Feasting with God #48
“To Eat or Not to Eat”
Text: Luke 7:33-35
33“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
Hard to please. That doesn’t just describe the Pharisees. When it gets down to it, when we’re talking about spiritual things, that describes humanity. We’re all hard to please.
There are certainly some people who will claim to be laid back in their spirituality—in Christianity or in other religions. The New Age movement is famous for its all-inclusive, pluralistic attitudes (“Coexist!”), and so those within it would certainly claim that they’re not hard to please. But they are, just in a different way than they think.
Are you hard to please? Think spiritually, now. Think of your church. Would you complain if your pastor completely changed the current layout of the sanctuary, getting rid of the altar and pulpit, and instead preached from a folding chair? Or would you feel out of sorts if the service was twice as long with twice as much singing? Or would you be displeased if the pastor started to chant in Latin instead of English?
Maybe none of these would bother you; maybe they all would. But if something about your religion or spirituality would bother you, ask yourself this question: Do I dislike it because of personal preference, or because it’s actually false teaching or harmful to the faith?
When Jesus walked the earth, at times he was greeted with excitement. But once he started to preach, pointing out that he wasn’t going to do just exactly what the people wanted him to do, he was hated. In his sermon from Luke’s Gospel, he pointed out the hypocrisy that these people were demonstrating: they complained about John the Baptist’s preaching (even though he preached the truth) by pointing out his eating habits and concluding that he was a demoniac. Then when Jesus came (also preaching the truth), they didn’t like that either and pointed out his eating habits, concluding that he was a glutton, a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.
When you complain about things you don’t like, is it because those things are actually wrong? Or are they just not what you expected, not what you’d prefer? Here’s a radical thought: God doesn’t care if our sanctuaries have pulpits and altars or folding chairs and stage lights. God doesn’t care if we sing something with a traditional German or Norwegian tune or something that sounds like a rock song. God doesn’t care if our prayers are focused in traditional Latin or in English that everyone speaks at once. Here’s what God cares about: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). God wants our worship services to be places where we foster true belief and true confession; and how does that come about?
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Let the Word be taught, in truth and purity (and this means, if there’s Latin, let there be a translation into the language of the people; Latin itself is not evil, but “If any speak in a tongue…let someone interpret,” 1 Cor. 14:27). “Baptism…now saves you” (1 Pet. 3:21). Let the washing of water with the Word be practiced rightly in the church. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ…? For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 10:16, 11:26). Let the Sacrament of the Altar be celebrated in a worthy manner.
The Word and Sacraments—we call these the means of grace, for it is through them, and through nothing else, that God communicates his grace, forgiveness, faith, and salvation to people—these are the marks of the Church. If they are uncorrupted, then the true Church is there. If they are there and unimpeded, what can you complain about?
Jesus concludes here with a proverb: “Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” Similarly, we say, “Time will tell.” The validity of Jesus and his message was proved as time went on: he was led to the cross, where he suffered willingly, never speaking a word to stop it. And then, three days later, God raised him from the dead to stamp his divine seal on the salvation Christ won. We have seen it proven. Therefore we can be certain in what the truth is, as God has revealed it.
Dear Lord, let us never become distracted by what we expect things to be. Don’t let our personal preferences stand in the way of the pure, uncorrupted preaching of your Word for the salvation of souls. Instead, teach us your Word, by your Holy Spirit enlightening our hearts, to create in us ever firmer faith in your Son, Jesus Christ, who died to take away the sins of the world, in whose resurrection we are confident of our own resurrections, and in whose name we pray. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.