Sunday, December 15, 2013

Experts In The Law (part 5)

So in the fourteenth chapter, when Jesus makes reference to a meal table that will be at least partially occupied by experts in the law and Pharisees, and Luke writes about the way in which Jesus was noticing how some guests chose their places of honor, and then Jesus is heard speaking about humility and exaltation, those that hear this do so with ears that have also just heard Jesus make reference to a messianic banquet, wherein Jesus has used words about the last becoming first (exaltation) and the first becoming last (humility).  These two things cannot be disconnected.  Furthermore, because the fourteenth chapter begins with Jesus challenging the experts in the law and the Pharisees, and because there is no change of setting until the seventeenth chapter, there is every reason to believe that all that follows from that initial, unresponded to challenge is at least tacitly directed to those same groups. 

After making His previous point, within a setting that has been informed by a messianic banquet reference, a challenge to the experts in the law and the Pharisees, and a rather instructive parable, Jesus goes on to offer instructions in regards about engagement in table fellowship “to the man who had invited him” (14:12a), saying “when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (14:13).  Jesus then offers up a parable of a banquet (doing so while at a banquet) in which the man who made invitations ends up inviting “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (14:21b).  The man in the parable even takes it one step further, as he sends his representatives “out to the highways and country roads” to “urge people to come in” (14:23b). 

This not only amplifies the words of the thirteenth chapter while also reinforcing the personal instruction that had been on offer by Jesus to the one who invited Him, but the punctuation of the parable, in which the subject of the parable exclaims “For I tell you, not one of those individuals who were invited will taste my banquet” (14:24), also dramatically illustrates the last to first, first to last, exaltation to humility, and humility to exaltation motif that frames this section of Luke.  In addition, it brings an interesting clarity to what had also been heard in the thirteenth chapter, which was a statement about those left out of the messianic banquet, in which they say “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets” (13:26), to which the Creator God (presumably) replies “I don’t know where you come from!  Go away from me, all you evildoers!” (13:27) 

The ongoing and escalating conflict between Jesus and the experts in the law and the Pharisees, along with Jesus overt challenge to them just a few verses later, function to make it quite clear who it is that is the point of reference in such statements.  The previously mentioned delicious irony is to be found in the fifteenth chapter, because after Jesus, who is living, working, and speaking in such a way that indicates that He is indeed the Messiah (while Luke’s audience has already heard the confession of Jesus as Messiah), makes His points about the people that were participating in meals.  While remembering that the setting has not changed and that Jesus appears to still be at the same meal mentioned in the first verse of the fourteenth chapter, the “Pharisees and the experts in the law” complained that Jesus was welcoming sinners and eating with them (15:2). 

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