Trinity 17 2018
The Epistle – Ephesians 4:1-6
The Gospel – St. Luke 14:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
In our prayer this day, we asked God that He would ensure that His grace would always go before us and follow us…and that He would continually inspire us and incline us to be given to all good works…through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We might first think upon those early days of the wilderness.
The chosen people of God, the Israelites, who upon leaving Egypt were led by God in a miraculous manner.
“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.  The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. (ESV)
The cloud was by day, so that they would be led by His protection as they sojourned.
The fire by night, indicating God watched over them…watched their backs, as we might say today…as they both travelled and rested.
We look to God this day and ask in prayer that He would remember His presence to the Israelites and find us to be in like situations today…and that He would supply the same safety and protection and guidance to us day-by-day.
As we grow older and grow closer to God and realize more and more how God does this - much of the time without us asking as we should –
- we should be humbled by this fact…this reality.
John Newton in his very famous and much-loved hymn Amazing Grace notes in one stanza, “‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
It is a humbling fact that God is at work for us, in us, with us, and that we enter His eternal rest solely on account of the saving work of Jesus Christ and His mercy and grace.
He leads us in this life, as Newton says, and He leads us home.
Going before us and behind us. Hemming us in on all sides and protecting us.
But humbling as it is, we tend not to remain humbled for long. Humility is an ongoing pursuit that all Christians should be engaged in.
Humility is hard for us at times.
The very act of humility is seen as weakness by some.
It is seen as silliness by others.
It is seen as a waste of time or missed opportunity by still others.
Some argue that it is a reversal of how things should be.
We should be aggressive, or someone will beat us to it.
We should strike while the iron is hot, so as not to lose that opportunity.
Or maybe worst of all, we think we are better than some or most others, so we rightly deserve to be in a place of honor or respect or dignity or recognition.
We have worked
hard for it.
We desire to be seen by others.
We are owed it.
There are any number of reasons.
But to demolish all of this foolish thinking on our part, we have the Gospel lesson for today.
“One Sabbath, when [Jesus] went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.”
Commentator - Eating bread together is supposed to be a time of intimate fellowship.
But this was not how it went down in this instance. Jesus is in the home of a ruler of the Pharisees.
It’s not clear in what way this man was a ruler, but suffice it to say, he is in a role of leadership, maybe a synagogue ruler or elder….
…and hence in a role of influence and therefore a man who is to be an example to those whom he leads and teaches and shepherds.
There is a man at this meal. Most likely invited. Doubtful he would have wandered in by himself. Yet he is there nonetheless and those who are at this meal are watching Jesus.
“Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’  But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away.  And he said to them, ‘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?’  And they could not reply to these things.”
So whether this man is a plant or not, Jesus was being watched by those in the house. Would Jesus break the Law and heal this man on the Sabbath? …where no work was to be done?
What an absurd conclusion. What an absurd way to read the Law. Healing someone, a miracle in-and-of itself…is being tested and judged as unlawful.
Go help people on other days, not the Sabbath.
But the Lord’s Day is in fact shown to them before their very eyes and the don’t see it.
The Lord is with them in the person of Jesus Christ,
doing the Lord’s work on the Lord’s Day….and it is deemed blasphemous to them.
But as we see here, Jesus heals the man and sends him in his way.
The men are silent as Jesus asks the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” Jesus shows them the answer despite their silence.
If these men were to say it IS permissible to heal on the Sabbath, then it raises problems with their tradition and how they live.
If they answer no, then they run the risk of sounding like they are against doing good to someone and showing compassion…even if it is on a Sabbath.
But the account of this goes on. Jesus tells a parable because of what He observes. They are usually watching Him. He is now watching them. …just not in the same way.
They watch to trap.
He watches for opportunities to teach. After Jesus instructs the Pharisee and those watching Him on how you must be compassionate, even on the Sabbath, He turns now to another problem He sees there. Pride. Lack of humility.
Luke says, “Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor…”
We know what happened as we just heard the lesson read to us. And we know what Jesus said of this.
“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 you be asked and embarrassed to have to move.”
Guests were vying for the best seat, which would have been on the left and right hand of the master of the house or the host.
Recall this was the request of James and John at one point. They ask Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you. Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
These places are seen as places of honor.
So, Jesus watches how these people came in and rushed to grab the best seats in the house.
This behavior revealed something very important about them.
And we have to take note of this, since we are all to one degree or another prone to arrogance, pride and a lack of humility.
Cyril of Alexandria - Oh, what great shame is there in having to do this! It is like a theft, so to speak, and the restitution of the stolen goods. He must restore what he has seized because he had no right to take it.
So first Jesus shows them (and us) the correct way to observe the Sabbath day of rest…then He expounds on the nature of true humility….what true humility looks like.
What Jesus is teaching is not to avoid embarrassment, it’s an exhortation to humility.
Ryle - Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ, is the very beginning of saving religion.—It is a grace which has always been the distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham, and Moses, and Job, and David, and Daniel, and Paul, were all eminently humble men.—Above all, it is a grace within the reach of every true Christian.
All have not money to give away.
All have not time and opportunities for working directly for Christ. All have not gifts of speech, and tact, and knowledge, in order to do good in the world.
But all converted men should labor to adorn the doctrine they profess by humility. If they can do nothing else, they can strive to be humble.”
Jesus says at the end of this part today, “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
That is the end of all things. We may not be humbled now, but upon our death, we will be humbled.
We brought nothing into this world and all that we have acquired will be left behind for others to deal with.
And our humility will be rewarded as well. All those acts of humility will be recalled by our Lord on that day and those done in and through Christ, will be rewarded.
It is noted by one commentator that the theme of eschatological reversal is common in the New Testament.
In other words, he is saying, in the end many times, what is now, will be completely reversed, switched, turned around or flipped in the end.
The exalted will be humbled.
The humble will be exalted.
The Blessed Virgin sings, “Luke 1:52
“…he has brought down the mighty from their seat…
and exalted the humble and meek.”
The Beatitudes, Luke 6:21
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. (ESV)
St. Paul in Romans, Romans 12:16b
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. (ESV)
St. James, James 4:6
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (ESV)
St. Peter, 1 Peter 5:5
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (ESV)
We must be on our guard. We must watch ourselves at all times, for the Lord is not blind to our actions of pride.
St. Augustine – “The one who exalts himself will be humbled. Why seek the higher place with an appetite for the heights, when you can make it simply by holding on to lowliness? If you exalt yourself, God throws you down. If you cast yourself down, God lifts you up.
One may not add to or subtract from the Lord’s pronouncement.”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.