October 9, 2022 A+D
St. Luke 14:1-11
NO SERMON AUDIO
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Faith is a multifaceted reality. Faith must be confident. It must believe that God’s promises are true. So also faith must be patient. It must wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled. And faith must be humble. A Christian does not trusts in his own merit or worth, but in the mercy of Christ. He waits on Christ to exalt him, knowing that he cannot exalt himself, that he is unworthy. Faith takes the lower seat not as a strategy to gain the attention of the host or of the other guests, but in contentment. Learning to be content while still longing for the completion of the good work begun in it is essential to faith. Faith is happy with what God gives because it knows that God is good. He who gave His only Son for us will not fail to give us all things. He who humbles himself in faith, will not be disappointed.
The most obvious vice to get in the way of this is pride. That seems to be a particular problem of the Pharisees. One week earlier Jesus healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath, of whom He said she was bound for 18 years by Satan. The ruler of the synagogue was filled with indignation at the healing that day. He boasted that there were six days in the week for working and for healing, but the Sabbath was for greater things. Jesus exposes him as a hypocrite.
He is a hypocrite because this is not what he believes. He is only pretending to believe this. He is using the Sabbath as a way of boasting, as though it was not lack of mercy and pride that drove him but piety. Jesus asks: “Do you not loose and then lead your ox or donkey to water on the Sabbath?”
It is much the same with the man with dropsy. The Pharisees are ignoring the man in need while seeking the seats of honor. Jesus does not ignore him. He has compassion. He asks the question before the Pharisees can let loose an accusation: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” They are silent. Perhaps they remember the scene from the week before. Jesus brings them back to how they treat donkeys and oxen which is better than how they treat people. Those animals had monetary value. The Pharisees would do what they had to protect their investment. They would not help their neighbors, but they all look after themselves, and blame it all on the Sabbath. Their actions show what they trust and love.
Jesus then tells a parable. On the surface, it is about how to gain exaltation by taking the lower seat, but it is rendered as a criticism of the Pharisees’ abuse of the Sabbath. It exposes them for their pride and fear. It repeats the lesson of Proverbs 25. We should realize that we are all self-obsessed and that because of this we are prone to thinking more of ourselves than we ought. We should check ourselves and take a lower seat. This is a cautious response. We don’t want to overestimate our position and be asked to move down. The point isn’t to create a scene or engage in false humility.
But the Pharisees refuse the wisdom of Proverbs 25. They would love to manipulate the situation and feign humility in order to be asked to come up higher in front of everyone, but they can’t. They cannot do it because their pride will not let them risk it.
They have the classic problem of the braggart. Braggarts want us to praise them, to fawn over them, but we’re not doing it. They’ve been waiting, but we don’t notice how great they are, how busy they are, or how important they are, so they have to tell us themselves. Those who boast are often the least secure. It is not only that they define themselves by the opinions of men, but also that they don’t trust others to give them their due. They think they must take it for themselves even though it undermines their glory and they are humiliated by their boasting.
This is the other side of pride. God created you and gave His Son for you. How dare you mope around as though you are worthless and cave in the self-pity and despair? We are called to be people of faith, hope, eager expectation. The devil loves to drive us back and forth between the two extremes of pride and despair in a violent frenzy. This not only makes us miserable, it also keeps us from ever taking his eyes off ourselves. Repent.
Who here hasn’t felt the eyes of the crowd upon him as he entered into a church as a visitor and feared the judgment of men? You come to worship God. Why do you worry about what men think? In fact, they barely notice you. If they did, most likely, they were simply happy you were there. At the same time who hasn’t imagined himself to be wise, thinking that all men should see that he sees most clearly into the Divine nature and knows what is good or has an extra dose of street smarts, that he knows what is wrong with our country or how to raise children or what is wrong with everyone else. Repent. These are the two sides of the vanity of the Pharisees. This leads to death.
The Sabbath rest of Christ requires humility because it is passive. He does the work. You get the reward. He is in control. You are not. The most devilish vice is pride. Pray that God would give us pure hearts and minds to follow Him, that He would take our eyes off ourselves that we might see only Jesus. If God is for us, who can be against us? If God loves us, why do we care what men think? We are unworthy sinners, and yet of more value than sparrows. God became one of us. He has elevated our nature in the Ascension. He was humbled, but if is exalted.
The Pharisees may not care if you are crippled or suffering from dropsy but Jesus cares. You don’t have to exalt yourself. You don’t have to brag. Jesus loves you. He came for sinners. Don’t avoid the feast for fear that you are not good enough. You are not good enough. But you are invited. Maybe there will be some sick ruler of the synagogue who will judge you. Ignore him. You don’t come for him, you come for the King, to get what He offers. And don’t listen to that liar in your head either. He says you are a fake or you got lucky and are about to be exposed. You have an invitation! You are in the Book of the Baptized, the Book of Life. The One who issued that invitation and wrote your name has authority. He is worthy. He does not make mistakes.
There is no real risk in true humility. The lower seat is a wonderful seat. This is Jesus
table, His fellowship. He has time and attention for every single guest, no matter what that guest thinks of himself or what the world thinks of Him. Jesus reckoned him worth the price of His own life.
Let this be your humility: Jesus is enough. He can have the glory. He can be the proud Giver. You are the recipient and beneficiary. The lowest seat is fine. Crumbs from the Master’s table are fine. So long as it is the Master’s table. For there is rest for the weary. There is redemption for once proud sinners. There is exaltation worthy of the name.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.