Stunned Silence

Text: Luke 14:1-14
Date: Pentecost XV (Proper 17) + 9/1/13

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Born a King yet He came in humility and took the lowest place in order that, having raised many to the honor of entrance into the Kingdom of God, he then “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels” (Heb 1:3-4). Though He said to His disciples, “I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27), nevertheless having served in humility on the cross and now risen from the dead, from now on as the Scripture says, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11). So we confess today with faith and joy, blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

Now, not everyone has made that confession. Not everyone has faith in Jesus. Not everyone will enter the Kingdom of God and be saved. It was at a Sabbath Seder meal to which Jesus was invited that His host, a ruler of the Pharisees, surrounded by his friends, lawyers and Pharisees all, were watching Jesus carefully—not watching as students, nor with admiration as to imitate Him, but looking for something to criticize that they might expose and dismiss Him as a fraud. Their evil intent was exposed when a man stood before Jesus who had dropsy, a condition of swelling, called edema today, caused by water retention in the body. So Jesus took the opportunity to challenge His host’s wicked intents by flatly asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” The answer? Stunned silence! On the one hand “healing” is work and work is not permitted on the Sabbath. On the other hand helping someone in need reflects the compassion and mercy of God. So what should they say?

In three short words St. Luke tells us that then Jesus “took” the man, “healed” him and “sent” him away. Boom. Just like that. Now what? Still no response.

Jesus pressed them further asking which of them, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, would not immediately pull him out? Though the answer should be obvious, still, stunned silence. Luke says, “They could not reply to these things.” Now it wasn’t because they were stupid that they “could not reply” but because of their evil attitude toward Jesus.

Which brings up the main question, “who is Jesus” and why the evil attitude? That’s what the remainder of our text is really concerned about. Oh, sure, it is good advice, proper etiquette as the Proverb says, to “not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble” (Prov 25:6-7). Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,” namely, by God, “and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” again namely, by God. But what does this have to do with who Jesus is?

There was one more word of advice for the host, “the man who had invited him,” saying, basically, don’t invite to a dinner or banquet only your friends or family or people that can thereby be obligated to repay you with a return invitation. But invite…who? “The poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Well, that sounds like a downer. Why? “You will be blessed because they cannot repay you.” And how is that a blessing? No, that’s not the blessing but “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Ah! So how we treat other people, especially those who are outcast or easily neglected, has something to do with our eternal lot! How does the beatitude go? “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).

The important question is, what does all this have to say about Jesus? In the Magnificat His mother Mary sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant….he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:46-48, 52). Jesus, the infant King, was born not in a proud palace but outback in a lowly stable. At the beginning of His active ministry Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah as being fulfilled in Him, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news” not to the rich and self-fulfilled but “to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty” not to mighty warriors but “to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18), in other words, namely, He was sent to YOU! For YOU!

This is He who on His way to the cross, said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). This is He who, on His final entry into Jerusalem rode into town not on a powerful steed but humbly on a colt the foal of a donkey. This is He of whom the apostle Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:8-9). He “was rich” as the Son of God by whom all things were made, but for us and for our salvation “became poor” even to death on a cross.

Why take the lowest place instead of the highest? Why invite the outcasts instead of friends and family? Because by this you are identified as disciples of the Savior who came in humility to save those who will humbly repent and receive Him as the Source, the author and finisher of saving faith. When one discovers who Jesus really is and what He came to do FOR YOU one can no longer stand in stunned silence but can only sing our own Magnificat, our own Te Deum of praise and confession of faith:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
You are the king of glory, O Christ;
You are the everlasting Son of the Father.
When You took upon Yourself to deliver man,
You humbled Yourself to be born of a virgin.
When You had overcome the sharpness of death,
You opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You sit at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.

Stunning, yes! Silent, no! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!