Luke 14:1-24 (winter, AD 29)
Imagine the scene in the Pharisee’s house (v.3-6). Jesus, seemingly energised rather than cowed by the presence of a hostile audience, confronted the religious leaders with a couple of questions. Sympathetic members of the public were mixed with Jesus’ opponents as they scrutinised him.
Faced with a seemingly straightforward legal question from Jesus, the Pharisees and teachers of the law refused to answer. They wanted the answer to be ‘No, it’s not legal to heal people on the Sabbath’. Not because they had anything against people being healed per se, but they deeply resented Jesus’ doing so on the Sabbath as it directly challenged their ungodly laws which, technically, ruled out going to the doctor about an ailment.
When Jesus pressed the issue by asking whether they’d help their child or ox out of a hole on the Sabbath, they had even less chance to say ‘No’ without suffering an outcry from the people.
This is what objections to the lordship of Christ look like in the hearts of all who reject him – not just the non-Christian’s ultimate rejection of the idea of repentance, but in the hearts of Christians who feel like their Creator’s incursion into their lives has gone far enough.
Sometimes there are bizarre, nonsensical attacks such as calling Jesus a demon. More often, there is simply this quiet rejection. Jesus asks questions we cannot answer and in our saner moments we either scream at him to drown out what he’s saying, or simply decline to respond.
Other times, à la v.15-24, we prefer not to say an obvious ‘No’, and instead hide behind other responsibilities or privileges that we pretend are more significant. The newly-wed, for example, in verse twenty was channeling Deuteronomy 24:5 – “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married”.
Leaving aside for a moment how cool it would be for a newly married couples to have a year off from all responsibilities, this guy was missing the point: he was being invited to a (potentially week-long) banquet that would bring mutual honour to him and the host, and he used an irrelevant law, designed for good, to excuse himself. Whatever responsibilities or privileges we may have been granted, none are a reason to give God the cold shoulder, and yet there are times when that’s exactly what we use them for.
Everyone is busy. But it doesn’t mean it’s ever OK or healthy to distance ourselves from God until we feel rested. Service for and relationship with God cannot be treated like a project that we may get round to, because then we never will.
Is God merely an intriguing potential project, or your Father who wants to hear from you and to speak into your life?