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Disciples in an upside-down world

Date: 14 Aug 2022

Sermon Text: Luke 14:1-35

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan


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Transcript

Introduction

Blessed Sunday morning to all. It is good to have some of us being part of the live broadcast team here in Henderson and for the many who join in from home.

For over 2 years, we have been functioning as One Hermon in Many Homes.

Does this plague look familiar to you? Not the design but the words.

This used to be very popular in homes. But now most don’t see the need to display it.


God is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal and the silent listener to every conversation.

In today’s passage, God is literally at the home of the ruler of the Pharisees. The words of the plague are well and alive. In Luke 14, Jesus the Son of God is however not the unseen guest and also not the silent listener.


I was actually thinking of an alternate title for this sermon and it was ‘Be careful when you invite Jesus for a home-cooked meal’.


Look at what a polemic guest Jesus was at this home. He committed a religious “error” in the house of the Pharisee, he chastised the guests present, reprimanded the host and after leaving the home, raised the bar of following him, so impossibly high.


After reading Luke 14, would you want Jesus as your guest? The next time you host a dinner, no one else will want to come.


So, I wonder, is this actually why many of us don’t have this plague anymore in our homes? It’s because we have read Luke 14.


If Jesus is going to be our guest, is he going to disapprove of how we entertain? Is He going to frown upon our conversations? Is He is going to be disappointed at our guest list?


Luke’s gospel was written originally for Theophilus a wealthy Gentile. Would his sensibilities have been offended at what was written?


This must have gone against the norms of the society back then. And it still does even today.


Who is seeing the world the right side up? Is it the bible or what we observe with our human eyes?


As we journey through Luke 14, may we be convicted that the world is upside down and so realize that God has called us to be disciples in such a context.


I would like to bring us through Luke 14 in 4 segments. And I’ve taken the liberty to use portions of bible verses as the section headings.


What does the Lord require …. to love kindness (14:1-6)

Lk14:1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy.

The scene is the home of the ruler of the Pharisees. And Jesus has been invited for a sabbath meal.


The way v1 & 2 is written, gives us a sense that this was Jesus, walking into a deliberate trap.


Twice already, Jesus had broken the Sabbath law by healing and now again, there is a man with dropsy at the home on the Sabbath.


The fact that these 3 incidences have been highlighted by Luke, shows how deeply ingrained the wrong understand of the Sabbath was in the lives of the Jews.


The extra-biblical laws of the Pharisees, had begun with good intentions. They wanted to ensure that they did not break the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy.


But now tradition has kept them from fulfilling what it meant to truly keep the Sabbath. So, Luke repeats this issue of proper Sabbath keeping 3 times to help his audience realize the gravity of the situation.


I’m sure if we think hard enough, we might also discover that we too in Hermon may have traditions which divert us from truly worshipping God.


In the past I feel, the BP stand on the strict adherence to only traditional hymns and even selected musician instruments might have been hinderances.

But specifically here, Luke highlights 2 issues of the Sabbath.


Firstly, and the more obvious one is that they have no compassion. They see only the letter of the law and not the spirit of it.


Lk 14:3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”

Jesus calls out their inconsistency. They would be able to justify giving compassion to their child and even their ox if they were in difficulty.


Yet, they will justify against giving out compassion towards someone else in the community on the grounds of religious observations.


They have no genuine compassion. Only when it impacts their household will compassionate acts be justified. They are truly self-centered.


The Pharisees hold one standard for themselves and yet demanded something different from others especially Jesus.


If we are honest, we too are like the Pharisees. We cut ourselves and our families more slack than we do of others in Hermon.


Today, let’s ask God to enable us to apply His Laws with His heart of compassion and hold ourselves to the same standards as we do of others.


Secondly, it is the issue of what dropsy signifies. This was highlighted by a commentator and I think it is significant.


Dropsy is known today as Edema. Dropsy is when there is build-up of fluid in the body’s tissue. Basically, fluid retention and found most commonly in the legs or arms.


A primary symptom of dropsy was an unquenchable thirst in a body already bloated, but drinking only made the victim thirstier and worsened the disease.


Interestingly, during the 1st Century, dropsy was seen as a consequence of gluttony and thus used as a metaphor for greed and lust. People who were lovers of money were considered to have moral dropsy.


So, could the healing of the man with dropsy be Jesus’ attack against the greed of his audience? Thus, was Jesus’ healing addressing both a spiritual as well as a physical condition?


Today, we acknowledge that we are a consumeristic society. We are consuming more than the planet can provide. And the waste we produce, the earth cannot absorb.


Greed and gluttony, plagues us all. In response Jesus says, the Sabbath rest is for you. It reminds us, we can depend on Jesus. He is enough, He is sufficient.


May I quote – “Greed drives the sabbathless pursuit of riches in modern societies and it scorns the gift of rest that the Sabbath brings to humanity and to the world. What Jesus offers is the restoration of personal worth to each individual and release from the deadly cravings that destroy life.”


When we focus on Jesus, sabbath becomes about compassion and contentment. And in God’s eyes, this is a right-side up view of the world.


In humility count others more significant than yourselves (14:7-11)

Lk 14:7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, ….. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

As we look at what Jesus attacks from v7 to 24, I submit that the healing of the man with dropsy flows naturally with that focus. If moral dropsy is about greed, then pride and association are organic partners.


After doing the “irreligious” act, Jesus now turns to address the guests of the banquet.


In the Jewish customs, the guests were seated with proximity to the hosts. The nearer you were, the more important and thus the further you were from the host, the less significant you were esteemed.


So, your social status, my social status will be reflected in where we were seated vis-à-vis that of our hosts.


I was involved in the planning of a dinner involving seminary lecturers and pastors. As many of you who have organized dinners know, seating arrangements can be a very sensitive issue.


For my event, if I had been instructed – ‘put all the lecturers and pastors on a few tables’, that would have been easy. Just put them all in the tables near the stage.

But the organizers wanted to be different. They said, let’s sprinkle them throughout the ballroom, every table have a few of them.


Now that is not an issue, but the question became, which tables need to be near the front of the stage and which furthest away?


Sure enough, we had comments that night as people arrived at the reception table. I could see they were not too pleased if their tables were far from the stage.


Though it was explained that all tables were equal, all had the same tablecloth, decoration and had the same type of chairs. Somehow it still felt to them, that they were slighted if their table was furthest from the stage.


Human nature is very consistent. It was in the days of Jesus and it is still true in the 21st century.


The challenge is that it is easy to see pride in others – in the Pharisees guests, those who attended the dinner I was organizing. But it is very difficult to see it in ourselves.


I feel it is not helpful that we are embracing this notion that in everything ‘we deserve better’. Why is it so persuasive? I submit it is because it feeds at our pride. We feel we don’t deserve what we are getting, we deserve instead better.


And most often what’s better that we deserve, is always in comparison to others.

I’ve taken this section title from Philippians 2. May I read v2 to 5 for us.


Phil 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.


The passage continues to inform us that Jesus left His heavenly home to become flesh and to be a servant king who dies for His people on the cross.


Human pride is of the nature of the devil and it is totally alien to the character of Jesus. Pride is thus self-idolatry.


Jesus ends this segment by saying - For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.


‘Will be humbled’ is in the future tense and it is passive. It means in the future, the proud person will be humbled by someone else.


The humility of Christ ends with His exaltation by God the Father in v9:


Phil 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

So, I submit, our Triune God will be the one at Christ 2nd coming who will be humbling those who display pride in their lives and exalting those who have sought to live humbly.


We BPs see ourselves as champions of correct bible interpretation. Many times, we can come across as arrogant when we speak with those who are more liberal in their interpretation approach. Is pride creeping at our door?


Yes, we must always be seeking for a more faithful understanding of Scripture. But let’s never say we have arrived.


Let’s also show by our increasing graciousness towards others, that our attempts at faithful readings of Scripture has truly impacted our lives and not just our intellect.

When we focus on Jesus, pride must give way to humility. That is the way Jesus lived in this upside down world.


As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (14:12-24)

Lk 14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Being the polemic guest that Jesus was, he now turns from his fellow dinner guest to his host. This is the ruler of the Pharisees.


If the guest were seeking to exalt themselves, the host was no better.


By inviting only his friends, his brothers or relatives or his rich neighbors, was he also not self-serving? These are those who can return the favor, those who can repay you for this act of hospitality.


Now Jesus is not saying that you cannot be hospitable to your family, your relatives nor your friends. But do you do it only as a disguise for self-advancement?


You host to show off to your family that you can afford the finer things in life. You host for friends because their company enhances your societal status? You host acquaintances because it’s a great networking thing to do. They can potentially become business associates.


Keanu Reeves is a Canadian actor who is worth millions. He is famous for his movies like the Matrix & John Wick franchise. It is understood that the actor did not own property till 2003 and now lives in a New York apartment and uses the subway as his means of transport.


It has been shared that when he was filming the movie "The Lake House," he overheard the conversation of two costume assistants, one lamenting that he would lose his house if he did not pay $20,000. On the same day, Keanu deposited the necessary amount in his bank account.


In his career, he has donated large sums to hospitals including $75 million of his earnings from “The Matrix” to charities.


In 2010, on his birthday, Keanu walked into a bakery, bought a French bun with a single candle, ate it in there while offering coffee to people who stopped to talk to him.


Keanu Reeves is an A lister in Hollywood, yet his life is highlighted in a few Facebook posts because he lives so differently from many in his profession. He is cited as a role model for being a philanthropist. For not having wealth & fame get to his head and for not losing touch with the ordinary man.


Jesus tells this ruler of the Pharisees, true hospitality according to Scripture happens when we serve those who are unable to repay. Those around us who are the poor, the cripple, the lame and the blind.


The bible is consistent in this principle. As Moses, prepared the people to enter the Promised Land.


He shares from God’s counsel:


Deut 14:28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Today’s equivalent could be the church warden, the domestic helper, the orphans, the single parents, they should be the target of our hospitality.


They should come and eat and be filled. They should enjoy the blessings that God has given to us.


And if we think that such acts of true hospitality will go unnoticed. Here is the wonderful encouragement. Jesus says, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.


Such things will not be newsworthy. Such things will not hog the headlines, but God knows and He will remember. True hospitality will be rewarded when Jesus comes again.


In v17, Jesus now turns around and addresses both the hosts and the guests. He now tells a parable teaching them about Jesus as the host.


Luke has already recorded for us that the Kingdom of God is at hand in the person of Jesus. What would be our respond to this gracious invitation?


We see 3 typical responses. And we know that they are not valid excuses.


Firstly, we must understand that the custom of the day was that there is a double invitation. Guest are told in advance of the date and they would have responded to the invitation.


This allows the hosts to prepare the correct amount of food and drinks.

Now the banquet is ready, thus the 2nd invitation goes out.


Therefore, the parties cannot have any legitimate excuse to reject this invitation. Moreover, the excuses of property, possessions and marriage are not last minute emergencies.


Can this be the same excuses we give today in our rejection of Jesus’ invitation to be His disciples?


The issues of the world, the pursuit of whatever is material, are these the excuses that we have to reject Jesus’ invitation?


If it is, then the warning in v24 applies. Lk 14:24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ”


Friends, there is nothing we can do to deserve God’s invitation. Also, as the parable says, everything has been prepared.


But let us take heed that the invitation window is not open forever. When the banquet starts, those who have rejected the invitation will not be able to enter.


Now for all of us who are believers today, we have accepted this invitation to Jesus’ banquet. We all can look forward to Rev 19. The marriage supper of the Lamb.

But the thing is, God wants his banquet hall to be filled to the brim. And he says to us – Lk 14:21‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.…‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in.’


Nobody is to be excluded from this invitation. Everyone is welcome. God is committed to filling His kingdom with all who profess faith in His Son Jesus.

This church is God’s invitation for us to be about His purposes. His plan for evangelism and missions.


Does God’s heartbeat for the lost resonate with us? I pray that it does.

When we focus on Jesus, we will answer His call to be His disciple and to embrace His heart for the last, the lost and the least. We will bring the gospel to an upside down world.


Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (14:25-33)

In our final segment, Jesus must have left the Pharisee’ home for now a great crowd accompanies Jesus.


To sieve the genuine from the fair-weather believer, Jesus says disciples are to be living sacrifices. We are to bear our own cross if we want to follow Jesus.


Jesus is not just Saviour, but He is Master and Lord as well. This is 2 sides of the same coin. We cannot say we love Jesus our Redeemer if we do not at the same time say we obey Him as Lord.


So if you love Jesus, it means you have to put Him first. It means you have to hate, you have to love less your family and even yourself.


That is basically the first commandment – you shall have no other gods before me. God has to be number 1 in our lives. There can be no idolatry.

Our love has also to be a reasoned love. It is not emotionalism but it involved our heads, our hearts and our wills as well.


It is realistic like that of a builder who has to count the costs of completing the tower. It’s not just how you start but how you end as well, that is important.

We have to make it to the finishing line. We have to finish well.


So we speak of not just justification (being right with God) but also sanctification (becoming more like Christ).


It is not just realistic, but it is full-on commitment as well. We cannot hold anything back.


We cannot so call hedge our bets elsewhere or cover our bases with other contingencies.


Going to war in those days, if you lose, it’s not just your reputation that will be damaged. You are going into slavery and death is a real possibility.


The decision to be a disciple of Jesus is as significant as contemplating whether you will win in battle. Discipleship is not for the faint hearted. It is either all in or nothing.


Think of a plate of eggs and bacon. Discipleship is not like the chicken, just being involved. Discipleship is like the pig that provides the bacon, fully committed.


When we focus on Jesus, we follow his path which is cross-shaped. It is not our will but His be done. It is praying thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


Conclusion

Lk 14:34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Let me conclude the sermon by referencing to the final 2 verses of Luke 14.


As we have seen in the first 33 verses, Jesus expects us to live contrary to the world. In God’s eyes, the world is upside down. Society’s values, aspirations, desires are totally opposite to Scripture.


So, God has called us to be His salt in an upside down world.


Salt preserves food. It prevents food from decay and going bad. As salty disciples, God then requires us to preserve His goodness in the world.


It means we are to right side up society not by conforming but by being living sacrifices.


Let us thus take heed to Scripture’s warnings here in Luke 14, about disciples who are not salty.


So, are we salty disciples?


I submit the test of saltiness for us here in Luke 14 are the 4 sub headings – do we love kindness, do we consider others more significant than ourselves, do we look out for the least, the last and the lost and finally, are we living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God?


As we take heed to the need to be salty for Christ, may I end with this encouragement.


Phil 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God who calls us to be His disciples will give us the strength to be faithful. Church, let’s cling on tightly to Jesus.


Amen.

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