Dining with Jesus – the Pharisees

Dining with the Pharisees – Luke 14:1-14
Somehow we imagine Jesus dining in congenial company; well, he didn’t always do so then, and he doesn’t now. For today’s meal is eaten in the house of a leader of the Pharisees – there were at least a few of them there, and they were watching Jesus. He had this reputation for upsetting the apple-cart, so the chance of catching him out were good. Sure enough, along with the olives and the bread with its dippings of oil and vinegar, came a man wanting to be healed.
When we read stories of Jesus dining at someone’s home, we put them in our own context, so it is hard for us to imagine a stranger waltzing in, gate-crashing the meal. Think about this: many homes in ancient Palestine were grouped together around a central courtyard, where families could make use of the communal cooking facilities and additional space. People would come and go, even when not invited or not staying to eat. So enter the man with dropsy.
Jesus knows he is being watched, so he pops the ball into their court and asks the Pharisees and the lawyers: ‘is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath day, or not?’ Eyes downcast, chomping their bread and figs, they don’t answer him. Jesus heals the man and he leaves, his dropsy gone, and having fulfilled God’s purpose.
Not content with this challenge to his host, Jesus, observing the guests choosing the best places to sit, chucks in a parable. Experience should by now have taught these people that the hearers of Jesus’ parables usually come into some criticism regarding their actions. This was no exception, nor was it just meant for them. Along with his very gentle reminder not to grab the best places, but to be humble and take the seat near the door, Jesus suggests that we should not just invite the people who can reciprocate over to dinner. Giving without expecting any material return is a tenet of our faith, for we know we have been given every good thing by God whom we can never repay.
Enjoy your meals today – you know from whom they came.

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