October 13, 2019 A+D
St. Luke 14:1-11
The Holy Marriage of Hildie Matter & Zeke Felton
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
While eating with Pharisees who are plotting to kill Him, Jesus issues a programmatic statement of the Gospel: Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
The Gospel is a reversal of fortunes. Jesus is innocent and exalted, but He humbles Himself to the point of death. We are lowly and undeserving, but we have been exalted in Christ, invited to sit with Him at His Father’s right.
This is the greatest bargain and most fantastic insanity the cosmos has ever known: Jesus takes our sins and guilt and in exchange for them He gives us His holiness, righteousness, and inheritance. This is the driving force of our faith, the culmination of all our exegesis, the tip of our doctrinal spear: the humble are exalted by grace.
Even as this lays out the path to heaven, of exaltation, it also reveals who is excluded. There is no room for the proud. Pride is a core sin. It sits at the base of others. Pride is self-love, a vanity that imagines that we deserve pleasure and comfort and happiness at most any cost. There is no room in heaven for the proud. Only sinners, only those humbled by the Law, get forgiveness. They are declared righteous and are exalted while the proud are debased and go to perdition.
This axiom of faith Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted is rightly applied to Holy Marriage. Marriage is no place for the proud. The man who is too proud to change a diaper or cannot submit to his pompous father-in-law or who will not endure the tedium of his wife’s work Christmas party, will likely destroy his marriage and hurt scores of people along the way. If he exalts himself and his own amusement or happiness, he does so at the expense of others. Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18, KJV).
But if a husband humbles himself and gives himself in service to his wife, if he submits in reverence for Christ and in love for her to her desires and needs, so that his amusements and happiness are not what drive his choices, but is willing to make sacrifices for her and his children, to give up his pleasures and hobbies and maybe even his friends and prestige and success, and maybe even his family, then he can actually build not only a marriage that will last, but one that will prosper and be truly Christian.
The humility needed for this is more than simply restraining oneself from bragging or obvious self-promotion. The people described in the parable who plotted to gain honor in front of men by deliberating taking a lower seat in order to be paraded in front of the assembly were not truly humble. They wanted to be exalted. Jesus mocks such behavior. He is talking to men who were too embarrassed to admit that they would save their own sons on a Sabbath if they fell into wells for fear of how they would appear to their idiot colleagues. He was not giving them instructions in how they might gain honor among men. Jesus has no desire to make us polite or successful or help us gain human honor.
The parable instead is a description of Jesus Himself. He was removed from the place of honor at His Father’s right hand in order to make room for us. We have been invited by the Father as distinguished guests, up from the lower places. He was humiliated and cast down to the lowest place for us and for our exaltation. Now from the lowest place of Hell He has been raised up and honored, vindicated, in front of us as well as for us.
We are those who sit at the table with Him, who eat with Him at the wedding banquet. Jesus loves a wedding because Jesus loves marriage. We are not those who chose seats of honor for ourselves or who plotted to be exalted. We are those who have been honored by grace, whose dropsy and ingratitude and selfishness have been healed and forgiven. Our exaltation is a surprise to everyone, even to us, but not to Him.
The Lord’s humiliation is an example for us. It shows us how to love our neighbor. It shows us how to live in Holy Marriage. In addition to being a model, it is precisely the way that Christ has loved and saved us and by which He heals us.
We aren’t very good at humility. We can fake it and mouth the right words, but it is hard to embrace in the heart. Who wants to submit and serve others? Nonetheless, this is the essence not simply of Christian marriage but of Christianity itself, indeed, of Christ Himself.
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, . . . . Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11)
Christ, Our Lord, suffered injustice without complaint. He accepted our punishment even though He was innocent. He didn’t do it grudgingly or complaining but He humbled Himself. He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and He accepts the evil of this world into Himself. He lets it have its way with Him that it might not have us.
This whole scene takes place while Jesus is eating with Pharisees. No one likes a braggart and these guys are the worst, yet Jesus is willing to eat with them, to witness to them, to warn them. He loves the worst of sinners, not just tax collectors and prostitutes, but also blow-hards, ego-maniacs, and bores. He knows the secrets of your heart, the pride that infects you, but He still loves you. You don’t need to make excuses and you don’t need to fear being exposed. He already knows and yet He loves you. There is still room. Repent. Believe. Rejoice.
He graciously forgives your sin. He is unashamed to be with Pharisees like us. He says: “Friend, come up higher.” What He humbles with the Law, He exalts with the Gospel. And the place to which He invites you is a wedding banquet on the Sabbath where He dines with sinners at the altar of His risen Body and Blood and becomes one with them by a gracious bestowal of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
What has this to do with Holy Marriage? Everything. What has this to do with us? Everything. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.