It’s Hard to be Humble
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
About The Law
The gospel reading begins this way, “one Sabbath Day, Jesus went to the house of a Pharisee to dine.” The words that come next are very telling about the Pharisee and the rest of his dinner guests. Saint Luke tells us that “they were watching him carefully.”
Life for most of the Pharisees was all about obeying the Law of God. On the surface, it sounds wonderful. The problem with their way of life was that they were worshipping the Law of God and their obedience to it. The Law and their obedience had become their idols.
With this in mind, “[the Pharisees] were watching Jesus carefully.” Would he live up to their standards? Would Jesus be worthy of sitting at the dinner table with them? Would he fulfill the Law of God?
They soon found out about Jesus and about the Law. There was a man at the house who was ill. He is described as having dropsy, fluid had built up throughout his body. This was dangerous to his heart and to his very life.
Jesus asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” The Pharisees thought the Law said they should not work at all on the Sabbath Day, on the Day of Rest. The question Jesus asked struck at the heart of the matter. It struck at the heart of why the Son of God came down from heaven to take upon himself flesh and blood.
The Pharisees had no answer. If they said, “No, to healing the man,” they would be seen as cruel and uncaring. After all, the Law says to love your neighbor. If they said, “Yes it is okay to heal the man on the Sabbath,” then they would be hypocrites for demanding everyone else not to work on the Sabbath.
In loving kindness, Jesus does not ridicule or make fun of these men for not giving an answer to his questions. He knew that they too needed to be healed. They needed to be healed from trusting that their obedience to the Law would save them. They needed to humble themselves, to repent of their sinful pride.
Jesus asked them if they would save their own son or their own ox if one of them had fallen into a well on a Sabbath Day. Again they did not answer. They desired to be honored for keeping the Law but what if that meant harm to their own child or even to their own ox. Worshipping the Law and their obedience made them helpless in truly understanding and obeying God’s Law.
Mercy and Kindness
Jesus had described acts of mercy and kindness. He had described humbling one’s self in order to help someone in need. Against showing mercy and kindness, against helping those in need, against loving your neighbor as yourself there is no law no matter what the day.
They were speechless. Jesus knew that they did not understand the God of mercy and grace who had given the Law. They did not understand God’s love for them as sinners. They believed that they must prove themselves worthy before God.
A Place of Honor
These men had come to dinner at the house of a Pharisee. They looked for places of honor to sit. Jesus used their own behavior to teach them how wrong they were about having a place of honor in the kingdom of God.
Jesus told a parable about being invited to a wedding feast. He said to them, “Don’t sit down in a place of honor on your own. How embarrassing would it be if the host would come to you and ask you to move because he had someone else in mind for that place of honor?”
He ended the parable with the punch line, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” This punch line was not about dinner at the Pharisee’s house.
Some might say that Jesus was giving good advice for dinner guests. As Christians, we know that he was not talking about dinner at a Pharisees’ house or dinner at the White House. Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God. He was talking about coming into the presence of God as repentant sinners.
The Lord’s Table
We are gathered around a table today, the Lord’s Table. We come as children of Adam and Eve who were not satisfied with the blessing that the Lord had given them. We come as brothers and sisters of James and John who selfishly asked Jesus “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” We come as Pharisees who want to tell God all the reasons that we deserve places of honor at the wedding feast that has no end.
We have come into the presence of Jesus. We are guests at his table and he wants us to carefully observe what he has done. He came into the world for sinners, for you and for me. He came and placed himself under his own Law.
Saint Paul wrote, “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law.” The Pharisee in all of us wants to believe that we can redeem ourselves, that we can fulfill the law with enough perfection that God will welcome us to his table.
The Law of God teaches the Pharisee in all of us that we are lost and condemned. It is a mirror that shows us that we are sinners with no hope of redeeming ourselves. The Law leaves us speechless. We have no words that can justify ourselves before God. Not only do we not deserve a place of honor at the Lord’s Table we do not deserve to be in his kingdom at all.
Look At Jesus
And so, we must look at Jesus. We see him showing compassion to those who cannot pay him back for his mercy and kindness. We see him caring for the poor, the crippled, and blind. We see him healing the sinner with forgiveness. We see him welcoming the lost and condemned to his table to receive his very body and blood.
You must see Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus took the lowest place, the place of a sinner, your place. He hung on a cross, covered with his own blood, and bearing your sins. You must see the wrath of God poured out on him so that you might be healed from all your transgressions.
You are the one who cannot pay back God’s compassion. You are the poor, crippled, and blind sinner who daily needs Christ’s healing. You are the lost and condemned who cannot find your own way or pardon yourself.
And so as you cry out “Lord, have mercy,” you must watch Jesus very carefully. He stepped into the Jordan River and took upon himself your sins. Then with the water of Holy Baptism he washed away your sins.
Jesus gave his body and shed his blood as the punishment for your sins. Then he shares that body and blood with you for the forgiveness of your sin. Jesus rose from the grave in victory over death. He cover you with his righteousness and with the good news of his life, death, and resurrection Jesus gives you peace.
“Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Welcome to the Lord’s Table. You are invited because the Son of God has redeemed you.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria