Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
St. Luke 14.1-11
23 September 2018
Seminarian Simeon Cornwell, Vicar
+ In the Name of Jesus +
“Everyone exalting himself will be humbled, and the one humbling himself will be exalted.”
In our college Bible study on Sunday evenings, we’ve been going through the book of Proverbs. Simply put, the book is an exhortation to humility and a warning against pride. And so, if you humble yourself by listening to and practicing the words of the book, it will bring you great joy and peace. But if you exalt yourself and pay no attention to the words, you will have nothing but shame and death for your reward.
Our Gospel text for today teaches us the same thing. In fact, our Lord quotes the book of Proverbs in His condemnation of those who are quick to take the higher place, saying, “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… But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place…”
Our fallen world and sinful human nature always seek to take the way of pride, rather than that of humility. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, immediately after the fall into sin: When confronted and called to repentance by God for his sin, Adam responds, “It was this woman, You put here with me.” In Adam’s pride, he actually sought to contend with God and cast the blame on Him.
Solomon, who wrote most the book of Proverbs, soon after he was anointed king over Israel, was approached by God Who said that He would give to Solomon whatever it was he asked for. Instead of asking for great wealth or fame, Solomon humbled himself and asked for wisdom that he might rule God’s people rightly.
This pleased God and not only did God give him wisdom, He also gave to him riches and honor beyond that of all the kings of the earth. In taking the way of humility and asking for wisdom, the Lord also added to Solomon much more. Just as the Psalmist says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4)
However, we are also reminded of Solomon’s fall. How when he was exalted, he forgot God, marrying many women who did not share faith in the God of Israel. This example is to remind us of the constant struggle between taking the way of humility as opposed to that of pride.
Which is why it is so important that we are continually strengthened by God’s Word and His body and blood. So that we might be continually humbled and not become too conceited as Solomon.
But this example of Solomon does not show us that when we take the way of humility as opposed to that of pride we will always get great riches and honor as our reward. In fact, in our lives as Christians, it may seem quite the opposite.
Sometimes it may seem that we are only receiving pain and suffering as our reward. Whether this be because we struggle with addictions and have been brought low by them, or perhaps because the sting of death has touched us closely.
We might wonder why we are going through such trials. We might question whether or not God truly cares. Whether He has cast us off forever and has given up on us. And so, the words, “the one who humbles himself will be exalted and the one who exalts himself will be humbled” appear to be untrue.
For it seems as if having been humbled, there is no exaltation in our future. That there is no hope. No comfort to be received. Just despair. And often, it seems that those in the world who exalt themselves only get exalted more and more. One of the many reasons our sinful human nature sees humility as foolishness.
But there is a reason that all the Scriptures constantly direct us to look to Jesus. For He Himself took the lower place, leaving all that He had and taking on our human flesh, with all its weaknesses and pains. With all its sorrows and stresses. Yet, without sin.
Jesus lowered Himself, choosing not to come to this earth in great power, seeking vengeance on those who rebelled against Him. On those who chose to take the higher place. Which He very easily and justly could have done. No, He, the Only Begotten Son of God Himself chose humility for you.
He chose to be spit upon and take insults that He didn’t deserve. He chose to be beaten and to be nailed to a cross and so took the lowest of all places. He was even abandoned by His Father on that cross.
Even the disciples thought that this was it for Jesus. They thought that this lowering of Jesus into the grave was the end. But it was not the end. In fact, it was the beginning.
For Christ, having humbled Himself, was then exalted. Exalted by rising to life once again so that you too may be raised and exalted. And now He has been exalted to the right hand of the Father, meaning that all things are now subject to Him. Under His control. Even your lowering, your suffering. Your pain and distress.
Yes, even these are in His hand and subject to Him. And He knows that if you stick by Him, you can bear all things and endure all things. In His own time He will exalt you. We might not know when that time is, but we know from looking at Jesus that that exaltation will without a doubt come, because you are in Him.
And so, in the meantime, He comes to give us His exalted body and blood at this altar. So that we might be encouraged to press on. To endure. To fix our eyes more firmly on Him, in Whom all of God’s promises, especially that he who humbles himself will be exalted, find their yes.
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you. Casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:6-7)
May God grant to all of us patience and humility, taking the lower place, until that day when He chooses to say to us, “Friend, move up higher”.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.