe they didn’t respond in the best way. Maybe they made mistakes. Maybe they angered Pilate? Were those 18 building the tower of Siloam? Were they lousy builders?

“Ah I see! They had it coming to them. They made it worse. They are to blame.”

People can go further in their judgment, “God judged them. That’s why they suffered.”

“Is that what you think?” Jesus asked. “If that is the wise judgment you use, then it will be used on you too. If failure, suffering and death is based on sin then you are as guilty as those you point at.”

Using this measure: Jesus was asking them if they thought they were so good they wouldn’t die.

Clearly, it is nonsense. In fact Jesus says unless you repent you will perish.

We may look down at people thinking they had it coming to them. But in the same way, so do we.

This same Pilate would sacrifice another Galilean: Jesus of Nazareth!

Therefore, was Jesus a worse sinner than us?

Ironically yes. He became sin for the world, all the sin was heaped on Jesus who had no sin so that we might be righteous. The judgment wall fell on Jesus that we might walk free in our repentance.

Therefore, if bad things happen to you now it is not because God is judging you. Even if you die, you die in Christ, you will not perish and you will rise again.