Meals with Jesus: Best Seat in the House – Luke 14:1-11

20 Aug 2023

Meals with Jesus: Best Seat in the House – Luke 14:1-11

Passage Luke 14:1-11

Speaker Chris Musther

Series Meals With Jesus


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

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 Pharisee 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. 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. 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. But when you are invited, take the lowest place. So that when you host. 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.

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled. And those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Well, good morning, everybody.

That's a good start. Just to give you a heads up, there is going to be a quiz in a minute. So please make sure you're awake for that. Because we're thin on the ground. So you're going to have to work hard.

Okay? Our story today that Beth just read to us. Splits into two parts. We're going to look at them separately. And the theme of these carries on from the previous chapter.

Jesus is trying to explain this principle of who he's going to be in his kingdom, who is going to know him, who's going to know God, who's going to be in relationship with him. And in the previous chapter, Jesus had been doing that by talking about exclusion. Who's not going to be in the kingdom. But he starts in chapter 13. To talk about who's going to be included, who's going to be included in his kingdom.

And there's also this theme of the supernatural and the mundane. Linking this idea of the practical and the spiritual. Jesus wants us, and wants the Pharisees that he's speaking to. To think about the interplay between religion, faith, morality and action. And to look at themselves.

And today, for us to look at ourselves and see what that looks like. So this first section that we read, this idea of Jesus the Pharisees and a sick man going into a house for dinner. Sounds like the start of a bad joke. No. Okay.

It doesn't then? No. Okay, we'll carry on. Never mind. But a joke needs a good setup, right?

And that setup was very, very poor that I just gave you. So it's fine that you didn't laugh, but a good joke needs a good setup. And actually, there is a bit of a setup going on in what happens. It's happening on the Sabbath. The Pharisees have invited Jesus to this meeting.

This sick man just happens to be there. And one of those is a bit of an odd one out. So we're going to have a test now. We're going to have a test to see how good you are at spotting an odd one out. So there's going to be some pictures appearing on the screen, with any luck.

So this is a nice, easy one to get you warmed up, right? And I'm hoping that Mel. Oh, Mel's there. Good. Thank you.

Just in case, Mel. So, who can tell me. Well, who can tell me who those four characters are? Anybody? Oh, some of the younger people must know, surely.

I'm a bit worried that this is an easy one.

Anybody? Anybody? Shout out for me. Any of those characters. Hulk.

Yeah, the incredible Hulk. The big green one. Yeah. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Yeah.

Okay, fantastic. Okay, one down. Football's going to be starting soon, guys. Come on. Iron man.

Yes. Tony Stark. Fantastic. Iron man up at the top there in the red and the gold. Fantastic.

Who else have we got on there? Ultron. Yeah. Fantastic. Silver guy up at the top.

Right. Who else have we got? Who's the last one? Black widow. Thank you, Mel.

There we go. Okay, so that's who we've got. But who's the odd one out, you know, in those pictures? Oh, so, from black widow. Black widow over here.

Who else thinks it might be somebody else? Ultron votes for Ultron. Okay, who thinks it's black widow? We've got a few there. Okay, who thinks it's Ultron?

Oh, I think the Ultrons have it. And if you give us the next one, if you click now. Yeah, there we go. It is. It's Ultron.

Ultron, the megalomaniacal AI cyborg, alien type monster thing. Definitely a bad guy. Okay, this one. I mean, that was supposed to be the easy one. This is going to be really difficult.

This one. Okay, so can we name who these people are, first of all? Okay, Rishi. Dishy. Rishi sunak.

Yes. Fantastic. That's up at the top right there. So we've got one down. Who else have we got?

It's who. Sorry. Yep. Rishi sunak on the top, right? Yeah, absolutely.

Absolutely. Anybody know any of the others? Angela Rayner. Yeah, Angela Rayner. Down here.

Fantastic. Oliver Dowden. Yeah, Oliver Dowden. Up at the top, next to Rishi.

And down at the bottom right there is Michelle. Michelle Donlin, who is the minister for science, technology and innovation. Okay, so out of all those, who do we think the odd one out is?

Oliver Dowden. We've got a vote for Oliver Dowden. Anybody else?

Angela Rayner. Yeah. Okay, who's it for? Oliver Dowden. And I keep running to call him Grant shaps for some reason, so I don't know what that's all about.

No, no votes. What about Angela Rayna? Yeah. Angela Rayner is a member of the labour party. Fantastic.

This isn't going as easily as I thought it might, I'll be honest. Okay, so do we know who these characters are? We do. Okay. Peppa pig down at the bottom there.

Yeah. Fantastic. Do we know who the rest of them are? Holly. Yeah.

Princess Holly. And king. Yes. King something thistle. King thistle.

Wow. Come on, Ben. Well done. Can you get the last one there at the bottom then, Ben?

Yeah. The fairy. Nanny plum. Fantastic. Yes.

So of those, do we know who the odd one out is? Peppa pig. I think that's a universal vote for Peppa pig being the odd one out. Great stuff. Thank you.

Next one, then. Okay. Now then, who's this on the screen? Bluey. Yeah.

We've got Bluey here. Top cat. Yeah. The most chicken. Yes, exactly.

Who else have we got? Are the two sides here?

I'm gonna have to cheque, actually, because I can't remember. I think one's rad. I think. Radler.

Okay. I think there might be a really easy giveaway on who the odd one out is on this one, to be fair. Can anybody spot who the odd one out is? Top cat. Yeah, I think we might be.

Right. Top cat might be the easy odd one out there. Okay, now then, Donald Trump. Fantastic. Yeah.

We've got Donald Trump there. Who else is there? Bill Clinton. Yeah. Who's at the bottom there?

Abraham Lincoln. Yeah. And the last one, he's not a crook. Richard Nixon. Yeah.

Fantastic. So of those, who is the odd one out? Clinton. Yes. And why?

He's a Democrat. Fantastic. Yeah. How come we got that really quickly in that hour? Okay, this is a bit of a tricky one.

Can we name the movie first of all, or the movies first of all? Jurassic Park. Fantastic. Okay, now, I will accept two answers for this one. There are two answers to this one.

Okay. Who is the odd one out? Well, who are these people, do you know? Probably can't remember the character names, but maybe get the actors. Julianne Moore, she was in the second film.

Correct. Okay. Oh, yeah, that's good. That's not one. That is correct.

But that's not what I was looking for. But, yeah, you're right. Julian Moore is from the second movie, not the first one. The other three are in the first movie.

Okay, I'll give you this one. The other three are all doctors. And this gentleman isn't also. The other three are all nice people. And this guy is a bad guy.

Boo. Okay, fantastic. Thank you very much. So you did all right there, spotting odd ones out. So in our story today, then we've got the Pharisees, we've got Jesus.

We've got sick man. Who do we think is the odd one out? Sick man. The sick man. Yes.

And I think you're right. So let's find out why, shall we? So we have these three players in our story as it unfolds today. And at this point, there's been this kind of continuing disconnect. Between what Jesus is telling the Pharisees.

And their interpretation of the Old Testament. And Jesus has been pointing out where their interpretation. Where the oral law disagrees with the law given to the Jews by Moses. And he keeps picking at this difference. And keeps bringing it up to them.

And showing them where they're thinking is wrong. And not what God would want them to do. And on the flip side, we've got the Pharisees here. The Pharisees have invited Jesus to this meal. They're watching him closely.

The text tells us they're looking for reason to call out Jesus. And to condemn him. Or to discredit him. And it's happening on the Sabbath. It's a deliberate move by Jesus and or the Pharisees.

To make this a situation that's going to come to a head. It's designed to provide a forum to trap Jesus. And many people think the presence of this sick man. Is literally a construct. To force Jesus hand, to make him do something so that the Pharisees can call him out.

And so he is the odd one out for this little scenario. There's also a complication. Because for some rabbis, for some of the jewish teachers, there's a link between sin, between being wrong before God, not being right with God and sickness. And so it adds another dimension to what Jesus is going to do when presented with this sick man at this meal. So what happens?

Well, Jesus heals this man, this sick man, and he doesn't do it based on any professed faith on the part of this sick man. He literally heals him. And then this man is sent away and takes no other part in the meal. He's not the focus of what's going on in this story. The focus is the Pharisees idea of the law and how it plays out in relation to people.

And jesus breaks this down very simply. Jesus poses a practical question of faith. He says to them, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? Because the Pharisees thought it wasn't. The Pharisees thought they couldn't do any work on the Sabbath, so they're trying to trap Jesus.

Jesus is scratching again at this question of the intersection between faith, a life of faith, religion, morality and action. The point that Jesus is trying to make is that the law of Moses isn't wrong. But any interpretation of it that puts people secondary, that puts the suffering of people as secondary, has a problem where the law is elevated above caring for and supporting people, then it's problematic. There's an issue. The law and its interpretation must be compatible with delivering for those in need and not pushing them aside.

And Jesus breaks it down really simply when he turns around to the Pharisees and says, on the Sabbath, would you rescue your ox or your child if they fell into a well? It's a very simple razor that he gives them. Now, let me give you a little bit of an example. So during COVID We all remember the COVID times, the big panna cotta. We weren't allowed out, were we?

You could only go out for certain times, a certain amount of time. You could go out for exercise, but you couldn't go and socialise. You couldn't go and meet friends. We were all trapped in our houses. Now, during this, we sat at home, working from wherever we were working at the time.

And a message came through on our neighbour WhatsApp group. So a few of our houses on our street, we've got a neighbor's WhatsApp group. And it turns out one of the neighbours had been out for exercise with a dog and two little boys. And she'd gone into the woods behind our house. And while she'd been dealing with the dog, distracted by the dog, one of the boys had gone missing.

So she'd messaged the group and asked for us all to go and help, to go out, to get together and go and sweep the woods to find this young boy. Now, of course, strictly speaking, that wasn't allowed under the COVID rules. And we can get into interpretation of the rules, if you like. Strictly speaking, that wasn't within the rules. And yet what did we do?

Well, of course we all left our houses, we got together and we went to look for this little boy who was lost. We found him, everything was fine. But it's an important thought that actually the law of the land in this case, whilst it was important, was subsumed by the need to go and find this young boy, do what was right. Now, I'm not saying that as Christians, as people who profess to have faith, we can just go out and arbitrarily not follow laws because of some kind of moral superiority. That's not what I'm saying.

What we're talking about here in the text is actually the law of Moses, the jewish faith. But it illustrates the point that the rhetorical question that the Pharisees are given that they can't answer because of course, would they go and rescue their child on ox on the Sabbath? Well, of course they would. Now, it's easy for us as Christians to look at the Pharisees and to look at them in a negative sense. And often we use the word Pharisee kind of pejoratively.

As Christians we use it in a negative way. It's an easy trope for us to say, oh, look at the Pharisees, so legalistic, so tied up with interpretation of the law, that they didn't do the right thing. It's easy for us to claim that commitment that they had was wrong. It's easy to claim that their rabbinical discussion about the law and about Yahweh led them down the wrong path and led to a flawed interpretation of the Old Testament. But in doing so, we kind of miss the point.

In doing so, we actually are a bit presumptive and arrogant. And it can be dangerous to look at it like that, because really the text here is inviting us to look at ourselves as the Pharisees in this instance. The christian church has a long history of orthodoxy taking precedence over people. We can look at how we have different denominations of church around the world and how actually Christ's hope and view of the world isn't taken into account there, but people's ideas and thoughts are. And we develop these different churches traditions.

We can look at the past, where the church is centred to the slave trade and we look at it now and see that was wrong and yet it happened. So maybe we need to search our own hearts. Look at where the intersection of religion, of faith, of life and morality and action is for us. Search our own hearts to find where our practises, our adherence to religion might be getting ahead of our care and support of people. Where our love of our faith might outstrip our love for Christ.

Where our practise and our adherence to religion actually fails the love test and doesn't allow us to love the people around us as we should. I'm going to leave us to ponder our own hearts and we'll fall short for a few moments there as we enter into our time of confession.

Thank you so much Chris. What we're going to do for our time of confession is I'm going to ask us some questions, some things to think about. And then I'm going to say, Father, forgive us. And we can say together, save us and help us.

The book of Colossians says, therefore, don't let anybody judge you by what you eat or drink or with regard to a religious festival, new moon celebration or Sabbath day. Where is it that we are judging others?

Why do we need to say sorry?

Father, forgive us. Save us and help us.

These are shadows of the things that were to come. The reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humanity and the worship of angels disqualify you.

Where do we need to focus on Christ, who he is and what he does? Why have we been distracted by other things? Father, forgive us, save us and help us.

Since you've died with Christ, the elemental spirits of this world, why, as though you still belong to the world, do you submit to its rules? Don't touch, don't taste, don't handle. These rules have to do with things that are destined to perish with use. Such regulations have an appearance of wisdom with their self imposed worship. But they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Where is it that we've added our own rules to what the scriptures say?

Where is it that we do things out of tradition rather than love for Jesus?

Father, forgive us. Save us and help us. Jesus says that the greatest commandment is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second is like it. Love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Father, forgive us. Save us and help us. And so may the father who loved his neighbour, you and I, as he loved himself, forgive us through the death of his son and help us to live in the strength of his spirit. Amen. Amen.

We're going to sing again a song which speaks all about who Jesus is and what he has done. So if you'd like to please do join me in standing and we'll sing yet not I, but through Christ in me. Please do be seated.

So we were going to play a quick game to illustrate this next bit of the passage, but because you were all so rubbish at the quiz, it's all on you. I hope you're going to take a long look at yourselves. We're not going to do that. But just imagine what's going on at this meal that Jesus is witnessing. Right?

You've got people coming in and all clamouring for the place of honour at the table. And there's this warning there that if you get to the place of honour, you think you've achieved, and then somebody comes in and the host says, oh, actually, no, this is the guest of honour. And you get kicked right back to the far end of the table, far away from where you wanted to be. The theme of the last being first, those Jesus says, who humbles themselves will be exalted, and those who exalt themselves will be humbled. And so again, we have that theme of a faith based life and what it looks like, the practicalities of it.

To what degree do expectations on ourselves match up with what the expectations of Jesus are? There's a role reversal going on here, and it's a similar one to what we see in Luke, chapter 13, verse 30, where Jesus says, and behold, some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last. And it's common, when Jesus is speaking about the kingdom of God to have this idea of the topsy turvy. We see it writ large in the sermon on the mount. The kingdom of God places value and honour on those things that the world doesn't necessarily value.

The thing that society perhaps undervalues the kingdom is sometimes described as upside down, because there's this value and role reversal. More than that. When we think about role reversal, when we think about those who take the lowest place and are exalted to the highest place, then who else can we look at but the Lord Jesus Christ? That one who was there at the beginning, who deserved that highest place of honour with the Father in heaven, and yet thought it not robbery to be found in flesh as a man down here on earth. Paul, when he writes to the Philippians, kind of takes the words of an early christian hymn and says, the one who in nature and substance, was completely God didn't rely on that advantage, but took humility, humanity and the lower place, the lesser honour, upon himself.

He chose it willingly. Not only that, but he became the sacrifice to turn away the wrath of God. He became obedient to death in order to gift his righteousness to his people. And therefore God exalted him, gave the place of honour to him and made him king of those that he makes life available to.

That's really the thought that Jesus is bringing forth when he's giving these words at this meal, when he's talking about this role reversal, he's talking about the seating at a meal and the shock of embarrassment and humiliation when you're unseated because you're not quite as important as you thought you were. But underlying that is the question of personal faith and integrity. A real life of faith that's lived authentically, that's lived congruent with the values of God, might look very different to a life that's led, that leads you to clamour for a place of honour at a meal, at a table. What do the actions of the Pharisees and the guests tell us? Well, for christians, Paul says, if there's any encouragement to be had in Christ, any comfort in the love of God, any work of the spirit in us, any affection and any sympathy for the world around us, then we should be of the same mind as Christ, the one that we've just talked about, the one who rightly could claim the very highest place and yet willingly gives it up.

So we ask ourselves, I guess, do we count others more significant than ourselves? And before you answer that, just consider really how hard that is, because naturally we want to prioritise ourselves. We want to look after our own needs, don't we? And yet we're called to put the needs of others before ourselves. Do we prioritise the interests of others above our own?

Do we clamour in life for something that's ultimately unimportant? Or do we seek God's kingdom? Are we aligned with the mind of Christ and with the values of his kingdom? Are we seeking the values and priorities of God to be written on our hearts and our minds and our lives by the work of the Holy Spirit? Are we seeking a place of honour for ourselves in what we do?

Are we doing that by ourselves? Or are we looking for our place and our honour and our worth and our value to be decided by Christ and found in him?

Sometimes it's easy for us to answer that question in the positive and say, yeah, of course, of course. I prioritise the needs of others. But when it comes down to it, in everything that we do, are we seeking others needs above ourselves? Are we seeking God's?

Are we seeking God's heart for the world? In everything that we do, I look at my own heart and I see where I fall and I fail. And so I look to Christ and I ask for more of those values to be written on me and the way I behave. And I would pray that for each and every one of us as we go into this coming week, that we might live out those kingdom values, that we might seek Christ in all that we do, that we might seek the needs of others above our own. Should we just pray?

Lord God and heavenly Father, we just thank you for this short passage that we've been able to look at this morning. We thank you that we can look at these challenges laid down for us as Jesus meets with the Pharisees. Yes, he met with them so many years ago. And it's easy for us to look back on those and to answer in the affirmative, to look back and see where those mistakes were made and to be on the side of Jesus. And yet, Lord God, as we look at our own lives, are we really living for him?

I pray as we go out from this place, you might help us to do exactly that in and through his precious and worthy name. Amen.

Oh, is this on? As we turn to prayer, we're actually going to use a prayer we've seen before, where we're going to put others first, before ourselves. And for those of you that need to concentrate, we're going to use our fingers. And for those of you that like to say responses, we're going to have a response at the end of every section where I will say, Lord, in your mercy, and you will answer, hear our prayer. What we'll do is we're going to look at our thumbs pointing towards us, to pray for those closest to us.

We're going to pray for those who teach us, those who stand tall and lead us. We're going to pray for those in need. And then we're going to pray for ourselves last. And at the end of it, you'll be pressing your hands together very hard. And it's one good way just to remember to pray for lots of different things.

So with our thumb closest to our heart, we pray for those closest to us. For our family and friends, we give you great thanks for our parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and those that really matter to us. Thank you that you've put them in our lives and how they show us to be humble and to live the way you Jesus asked us to. In the next moments, we are going to give particular thanks for those that matter to us.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer with our pointer finger used to point directions. We pray for those who teach us and coach us, particularly thinking of the football team today and those that help us in emergencies. We bring before you all the new teachers and coaches we will have this year. We ask them that you give everyone who works in universities strength for the coming season, and especially for those who risk themselves to put themselves in physical danger, whether hospital, fire, police, that you take care of them as they risk their lives for us. In these moments, we remember those who have helped us now and in the past.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Our tallest middle finger is for those who stand tall and lead us, whether here in this church, our bosses at work, or across the world. We pray for all of those in authority over us. And may they be able to say, yet not I, but through Christ in me. May they be selfless in their desire to serve.

We ask particularly for Ben and his family as they have a break. May they return with renewed strength. And we pause now to think of all our leaders who have oversight over us.

Lord, in your mercy.

Our ring finger is our weakest where we pray for those who are most in pain or need, who are hurt or troubled. When we see those that we care about walk through the deepest valley in the dark night. Lord, give them strength, help the weary and burdened, and give them your deep peace and rest, and help us all to hold on to our only hope. Jesus, we now pause to remember those that are precious to us in this situation.

Lord, in your mercy. And our little or pinky finger is the smallest, so we use it to pray for ourselves and our own needs. May we be able to give thanks for all the good things you have given us, whether we like them or not. And help us, Lord, to see how vast your love is for us, bigger than we can ever imagine. Help us to keep running the race you call us to.

And in this moment, we give you the things we really worry about.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Thank you, Lord, for the strength you give us to stand firm for your grace and mercy that passes all understanding and for the peace of Christ that remains in our hearts. Thank you. We can give all these prayers said and unsaid to you, knowing that you have set us free through Jesus, in your name, amen. Amen.

Thank you so much, Claudia. Just let me draw your attention quickly to the back of the service sheets. And the key thing to say there is there's lots of information. Do have a read of it. If you are coming along to either of the socials this week, then we need to make sure that we're signed up for numbers.

So if you're coming along to the sausage sizzle event, say that five times quickly, if you dare. Then you need to make sure you are signed up on the sheet down in the church hall. Do that before you leave today, please. And if you are over 60 and are coming to the natter event, please, can you speak to Angela? I almost called you Vicky then.

I have Vicky going round and round my head and I was like, no, no, a generation out. Angela, please speak to Angela today and make sure that she knows for catering as well. And that will be great.

We've heard of the Christ who humbled himself. He didn't take the top seat at the table, but he took the very lowest. Why? Because as he looked at people who were in need, he met their needs, even at great personal expense. And we're going to sing our praise to him in all humility, as our first verse of this old hymn says.

So let's stand, if we'd like, and sing this song together.