One of the many things I love about Jesus
For the past several weeks, my theme here in the NCF blog has been “God’s Story Goes On,” with an emphasis on the fact that the biblical records were not recorded just to tell us what happened some time “back then,” but to invite us into God’s ongoing story.
It means a lot to me that Jesus both talked about this reality, and that he lived it. Think for a moment about Luke’s record of the following events (Luke 14:12-14):
“He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’”
Jesus has given a powerful challenge here. Social climbing in all circles is full of parties and banquets designed to allow us to rub shoulders with other social climbers, whether we are in the field of politics, business, or religion. Jesus was glad to attend the parties to which he was invited, but he didn’t buy into the social obligations of repaying one another that goes with climbing the ladder. Also, I am certain that he didn’t suddenly become more popular when, as one of the guests of honor, he said, “Why don’t you have a party and invite all the people who cannot pay you back, who never get invited to these banquets?”Often when people say they are concerned about “social justice issues” and want to lead the way, their message seems very far from the reality of their daily life. To note just two out of hundreds of instances: The conservative Colorado Springs pastor who railed against gays and lesbians and led a movement to repeal the civil rights gained in this area, all the while carrying on an affair with a paid male prostitute and drug dealer. Or, the liberal Senator from Oregon who championed good legislation for women’s rights and just pay, all the while abusing and harassing at least ten women who worked with him on his staff and as lobbyists.
Now, please don’t miss my point today by trying to pigeon hole me as you determine which of the two were speaking words that I might have been most likely to resonate with. My point today is that living a lie often occurs in every sector of society including in those of us who are church leaders like me as well as among all kinds of social reformers. So I find it wonderful that Jesus lived what he taught. As the old sayings go, Jesus “walked the talk” and “practiced what he preached.”
Listen to the next event in Jesus’ life (Luke 15:1-2):
“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”
This text clearly claims that Jesus proceeds to do again what the Gospels tell us he often did—spend time at the homes and tables that the most religious people, and probably all other rabbis of the time, avoided. An event is described that is much like the one a tax gatherer named Levi had hosted earlier for his friends to meet Jesus.
But this text may even push the envelope a bit further. Luke says not only that Jesus this time “eats with them,” but also that he “welcomes/receives/accepts them.” The Greek word “dexomai” is a word that sometimes describes a host “receiving/welcoming/accepting” the guests he/she has invited.
So, picture with me this likely scenario. Jesus says to his disciples, “We have some free time this week, let’s throw a party and invite a bunch of people who don’t ever get invited to a ‘church supper’….” “Judas, how much money is in the common purse?…” “That’s enough! John, go rent a room. James and Thaddeus, go buy the best food we can afford. The rest of you, get out there and invite the guests!…” “Let’s do it Friday for Shabbat… “Wow, this sounds like fun!”
Luke says the religious leaders weren’t impressed. Judas, who apparently dipped his hand into the funds periodically probably wasn’t either. Maybe none of the close friends of Jesus (the apostles) were particularly thrilled at the moment, though later they recalled these stories with admiration.
So, Jesus not only taught God’s Stories. He believed God’s Stories should go on in his own living. And, I love him for the risky, bold way he lived God’s Story. Yet, I also find myself shamed and overwhelmed. It leaves me with two simultaneous thoughts: (1) Lord God have mercy on me a sinner—how far short of your wonderful story I often fall; and (2) Lord God please make me more into the image of your amazing son Jesus—what a human being he is!
Pastor Ron Simkins