Moving Towards Humility
Fifth in a series of Five, “Now What?”
Luke 14:1–14 // Hebrews 13:1–17 // Proverbs 25:2–10 // Philippians 2:5–10
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text is Luke 14, especially these famous words of Jesus, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Dear friends in Christ,
We’ve been in the midst of a five-week sermon series as we explore the question “Now What?” and consider our future together. We’ve been wondering about the future for many years now, and here, it seems, we find ourselves at a crossroads, asking the question, Now What? What are we going to do next? How do we honor the past and move toward the future. More importantly, what are the needs of our community that our Lord is asking us to meet with the words of the Gospel?
In the last five weeks, we’ve been moving towards contentment, moving towards certainty, moving towards division, moving towards the narrow door, and today, moving towards humility, towards getting low.
Get Low! I have never been the biggest person ever, and that was true in high school too. So, when I was playing basketball down in the post, with guys who had twenty, thirty, fifty pounds on me, my coach Rick Riehl would tell me, Paul, you’re not going to be able to push them around, so you’ve gotta get position. You better just get low. A bigger, stronger person might have the luxury of being out of position, but a scrawny guy like me, you could see that the only thing I could possibly do was to get low.
Get Low! Several years ago, I had the chance to watch my little niece. She was at that very cute stage when she had learned to walk but she was a little wobbly. We went to a play area and she saw a tunnel that she wanted to go through, and the top of the tunnel came to about here. She was just a couple inches too tall, so she pressed her forehead against the top of that tunnel, pushed against it, and cried, unwilling or unable to bend her head down. What was very frustrating for her was almost comical on the outside, because you could see that all she needed to do was get low.
Today, we consider Jesus’s teaching on humility in Luke 14, how he bids the folks at a dinner party to humble themselves in all their vocations, in every chapter of life, and no one makes it through that dinner party unscathed.
First, we consider moving away from pride. Second, we consider what it means to move toward humility.
First, we consider moving away from pride. Who is Jesus speaking to? This dinner party was full of the social elite. These were the educated, the wealthy, the well-connected people, and they were wanting to keep and improve their position in life, and they were here because they had received an invitation to a dinner party hosted by a prestigious man with a popular and controversial teacher attending, and they wanted to be there to trap him.
They were after their own social position, their own social standing. They wanted to look good in front of others. In fact, they had a chance to be immortalized here in our text. If they would have trapped Jesus in his words, their social stock would have risen, and they would have been there, at the time when Jesus took it on the chin. Except that he didn’t.
What are we tempted to take pride in? There are a host of bad things that you can have pride in... anger, treatment of others, ability to use others... but there’s also a host of good things that its still sinful to take pride in... that I’m a good father... that I’m a successful worker... that I’m . Do you notice the common denominator? The focus is on the “I.”
Jesus bids us and the Pharisees to get low today. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” He says, “Go to the lowest station, because when you are there, the host may ask you to move up.” Do you notice what that does? When you get low, it takes the focus off of you, and puts it on the other.
But look at another example in our text: the man with dropsy. Don’t you wonder how he got there in our text today? He just kind of appears before Jesus. But one can imagine that he too was invited to this important dinner party as a prop. He was there, because the Pharisees wanted to test Jesus, wanted to trap him. You see, dropsy, or edema as we call it, was a condition where your body retained water, and it caused painful swelling apparent all over the body. In the ancient world, it was considered an outward sign that God was punishing you. And this man, he was used by the “righteous” Pharisees as a trap for Jesus. That is humiliating.
But the one who humbles himself will be exalted. Out of everyone at this dinner party, the man with dropsy is singularly blessed. He is called up to the head of the table. He is healed. He is saved. He is sent away.
The kingdom of heaven is like a family that is called to get low. Week after week, they get low. They get into position to receive all that God would give, and as often as they get in position to receive forgiveness, the forgiveness of God overflows onto them.
Jesus invites us to move away from our pride, and, part two, Jesus invites us to move towards humility, and to be humble is to get low.
Because, of course, Jesus was humbled for us. Philippians 2 says it like this, humbled to the point of death. Have you considered lately that Jesus chose to die? He chose to hang upon the cross, but that was not of the “I” in his life, not my will but yours, dear Father in Heaven, yours be done. He was humble to the point of death so that he could glorify the Father and send the Spirit that would witness in our hearts to Jesus once again.
Do you see that the nature of our Triune God, one in three and three in one, is one of humility, one of each person of the Trinity giving and receiving from the other? Our God is the Great I AM, and he is point of Jesus’s last parable to the lead Pharisee in Luke 14.
The person who invited Jesus to this dinner was the leader of the Pharisees in that town. He had chosen his attendees carefully, and he expected them to play their part. He had set up this dinner party for his own benefit.
But Jesus’s words go beyond just the situation that is before him in our text. It’s common sense to us that we would care for those who care for us, that we would invite those who invite us, that we would give gifts to those who give gifts to us.
What Jesus is saying is dangerous, isn’t it? Inviting those whom you don’t know, inviting the desperate, inviting the hardened, inviting those whom our society and our neighbors would consider a lost cause, a burden, a risk, a bad investment.
But it is precisely here that we find a picture of our Father who is in heaven. While you were still an enemy, he invited you to his banquet table. While you were sinning against him in most grievous fashion, he was sending his son to die for your sin. While you were looking on without counting the cost, he was counting every penny of the sin that you had done, for the express purpose that he could pay for it all. And because he invites, so do we invite.
It’s the kind of thing that we do when we believe that our reward is in the resurrection of the just, that our lives are hidden with Christ on high. It’s the kind of thing we do when we ask the question, “What can man do to me?” It’s the kind of thing that happens after you remember our theme verse for this year, Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Stronghold of my Life, of whom shall be afraid?”
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town that’s moving away from their pride. More and more they fall to their knees, through away their arrogance and cry out “Not my will but yours be done.” They are moving towards humility, the kind of humility that chases after a savior who humbled himself for their sake. The kind of humility that makes disciples for Jesus Christ.
God’s got this. Amen.
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