Fighting a Phony War (Day Twenty-One)

This is day twenty-one in the ninety days of reading through the New Testament. If you have joined me from the beginning, thank you. If this is your first time here, thanks for reading today. Today’s reading is Luke 13 through Luke 15.

And it exposes our pathetic little excuses.

Jesus is eating at the house of a Pharisee, on his way to Jerusalem. He healed a guest, and then chastised everyone else for wanting (and taking) the most important places at the party.

And then, Jesus really just drops a bomb on a praise of another guest there.

This guy, sitting at Jesus’ table, says, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast of the kingdom of God.”

Jesus unloads, and as he does, he exposes even our own pathetic excuses.

It’s a story about another party. A banquet, with many invitations. When the day arrived for the party, he dispatched a servant to ensure that all those who were invited, and RSVP’d, would come.

Instead of gratitude and excitement, though, the host only heard one pathetic excuse after another. Here they are:

  • One sent his regrets because he had just bought some property.
  • Another sent his regrets because he had just purchased a labor force of oxen.
  • The final man sent his regrets because he was a newlywed.

Which are good excuses, I guess. If you are a Jewish man and are going to war. Those three excuses were the only acceptable excuses for a Hebrew man to be excused from a holy war, as found in Deuteronomy 20:5-7.

And trust me. That’s an important piece of information.

The excuses of these three men sounded a little silly to those at this banquet. Most, if not all, were Jewish men. They probably were laughing when Jesus told this part of the story. Because those three men weren’t being drafted for a holy war. They were being invited to a party.

And the only excuses that would give them enough gravitas to decline the invite were ones that would keep them exempt from war. But still, it sounds silly. Weird.

BECAUSE THERE WAS NO WAR!

As a matter of fact, there is never again a need for a holy war. This man Jesus has already declared all prisoners free, at the beginning of Luke’s gospel. With broken chains, then, the oppression has ceased.

Jesus is doing a few things here. For one, he is declaring an end to all hostilities, because he, himself, has ended them. And two, he is saying that the gift of celebration is easily overlooked by those who are working hard to celebrate … because of the work of their own hands. And here we have it.

Lots of people refuse the kingdom because they are pursuing their own interests, fighting their own battles.

Investments, work, marriage. In this story, all three require a cultivation with an intense watchfulness to keep those things providing for your own happiness. And there is Jesus, with a banquet, a party, happiness, and he is just ignored by those who are fighting imaginary wars.

It’s little bit like the older brother, in Luke 15 and the parable of the prodigal. Easily one of the most discussed parable of Jesus, I don’t think we need to miss the end of the story.

The younger brother returns from his forsaken lifestyle, and the father offers a party. A fattened calf. Music! Dancing! But the older brother is angry.

He kept the rules. Did what was right. Even while his brother ran from hope and family and blessing.

And the entire time the younger brother was away, the the older brother stayed. Yet he felt less like a son, and more like a slave.

Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders! (15:29)

And he never, not once, wanted to celebrate with his family. His anger stemmed from the fact that he never had the chance to celebrate with his friends (15:29).

The older brother had become a slave to his investments, to his rule-keeping. He was fighting his own battles. And when the party started, he refused it.

Jesus, though, wastes no time in finding other people ready for this banquet. He didn’t invite the poor and the diseased in Luke 14:21. He just goes and gets them.

And then he leaves the city, to go into places where Jewish men didn’t live. At least, that’s the implication of the story. No invitation for those living outside the city, either. He will “make them come in” (14:23).

Don’t be a slave to your own stuff. Please. Because the more you protect your stuff, the more you’ll worship your time and your money.

But don’t be fooled. Jesus loves you, but you aren’t that special. If you choose to worship the gods of investment and relationships and stuff, then God will let you.

There’s enough room for everyone else at this party.

__________

You can read all the posts here. Thanks for reading today.

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