Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C)
September 2, 2007
Text: Luke 14:1-14

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11; ESV). Right on, Jesus! There is nothing we despise more than someone who is arrogant, cocky, who exalts himself. We love to see those who are self-absorbed knocked down a peg. Pride is among the ugliest of fashion accessories. Of course, the problem with pride is that the person who wears it on his sleeve is almost always unaware of it. And so it comes about that the finger of the Law is pointing at you and me as much as it points at the Pharisees this morning. For in our condemnation of the arrogant, our own arrogance is exposed. We are more humble than they are, we think. Oops. Our pride has just been exposed. There we go again, exalting ourselves. Repent.

Self-exaltation is a universal symptom of original sin. We see this in the behavior of the Pharisees in our text. The host, himself a prominent Pharisee, had invited his friends, who were also Pharisees, to the Sabbath feast. This was the only sort of company he would keep. Anyone else would be beneath him. Oh, he did invite one other dinner guest, Jesus, though his purpose may not have been altogether sincere. The Pharisee had invited Jesus in order to watch him carefully. By now Jesus had a reputation of keeping company with the wrong crowed, eating, and even, perish the thought (!), drinking with tax-collectors and sinners. Jesus was supposed to be a Rabbi! He was a liability to Jewish orthodoxy, as far as the Pharisees were concerned. So they were keeping their eyes on Him to see what He would do next.

And then it happened. You could cut the tension at the table with a knife. A man with dropsy, a swelling of tissue where abnormal amounts of liquid has accumulated, today known as edema, came wandering into the dinner party looking for healing. He had come to the right place. There sat the Great Physician, Jesus. There was only one problem. It was the Sabbath. And healing is work. No work on the Sabbath! This was a basic 3rd Commandment issue. And anyway, this guy with dropsy was unclean. He didn’t belong at the dinner party. “Let’s just ignore him, Jesus. He is beneath us.”

Jesus would not ignore the man in need, however. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” asked Jesus (v. 3). It was a rhetorical question. “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” (v. 5). Everyone at the table knew the answer. They could not object. Jesus had bested them once again. Needless to say, Jesus took the man to Himself and healed Him. Our healing Lord is also Lord of the Sabbath. How could He do otherwise?

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Notice the contrast between the Pharisees and the man with dropsy. The Pharisees did not have room for the man with dropsy at their table. In fact, they barely had room for each other. Jesus had watched with interest as the Pharisees came to table and jostled for the places of honor. The man with dropsy did not even come to the table. He waited patiently for Jesus’ healing. The Pharisees, in their pride did not even want healing from Jesus. But the man with dropsy endured their shunning, making no pretense about his own worthiness as he waited on Jesus. As a result, the Pharisees were not healed. They were not forgiven. They were not exalted. Jesus gave them the Law to humble them. But the man with dropsy was healed. He was made whole. He went away justified. The exalted are humbled and the humbled are exalted.

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place” (vv. 8-9). Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought. Show a little humility. “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you” (v. 10). It’s true, what we heard in Proverbs, “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble” (Prov. 25:6-7).

But don’t just act the part. All false humility is sinful pride. We’re all guilty of this. We shy away from compliments because we know it makes us look even better. We tell our stories so that our audience is sympathetic to us. We position ourselves so that we have an edge over others, so that others will take notice of us, perhaps even praising us for our humility. There is no pure motive for anything that we do. Repent.

Repentance is the substance of true humility. The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh all tell us to exalt ourselves. The Law of God, however, humbles us. Repent. Be humbled. Then you will truly be exalted. God will exalt you. You will be exalted in Jesus.

Jesus’ lesson about humility is really about Himself first of all. It was Jesus, after all, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus was humbled for us men and for our salvation. He died the death that we deserved. He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. In Him, we have forgiveness and life. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 9-11). God raised His crucified Son from the dead for the world’s justification, and has exalted Him to His right hand in the highest heaven. The exalted are humbled and the humbled are exalted.

Those who are baptized into Christ look like Him. We are baptized into His death and resurrection. We come in humility and repentance. We die to ourselves to be raised to new life in Christ. Confess your sins and receive Jesus’ absolution. Do not exalt yourselves. Let Jesus exalt you with His forgiveness and salvation. Don’t refuse Him in your pride. Receive Him as the Physician of your soul. He longs to heal you, just as He healed the man with dropsy. And He longs to have you feast at His Table.

Pharisees are not invited to the Table of the Lord. This Table is for tax-collectors and sinners. It is for men with dropsy. It is for you and for me. When Jesus throws a feast, He invites “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:13). He invites sinners who have been humbled by the Law and need the healing of the Gospel. He invites you to feast on His sumptuous fare, His very body and blood. You cannot pay Him back. He doesn’t want you to. He will be repaid in the resurrection, when He receives you whole again to Himself. But He does want you to go and do likewise, having mercy on your neighbor, inviting those who cannot repay you… For example, the children who look to Him with simple trust in His mercy, who are beginning Sunday School again this morning. He wants you to do this, not because you have to do so to be saved, but because you have been saved and you are now His hands in the world. And you, too, will be rewarded in the resurrection of the just (v. 14).

In the mean time, Jesus exalts you today. He invites you to His feast. Here is healing for all who are broken by sin. Here is forgiveness for pride and every other evil. Come in repentance and faith. There is no more exalted place than that which our Lord provides this morning. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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