At church this morning, the pastor preached about Luke 14:1-14, in which Jesus eats a Sabbath meal with the Pharisees.
The pastor referred to previous meals that Jesus ate with the
Pharisees in the Gospel of Luke, and these did not turn out well. The
two previous meals occur in Luke 7 and Luke 11. In Luke 7, a
disreputable woman anoints Jesus’ feet, and Jesus contrasts her kindness
to him with Simon the Pharisee’s treatment of him, teaches a lesson
about how the forgiveness of many sins encourages love in response, and
tells the woman that her sins are forgiven. In Luke 11, some Pharisees
are challenging Jesus for not washing his hands before eating, and Jesus
responds by telling them that they are clean on the outside and greedy
on the inside, and that they should give alms. Jesus also laid into
other sins of some of the Pharisees. The pastor noted that there were
Pharisees who wanted Jesus to go away permanently after this.
At the third meal, in Luke 14, the Pharisees choose not to respond to
Jesus. The pastor compared this situation to a person bringing up
politics at Thanksgiving, and the other relatives look down and just
keep on eating their gravy!
The pastor noted that it was interesting that the Pharisees kept
inviting Jesus to eat with them. He speculated that some of what Jesus
was saying may have been getting to them: that they acknowledged, to
themselves, their greed on the inside, and that part of them liked that
Jesus was bringing change for the better.
The pastor commented that, at Thanksgiving, there are a lot of broken people at the table, but that God’s grace covers that.
What the pastor was saying about the Pharisees coincides with what I
have heard about the depiction of the Pharisees in Luke-Acts: that it is
not as negative as it is in other synoptic Gospels. According to Acts
15, there were even Pharisees who came to believe in Jesus!
In terms of how the pastor’s sermon shaped my attitude, it did help
me to think about others with whom I may eat. At a social get-together,
I am likely to be obsessed with whether people are paying attention to
me, or resenting anyone who is hogging the attention. It helps me to
remember that many people are broken, in some way, but that God’s grace
covers that. I hope that I can keep that attitude!
I had to marvel a bit at the social inappropriateness of Jesus at
these meals. As I, a person with Asperger’s, learn social skills, I
become sensitized to the importance of not making waves, of going with
the flow, of not saying something controversial or “out there.” I still
think that is an important skill. At the same time, I have to respect
Jesus for saying things that needed to be said. As I reread the
passages, it seems to me that Jesus was not exactly looking for trouble,
but situations presented themselves to him: a disreputable woman comes
to him and anoints his feet; Pharisees challenge him for eating with
unwashed hands; a person with dropsy encounters him. But Jesus, in
those cases, was not afraid to stand for what was right, and to attempt
to raise the spiritual awareness of the people around him.
That does not make me more open to Christians who take it upon
themselves to confront me, in the name of “accountability,” or whatever
they call it. My impression is that these people are not interested in
where I am coming from. I think that their agenda is to vaunt
themselves and their own righteousness rather than to be concerned about
me, or where I am. Maybe if they were less self-righteous, or balanced
their confrontation with love and compassion, I would be more receptive
to what they had to say. “But what if they are speaking the truth?”,
one may ask. I don’t think that they are, at least not fully. What
they do is judge me and my character in a one-sided manner, just because
I do not fully believe as they do.
I am not referring to anyone presently so much, but more to
Christians I have encountered in the past. Should I see them as broken
people, rather than as objects of my personal disdain and contempt?
Jesus, after all, ate with the Pharisees! God give me grace!