Bethesda Gardens in Arlington operates by a code of faith and servitude to our residents. In addition to promoting their physical and mental health, we also encourage and stimulate their spiritual growth anytime we get the opportunity to.
In Luke 14, one of Jerusalem's leading Pharisees invites Jesus to a banquet he's hosting in his home on the Sabbath. Luke never clarifies if the 12 disciples attend this banquet with Jesus; however, he does say in verse 1 that the Pharisees "were watching him closely" as he ate and interacted with other guests.
The next verse introduces a man "whose body was swollen with fluid." Fully aware that the Pharisees are analyzing his every move, Jesus turns to them and asks, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" The Pharisees offer no response. Jesus persists: "Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well will not immediately pull him out, even on the Sabbath day?" Once again, they can think of no answer.
Jesus then relays the two-part parable of the banquet. Here's a look at the rich words of wisdom he spoke regarding compassion and humility.
In verses 7-14, Jesus recounts a parable to the entire dinner party in which he paints a picture of a wedding banquet they've all been invited to. At this banquet, the guests who immediately claim the best seats are asked to move by the host when more distinguished and deserving individuals arrive.
He then tells the Pharisee's guests to "go and recline in the lowest place" instead and let the host move them to higher seats himself, for this is true honor: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (verse 11).
Jesus then does something very interesting: He switches the focus from modesty and humility to charity and compassion by putting his fellow guests in the shoes of a host. He tells them that if they decide to have a dinner in their own homes, they should invite the poor, maimed, lame and blind rather than friends, relatives and wealthy neighbors. While friends and family can repay the hospitality in the future, the poor and sick "cannot repay you, and for this, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Over 2,000 years later, these words still apply to modern-day believers. Maintaining a mindset of humility and charity with no desire for praise or reward is not an easy task when pride and selfishness are so innate in human nature. These emotions, after all, are the same that push you toward self-preservation and ambition. But when these emotional drives go unchecked, they can quickly evolve into avarice, envy and arrogance.
Jesus recognized this in the people he was surrounded by at the Sabbath banquet. His words serve as a humbling reminder that, without a charitable heart, your actions and words are "a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1).
In verse 16, Jesus tells another banquet parable from the host's perspective. This host had invited a number of friends and associates, and when everything was fully prepared, he sent his servant to notify all who'd been invited that the feast was about to begin.
"But without exception, they all began to make excuses," Jesus says in verse 18. One invitee claims he's bought land and must go inspect it; another is busy tending to his livestock; another says he's unable to come because he's just gotten married.
When the servant returns to his master with the news that the people he invited won't be attending, the host replies, "Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind and lame." Even after the servant had done so, there was room to spare for more guests. The host then sent his servant into "the highways and hedges" to invite more people until the house was filled to capacity (verses 21-23).
In their pride and hypocrisy, the Pharisees had become lost in their own self-righteousness. They'd begun using their religious traditions and laws to justify being judgmental and dismiss power-hungry behavior. This parable serves as a reminder that salvation comes "by grace through faith, and not from yourselves; it is God's gift, not from works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Sometimes, believers forget that they, too, were once lost and "blind" before finding salvation in Christ. It's important to remember that Jesus — the greatest example of faith — was not haughty, unapproachable or cold; rather, he lived the standard of morality he preached in Luke 14 the whole way to the cross.