Can God be trusted? Not simply trusted with peripheral matters, but trusted with deep-down things, the things that wake us up in the middle of the night, the crippling habit patterns that repeat themselves day in and day out, the stuff that gags us but we keep on gorging, the behaviors that only we know about and that would cause others – if they knew – to flee from us like a horror in their worst nightmare. What are we to do with this stuff? What does Jesus invite us to embrace and to release, to be and to do, to receive and to give? 

In Luke 14 we find Jesus attending a banquet. True to form, he is causing problems and making people feel uncomfortable. To set the scene: Jesus has been invited to the house of a prominent Pharisee” and is once again the object of attention for the other guests who are attending the meal. Most of the people who have been invited appear to be religious teachers, well-known figures in their local communities; all are well-versed in Torah or the Law of Israel. 

The situation is portrayed by Luke as tense. Jesus was being carefully watched” (Luke 14:1). This will turn out to be one wild meal, one in which Jesus purposely elevates the level of discomfort and tension among those who have been invited. Indeed, it seems as though Jesus wants the guests to be uncomfortable. He is purposely pushing them out of their biblical, theological, and cultural comfort zones. 

First, Jesus poses a question about the lawfulness of healing on the Sabbath, the very day the dinner was being held. Was it a violation of Torah to heal an image-bearer on the Sabbath? In the midst of the supper crowd – we’re not told how he got there – was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asks his question concerning healing on the Sabbath, waits for a response from those at the supper, and receives only silence in return. All the while the diseased man remains conspicuously in place, unexpectedly the center of attention, apparently waiting to see what Jesus is going to do. So taking hold of the man,” Luke comments, he healed him and sent him away” (Luke 14:4). Jesus’ action is the answer to the question he has posed. The Sabbath was created for the good of human beings, not for their harm. 

Jesus knew the teaching of his Pharisaic friends well; if they possessed an animal and that animal fell into a ditch or well on the Sabbath, they would rescue the poor creature on that very day. Yet, with a skewed exegetical logic, if a son or daughter of Abraham was ill, that image-bearer must wait for the Sabbath to end before healing could be offered or received. From Jesus’ perspective, this refusal to be good to humans on the Sabbath made no sense. Image-bearers were more valuable than animals; if cows, horses, and oxen could be rescued on the Sabbath from danger or harm, how much more those creatures who bore the very image of God? Hence, the logic behind Jesus’ pointed question: If one of you has a son [some manuscripts have the word donkey’ here rather than son] or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” (Luke 14:5). Jesus knew they would. The dinner guests had nothing to say” (Luke 14:6).

What would I say? Where are my values topsy-turvy? Where am I seeing the world upside-down? Heal me, Lord, for your mercy is great.