15th Sunday after Pentecost 2016 | Jesus Heals a Man with Dropsy
This is the last straw.
Three times now in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has been invited to dine with the Pharisees.
But after His performance today, they will not be asking Him back.
Truthfully, they were hoping something like this might happen,
so they were watching Him closely,
and hoping that they would have opportunity to criticize Him.
Not being one to disappoint, Jesus gives them their chance.
He says things that the Pharisees do not want to hear,
and He does things that the Pharisees do not want done.
Jesus says and does these things because He is exactly Who the Pharisees fear He is.
And so, by the end of the meal, this Christ, this Messiah, is no longer a welcome Guest.
And why would He be?
Nobody wants a guest who is going to make everyone uncomfortable;
Who brings up religion at the dinner table: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”
Who talks politics: “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Who is just plain inappropriate: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…”
They stood there in silent judgment.
They knew it was permissible to heal on the Sabbath.
But they would rather say nothing at all than forfeit their opinion to Jesus.
And yet silence does not get them off the hook;
because Jesus is not talking about healing “in theory.”
Jesus is talking about healing in fact.
Jesus is talking about healing right here and right now.
Lawful or unlawful, here and now is a problem for them.
The unnamed man mentioned in the text this morning suffered from a condition that left him looking grotesque, ugly, sick. Not the kind of person you want near your food.
So you can imagine the disgust and quiet rage of the dinner guests who stood by as Jesus interrupted the serving of the main course to heal him personally, to touch a man who shouldn’t be touched, and then break bread with them.
Jesus knows what is in their hearts, and He knows what is in yours too.
Jesus knows the reason that all the guests are so angry with Him.
It is not merely Jesus’ words.
Nor is not simply Jesus’ healing.
After all, who could criticize and attack Jesus for simply feeding the hungry and healing the sick?
The biggest problem with Jesus’ words and actions is what they mean for all of us.
They mean that this man, Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, their Messiah, God in the Flesh.
And if Jesus is God in the Flesh, then it means you are not.
If Jesus is the One who says what is right, then you are obligated to agree.
If Jesus is the One who heals, then you must go to Him to be well.
If Jesus says to sit in the lowest seat, then it means the time for praising yourself has come to an end.
He knows you do not want to give any of that up.
He knows all about pride and stubbornness.
He saw it first-hand way back in Eden.
Jesus knows that you want to sit down in the seat of honor. A beautiful, comfortable seat, from which you can think and reflect on what a well-behaved Christian you are.
He knows about you who experience pride in a different way, too;
the ones who thank God that He has not made them like other men,
like those arrogant folks looking for the cushiest seat at the front.
He holds his head in his hand when you hear His call to humility as a piety contest;
that if you can just manage to lower yourself enough, then you will be exalted.
That kind of false humility is not a cure for sinful pride.
And it is not what Jesus’ parable is about.
Jesus’ story is about is going to the seat reserved for you.
Perhaps a better translation for the Greek word “lowest” would be the word “last”.
The only seat you have at the table,
the only seat that all our sins have earned you, is death.
The last seat is a position of absolute helplessness, reserved for the one who has no power to honor himself. One who can only be brought up to a place of honor.
Being in the last and lowest seat means admitting that you are lost, helpless, and dead;
dependent completely on Christ and His healing mercy.
And if all this sounds troubling, remember that while death may be our lowest state,
it is also the sole condition of our resurrection.
If you are going to be raised to life, you have to be dead; simple as that.
And dead is exactly how you started. You were brought to Christ, most of you as a little baby, spiritually dead.
As the Psalmist writes: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (51.5)
So, Jesus baptized you!
Water and Word.
Each of you, one by one, made His own.
You were in the lowest seat, and He said to you, “Friend, go up higher.”
Having been invited to the feast, you came here this morning with your sins and your troubles, your jealousy, and insecurities, your broken relationships.
You came with your worries, your pride, and everything else, and crawled again to the last seat.
If you don’t remember doing that, it began something like this:
“Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean…”
To you Jesus said, “I forgive you all your sins.”
To you, Jesus said again, “Friend, come up higher.”
The guests at the feast did not want Jesus to offend the Sabbath by healing on it. They would have preferred he wait.
But Jesus will not. He will not wait to give you His gifts.
He will not wait until later to give you that which you need right now.
Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?
Today, Jesus answers His own question.
Today Jesus shows us that healing, the forgiveness of sins, is exactly what the Sabbath is for.
It is why He came. He who sat at the right hand of the Father from eternity,
Has taken the last and lowest seat, even a cross, even a borrowed tomb.
But the Father has raised Him up, this Jesus who now only desires to share the head of the table with you.
And so Jesus comes to you now, to heal you, to bind up your wounds, to send you out, to invite other unlikely guests to the feast, so that He would heal and raise them, too.
Healing is what the Sabbath is for.
So there is no better day than today, and there is no better place than here;
at the Feast to which He has invited you.
Here at this altar where Christ Himself is both the Host and the Food.
Here in His Holy Eucharist, where Christ gives you all He has and all He is. Body, Blood, and Divinity.
Here Jesus raises you from death to life with the Food of Immortality.
Here is your seat. Christ has spoken: “Friend, come up higher.”
One last thing: that bit on repayment.
You can’t pay Jesus back. Surely you know this by now, but I know the temptation is always there. What shall you render to the Lord for all His benefits to you?
You shall offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
You shall invite your neighbors to the feast as well –
Folks who can’t pay back Jesus and who can’t pay you back either.
That’s one reason to bring them here on Sunday,
and one reason to make sure they don’t make a donation at the pig roast or Oktoberfest.
The love and mercy worked in you by the Holy Spirit will not be repaid now by your neighbor, but in the resurrection of the just.