August 28, 2016

Pastor Mark Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Proverbs 25:6-7

Epistle Lesson; Hebrews 13:1-8

Sermon Text; Luke 14:1

                       Luke 14:7-14

The text, or scripture reading we will look at today is taken from Luke, chapter 14, verse 1, and then, verses 7 through 14.

In our Savior's name:

One Sabbath, when He went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching Him carefully. Now He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “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, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


Today's scripture reading talks about finding a place to sit. Sometimes, it can be a little challenging to figure out where to sit. Being a pastor, it is easy for me to know where to sit on a Sunday morning. If I am preaching, I am sitting in one chair, but if I am doing the liturgy, I sit in a different chair. Easy! But, when I go to visit a church, I am not used to picking what pew to sit in. So, I have to wrestle in my mind, “Should we sit in the back, so we are kind of unobtrusive, or should we sit in the middle, so we are right in the thick of things? Or, should we sit up front, so the pastor knows I am being supportive of him? Or, should we sit someplace where we can make an easy exit, just in case, we have little ones with us who are making noise?” So, sometimes it is hard to figure out where to sit.

Sometimes it is really easy, because there are assigned seats. This past Spring, my wife, and I wanted to go to a play at Lakeside Lutheran High School. I really wanted to go, because we had a niece in it. So, I called, and made reservations a couple weeks early. We showed up at Lakeside that night. We were pretty tight for time, and got there just in time.

Mr. Grasby, the principal, was there handing out tickets. He put the tickets in my wife, Sherri's hands, and I kind of glanced at them. I could see it said, “1 – 4” and “1 – 5”. I thought, “Wow! We are in row one, seats four and five. We are right up front! Those are the best seats in the house.” I thought, “Usually the moms and dads of the actors who get to sit up there.”

Since we were tight on time, I was trying to move fast, but Sherri got caught up talking to somebody. I thought, “Well, I want to get to those seats, before the lights dim.” So, I sped up, and got all the way up to row one. As I was on my way there, I was waving “Hi”, to people I knew. So, everybody saw me walking up there. I looked down row one, and I noticed row one was completely filled up. Seats 4 and five were filled up. So was row two all filled up! Row three was all filled up! I was standing there, trying to figure out, “What do I do?” I didn't want to embarrass people in seats four, and five, but those were my seats.

I looked back, and saw Sherri going motioning me to come back where she was. I was in a hurry, because I knew the lights were going to go down soon, so I quickly walked back to her, and said, “Sherri, we are in row one, seats four and five, and there are people in seats four and five.” She held up the tickets, and said, “That is not a “one”, that the letter “I”. We are back here.” I was humiliated.

We laugh at that, because it is cute, but some day, there are going to be some people who had placed themselves in 'the very front row' of what we call, 'Thinking they are going to be in Heaven'. “If anybody should be in Heaven, it is me.”

The Lord Jesus is going to come back, and He is going to tell them, “You get out of that seat. That is not your seat.” They are going to be shamed beyond what you can possibly imagine for eternity.

Now, our Lord Jesus never wants that to happen to any one of us. And so, today, He lovingly told this parable. It is called, “The Parable of the Wedding Banquet.” As we look at this parable, I want you to realize Jesus is dealing with one of the main doctrines in all of scripture, as He tells this parable. The main doctrine Jesus is dealing with is what we call “The teaching of the Law”. It is a huge, important doctrine in scripture.

     -The Law tells us what we should, and should not do.

     -The Law is made up of Command Statements. “You shall...” “You shall not...”

     -The Law is summarized in The Ten Commandments.

This is a huge teaching, or doctrine in The Bible. And, it is a great blessing from the Lord. The Law is a blessing from the LORD.

As with any blessing from the LORD, if it is not used properly, it can hurt us, and it can hurt other people. Money is a gift from the LORD. But, if I use it improperly, it can hurt me, and it can hurt other people. Sex is a gift from the LORD. But, if I use it improperly, it can hurt me, and it can hurt other people. The Law is a huge gift from the LORD, but if used improperly, it can really hurt me, and really hurt other people.

On the other hand, if it is used properly, it is a true blessing.

And so today, just to help me in my teaching, (because objects always make it easier for me), I have some objects that show ways people use The Law. Some of these are good, and some of these are bad.

First of all, I have a pedestal up here. Some people use The Law as a pedestal. Is that good, or bad?

Here is a foam finger. Some people use The Law kind of like a foam finger.

This is a traffic cone. Some people use The Law as a curb to keep people from going places they shouldn't go.

Some people use The Law as a mirror to show what you look like.

This is a map. Some people use The Law as a map, or guide.

So, we are going to talk about what is the proper use of The Law, and what is not a proper use of The Law.

I am going to put this parable in context. Jesus was talking to the Pharisees. He had gone to the home of a prominent Pharisee for a meal. You notice the Bible says He was being watched intently. Jesus was being watched intently, because Jesus was dealing with people who were using The Law in two ways. First, as a pedestal, and secondly, as a foam finger.

First of all, Jesus talked about the Pharisees exulting themselves. When they looked at God's commands in scripture, where it says, “Do this”, and “Don't do this”, the Pharisees really, really, really lived very, outwardly, good lives. They would make great neighbors, because they went to church every time they should go. They said their prayers every time they should say prayers. They gave their offerings every time they should give offerings. And, they gave the right amount. All of their lives were ordered according to all kinds of laws. They actually put themselves up on a pedestal, and they actually thought they were morally superior to other the people, in general. And, they believed that by The Law, by keeping those commands, they also made themselves good in God's eyes. They thought they were on a pedestal in God's eyes, and thought God would say to them, “You deserve to be in Heaven”.
The second way they used The Law was as a foam finger. They used it to point out other people's sins. When Jesus would eat with sinners, they would say, “He is eating with sinners”.

Today, in the text, they were closely watching Jesus, because there was a man in that crowd who had dropsy. It was the Sabbath Day, so they were waiting to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath Day, so they could take their finger of The Law, and say, “You broke the Law. You are not so good. You are not as good as we are.” So, they were using The Law to exalt themselves.

So, Jesus tells this parable. “Be careful where you sit. Don't sit way up front, exalt yourself, think you are so special, and think you are better than everybody else, because when the Master of the Feast comes, He is going to tell you move, and go to the lowest seat.”

Now, it is easy for us to look at the Pharisees, and say, “Boy, they were proud people. They were kind of a caricature of spiritual pride”. But, you know the Bible, the scriptures, were written, not to point out how bad the Pharisees were. They were written for our learning. So, it should always be applied to ourselves. The Bible is very clear it wasn't just the Pharisees who have a problem with pride, and applying God's Law in the wrong way. If you are a relative of Adam and Eve, you have a problem with pride. Pride is just a part of our sinful nature. We are born with this sin, and part of it is the sin of pride.

St. Augustine once said,

“Pride is being in love with one's own excellence.”

Sometimes, we all struggle with that in one way, or another.

St. Augustine also said,

“Pride is like a pregnant mother

who gives birth to all kinds of other sins.”

Pride can bring forth all kinds of sins in our lives.

Sometimes, we don't see pride as such a big sin, but The Bible says,

“The proud

are detestable to the LORD.”

Did you ever know anybody who you could hardly look at, because they were so detestable to you? That is how God describes looking at someone who is proud. It is detestable to God. So, pride is a very serious sin in the eyes of the LORD. All of us struggle with it.

Here are some symptoms of pride, spiritual pride. This can happen in the home. It can happen at work. It can happen at church. Here are some symptoms of how pride shows itself in our lives.

       -Sometimes, we may really enjoy the admiration of others. “I really like it when people notice me, and they notice I have done a great job. They compliment me. If they don't do that, it really bothers me that they didn't notice, and didn't point it out.” Whether it is at home, in church, on a board I am serving, or whatever, I want to be noticed. I want to be noticed for my good, spiritual life, too

       -Sometimes, pride can show itself by being critical, thinking to yourself, “If I were in that position, I would do a better job.” “I would be a better mom than she is.” “I would be a better student than that person.” “I would be a better teacher than he is.” “I would be a better board member than that person.” That is kind of using The Law as a finger, and pointing out someone else's fault, while I put myself on a pedestal. We do that in our lives in many ways.

       -Sometimes, in pride we have a tendency to have a hard time saying, “I was wrong. I was wrong”. To say “I am wrong”, I have to get down off of that pedestal, stop pointing the finger at you, and I have to point it at me. I don't like to do that. My sinful pride doesn't like to do that. Pride makes it hard for us to say, “I am sorry”.

       -Sometimes, pride can cause us to have lots of conflict. If there is lots of conflict in your life, it could be because you like to be up on a pedestal, and you are constantly pointing out other people's mistakes. You are not admitting when you are wrong, and so it displays itself that way.

Here is the point.

All of us struggle with pride.

       -The ultimate pride is to be proud before God. You know, when we confess, “I confess I am a poor, miserable, sinner, and I deserve nothing but your eternal wrath, and punishment”, but I think in my heart, “Am I really that bad? Am I really that bad?”, well then, I am starting to put myself on a pedestal where I think, at least in some degree, “I must earn, or deserve God's favor”.

Jesus makes it very clear in today's parable, when He tells us that anyone who is proud, anyone who is proud will (it is not a question of 'if', it is a statement of 'will') anyone who is proud will be humbled.

The prayer for each one of us is that it happens in this life, and not in the life to come. Our prayers are that all of us are humbled in this life, not in the life to come.

Which gets us to the proper use of God's Law. I am going to talk about a curb, a mirror, and a guide. Those are the proper uses of God's Law. In our catechism we summarize it, when we teach it to our children. God's Law, His commands, are used properly, when they are used as a curb.

       -A curb is for everybody, believers and unbelievers.

       -The curb keeps me from running into things, or hurting things I shouldn't hurt. The Law, when it says, “You shall not kill”, even unbelievers know, “If I kill somebody, I could end up in jail. It could ruin my own life.” So, to some degree, The Law keeps us from hurting other people.

But, the primary use of The Law, according to the Bible, is a mirror. A mirror shows us what we look like. I don't know if you have ever walked by those super mirrors that are in cosmetic aisles, where they have all of the lights going down the side, and your face is really magnified. I know, I have occasionally glanced in to those, and said, “Whoa!”. When you really, really see what you look like, you see things you don't want to see.

The main purpose of The Law

is to show us how God sees us.

       -We would never see how God sees us, unless He shows us His Law.

       -In The Law, He shows us things we don't really want to see about ourselves, but they are true.

       -In The Law, it really does become clear, “I am a poor, miserable sinner”.

       -In The Law of God, God makes it very clear, when He says we were born sinful. It says,

“Our sinful mind does not accept the things of God,

nor can it do so.”

It says,

“We were born dead

in our trespasses and sins”.

It says,

“We were born blind”.

Those are just these deeply, descriptive words that explain how deeply sinful I am, by nature.

Then, the Bible goes on, and explains how our thoughts, our words, and our actions, all of them to some degree, in one way, or the another, are sins against the LORD. The Bible even says,

“All of our righteousness are like filthy rags.”

Even the good things I do, are often tainted with sin. Ultimately, the Bible knocks us down off of any pedestal we could ever stand on. And, as we stand before God, we realize, “I am a lost and condemned creature”. If I try to get to Heaven by keeping The Law, I would be totally, totally condemned for all eternity. I cannot do it, and I am not better than anybody else, not better than anybody else, and I am not pointing at anybody else. I am as condemned, and worthless in God's eyes, because of my failure to keep The Law, as anybody else.

Once The Law has brought us to that position, it has humbled us. It has humbled us. We call that repentance. Jesus, in today's parable says,

“...he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

See, once The Law convicts us of sin, and once The Law shows me how much I need God, then it has prepared us for what we call The Gospel. The Gospel is good news.

The Gospel is The Good News of what God did to save me.

The Gospel is the good news. Think about what God did. He humbled Himself. If there is anybody who could have been on a pedestal, and said, “I am so morally superior to all of you”, it was Jesus. He could have pointed His finger at everybody, all of the time, and said, “Look at what you are doing wrong”. It was Jesus in the flesh. God in the flesh. What does the Bible say? It says,

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,

our Lord.

Who, though being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

but humbled Himself,

and made Himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And, being found in appearance as a Man,

He humbled Himself,

and became obedient to death,

even death on a cross.”

Wow! That is the best news anybody could ever, ever hear. God would humble Himself so much for me, that He would take all of my sin, all my guilt, all of my shame, and He would become obedient to death, even the most terrible, gruesome, painful, and shameful death in the world, death on a cross! And appear there, not as better than anybody, but as the worst of sinners, the worst of sinners, with all of my sins, and everybody else's, and pay for our sins.

Jesus says,

“...he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

What happened to Jesus, after He was humbled, and died on the cross? The Bible says,

“Therefore, God has exalted Him to the highest place,

and given Him the name that is above every name.

At the name of Jesus,

every knee shall bow in Heaven,

and on earth,

and under the earth,

and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord,

to the glory of the Father.”

Jesus has been exalted to the highest place. He holds the forgiveness of sins in His hands. He holds your eternity in His hands. He holds everything in His hands. And, He is the One who comes up to those who have been humbled by God's Law, puts His hands on their shoulders, and He says, “Friend, come up here to a better place”. That is being exalted by Jesus!

In mercy, and grace He puts His hand on our shoulder, and He says, “Friend come up here to a better place. Come up here, and sit right beside me. Be my guest of honor. Be the one who is clean in my eyes, because I have paid for all of your sins. Sit up here in the seat of honor. I will answer all of your prayers. I will hear them all and I will answer them all. Sit in this seat of honor. I will be with you, always, no matter where you go, and no matter what happens. Sit up here in the seat of honor. And, some day, you are going to have a home with me in Heaven.”


So the purpose of The Law, the main purpose, is as a mirror to humble us so that by the Gospel we are lifted up. And then, we see our salvation is in Jesus, not in ourselves.

Which then gets us to what we call the third use of the Law. The third use of The Law is like a guide or a map. The first use, the curb, keeps us from hurting people. The third use shows us how to help people. This is for Christians. This is for people who have been freed by the Gospel. This is for people who don't have to look in on themselves anymore, don't have to be busy trying to get up on a pedestal, and try to make themselves better in God's eyes, and better in other people's eyes. It is for people who are not curved in on themselves, not always accusing other people, and acting critical toward other people. It is for people who don't have anything to prove. “I don't have anything to prove, because Jesus has exalted me to the highest place. He has forgiven all of my sins. I am His child. And now, The Law is there as a guide for me. I am not worried about myself, anymore. Now, I can sit down beside people in need, and reach out to them, serve them, and try to help them.” That is why Jesus ends this scripture reading by saying in verse 12, “He said also to the man who had invited Him, 'When you give a dinner or a banquet, don't invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you will be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.'”

Jesus there is not saying we shouldn't invite family, and friends to meals. But, He is saying the motive is not so that I invite these important people so they will repay me, because then you are right back up on that pedestal. The motive is they are in need. I have nothing to prove. My sins are paid for. Jesus loves them, and I am here to help them.

I am going to close with this thought. This is a thought provoking thing I heard, once.

There was a pastor who was preaching a sermon to his congregation. He said, “I want you all to know that next week there is a possibility Mel Gibson may be in church.”

There was a “Whoa”, in the church.

And, he said, “You know, if that happens, if Mel Gibson does show up, I am sure people will kind of be flocking around him, and trying to sit by him. When church is over, there will probably be some of you who will be mobbing him, and trying to be with him.” Then, he said, “Actually, nobody told be Mel Gibson is going to be here, but there is a possibility, a chance...”

The point is, when we hear somebody famous, or important is going to be somewhere, it gets us excited, doesn't it?

Then the pastor said, “In the church, if there is anybody who should get mobbed on a Sunday morning, it should be the people in need. It should be the people who are lonely. It should be the people who are sad. The people who are depressed. The people who are in trouble.”

That is the third use of The Law. We are saved from our sin, and we are here to help those in need.