B.C.P. Trinity 17 : Luke 14:1-11. Trinity 17
1: And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2: And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3: And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4: And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5: And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6: And they could not answer him again to these things. 7: And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 8: When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9: And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10: But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11: For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Sir Alec Guiness once said, "A person who is keen to shake your hand usually has something up his sleeve." He was talking about the way some people's appearance differ from their motives.
Jesus had been invited to a meal by a prominent Pharisee on the Jewish Sabbath, a Saturday. Such an invitation would normally be welcomed because, in this culture, sharing a meal with someone showed acceptance of them. But the Pharisees were motivated by the desire to watch and criticise Jesus. That is why they placed a man suffering from dropsy near to Jesus, in order to see if he would heal the man on the Sabbath.
Jesus healed the man and exposed the hypocrisy and lack of compassion of his accusers who would rather help an animal than a human being.
One of Joshua's school friends is George. He is a bright, polite, attractive boy, good at football and is very popular. There is some competition amongst some of the boys in the class for George's friendship and companionship. So, some of the boys will try to sit next to him at lunch time or in the classroom, or perhaps they will be keen to invite him to their homes.
This type of vying for attention occurred at the meal that Jesus had been invited to. Jesus turns his attention to the motives of the guests as they sat to eat. At such a meal people would recline at couches that were arranged in a U shape, with the host seated at the base of the U. The most favoured guests would sit nearest to the host.
A preacher was going up the steps to the pulpit when he walked up the inside of his cassock and promptly fell flat on his face. He started his talk with the words, 'Well pride may come before a fall, but it certainly doesn't follow it either...'
Jesus tells a parable about a wedding feast to illustrate how pride and self-seeking can lead to humiliation. This shows that honour is not seized, but awarded. Jesus commends humility for two reasons. One is an earthly reason, that grabbing the best seats that someone is not entitled to could lead to humiliation. Whereas sitting at the lowest seat could well result in an invitation by the host to move up, and the esteem this would bring.
The second is an heavenly reason. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The word exalt means 'to lift up'. Jesus is referring to those who lift themselves up above others, perhaps trampling them on the way. God will humble them, or bring them down to size, if you like. Yet those who humble themselves will be lifted up to God, by God, through Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit.
D. L. Moody : "God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves."
When Jesus spoke of humility he was not saying that people have to belittle themselves and consider themselves worthless. He meant that people should realise that they fall short of God's perfect will and, therefore, need His mercy. Only His mercy, shown in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, can put people right with God.
in "Murder in the Cathedral" T. S. Eliot imagines Archbishop Thomas Becket final Christmas sermon, "The true martyr," he says, "is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom."
This is what true humility is, putting God first and others next, before ourselves. There is a sense in which every Christian is a martyr because they have died to their old life and now live for Christ.
Those who humble themselves will be exalted, they will be raised up from death by God when Jesus returns. They will be raised to be united with Jesus in glory.
John Newton (1725-1807), former slave trader and composer of 'Amazing grace', said "I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ and the brightest evidences that he is indeed our Master."