-Rev Melissa Fain-
1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely.
7 When Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats at the table, he told them a parable. 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding celebration, don’t take your seat in the place of honor. Someone more highly regarded than you could have been invited by your host. 9 The host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give your seat to this other person.’ Embarrassed, you will take your seat in the least important place. 10 Instead, when you receive an invitation, go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
12 Then Jesus said to the person who had invited him, “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. 13 Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. 14 And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.”
Luke 14:1,7-14 CEB
If you want a scripture that shows Jesus acting like a Boss, this is one of them. This whole event was a Jesus trap. I'm not talking about the fun Mouse Trap kind either. This was an obvious, from ten miles away, bear trap!
Our hint is in verse 1.
Ancient Near East writers were not concerned with what a person in the text physical did. It's so difficult for us to wrap our Western Brains around that idea that many of us unintentionally fill in the gaps. I used to be a terrible gap filler. I wanted to know how Jesus moved when talking about water with the Woman at the Well. I wanted to see how his words felt when he said, "Let the person without sin cast the first stone." I could feel my body pantomiming the action. I think there's a place for looking beyond the text to the missing action, but not first addressing the words written, is a rookie mistake. (I'm much more of a contextual pantomimer today.)
See, the Bible is kinda like condensed soup. The most important parts of the story were written down because transmission was widely a verbal craft, and writing supplies were at a premium. When these stories were first written, there was a strong verbal tradition. The reader/speaker knew how to enrich the text. They were trained to pass down the inflection and action to future generations.
By Jesus' time, that verbal tradition was beginning to be lost, while the text was still to the point. Any action needs our attention, because it's not there for the sake of being there.
"They were watching him closely."
I just want to go on a small tangent and talk about how I personally react to traps. I'm an extrovert who was thrown into an introvert's world due to childhood trauma. Confrontation was seen as dangerous, because anything could happen during it. Today, I know there is healthy confrontation, and unhealthy confrontation. I remove myself from the unhealthy, and attempt to engage the healthy variety. I have been in situations where unhealthy confrontation was a trap to catch me in something. When people act within those systems in that way, I freeze up and become the broken introverted teenager. I hate being that person, so I leave. It ultimately becomes the right move for me and the people involved.
Jesus fought back.
Not with yelling, or punches. With their weapons- the law. There's something thrilling when you watch a fight and one side begins to use their enemy's weapons. A recent fictional example would be Thanos using the power stone to punch Captain Marvel. (I won't explain why, if you live under a rock and haven't see the movies. If you have, you know what I'm talking about.)
The above text is from the Revised Common Lectionary. Churches across the world use it to pick their readings for sermons and contemplation. What's missing from this text is verses 2-6. Without those verses you might think Jesus is just lightly punching with his words. It's just table etiquette and giving to those who can't give back. Oh, no! It's way more than that. Jesus dropped a healing in a Pharisee's house, on the Sabbath!
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. A man suffering from an abnormal swelling of the body was there. Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Does the Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?” But they said nothing. Jesus took hold of the sick man, cured him, and then let him go. He said to them, “Suppose your child or ox fell into a ditch on the Sabbath day. Wouldn’t you immediately pull it out?” But they had no response.
When Jesus heals in the Bible he does the action and moves on. When Jesus disarms a Pharisee trap, he turns the trap into a question and gives it back. Here, he is doing both.
If Jesus just healed the man they would have had him for "working on the Sabbath." That's why he asked the question. When they didn't answer, that was a known acceptance of the question. Saying nothing in this day and time was like saying "go ahead." For whatever reason, they didn't want Jesus to not heal this man. My guess being that he was part of the Pharisee inner circle. They wanted him healed, but they didn't want to verbally give Jesus permission to do it. By asking, he disarmed that trap.
Only, that's not all, he doubles down and mentioned a caveat to the rule, and not just any caveat, but one they openly disagreed with .They believed the ox could have been kept in the ditch, and allowed to die. Jesus adds a child, and they are speechless. Are they going to suggest a child should die in a ditch?! Well, yeah, but they can't verbally say that! So they are speechless and end up accepting what Jesus said through their silence.
With these six verses we can now see how dangerous the party actually was! By questioning their seating he calls them arrogant and by inviting only themselves, he calls them exclusionary! And he did it in a way he was untouchable! Even speaking against what he was saying would have made it worse. "Oh yeah, we want to murder children, and exclude those in need all while we praise ourselves." Jesus was in the lion's den and left unscathed, the lion's mouths glued shut. Like. A. Boss.