Tuesday, January 6, 2015

In the Counting: Luke 14

In Summary: We come back to Luke 14. Jesus continues to teach His disciples, but He also takes the time to go to dinner. After all, the Incarnation involves taking on flesh, even with its weaknesses. Jesus got hungry, too, and had to eat.

I think we would do well to learn from His habits, though, as we often see Him use the fellowship and interactions brought about by meals to interact with others. None of His actions were needless or pointless. We see the opening of this chapter that Jesus entered the house of one of the Pharisees for dinner.

On the Sabbath. This is referred to as “eating bread,” probably because the Pharisee is being meticulous to avoid work on the Sabbath by only serving bread that had been pre-prepared. I do not have that in a definite source, but that seems a logical reason. There is a problem. There always seemed to be, and this time it was that a man in need of healing was present at the meal. Given the overall impression that the Pharisees are watching to see if Jesus will do anything, he’s likely there as bait for a trap.

Jesus springs the trap, heals the man, and proceeds to teach the Pharisees what is most important. He stresses humility and challenges His hearers to seek what is best for others. This is a valid question for every decision made by disciples of Jesus: “Am I doing what is best for me or provides others with the best picture of Jesus?”

Answer that one honestly and see how it changes your behavior in the years to come.

In Focus: That question, that type of thinking, brings us to our focal point. This chapter culminates with Jesus’ running off a good number of the crowd that followed Him. He points out that the defining relationship for His disciples is the relationship with Him, not with anyone else. He raises the important point that we must “carry our own cross and come after Him” (v. 27, pronouns shifted) if we are to be His disciple.

This includes considering just what it might cost us to be His disciple. This section presents the very real possibility that some will follow Jesus and falter when it gets too tough, to their own shame and embarrassment. An interesting side note is that He does not highlight that God will be embarrassed…just that the faltering disciple will be.

Further, take note that neither of the scenarios presented invoke unknown problems. The tower builder and the king going to war are both aware of the costs they face. It’s safe to assume this includes expecting one to prepare for a few things to go wrong! But there is no condemnation or ridicule for the one who sets out to build a tower and then finds it demolished by the angry king going to war! Only for the one who sets out to build without considering the knowable costs.

In Practice: What, then, do we do? First, we consider the cost of our discipleship. The primary cost is paid by Jesus when He dies for our sins. That is the portion of the debt we will never pay on our own. We just can’t. Every action we take to pay for our own sin is a rejection of God’s grace, which increases the debt rather than decreases it. We must surrender to Christ as Lord rather than keep trying to fix ourselves.

Second, though, is the cost to our own lives as followers. Here is where we can count the cost. It’s a simple inventory: what have you got?

Because it all belongs to the King of Kings at this point. More specifically, we should consider our preferences, our comforts, our plans as subject to change—or be discarded!—for the sake of His will. This is part of the cost: would you serve the King? Then you must not hold back.

This is especially true as we begin to walk with Him and start seeing the ways in which we have our own towers, our own structures in process. We have to learn to walk away from them, for the greater glory of following Christ.

In Nerdiness:

First, don’t get too thrown by the apparent weirdness of “no healing on the Sabbath” as a rule. There’s two reasons for it. The first is this: we’re not talking emergency medicine here. Nor are we talking time-limited life-saving surgery. We’re talking, generally, simple medicine or surgeries that you were fortunate to survive. There were no compelling reasons to do these things seven days a week. Second, there were quite a few false messiahs or fake faith healers then—just as there are now! (I’m looking at several fruitcakes in my own denomination on that, plus many others elsewhere…)

Constraining them to not heal on the Sabbath kept them away from the Synagogue or Temple crowds. Plus, it made for a religious litmus test. Not entirely bad.

What the rules didn’t account for was the possibility that God would get involved Himself. Man-made rules, even ones intended to honor God-made rules, are not restrictive to the Lord God. He will do as He has said—nothing we devise restrains Him. When we see that, clearly, we do and understand better.

Second, notice the motif of discard and abandonment in this chapter. I would suggest this: the problem is not the Jesus will discard if we are not salty enough (v. 34-35). It is that we will be cast out from the world we are here to salt if we are not salty enough. And salt, for all of its uses, is this: distinctive. Salt does what it does, without trying to be mustard, or pepper, or anything else! Be salt. The world will then need the Living Water to quench its thirst.

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