Friday, November 7, 2014

A Terrible Guest

I've had wonderful guests.  People who come to my house, love everyone and everything there, have nothing but good to say and are as hilarious as they are kind (You know who you are!!!). I've had less enjoyable as well.  You know the kind I mean.  But I always thought Jesus would be a fun guy to have for dinner.

Jesus was a very frequent guest. He stayed with Peter's family, healing Peter's mother-in-law from her fever. He popped into a wedding at Cana where, at his mother's behest, he saved the host immense embarrassment by resupplying the wedding with the best wine.  He was the honored guest of Matthew who was busy trying to reach his friends (not "for Christ" but literally with Christ!)  All of these and more (including Zacchaeus and Mary and Martha) were thrilled to have him in their home.

But there were occasions when Jesus was not a fun guy to have at a party.  Do your remember the time he got invited to a Sabbath dinner at a Pharisee's house (Luke 14)? He started dinner by upsetting everyone by healing a man despite the Sabbath restrictions.  Then he got to telling stories. This wasn't unusual; he was a well-known crafter of parables.  But these were very pointed; they centered around hospitality with a very impolitic leaning towards how his host and fellow guests were doing it all wrong!

The first parable is embarrassingly direct.  Some prideful people were jostling for the best/most honored places at the table and Jesus told them the story of how they should rather take a lower place and let the host move them up as he saw fit.  Such a spectacle (of someone being moved down the table) would be truly cringeworthy!

But Jesus isn't done offending people; he's just getting down to business.  Looking around at his high company, he tells them they have invited all the wrong people.  They should have invited, "the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind".   In a principle Jesus has used before (Matthew 5-6 for one example) he insists that when the good we do goes unobserved, unpraised, and unreturned then God will himself reward us.  In other words, having a fancy dinner for friendly people is its own reward. Jesus says we will please God by inviting those who simply can not reciprocate.

I would have been intimidated into silence at this point. The last thing I would have wanted was his attention on me!  Yet one enthusiastic soul spoke up at this juncture with "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"  As much as I agree with him, Jesus finds him a little too self-satisfied and decides one more parable is in order. 

This time it's about who is going to make it into the kingdom of God.  God is pictured as a man inviting those in his community to dinner.  All the guests have excuses, "I have to go look at some oxen I just bought;"  "I just got married," etc.  The man is livid and tells his servant to go into the street after "the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind," because he insists that none of those invited will even taste his food!

Let's review. 

Jesus has broken all social/religious convention by healing on the Sabbath.  He told the whole high-minded crew that they were prideful social climbers.  Then as a coup de grace he tells them all they shouldn't have been invited anyway.  Their host should have hit the streets and looked for beggars instead.

Not my idea of a fun dinner guest. 

And yet, he's honest, compassionate for the less fortunate, and unwilling for the ignorant to remain so.  He's brave, passionate and outspoken.  The only thing he's not is "nice."

I begin to believe that "nice" is overrated. 


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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