In this Bible lesson, Jesus confronts the religious leaders about not showing proper respect for an ill man. The real problem is not Sabbath keeping/customs. The reason the religious leaders are silent (twice in these short verses it is said they have nothing to say but remain silent) ~ they don’t like the man! The sick man is used as a prop.
In this church, we do our best to serve God by serving others in the community. Do you want to join us? Here’s my number one question: Do you like people? If you don’t like the people you are serving, then I don’t want you in that particular ministry. E.g. If you want to be on the worship team, if you like the sound of your own voice better than helping people discover God during worship, then I do not care how skilled you are…I’ll take a less skilled sincere servant over a more talented self focused person any day… The number one requirement to serve God in ministry is to have heart for the people whom you serve, and that means liking people. How? 4 points today:
1. Do not get sidetracked by the trivial, but instead learn to laugh at yourself.
2. Put people first. If our customs and rules exclude lifting people up something is wrong…
3. Don’t look down on people but see them as lovely.
4. Pray for people to grow in God’s favor and giftedness even greater than your own.
1. Do not get sidetracked by the trivial (but instead learn to laugh at yourself).
Jesus drives this point home by using the example of rescuing an animal on the Sabbath. READ Luke 14:5… an animal is trivial compared to a person. In those days there were many open wells for water, so animals and people falling into holes was something that happened. The point: people are more important than animals ~ you rescue an animal, why not a hurting man? Luke 14:6 “Again they had no answer,” Priorities. A sad fact: more church division happens over trivial matters than anything else….
The small things trip us up in our Christian service. We need rules, practices… sometimes we’ll be inconsistent in how we apply our rules. I am not hard on the religious leaders because I am them. The religious leaders are silent when Jesus confronts them with their inconsistency. I have a response I think would be so much better. I’ll read Luke 14:5 again but then make up what I think would be a better verse 6. READ 15 then the new v. 16:“and they laughed at themselves and they said you are so right Jesus, we somehow made our rules and forgot the greater purpose….”
I still laugh with my pastor friend about an incident about 6-7 years ago. In his church they have a rule that the building cannot be used for a wedding if the couple is living together. So the family asked if they could use our building. I said YES. 4-5 of you came to me, all very kind, trying to sort this out, wondering if maybe we were missing something and what kind of a witness for us to say YES to something another church said NO. We have no such rule. The day of the wedding came. The Pastor from the other church officiated, and the sanctuary was filled up with family and people from the same church. And you know what 4-5 people from the other church whispered to me that day? Pastor Carl, this is kind of embarrassing and silly isn’t it… we have this rule which we had to follow but here we are doing the same thing in your church… My friend and I still laugh about it, and even though I don’t understand the rule, I have tremendous respect for the Pastor and the Church for recognizing the inconsistency, because I am vulnerable to the same charge…
I think it is a mistake to read this scripture and conclude all our rules have to be consistent, because I think that is impossible this side of eternity. We need to try to be consistent, but realize that’s impossible. The better way is to keep a healthy perspective and understand God’s priorities…. The better way is to adjust when we find inconsistencies, ask forgiveness when needed, understand other Christians may make different decisions, and laugh at ourselves.
2. What is God’s priority? People first. The religious leaders were testing Jesus when He came face to face with the man with swollen arms and legs. Jesus knew he was being tested: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Jesus asks (Lk. 14:3). But they refused to answer. Why? The question is superficially about the law/customs/traditions. I think the leaders are silent because they knew exactly what Jesus was really asking, and they knew Jesus was right! What was Jesus really saying?
Over the years I have been asked to do many funerals. 2 X’s, I had funerals for people that had committed suicide because their church would not do it…For me, I cannot think of a greater honor to be able to help in such great distress… The churches that said no had beliefs (of which I won’t go into) that caused them to believe funerals for suicides was inappropriate. Later, on one occasion, I met a person from the community which denied the funeral rite… As we talked about what happened I kindly said, “I believe if our theology keeps us from meeting families at the point of their greatest needs, there is something wrong with our theology.” He was silent. He agreed with me.
The greater Godly principle going beyond our customs: People come first. The religious leaders that were setting up Jesus were silent because they understood Jesus was saying they missed the main point. They were not putting the needs of this ill man first. Their practices caused them to lose sight of what is most important. People first.
3. See people through God’s eyes: Don’t look down on people, not even in secret, but see them as God’s children. Today, if I were confronted by that same man in the University District that I was disrespecting by staring at him with negative thoughts, If he came up to me today I would apologize to Him, and then I honestly think I would offer to give him a hug.
Luke 14:1-6, is a Sabbath Day (the Sabbath is…), Jesus goes to the house of local religious leaders, and is faced with a man with swollen arms and legs. The old English term for this condition that KJV readers will know is dropsy. Today we’d call it Edema. Superficially the disagreement between Jesus and his host is about the keeping of the law, but I think Jesus pounces on something more basic. The bigger problem: they don’t like the unhealthy man. How do I know? Because the man is being used as a prop to test Jesus. End of Luke 14:1 it says the leader is carefully watching Jesus. They are testing Jesus to see how he will respond? The religious leaders don’t care about the dignity of the man, but are using him for their own purposes.
What a lovely detail in Luke 14:4: Jesus heals the man, then he is sent away. Jesus is protecting the man from further abuse. You do not put people on display you respect… treating them as objects… LEARN to see people as lovely….as Christ sees us.
4. Pray for people to grow in God’s favor and giftedness even beyond your blessings.
Isn’t it amazing the religious leaders aren’t concerned about the sick man getting well. The truth: they don’t want him whole! It has to do with social positions. In the days of Jesus and in many cultures today, you stay in the class you are born in your whole life. The children of merchants become merchants. The children of parents in poverty stay poor. The children of kings become kings and rulers. The man with swollen arms and legs has likely been that way for a long time… this becomes normal in the community.
When Jesus comes along and gives health to the sick, he is lifting them to a different status. We must learn to care about people so much that we want them to embrace Christ, grow in Christ even to the point of exceeding whatever it is we are in Christ. When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “He must become greater and I must become less” (John 3:30) I am convinced John this was not a thought he had for Jesus alone, but surely he had the same attitude towards other people too. May this be our prayer for others…. I don’t want a thriving children’s ministry so they can grow up and be leaders in this church. If that is God’s calling for some that would be awesome, but I want a thriving children’s ministry so they will grow up and go out and serve God in tremendous ways in communities and countries across the globe. I must be content for people to grow and thrive and do tremendous things for God way beyond anything he calls me to do or be…. Our privilege is to be used by God to lift other people up to even greater things….
Every time Jesus heals a person he is upsetting the social order of the community. There were rules in society for people that were sick, the lame: you may sit outside the gates of the temple in Jerusalem but don’t enter the doors. You may beg certain hours. You need to live over here or over there. This is what keeps order to society. Here is a story of my own creation… “You have a good job in the local factory that pays a decent wage, everyday you go to work the town drunk is at the building entrance, begging for money to make it through the day. Everyday you throw him a few dollars. You even like him. He is part of your pattern. Day after day, Month after month, year after year, you work and dutifully give a few bucks to help the man. One day the town drunk is missing. You walk inside, wondering what happened, and there he is standing beside you in the assembly line. He is now your peer. He is sober. He is a hard worker. He shows promise. After a few months he is promoted to management. Now the town drunk is your boss. /// You become bitter.”
I am not immune to a twinge of jealousy when I hear a young man that I thought was not very talented is now the pastor of a thriving church. Don’t tell me there is not a pecking order in classes at Nooksack… Upsetting the social order is the biggest threat Jesus posed to the religious leaders of the day. People had their place and as long as they improved only a little bit that’s ok, as long as they stay within their window of social standing. The greatest promise of Jesus Christ: we can overcome our sins and addictions, we can overcome our life of destruction…We are not stuck in our sins, stuck in our compromised positions, there is HOPE for a greater future with Christ…
May each one of us learn to like the people in our world whom God has called us to serve. In order to do that, we must have the ability to laugh at ourselves and adjust our rules when we figure out our own inconsistencies. Put people first which is God’s priority. In everything we do simply ask are we serving people as Christ would serve them. Don’t look down on people, but see them as God sees them: lovely beyond measure. And finally, pray for the people whom you serve that God will lift them up to even greater things, honoring them and using them in ways that are beyond your privileges.
Thank you Lord for giving me the privilege of entering your kingdom work by serving the lovely people around me.