Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa
One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And 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. Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “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. 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. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 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. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:1-14, ESV)
(Thanks to Rev. Mark Louderback)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
- Oh say can you see… The Star-Spangled Banner.
- I once was lost but now and found, was blind but now I see. Amazing Grace.
- There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see. Leonardo da Vinci
- People only see what they are prepared to see. Ralph Waldo Emerson
- The more I see the less I know for sure. John Lennon
- People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character. Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts. Albert Einstein
- The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see. Winston Churchill
- Don't be afraid to see what you see. Ronald Reagan
- Every man can see things far off but is blind to what is near. Sophocles
- See how many are better off than you are, but consider how many are worse. Lucius Annaeus Seneca
- I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. Confucius
- You and I do not see things as they are. We see things as we are. Henry Ward Beecher
- Human beings, from their own point of view, are very different than what people see. Kurt Russell
What do you see? That’s kind of the question we might ask about this text for today.
Look at the Pharisees. What do they see? Right off the bat we see that they are “…watching [Jesus] carefully.” They have their reasons. Jesus isn’t who they’d like him to be. He constantly insults them. He constantly belittles them. He constantly tells them they don’t know what they are talking about. They are watching Jesus, which is a good thing, but they don’t see what they should be seeing. Jesus actually uses three examples at this dinner party to try to get the Pharisees to see things differently. He confronts them directly with their sinful nature.
First, the man with dropsy. What is “dropsy?” It comes from the word “hydrops” that has to do with water. This man was suffering from a condition that caused his body to retain water. He was obese, especially in his wrists and ankles. When the text says “there was a man before him who had dropsy” I doubt very much if this man was an invited guest. He is probably standing around outside with the crowds that followed Jesus everywhere. As far as the Pharisees were concerned when you have a deforming illness it is because of some sin you are guilty of. If you are fat you deserve to be. They looked away when this man was walking down the street. They cross over to the other side to avoid his smell. The Pharisees don’t see the man; they only see something to be avoided. Jesus sees differently. He loves the outcast. He cares about his life. Jesus heals him and sends him home. Jesus questions the Pharisees. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” It’s a question about what they see. Do they see a person to love and care for or do they see rules to follow? They don’t answer. They don’t see anything but Jesus breaking the rules. Jesus pushes the question in front of them again. “If you have a son or even an ox that fell into a well on the Sabbath, you’d get him out wouldn’t you?” It’s as if he says, “This man’s life and health is worth more than rules! You won’t help him because you don’t love him. You don’t love him because of what you see on the outside.” They stand in silence. They don’t see.
What do you see? What do you see around you today? Do you see people as the Pharisees see them, or as Jesus sees them? Here in this room are people with problems. What do we do to care for them? Do we listen and then forget? Here in this room are people who are dying. Do we avoid them because we are afraid to see what we see afraid to see their death because it reminds us of our own? Here in this room are people who have hurt us. Do we see them as forgiven sinners bathed in the blood of Jesus, or do we hold a grudge? And what about the people who aren’t in this room? People that aren’t here because we can’t see them as people who belong here. And what about the folks outside with dropsy? You know the people we avoid on the street. The people we cross over to the other side. The they-don’t-belong-in-our-community people. What do we do to show our love and care?
Jesus wants us to see things differently. He wants us to do what ever we can to help them. He wants us to see people as he sees them. He wants us to see them as someone we love. He wants us to care for them and heal them. He wants us to see them as our child that has fallen in a well. He wants you to do for them whatever you can do. “But pastor!” you say, “I can’t do all that. They smell. They waste the money they’ve been given. They don’t care about anything but themselves, or their drugs, or their alcohol? They look different. They have different beliefs and values. Our families have always been on the opposite side of things. They’re republicans… or democrats.” It’s true. You can’t. In fact, you are just like the Pharisee. You care more for yourself then you do for the man with dropsy. And you don’t want things to change. You don’t want to see people differently. You watch Jesus and want him to tell you that the way you feel about other people is ok. It’s not. It’s sinful. It causes trouble in your life. It tears the fabric of the community. It leaves undone what needs to be done. What God’s word does here is to help us to see what God sees. We are standing outside the party where Jesus is. We are sin sick, unacceptable, and unwanted. The man with dropsy.
Ah, but Jesus has something to say about that too. He sees the man with dropsy. He loves him and cares for him. He heals him. He sends him back to his life to live it all differently. Jesus sees you. He loves you. He heals your sin. He gives you his blood bought forgiveness. He doesn’t send you back to your life alone. He promises to go with you by giving you the Holy Spirit. He gives you his Word, full of his promises for you. He gives you his body and blood as food to continue the healing. Because of all the Jesus sees in you, you can and do see the world differently.
The Pharisees are still watching Jesus. He points out something else that he sees. At the party, the guests come and strive for the best place to sit. They all want to be important and sit at the head of the table. Jesus points out that everyone wants to receive the highest honor. The guests consider who they are in the community. They look at their accomplishments. They compare their incomes. They see lots of love and lots of accomplishment. But the love they see is for themselves. They consider themselves more important than everyone else. When you love yourself, you don’t see anyone else. Your only relationship is “Who is above me? Who is below me? I’m better than them, I should sit higher.” They don’t see other people they only see things to be manipulated.
Jesus shows them their sin. “Don’t consider yourselves more important than other people.” When you love yourself, you set yourself up for a fall, a humiliation. Your selfishness puts you in the lowest position, the lowest chair. “Proper love for others, places them above you.” Jesus says.
What do you see? Well, in spite of the fact that none of you are sitting up here in the front pews… Do we see ourselves as the party guests do, or as Jesus shows us? Where do we see ourselves in the church? In the community? Do we serve others or expect to be served? Do we share what we’ve been so richly given? Does the church have all it needs to do the work that God has given us to do here? Have we manipulated the process to get what we want, what makes us look good, instead of what other people want or need? Do we look for a place in the church and community to make us feel important? or do we see our place as a place to love and care for others?
Jesus wants us to see things differently. He wants us to put other people’s needs and wants above our own. He wants us to see people as he sees them. He wants you to see other people as more important than you see yourself. “But pastor,” you say, “I can’t do that. People will take advantage of me. I’ll never get any of the recognition I deserve. I’ll always be on the bottom rung. I’ll never have any of the good things in life.” It’s true. You can’t. In fact you are just like the party guests. You care more for yourself than you do for other people. You step on them to get ahead. You point out their flaws and shortcomings to hide your own. You don’t want to be at the end of the table you want to be at the top. You want Jesus to recognize you for what you’ve done and accomplished. You want him to praise you for your good work. That too is sinful. It causes trouble in your life and the lives of others. What God’s Word does here is to help you see what God sees. We want everything for ourselves. We are selfish. We are the guests at the party.
Ah, but Jesus has something to say about that too. He sees the party guests. He loves them and cares for them. He sees them as more important than himself. In fact, he sees them as so important that he gives his very life for them. He sacrifices all that he has for them. He suffers pain and death for them, even death on a cross! Jesus sees you, too. He loves you. He sees you as more important than himself. He forgives your sin. His love for you spills out of your life to the lives of others. He loves them, so you love them. He considers them important so you consider them more important than yourself. Because of all that Jesus sees in you, you can and do see people differently.
And Jesus isn’t done with the Pharisees. They are still watching. Jesus sees what friends do to each other. “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” Jesus is invited to the party to make the host look and feel important. The host has invited the guests so that he will be invited to their parties. The host gives to people so that they will give to him. He sees people as a way to get things he wants for himself. He doesn’t see people for their own value, but only for what he can get.
What do you see? Do you make friends with people who need friendship? Do you want “better” people to join the church? Do you use emotional blackmail with your spouse to get what you want? “If you really loved me you’d do this for me.” Do you spread the gossip you hear, even about your friends and church? Do you love your pastor even when he refuses to bury, marry or commune someone we ask him to? Do you manipulate your children to influence the people around you?
Jesus wants you to see things differently. He wants you to love your friends. He wants you to give them what they need without wanting anything in return. He wants you to love your wife and children more than you love yourself. He wants you to be friends for the sake of friendship, not fame, or wealth, or standing in the community. “But pastor,” you say, “I can’t do that. My friends will just use me. I can’t be a doormat. You don’t understand the way the world works.” It’s true. You can’t do it. In fact, you are very much like the host of the party. You want friendships that are filled with advantages for yourself. You want to be seen in the company of “important people.” You want your wife to look good and your children to behave, for the sake of your reputation. You want the church to ignore what God says is right and true so that you don’t have to tell people that they are wrong. All of it is sinful. It causes trouble in your life and the lives of others. What God’s Word does here is to help you see what God sees. We want to use people for our own benefit. The host of the party.
Ah, Jesus speaks again. He sees the host of the party. He loves him and cares for him. He doesn’t use him to get what he wants. In fact, Jesus doesn’t expect anything from the host but rather gives everything to him. He cares for him so much he is even willing to confront him with his sin. Jesus wants his life to be different. Jesus expects no reward, no return for his love. His love asks nothing and expects nothing. His love only gives. Jesus sees you, too. He loves you, without asking anything from you in return. He forgives your sin, through nothing but his grace and mercy. His death on the cross is God showing you his love for you. He gives you everything you need. God’s love for you is best described in his own words.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV)
All that God has done for you in Jesus is yours through faith. There is nothing that can take him and his love away from you. His love is unchangeable.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)
So, what do you see? As St. Paul says we see life and other people differently. We see them through what Jesus has done. We see them as our Savior sees them.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, ESV)
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.