Luke 14: 1-14

  One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son  or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?”  Again they could not answer.

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice:  “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

 What is our motivation, what drives our actions?  Is it  a desire to please God?  Is it a desire to demonstrate a love for Him and obedience to His commands?  Or is there an internal desire to be seen and recognized for ourselves, who we are and what we are doing? Is there a desire to be affirmed as someone of importance, someone looked up to?

 We are given some suggestions to live by that include taking the lesser place and giving without expecting a return on our effort.  The first is an action taken out of true humility.  It is an expression of courtesy, consideration, preferring others above self.  It demonstrates an outward focus rather than an inward focus of self-absorption.  The second action is motivated by a genuine love for those who have less than we, those who can benefit from our actions.  This example of the luncheon and who to invite is driven by a desire to bless others without expecting a return on the investment of time and effort.  True giving expects no gain on our part, is done from a heart of compassion and concern for the other without obligation on the part of the recipient.

 Jesus states we will be blessed; by God and not immediately, at the resurrection of the righteous.  These are character attributes of an individual whose sole purpose in life is to please God and obey His commands.  They are not the attributes of a self-absorbed individual looking for personal gain.  Where is our focus?  What is our desire?  What drives our actions?  Is it love for our Creator, a love that gives and desires to please through obedience?

Rejection results in desolation

Luke 13:31-35

 At that time some Pharisees said to him, “Get away from here if you want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill you!”

 Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned. And you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!’

 Desolation for those who reject the one who loves them, created them, longs to hold them close.  So many times we hear the heart of God cry for His people who will not have Him.  He offers, they refuse.  The Creator shunned by the creation and therefore the creation is left desolate.  We ask why? when we look at the pain, suffering and oppression in our world and here is an example of why…by choice, a choice made that affects not only the ones making the choice.

 Jesus continued his ministry to those who would receive and would not be hindered from that task by threats.  We too can follow the example set by him to be faithful to hear his voice, to share, so  that those who will respond may do so.  Let us make the heart of God sing!

Does He know us?

Luke 13:22-30

Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”

He replied, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. And people will come from all over the world—from east and west, north and south—to take their places in the Kingdom of God. And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then.  ”

 Many say we cannot work to enter the kingdom of God and yet here Jesus says work hard to enter.  Can that be unpacked for us to understand what he means for it is also said salvation is not of works, but the gift of God?  Also, he does not answer directly the question will few  be saved leading to the implication not many.  That would indicate some do not.  There are those who want to say all will make it to the kingdom of God and yet here Jesus states many will try to enter but will fail. 

 Many will try to enter…work hard to enter;  does this ‘work’ begin with simple acceptance of the offered salvation that is then followed by the joy of working the assignment received from God?  Jesus repeatedly tells us to share the Gospel, the message we find in the Word of God.  Are we obedient?  God from the beginning of creation tells us he wants a people who love Him and obey Him.  Do we love Him and then obey Him?  Is it genuine, seen in our actions , thoughts and words toward others?  Is this the ‘work’ he mentions in this passage?

 The question that begins this passage is: “Are only a few going to be saved?”  The answer given first is “work hard to enter through the narrow door, or as another version puts it, make every effort to enter through the narrow door.”  The implication is it will take effort and that will cut down on the number who enter.  Jesus says once the door is closed we are not getting in.  And he follows with a statement he makes over and over again, the first will be last and the last will be first; put another way the greatest here will be least there and the least here will be great there.  Adding insult to injury those who do not get to enter will see those who did and those who did will be from all over.

 After all that is said, we are left with the statement to make every effort to enter.  Take nothing for granted and rather than worry about it; make sure we are doing what we have been given to do for the Lord, making sure He knows us, not just as someone who sat at a table with him, walked a street with him, but someone who really, genuinely knows him.  When we want to get to know someone, we spend time with them, do things with them, talk with them, intimately.  It takes an effort.  This relationship is more than a passing acquaintance, someone we occasionally eat lunch with or see on the streets or even stand and listen to as they talk.  This relationship is intimate with focused attention and desire.  Do we know him?  Are we faithful and obedient?  Do others see the love that comes from Him?  Do we know him?  Does He know us?

Occupy the kingdom…

Luke 13:18-21

Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”

He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like?  It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

 A small seed that grows to the point where it provides shelter.  A yeast that grows until it provides food. The kingdom of God is seed and yeast; knowledge of which is given to us in the Word of God. It provides shelter from the predator who would destroy.  It provides food to sustain health and growth.  What is a kingdom?  A unit of government, a social unit, a geographical unit?  It has leadership; king.  It is spoken of and used in reference to a group.  In this illustration it provides shelter, for birds, and food, dough.

 Definition for our use of the term kingdom, today, is: 1.  a country, state or territory ruled by a king or queen  2.  a realm associated with or regarded as being under the control of a particular person or thing.  What is meant by realm?  1.  a kingdom, 2.  a field or domain of activity or interest.  What is domain?  1.  An area of territory owned by or controlled by a ruler or government, 2.  An estate or territory held in legal possession by a person or persons.

 Put it all together; kingdom of God is an area held by Him over which He has ownership and control.  It has no boundaries or limitations as anyone who has worked with yeast and flour can tell you, it grows and grows.  It provides shelter from predators, be it of the mind, body or soul.  It provides food to allow its occupants to grow in health.  Are we occupants of the kingdom of God?  Do we continue to cast the seed of His Word and eat of His spiritual food found in the Word?  Let the kingdom of God grow!

What is work?

Luke 13:10-17

One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!

 But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.”

But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water?  This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”

This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did.

What is work? What is bondage?

 Jesus did not say to dishonor the Sabbath, neither did he even address the issue of work or not.  “Hypocrites!” is what he said.  How can one impose a restriction upon another that they do not keep themselves?  We call this bullying.  It smacks of oppression from a source that is looked to for release from oppression.   Jesus places  high value upon the life and quality of life of a woman, a believer.  One held in bondage and seeking to be set free.  We say we are about the Lord’s work; better to say we are about the joy of doing what the Lord asks.  Is what we do a joy to us?

Fruit-bearing?…or cut down.

Luke 13: 1-9

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.  If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”

 …I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’…do you think they were more guilty than all the others…unless you repent, you too will all perish.”…Looks like the question that begs for an answer is “Are we bearing fruit?” Not just any fruit, but fruit that is good, sweet, expected.  The owner expected figs from a fig tree. 

 For all have sinned..there is none righteous..the tree would be cut down for not bearing fruit!  We are all sinners, we can be sinners saved by grace if we repent.  Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us; we only need to accept it, then move on.   Then we face the question, are we bearing fruit?  What kind?  Do we give, do we share what we have, our knowledge of Christ, our blessings, our love, concern, care?  Or, are we still takers, using up the soil without giving back in return?  Do we spend more time asking than giving?  The statement is: if it doesn’t bear fruit, cut it down.

 We can be the tree planted by the streams of living water that brings forth its fruit in its season and its leaf also does not whither.  We can be fertilized by the Word of God, watered by the Holy Spirit as we commune with Him.  We can be fruit-bearing, living lives that honor the Creator, bring Him glory, spread His love and mercy to those who cross our paths.

We are capable…in Him

Luke 12:54-59

 Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right. When the south wind blows, you say, ‘Today will be a scorcher.’ And it is.  You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.

 “Why can’t you decide for yourselves what is right? When you are on the way to court with your accuser, try to settle the matter before you get there. Otherwise, your accuser may drag you before the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, who will throw you into prison. And if that happens, you won’t be free again until you have paid the very last penny. ”

  We judge the weather by experience and are pretty accurate.  We watch the signs of weather to decided what to wear, or do if it is dependent upon the weather.  We have a working knowledge of what events in the sky and earth will bring.  We have the ability to know right from wrong; we have the Word to search for truth.  It takes effort on our part, but we are capable.  Jesus states we should be able to read the signs of the present that indicate what our actions should be. Depending upon another to decide for us what is right in matters we can decide for ourselves, places us at another’s mercy.  We are to look to the Lord for wisdom, believe He gives as we ask and settle our affairs ourselves, believing He is our guide.   Living in peace with others as much as is possible in this life and place we make our own decisions based upon what we know from the Word.