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01.31.2021 Carbo-Loading Luke 14.1-24 Sermon Summary

by on February 3, 2021

Carbo-Loading Part 1: The Finish Line

We are nearing the conclusion of our series “Dining with Jesus.” Today we consider “carbo-loading” which is something athletes do to prepare for the finish line. I watch my high-school daughter the night before an event gather with her teammates and carbo-load, usually some kind of pasta dish.

Jesus was a carbo-loader. New Testament scholar Robert J. Karris observes, “In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.” (Eating your Way Through Luke’s Gospel, p. 14) Jesus is continually loading for mission, for “proclaiming the Kingdom and healing.” (Luke 9:11)

Jesus needed meals but they weren’t just means to the finish line of mission. Meals for Jesus were the mission. He taught during meals and he healed during meals. Last week we saw how Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s vision of festive meals and healing for all. (Isaiah 35:5-6)

And so in this first part of Luke 14, Jesus carbo-loads for mission while at the same time fulfilling his mission of proclaiming Kingdom and healing and feasting. At this meal, Jesus heals the man with dropsy—on the Sabbath and at the Pharisee leader’s home. How will Jesus fulfill his mission at your home, at your table?

Carbo-Loading, Part II: The Winning Attitude

Athletes need to have winning bodies to reaching the finish line. That’s why they carbo-load before an event. But they also need to have winning attitudes, even if they’re only competing with themselves.

The Gospels present Jesus’ meals as symposia, a Greek meal broken into two main parts of discussion and feasting. The writers tell us guests “reclined” at tables. The symposium was hosted at short tables configured in a U shape. The middle section of the U was the place of honor.

Now perhaps we understand how it is that the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at a meal could so, or how Jesus could wash the disciples’ feet at his last supper. They weren’t sitting with their feet under the table. They were reclining with their feet stretching back from the U. It also helps us envision how the man with dropsy could approach the diners.

Luke tells us that Jesus watched as the guests arrived who assumed the places of honor, who reclined at the table in the middle section of the symposium. He made a teaching moment of it. It is better to take the lowest seat at a banquet and be exalted by the host than to assume the highest seat and be humiliated by being asked to move.

This type of teaching is foundational for Jesus. He said the first will be last and the last first. He taught to find life one must lose it first. He said the greatest among his followers would be the servant of all. At his last supper Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as a way of solidifying this teaching.

Dining with Jesus is carbo-loading for mission, and the mission is proclaiming the Kingdom of God and healing. Dining with Jesus prepares our bodies to follow, but it also gives us the proper winning attitude of humility.

Carbo-Loading, Part III: Exercising Faith

In the final scenes of this meal with Jesus, he urges all who would hear to throw parties and invite those who cannot reciprocate. How surprised he imagines the guests to be as they sit across from us, enjoying our food and hospitality. Someone at the symposium made the connection of Jesus’ vision with the Kingdom of God and declared, “Blessed are those who will eat bread in the kingdom!”

“Not who will eat,” Jesus corrects. “Blessed are those who eat in the kingdom now. He tells the parable of a banquet prepared for invited guests who one by one offer regrets for their last minute absence. The host instructs his slave that no matter who they are or where they come from, he is to bring back a houseful of guests. One point of the parable is simply that God is determined to share meal with somebody. Anybody. Even you.

This Sunday is one of America’s most festive food days: the National Football League’s Superbowl featuring Tom Brady. What would happen if we did what Jesus envisions? What if we stocked the fridge with beer and made stacks of appetizers and then went not to our neighbors, not to our Facebook friends, not to our work colleagues, but to “those others.” (We each have at least one of “those others.”) And finding them, we brought them back to our Superbowl party?

That’s a lot of work. I think we can also follow our carbo-loading meal with Jesus at any meal; they all can be the bread-blessing meal in the kingdom. Any meal, you could invite a college student and their friends. They miss home cooking. You could invite someone who lives and usually eats alone. Any meal, you could invite someone who lives in a small place and host them and their friends for a party. You could hire a sitter and invite young families from the neighborhood or church who could use a break from their parental duties.

Jesus’ meal practices remind us of this fact: Most of us are ordinary people who are influenced most by ordinary things with other ordinary people. Knowing this, Jesus’ preferred method of fulfilling his mission to proclaim the Kingdom and offer healing was to share ordinary meals with ordinary people.

Most of us have three meals a day. That’s twenty-one potential opportunities we can share a meal with others. Sharing a meal is “true religion” according to Isaiah 58, James 1, and Jesus’ example. It might take some doing but it’s not complicated. We’re very well-practiced at sharing meals. And having now dined with Jesus we’re carbo-loaded for mission. Let’s get out there!

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