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!