At every turn, Jesus had conflict with the Pharisees. He had harshly condemned them because of their greed and wickedness, so why did they invite Him to dinner (Luke 11:37-52)? Why did He accept their invitation?
The circumstances of the dinner, which was held on the Sabbath, point to the Pharisees having an agenda beyond fellowship with Jesus. Obviously, their invitation was not extended out of goodwill. Not only does Luke tell us that the Pharisees were watching Jesus, but it seems they purposely placed a man in front of Jesus who suffered from abnormal swelling in his body (Luke 14:2).
Jesus wasted little time getting straight to the point. He asked them, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not” (Luke 14:3)? When they “remained silent,” Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way (Luke 14:4). Notice the Pharisees made no argument about whether or not the man was genuinely healed.
Jesus did exactly what the Pharisees had expected. The Pharisees now had an opportunity to fulfill their agenda. Right? Wrong. Jesus then asked the Pharisees, “Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day” (Luke 14:5)? Luke says, “They had nothing to say” (Luke 14:6). Surely they would express joy at the man’s healing! No. They sat there without saying a word.
The Pharisees were not the least bit concerned about the man with dropsy. He was simply an object or tool to be used to justify their condemnation of Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand, showed compassion for the man. Not only that, Jesus also showed compassion for the Pharisees by warning them and providing them another opportunity to respond to His grace.
Jesus was now in charge of the agenda and, using the topics dinners and invitations as His backdrop, He took the opportunity to teach profound truth revealing what will happen to those who will reject His invitation.
Jesus had observed the guests select their places at the table. He first addressed the importance of humility. He said, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place” (Luke 14:8-9).
Jesus moved on from there to discuss charity. Jesus addressed the host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14).
Where do you sit when invited to dinner? Who do you invite when you host a dinner?
The Pharisees invited Jesus to dinner in hopes of advancing their agenda of condemnation and self-righteousness. Jesus accepted the invitation for the purpose of displaying compassion and teaching about humility and charity. He accepted so that He might offer His enemies one more chance to turn to Him in faith.
Jesus had more lessons to teach about invitations and dinners in the kingdom of God. We will see what He had to say about a great banquet in our next devotion.