16 October 2022 Anno Domini
The Anglican Orthodox Church Worldwide
THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
LORD, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Just as the Cloud by Day, and Pillar of Fire by night, both led and followed the Children of Israel across the Red Sea, so does God’s continuing love and grace both lead and follow His people in our own day. It did not end at the banks of the Red Sea. Being continually imbued with that love and grace of our Lord, our works are manifested in goodness through His perpetual care and guidance.
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. Luke 14:1-11 (KJV)
THE THREE FEASTS:
I will stress some particulars of the feast in today’s text first since those are the points we must avoid as Christian people. Of course, the underlying warning of the text is sinfulness of pride and arrogance. Underlying the Lord’s counsel is the imperative to love and charity. The motive for inviting our Lord to the house of the chief Pharisees was not one of cordiality or generosity, but an uncharitable envy of His Person. In all His walk prior to this dinner, the Lord has attracted multitudes of people to hear His message of grace, and to enjoy the benefits of healing and comfort. This enraged the Jewish leaders in the same way that the large mega-churches of our day would likely reject Him if He came to threaten their nest eggs of filthy lucre. It will be more spiritually gratifying if we also cover the two subsequent feasts that follow today’s text (in the same chapter) in order to glean greater meaning, so I will begin with that of our primary text:
The First Feast, One of Malice:
“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.” Every word of the Bible is pregnant with meaning, and these are no exceptions. The casual reference to “And it came to pass” seems so very casual and coincidental, but it is not. This event had been foreordained by God from the first beam of light which gleamed at Creation. Nothing that happens in the Lord’s work is accidental.
Do you suppose the chief Pharisees invited Jesus out of a high regard for His ministry? That would be an absolute ‘NO!’ These fellows hated our Lord. They sought every means possible to entrap and destroy Him. This occasion is no exception. Note, first of all, that this was the Sabbath Day. How often did these boogers condemn Jesus for doing works of mercy on the Sabbath! No coincidence! Secondly, note the phrase, “they watched Him!” Why do you suppose they watched Him? It was not out of a Godly curiosity to hear what teachings He might utter, but rather out of what He might do to incriminate Himself under the Law of Moses.
These men had envisioned a scheme to entrap Jesus, not for wrong doing, but for doing works of mercy on the Sabbath whereby they intended to charge Him. Jesus, being a Person of great consideration, never refused an invitation from either friend or foe. He always attended in order to open sleeping ears and eyes. It matters not if His word is well-received or rejected – it yet serves its purpose to either convict, or to condemn, its subjects.
Thirdly, notice the unusual guest who is at the dinner! “And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.” When such an important social and religious personage as the chief Pharisee invites others to a dinner, do you, in the slightest instance, believe that he would invite the halt, the lame, and the dying! No, that is not in the character of any Pharisees with whom I am familiar save the good man, Nicodemus. So why is this man, afflicted with dropsy, invited? Dropsy is a serious condition usually caused by cardiac failure such as congestive heart failure. According to a medical definition, it is “An older term for generalized edema, most often associated with cardiac failure.” Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012.
So, what is the victim of dropsy doing at the Pharisee’s dinner? He is the bait by which they intended to spring their trap against the Lord. Knowing the compassion of the Lord for those who suffer, these degenerates conceived their plan to use this good quality against the Lord. Look around – it happens in politics every day!
But the Lord was aware of their wicked plan from millennia past. He disarms them by asking a simple question which they dare not answer: “And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” What could they have said? The Lord put the onus immediately at their own feet. If they answer ‘No,’ it would contradict the law of love and also of Moses since the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. “And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go.” The wicked are very adept at ‘holding their peace’ when the politics of the moment are disadvantageous for a response. “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.” Observe that Jesus healed the poor man, and let him go. He was not invited for the purpose of participating in a dinner – he was merely the trap that failed just as did many others of the Scribes and Pharisees to trick or tempt the Lord.
THE SECOND FEAST:
Knowing their evil intentions, the Lord tells a short parable to reveal their false pride and arrogance: “And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 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; 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. 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. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
First of all, do not presume on your own importance. We are more or less honored, not by the opinion we hold of ourselves, but by what others have formed about our track records. When a great man is humble, the Lord will make him great. When he is proud, the Lord will make him as an ant among elephants.
“When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14 (KJV) Anonymity is the truest form of charity. It is so because there can be no reward in popular approval or repayment for acts of kindness. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” Matt 6:1-4 (KJV) The political crowds of the First Church love to invite doctors, lawyers and other politicians to their churches and social gatherings. Why? Because there well likely will be a valuable reciprocation in the form of money or goodwill. This second kind of feast will most closely resemble the will of God and the kind of Feast He will make for His people, who, like the man with dropsy, have been healed from that deadliest of diseases called sin. Our feasts of love should not be based on pride of social or financial status, but simply charitable intentions of kindness.
THE THIRD FEAST – THE DIVINE FEAST:
“A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. Luke 14:16-24 (KJV)
We are all familiar with the tired and vain excuses men and women make to us to justify not fulfilling a social obligation of a friend. Look closely, please, at these excuses: “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” There are many points about the Jewish psyche that I admire – the foremost of which is wise investment strategies. I was raised in a town that had its share of Abraham’s descendants. You may believe me when I tell you that no Jewish person I have ever known would buy a piece of ground before examining the property thoroughly. Likewise, no self-respecting Jewish person would buy a beast of burden without first looking in its mouth. What ridiculous excuses men make! The third excuse total obliterates the other two – “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” Obviously, the wedding has already occurred, and the man is at leisure when the invitation was tendered! No wife is so terrible that the husband cannot meet his social obligations to a friend.
Christ did not come for the proud Pharisee who is blind to righteousness and truth. He came for those who need a physician of the soul – and know it; who are in great thirst for truth; who have suffered a famine of heavenly bread; who have sought healing without result, and now have found the Great Physician who extends that invitation to come for all of the needs of body and soul. These were chosen from the foundation of the world, and they will heed the invitation! Now is the hour to make your salvation certain. The key to all is LOVE! The Love of God enables us to Love others. Without that unconditional love, imputed to us by our Father in Heaven, we are, like the Pharisees, incapable of love. Do you love those who are helpless to return any measure of benefit? Consider this point, friend, and govern thyself accordingly!