God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27 - Luke 14-15: God's Chosen People Cannot Be Bothered to Eat with the God Who Sets Things Right

Today’s Reading: Luke 14-15

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Following Jesus has a high cost. It also has a high reward.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Jesus argued that if Pharisees could rescue someone on the Sabbath, then He could heal, too.
Jesus added, "Sitting in a seat of honor before being asked brings embarrassment," and "Inviting misfits who can't pay back brings blessings."
Jesus told a parable of a man whose friends were too busy to attend his dinner party. Instead, he called misfits, the homeless, and strangers to join him.
Personal sacrifice is essential to following Jesus.
God celebrates over one relationship set right. A man's son returned home after squandering his inheritance and received a banquet. His (faithful) brother resented the banquet.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Jesus presented another paradox: those who want to be in the seat of honor should take the lowest seat available.

Jesus previously mentioned that children were the greatest in the Kingdom of God and if the Apostles wanted to be the greatest they should become the servant of everyone. Today's reading continued that paradox of becoming the greatest by being the lowest. This time the setting is a banquet. If you want to be considered great and honored, become humble as a servant and take low positions. Then you can be called to a higher place.

We are to give without expectations of receiving.

At the same dinner Jesus told the host that he should not limit his guest list to those who were rich enough or friendly enough to invite him back. If we gave without expectations we would be blessed greater than if we only gave to our "friends". Christianity is among the few religions that give in thanksgiving to what God has done in the past. God challenged Israel to test His Faithfulness by giving the entire tithe. Jesus challenges us to give even when the person can't or doesn't want to give back. Giving is based on what God has done for us in the past, not what we want from God in the future.

God's Chosen People cannot be bothered to eat with Him.

The saddest part of Jesus' parable of the man who gave a feast is that the man's friends could not be bothered to join him in his celebration. Jesus is showing the Pharisee how his statement about those sitting at God's Table may be true but the ones at the Table are not who he thinks they are. The Pharisee thinks the people in the "Pharisee Hall of Fame" are there. Jesus tells him they couldn't be bothered to join God at His Table. In their place were the misfits, the homeless, the ones the Pharisees would least expect to be there. This is a glimpse into what will soon happen when Israel cannot be bothered to set things right even though God sent His Son to earth. God calls others to join Him at His Table because His Chosen People are unwilling to obey Him.
We as Christians should read this parable and realize we are in both groups. We were once the strangers on the highway God called to join Him. After a generation or two we became the ones to whom God sent an invitation. Now we cannot be bothered. We have taken a new job and need to make sure they are impressed by us. We have bought a new thing and need to spend time paying it off or playing with it while we can. Or we have married and want to enjoy our togetherness. You can fill in your own excuse but the truth remains—God is calling others to set things right because His Chosen People are too "busy" to do it. That may sound harsh, but it sounded equally as harsh to the Pharisees who heard it.

Becoming Jesus' Disciple requires greater commitment to Him than to any other person—even yourself.

God has twice told His Chosen People the great benefits of obeying Him and the great punishments for cheating on Him. Jesus gives another version of this when He says we need to count the cost before choosing to follow Him. We could lose our parents, our spouses, our children, our siblings, our friends, our freedom, or our lives if we decide to become God's Chosen Person. Jesus has wrecked many people's careers. He has taken away dreams. Many who obey Him would testify that He replaces them with much better relationships, careers, or dreams, but it still hurts to have them taken away. Being Jesus' Disciple is for anyone but not for everyone. If a person is not willing to pay the price, they are only setting themselves up for greater punishment in the future by trying.

God rejoices over one person who needs to repent.

Yesterday I mentioned how Jesus did not want to solve systematic problems because He wants to solve individual problems and through solving these individual problems the systematic problems would work themselves out. Today Jesus' saying is that God rejoices over that individual who sets their lives right. Just like a shepherd rejoices over the return of one sheep, God rejoices over the return of one person. The issue isn't that Jesus loves that person more than the 99 who are safe in His Care. It's because when something you own (or someone you love) returns, it is greater than replacing it (or them) with something (or someone) else. You have a relationship with that thing or person. It feels great to have that relationship set right. No person is too insignificant to God that He does not rejoice when they return.

The Prodigal Son's brother became bitter because the he never received a fanfare similar to his brother's.

The brother's issue sounds very familiar,
Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast! (15:29-30, The Message)
The brother thinks that his father's rejoicing over his brother's return means the father loves his prodigal son more than his faithful son. The brother is wrong—everything the father owned now belonged to him. The fanfare was because a severed relationship was set whole. The brother did not realize he was inside the safe barn with God's other sheep the entire time the lost sheep, his brother, was in danger of death. God's Chosen People must deal with their bitterness and rejoice when someone sets their relationship right with God. If not, we start down the road Jonah and his contemporaries travelled and may become so bitter we kick someone out for trying to set things right with the "wrong" people.

Have you counted the cost to becoming Jesus' Disciple?

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