Jesus is not nice.
It’s one of the conclusions that I’m coming to. Of course, I’m using that word “nice” culturally. “Nice” people don’t judge others. They are quick to keep their religion to themselves and lay low. Nice people point out that Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you” but leave out the “go and sin no more” (Coincidentally, the Pharisees among us love “go and sin no more” yet leave out “I don’t condemn you”- but that’s a post for another time). Hold on to this for a moment…
Here’s something that I’m learning lately: The Kingdom of God is for those who accept the invitation to join Him and his work.
In Luke 14, we find Jesus in the home of a Pharisee for a meal. After healing a man on the Sabbath (thus demonstrating that Jesus was immoral- because everyone knows that moral people obey the law) Jesus tells 3 stories that demonstrate his “not-niceness”:
- After noticing that people were taking the best seats at the dinner, he calls them out on it to their faces. He doesn’t keep it to himself and complain to the disciples privately. He doesn’t gossip about them. He confronts them. Those attending should not take the best seats, but seat themselves in the lower places. That way, they can be moved up by the host. Humility is the key.
- In the same way, he notices who it at the part. It was likely a veritable “who’s who” of the religious and cultural elite in Jerusalem. Again, Jesus calls them to account. Jesus tells them that they should not invite people who can repay them, but people who cannot- the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. This removes any hint of pride and ulterior motives. And, when one of those gathered weighs in with a spiritual platitude along the lines of, “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be…”
- Jesus becomes “not nice” to him…when we read this final parable, we know that it’s not about a simple dinner party or wedding feast. The final story is about those who receive, and initially accept, the invitation to join the kingdom whole-heartedly. When the time of the party comes, those invited create stories and reasons why they cannot attend:
- one man bought a field and had to go and see it (he must have purchased a storage locker from an auction)
- one man bought 5 oxen and had to go and try them out
- still another had just gotten married and could not attend
Upon learning this, the man ordered his servants out to gather (notice there’s no invitation here)…the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind (these are the same ones who Jesus had spoken of earlier) and they attended. As there was still room, the call went out to anyone “on the roads and country lanes” so the house would be full.
And of those invited, Jesus says this: “not one…will get a taste of my banquet.”
Jesus is being painfully direct. He has invited us to participate in the bringing of his kingdom.
- Some will attend and act like they belong there, that the party is about them. It’s not; it’s about Jesus.
- God invites us because we are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. We have NOTHING to off Him. He is God.
- If we decline Jesus’ invitation, others will be gathered. And, those “others” will be, in our minds, completely undeserving. They’ll be the ones we cast aside, the ones we drive by on the way to our homes, the maligned and marginalized. The ones we mock behind closed doors. The ones who don’t vote our way, and the ones who sin differently than us.
Soon, I’ll post thoughts based on my experiences in student ministry of what I’ve seen happen when those marginalized people “take the spots” of those who had been invited.