It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (Luke 14:1-3 NASB)
I don’t think anyone reading the Gospels, whether they believe what they read or not, can come away from the experience and think Jesus is not an enigma. Jesus is an enigma to everyone who meets Him for the first time, and those who spend a great deal of time with Him. All the people knew is that He did miracles and taught with authority. The disciples knew that He taught as if He were God. The Pharisees knew that He taught different than they did, and believed different things about the Scriptures. What Jesus taught was often impossible to measure or intangible in other ways. It was a call to authentic belief.
Knowing that, Pharisees can’t leave it alone. I wonder if there was some internal competition between groups of Pharisees to see where Jesus’ weakness lay. But they keep repeating their testing. This is the third time Jesus heals on the Sabbath (Luke 6 and 13 are the previous ones). Jesus has answered questions from the Pharisees about “work on the Sabbath” in Luke 4. You’d think by now Jesus’ position on the Sabbath was pretty clear. But no, not to this group, and so we have with this group another example of why it’s dangerous to have Jesus over for a meal (see my previous blog entries “Giving = Sanctifying” and “Lawyer Drawing Fire“). This is the quintessential example of Jesus as a dangerous dinner guest. All the elements are here in verses 1 through 24.
But Luke words this rather interestingly. The scene is set, an invitation, a host, a “man-test”, and Jesus answers. Luke is specific, Jesus answers when He asks His question of His host and other guests. Think that through. Jesus saw the scene as begging a question, He saw it as the test it was, the setup, the trap. So He asks the question, in a sense “addressing the elephant in the room”. But what He asks is the surface question, the one we would expect Him to be asked. So, if the man before Him with the swollen limbs is a question Jesus answers, and the answer is the question the presence of the man seems to beg, then what is Jesus answering? Or is it as simple as Jesus simply stating out loud the mute question before Him, He really is “addressing the elephant” everyone else sees but doesn’t acknowledge? I don’t think so.
What other questions could the man represent? He could represent, “Will you follow our pattern of practice?” He could represent the question, “Who are you?” He could represent the question, “Will you play our game?” But I think the more likely question answered by the man before Jesus was, “Why did you invite me here?” The man made clear that the invitation was not a peaceful gesture, but an aggressive one. The presence of the man was a challenge to Who Jesus was, His role, His validity, His right to teach and lead people, and so on. I doubt by this time the Pharisees were in doubt about what Jesus stood for, where He stood on various issues, or His interpretations of Scripture. The man represented a trap, and as soon as Jesus arrived He understood the question, a challenge to Him.
“And Jesus answered and said,” Jesus did deal with the unspoken reason for His invitation, not just the man with a disease. He entered into the ambush, now knowing why He was invited, and proceeded to dismantle His opponents. He began by showing them the error of their assumptions about the Sabbath.
The reason I think this is important is that it begs the question from us, “Why do we go to Jesus?” Why do we? What do we hope to gain? I assure you that whatever that is, however you answer that question, all you do is provide the starting point for Jesus, and it will also be the departure point for where He will take you. It’s at that point that we have a decision to make: Continue to eat with Jesus or find a new dinner companion. I can tell you that other companions are a lot easier to deal with, nicer, less challenging, and often a lot more boring. Let’s continue on with this meal. But I warn you it doesn’t get any easier.
What do you learn so far from Jesus as a dinner guest here?