Luke 14:1-14 – Move Up Lower

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Luke 14:1-14

1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.

2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” Jesus Dinner Dropsy4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 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?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “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, 9 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. 10 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 table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Some dinner party this was. Did you feel it in the text? Awkward! Eyes are darting around the room. Dinner Party WatchingEverybody is watching each other, and every look is critical. It isn’t just to see who foolishly uses the dinner fork to eat their salad. No! The Pharisees are carefully watching Jesus, just waiting to catch Him doing something wrong. And Jesus has His eyes on them, watching as they stumble over each other for seats of honor. So much for Sabbath rest at this dinner party – it’s exhausting.

The Pharisees are watching for good reason because it appears that they have set up this whole scenario. Somewhere in the crowd is a man with dropsy. Pockets of fluid are collecting in his body tissue, and he has swelling all over. Jesus sees this grotesque-looking man, and knowing the Pharisees are watching His every move, He asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

They refuse to answer the question, but Jesus doesn’t care what answer they might have given. Jesus looks at this swollen man just as He looks at all sinners – like a mother looks at her child in the cancer ward. Or, even better, Jesus looks upon sinners like a mother looks at her child who has been rightly convicted of murder and is hours from execution on death row (Pedersen). Jesus sees this man’s need, and He has mercy.

The dining room turns into a doctor’s office and the buffet becomes an exam table. “Move the turkey legs out of the way. Slide those potatoes across. You might want to cover the salad bowl. Time to get this bloated, swollen man healed. Ok. Now that that’s done, let Me ask you – which of you, would leave your son or even your ox in a well if it fell in on the Sabbath?”

Now, instead of refusing to reply, the other dinner guests can’t reply. There they sit, dumber than oxen who don’t even realize they have fallen into a well. The question convicts them, and they are like dead men. Despite their deadness and hatred of Him, Jesus still loves them. His desire is to save them too.

So Jesus tells this parable which is a retelling of Proverbs 25:6-7. Now, we could take this parable as an etiquette lesson: Sit low and get honor by being paraded through the party to a higher seat. But that flies in the face of what Jesus is actually doing. Jesus wants to show them true humility. And pretending to be humble in order to get everyone’s attention isn’t true humility.

This parable is all about Jesus. It tells of His path from glory down to earth and even hell and back again. Jesus was removed from the place of honor at His Father’s right hand in order to make room for you. Jesus was humiliated (Php. 2:5-11). He took the form of a servant. God was found in human form. When we sinners saw God in the flesh, we pinned Him to a cross.

But, then, God does the strangest thing. He takes you who are sitting in the muck and mire of your sin. Because God sees that Jesus’ seat is open, He invites you to move up. You are invited to sit at the table He prepares for you. He anoints your head with oil and makes sure your cup is never set down empty.

Glory of the CrossThen, from the lowest place, Jesus is raised up. At His name, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Notice what Jesus says is the lesson of the parable, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” He doesn’t give you something to do by saying, “Be humble.” Pride is your problem, but you can’t overcome pride by humility. To think that you can fix your pride is, by definition, prideful. The anecdote for your pride is not you being humble – it is grace. Grace which is never merited or earned. Grace that is pure gift, pure mercy, pure love.

You have been honored by Jesus’ grace. And as you sit in that seat of honor, you are humbled because of what Christ has done, for you

That is why Jesus, your Savior, still invites you, “Come up higher. Sit here. Yes here! Come and receive what you could not earn or buy. Come and receive what you aren’t even clever enough to ask for. Come and receive My grace, My forgiveness, My mercy.” Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Luke 12:49-53 – Division

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Luke 12:49-53

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. Quarrel52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Is this what you expected to hear from Jesus when you got up to come to church today? Probably not. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, right? You expect to hear Jesus proclaiming a message of peace, but instead you get all this: fire, distress, division, fighting. Fathers against sons. Mothers against daughters. Houses of five divided – three to two. Who will be in the majority and will the majority be on Jesus’ side?

Jesus asks, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?”

“Well, yes, Mr. Jesus, if you are asking, yes. Now that You are here shouldn’t everything go perfectly? Aren’t You here to end all war, famine, and calamity? Aren’t You here to make everything fantastic? Make the lion lie down with the lamb and all that. Make this world the place ‘where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average’?”

Sword 2Jesus doesn’t let us answer His question, “Do you think I have come to give peace on earth?” He jumps right in and says, “No, I tell you, but rather division.” In the same context in Matthew, Jesus answers His own question more violently, “I have not come not to bring peace but a sword” (Mt. 10:34).

Swords and division go together. Swords divide. They are a tool of war designed with one purpose – to divide. Flesh from bone. Soul from body. Paul writes that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Maybe, then, we shouldn’t be surprised when Jesus, the Word of God in the flesh, brings division. In our Old Testament lesson (Jer. 23:16-29), God says, “Is not my Word like a fire and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

Remember that the next time you come to church and hear the Word of God. Remember that before you crack open your Bible. Be careful with the Word of God. You can get burned. You can get smashed. You can get slashed.

The division Jesus speaks about is first and foremost within you. The work of God’s Word is to separate you from your sin, and this isn’t a pleasant operation. It is a terrifying ordeal. God talks about it as removing your heart of stone and giving you a heart of flesh. We’d prefer to postpone the operation. Maybe get a second opinion. But Jesus won’t wait for us to sign liability forms. Jesus is ready to get the whole thing started.

Jesus says, “Fire is coming to the earth, and let’s get it kindled. I’m going to be baptized in My own blood and God’s judgment. I will go to the cross where the napalm of God’s wrath will be poured out upon Me because I will become sin – for you.” Jesus will be baptized upon the cross as God pours out His anger against your sin upon His own beloved Son.

In Christ, God is at war with sin. The Great Physician is amputating what is incurable – your sin, your evil, your wickedness. He took it upon Himself and nailed it to the cross, buried it in the tomb, and left it there when He rose from the dead.

And in your baptism, God joined you together with Jesus. You who are baptized have been baptized in to His death – into a Jesus-type death. You were buried with Jesus by baptism into death. Since you have been united with Jesus in a death like His, you will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Ro. 6:3-5).

“But pastor, that’s all over now, right?” Nope, that’s not what the Scriptures say. Sorry. Through His Word, God has raised up a new man inside of you. If it were over, you wouldn’t sin anymore. But you do. Your old, sinful flesh still clings to you. So now the good things you want to do, you don’t do them. The things you hate because God says they are sin, you still do those things (Ro. 7:14-20). God has made your hearts instruments of faith and faith will and must fight against sin and unbelief.

Sinful Tree Person“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Ro. 7:24-25). All the while God says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1).

God’s Word is still a sword. Believer, on this side of glory you are still at war. The Word of God still cuts and divides. And the place where it is rightly preached is always marked by division. Your neighbors, your friends, and sadly, yes, even your family will be divided against you. God’s Word of Truth is the stench of death to those who do not believe. People you love will stop their ears to the Gospel. They don’t want to hear the Gospel – the free forgiveness of sin – because they don’t want to need forgiveness.

But you, you will run with endurance the race set before you. You will lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely. You do this looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:1-2). This Jesus is coming again. When He comes, His power will be seen. The fog will clear, and all of the devil’s lies will be exposed.

Then you won’t run. You won’t stand. You will kneel. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Then, and only then, will the division within and without cease.

Until then, you fight. Fight and rejoice in the joy that Christ has given. You will fight singing a battle song. Even though it will appear that the enemy is winning because even if you fall in that battle (and unless Jesus comes first, you will), the victory is already won. Forgiveness is yours. You are now free, and soon you will be whole. Then your warfare will end. Then the sword will be beaten into a plowshare. Then you who have been made clean will lie down with the Lamb. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Luke 12:22-34 – Fear Not, Little Faiths

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Luke 12:22-34

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Birds in a nestOf how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Through this whole text, Jesus comes at us with the Law to point out our sins of idolatry. The human heart is an idol factory.  Because of our sin, we fear, love, and trust all sorts of things that aren’t God. Answer the question, “What am I afraid of?” and you will find your idol.

If Jesus had wanted to, He could have summarized this whole text with one command: “Thou shalt not worry.” But Jesus didn’t come be a new Moses and give more commands. Jesus came to remove your worry and anxiety. Jesus came to remove your fear of God’s righteous judgment against your sin and idolatry because He came to take your sin from you and to be judged and condemned in your place.

And here Jesus tears down your idols. He clears them all away, but notice how Jesus does it. He does it kindly. Jesus the Good Shepherd 1He does it with tenderness. Jesus diagnoses your idolatry very acutely, but very gently. The voice of your Shepherd calls you away from danger, away from idolatry to Himself. Jesus gives you several questions to ask yourself. Each of these questions is an argument against your idolatry and drives you to put your trust in God.

First, Jesus invites you to look at the birds. Birds who do not make meal plans. Birds who don’t go to school to learn how to get a job and work. Birds who don’t make barns and storehouses. Birds that just get fed by God. Jesus invites you to look at them and ask yourself, “How much more valuable am I than the birds?” Seriously, answer that question.

Jesus didn’t come to suffer and die for birds. He came to have a crown of thorns pressed into His head, to have His hands and feet run through with nails, to have His side gashed by a spear not for birds, but for you!

Second, Jesus wants you to consider how you can live longer. “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” None of you can. If you cannot do something as simple as that, then what good is it for you to worry? It doesn’t help a lick.

Third, the lilies, question. Lilies don’t work. They don’t toil or spin. They don’t watch for the hottest deals of the season. And not even Solomon – the wealthiest, most powerful king Israel ever had – not even he was clothed as beautifully and luxuriously as one of them. Lilies are alive in the flower bed today and are drowned by the rain, beat down by the hail, or thrown in the burn pile tomorrow. Jesus asks you, “If God so clothes the grass, how much more will He clothe you?”

Finally, Jesus says, “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” So, ask yourself, “Does God know what I need?” And the answer is unequivocally, “Yes.” God knows what you need. In fact, He knows even better than you do. God knows better than the health experts who say one week that eggs are good and the next that they are bad. God knows what you need. And He is your Father.

Imagine you are driving home,[1] and you are worried about all sorts of things. You are worried about getting home late. You are worried because work has slowed down and cuts are coming. You have had a pain in your back for weeks that just won’t go away, and you fear that you might need surgery. You are anxious and worrying about all these things swirling around in your head. Suddenly, someone jumps into your car and points a gun at you.

What happens to all those things that you are anxious, worried, and troubled about? They’re gone, right? All those worries are gone in an instant. In that moment, the only thing that you fear is the strange, fidgety man pointing his gun at you.

Jesus says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:23). People can kill your body. Cancer and disease can kill your body. If God allows it, the devil can attack and kill your body. But Jesus says not to fear any of that. Instead, fear God because God alone determines where your soul will be. And because of your sin, you deserve hell.

Jesus says to you, “I have come and taken your sin. So fear not, you of little faith. Fear not little flock. Trust Me. Trust Me when I say that it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Imagine that guy in your car pointing his gun at you, and he says, “I’m here to protect you.” Then all your fear is gone. All those things you had been worried about were removed because of that crazy guy with the gun, and now you know that you don’t need to be afraid of him either.

Cross and CommunionGod comes to you today, and He is not here to destroy you. He says, “Fear not. I am your shield; your reward shall be very great” (Gen. 15:1). He comes not to judge you. Jesus is here to give you His Body and Blood in His supper. It is His good pleasure to give you the kingdom in the Bread and Wine. Fear not, you of little faith because you don’t have an inconsistent God who forgets His promises to care for you and all of your needs. Your God and His love for you in Christ will never change, never fade, and never diminish. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] This analogy is from a sermon preached by Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller.