In the Church and at the Feast
( Originally Published 1915 )
WHILE JESUS was in Perea, on the Sabbath days he went into the churches and spoke there; and in every place the church was crowded with those who were eager to hear him. On one Sabbath day he saw in the church a woman who for eighteen years had been bent double and could not possibly stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her to him.
"Woman," he said, "you are set free from your weakness."
He placed his hands upon her, and instantly power came to her. She stood up erect, and with a loud voice praised God for her cure. But the president of the board in the church was greatly displeased that Jesus had done this on the Sabbath. He said to the people :
"There are six days in the week for work; come on one of these to be cured, and not on the holy Sabbath."
"0 you false-hearted men, making a pretense of serving God!" said the Lord Jesus. "Does not each one of you on the Sabbath day unloose his ox or his ass from its manger, and lead it out to drink? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham our father, whom the evil one has held bound for all these eighteen years, should she not be set free on the Sabbath?"
As he said this all those who were opposed to him felt ashamed of themselves; while the people rejoiced to see all his wonderful doings. As Jesus went through the towns and villages, all the time on his way toward Jerusalem, he repeated many of the parables and teachings that he had given in other parts of the land, such as "The Narrow Door," "The Mustard Seed," "The Yeast in the Dough," and others.
The land of Perea, where he was now teaching, belonged to the Kingdom of Herod. Some Pharisees, who were enemies of Jesus, came to him and said :
"You had better get away from this land, for King Herod means to kill you."
This they said, not to save the life of Jesus, but to make him leave their land. But Jesus answered them:
"You may go and tell that fox that I am casting out the evil spirits and curing diseases today and tomorrow, and on the third day I shall finish my work. But I must go on my way today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, for it would never do for a prophet to meet his end except in Jerusalem. 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! killing the prophets and stoning those whom God has sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children around me, as a fowl gathers her brood under her wings ! But you would not come ! Truly, your house is left to you to be destroyed. Never, I tell you, shall you see me again until the day comes when you will say, `Blessed be He who comes in the name . of the Lord.' "
In one place he was invited by one of the rulers who was a Pharisee to come to his house for dinner. There were at the table other Pharisees and people not friendly to Jesus, and they watched him closely. He saw in the room a man who was swollen with the dropsy; and Jesus asked the teachers of the law and the Pharisees :
"Is it according to the law to cure a sick man on the Sabbath, or is it not?"
They said nothing. Then Jesus laid his hands on the man and cured him, and sent him away. Afterward he said :
"Is there any one of you who, finding on the Sab bath day that his ass or his ox has fallen into a pit, will not at once pull him out without waiting for a working day?"
They could not answer him this question. He noticed that those who had been invited to the dinner picked out for themselves the best places, near the head of the table; and he gave them this advice.
"When you are invited to a marriage feast, do not take one of the best places. It may be that some person of higher rank than you has been invited; and then the one who gives the feast comes to you and says, `Here, make room for this man!' Then you must get up ashamed and take a place down at the foot of the table. No, when your come to the feast, go to the lowest place, then when the giver of the feast sees you, he will say, `My friend, come up higher,' and you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow-guests. For every one who lifts up himself shall be humbled; and the one who humbles himself shall be lifted up."
Jesus said also to the ruler who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, or your brothers, or those who are your relatives, or your rich neighbors, for they may it rite you in turn, and thus you will be repaid. No, when you give a dinner, invite the poor, the cripples, those who have lost an arm, and the blind. Then God will give you his blessing; for these people cannot repay you; and you will receive your reward when God raises up the good from their graves to everlasting life."
One of those at the table heard these words of Jesus; and he spoke out, "Happy will he be who shall sit down at that feast in the kingdom of God!"
Jesus answered him by giving the parable of "The Supper and the Excuses." He said :
"There was once a man who was giving a great supper, to which he had invited many of his friends. At the hour for the supper, he sent out his servant to say to the guests who had been invited, `Come at once, for everything is now ready!' But all of them with one mind began to decline his invitation. The first man said to the servant :
" `I have bought some land, and I must go and look at it. Please to excuse me.'
"The second said, `I have bought five pair of oxen, and I am going to give them a trial. Please to have me excused.'
"Another said, `I cannot come, because I have just married a wife.'
"The servant went home and told his master all these answers. Then the master of the house was very angry. He said to his servant :
" 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in here the poor, the cripples, the blind and the lame.'
"Soon the servant came back, saying, `Your orders have been carried out, sir; but there is still room for more.'
" `Go out into the country,' said the master of the house, `to the roads and the hedges, and make the people come in, to fill up my house; for I tell you that not one of those that were invited shall taste of my supper.' "