On first reading, this text appears to be an assortment of different moments in the ministry of Jesus. We have a healing (vv. 1-6), a parable (vv. 7-11), and then a teaching about regard for the poor (vv. 12-14). Such an assortment of moments can lead a preacher to choose one and let it be the center of the sermon.
When you look at the text more closely, however, you see this all happens on one occasion. The text begins with a reference to a meal on the Sabbath at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees and it is not until v. 25 that we leave this occasion.
Recognizing this unity encourages us to look for coherence among these disparate events. Like a friend telling us what happened last night at dinner, Luke relates all of the details of this occasion with something in mind. When you look at what Jesus is doing, you will find coherence: Jesus is patiently revealing what the Resurrection truly means.
What comes to mind when you think about the Resurrection? For some, it might be all clouds and angels and souls taking flight. For others, a reunion with loved ones. For the more Biblically minded, it may even be the broken world suddenly and fully restored. In each of these cases, however, notice how it is an event located in the future. Not something we seriously consider as we choose whether or not to go out to lunch with a transgendered co-worker.
For Jesus, the resurrection is not just a doctrinal teaching located in the future, or worse yet a line from the Creed that we say and move on. No. It is something which shapes our lives now.
Consider the focused patience of Jesus. He uses questions and healings and parables and direct address, all to bring about a glimpse of His Kingdom among those who are gathered.
The reading opens with Jesus celebrating the restoration that occurs in His Kingdom. He heals the man who has dropsy and, by a question, invites the Pharisees and lawyers to see how this is fitting for the Sabbath, a time of rest in the reign and rule of God.
Receiving no reply to His question (v. 6), Jesus does not go on the attack. Instead, He tells a parable that invites those gathered to see the great reversal happening in the Kingdom of God. God works by grace and, therefore, those who exalt themselves will be humbled but those who humble themselves will be exalted by God.
When there is still no response, Jesus speaks directly to His host, inviting him to live in the liberality of God. The last line of the text seems odd: “for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (v. 14). But this one small phrase opens-up for us what lies at the heart of these various activities of Jesus.
Here, at a dinner, Jesus is offering a glimpse of the grace that will prevail in His eternal kingdom. The sick will be healed. The poor will be fed. The humble will be honored. The faithful will be rewarded. Even the host can live now in the liberality of God. No need to think of himself or his social obligations. He will be taken care of. Such divine assurance means he is free to extend God’s care to others.
The question this text poses for us today is, “What does it mean to believe in the Resurrection?” Is the Resurrection only about the future? Or, could it be possible, the Resurrection opens our life to the present as a present from God?
As Jesus reveals, the Resurrection gives us courage to live each day in the radical liberality of God. Christ is not concerned here about social consequences. He loves justice. He does mercy. He walks humbly with God. Regardless of the consequences. Such living could get one killed… but God, His Father, raises the dead and, through Him, establishes a kingdom where mercy reigns. Even now.
Imagine living in that kingdom now. Something as mundane as inviting people over for dinner can be touched by the reality of the Resurrection. No longer are you bound by social consequences. No need to preserve the status quo. How often have you wanted to say something, felt somebody should do something, or even wanted to be someone… but were afraid of the social consequences? Not anymore.
Rather than living in a world governed by social stratification – a world where there are those we invite into our homes and those we do not, people we need to impress to secure our future, and love we need to give or withhold depending upon who is watching – we live in God’s Kingdom governed by His gracious promise of resurrection. No need to secure our place, that is already taken care of by Christ. Instead, we are free to take care of others. Something as simple as whom we talk to or even how we talk to that person can become an occasion when we confess our belief in the Resurrection of the just.
How we treat other people matters – because we are living in eternity and our days are expressions, sometimes humble and other times courageous, of the certainty that God ultimately rules over all things with love.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 14:1-14.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Luke 14:1-14.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. David Scaer of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Luke 14:1-14.