Luke 14:1-14 (Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 17—Series C)
“Seeing Others Differently”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
September 1, 2019
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel reading from Luke 14:
1And it happened that he entered the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees on a Sabbath to eat a bread and they were watching him carefully. 2And behold, a certain man with dropsy was before him. 3And Jesus answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it permitted to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4But they remained silent. And taking hold of him, he healed him and released him. 5And to them he said, “Which of you, if your son or ox would fall into a well, will you not immediately pull him up on a Sabbath day?” 6But they were not able to reply to these things.” 7And he told a parable to those reclining at table with him, when he noticed how the places of honor were chosen, saying to them, 8“When you are invited to a wedding feast do not recline at table in the places of honor, lest someone more respected than you should be invited by him. 9And when he who invited both you and him comes, he will say to you, ‘Give up this place,’ and then you will, with shame, begin to take the last place. 10But when you are invited, go and recline at table in the last place in order that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then there will be honor for you before all those reclining at table with you. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 12And he also said to those who had invited him, “When you make a meal or a feast, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you are repaid. 13But when you make a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, for it will be repaid to you in the resurrection of the righteous.”
Those of you who surf the web or use social media may have seen one of these.
There are a lot of different ones for different occupations. Since it was back-to-school week last week, this one is for the High School Teacher. Each photo illustrates different points of view of the High School Teacher: What my friends think I do. What my mom thinks I do. What society thinks I do. What my students think I do. What I think I do. What I actually do. Some of the perceptions are very interesting and also very telling. Not everyone sees things in the same light. People often come with preconceived notions about reality or, at the very least, about the way things should be.
You and I often see ourselves differently than other people see us, and vice versa. As we look at ourselves through our personal lenses, we most often see ourselves as better than we really are. I’m sure you have said things like, “Well, I know I’m not perfect, but I’m not as bad/careless/foolish as he is.” Now, that “I know I’m not perfect” phrase is a pathetic attempt at humility that doesn’t fool anyone. When you and I think and say phrases like this, what we are communicating is that “I’m better than you are” in some way, shape, and form. Clearly, your intelligence and common sense far outranks so-and-so’s. Clearly, your ability with the soccer ball or baseball bat is far superior to that person’s. It just makes sense that you should get more respect than so-and-so. I mean, just look at how they carry themselves. Really, there shouldn’t be any doubt that the “places of honor” should be yours and mine. No, no, we’re not perfect, just way better than others.
It is truly sad that people look at themselves in this way. It is our corrupted human nature that desires to be at the top of everything—the best, the most important, the most liked, the most influential, the richest, the most popular. Humanity walks around in a constant competition to get the top spot and, in general, humanity does not care who gets trampled on, hurt, shamed, or abused in the process. Is it any wonder that God inspired the apostle Paul to write in Romans 12:3 that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think?
You and I and the rest of humanity tend to look at ourselves through rose-colored glasses. If you are not familiar with that phrase, it means that you and I tend to see things in a better light than they actually are, and yes, that includes ourselves. For example, in the pre-marriage guidance sessions that I have with couples preparing for marriage, there is an important section in the materials that I use that indicates to me just how realistic the couple is about married life. In other words, 95% of pre-married couples look at their up-coming life together through rose-colored glasses. They are highly un-realistic of what their married life is going to be like.
Now, if we take the Scriptures seriously as God’s Word to us and look to them to understand our fallen human condition, 100% of people look at themselves through rose-colored glasses. That’s the nature of our sinfulness. People are turned inward toward themselves and think that they are so much better than others, so much more deserving of honor than others, and, yes, even at times, so much better than God. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Gen. 3:4-5 ESV). Adam and Eve put on the rose-colored glasses. They saw themselves being like God, even being equal to God. They saw themselves as better than human creatures. They desired to become like their Creator. And so all humanity now follows in this thinking and desiring.
Let’s take off the rose-colored glasses that cloud our vision of ourselves, the lenses of our sinful nature, and put on different lenses.
- “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19 ESV).
- “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Ps. 53:2-3 ESV).
- “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Rom. 2:1 ESV).
- “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22-23 ESV).
When God looks at you and me through the lenses of His perfect commandments, you
and I are totally equal with everyone else. When we place the lenses of the Law on our eyes, we see who we truly are. We see our sins and our failures to be the people God has commanded us to be. We see clearly our failure to love the Lord with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We see that we have loved ourselves most of all and have put other people down, walked all over them, hurt them, and despised them just to get the places of honor in this life. Dear friends, that is sin. Sin kills and excludes us from the place of honor in God’s heavenly kingdom. For only God can say to you and me, “I am better than you. I am holy. I am just. I am righteous. You are none of those things. Go and take the last place, the lowest place of eternal death and hell.”
Here, put these lenses on now. Look at that man. He is a bloody mess of flesh. A crown on thorns has been jammed on His head. His hands and feet are pierced through with nails, hanging Him on a cross. This man is the Son of God, who took upon Himself human flesh. The holy, just, and righteous God of heaven and earth “came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man” (Nicene Creed). Jesus took upon Himself your boasts, your “I’m better than you” attitude, your abject failures to love God and other people, all of your sins and sinfulness. Every single one this man claimed as His own.
And God the Father saw the incarnate Son of God, Jesus, on the cross and condemned and punished Him to eternal death and hell. He poured out His wrath and anger against your sins and mine, against our failures to love Him and people, upon Christ. He suffered death and hell in your place on that cross so that God the Father would come to you in the Word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and declare, “Your sins are forgiven. Friend, move up higher.” And you will then move with God the Father and be seated next to His Risen and Ascended Son, Jesus Christ, at His banqueting table.
By faith in Jesus Christ through the power of the Gospel Word, you can now see yourself as you truly are—an adopted son or daughter of your heavenly Father. Your sins are forgiven. You have the place of honor as a gift at the heavenly table of God forever—eternal life. And, by the power of the Spirit working through that Gospel, you are able to look at others according to the lens of Jesus and His lifesaving, life-changing work of salvation. What does this look like in reality and not through rose-colored glasses? It looks like the Epistle Reading from Hebrews 13 where you and I are empowered by the Spirit to continue to love others in Jesus’ name. It looks like showing hospitality to strangers, remembering those in prison as well as those who are mistreated. It is a life lived by the Gospel free from the love of money, a life content with the daily bread your heavenly Father gives to you. The life of a Christian empowered by the Gospel through the Spirit is one in which you consider other people more important than yourself (Philip. 2:3). You take the lowest place and let the Lord bring you honor through your humbleness when the one who invited you says, “Don’t sit there. Come up higher!” You serve in love those who cannot repay you simply because they have a need and you are able to help them.
On August 23, Concordia Seminary opened its academic year with a worship service. Seminary President and former speaker of the Lutheran Hour, Dr. Dale Meyer, preached. And he said something which fits very well with our text today and how we now see others through the lens of the Gospel of Jesus. Dr. Meyer said, “When you come across the myriad people in your life who do not know the grace and mercy of God and therefore do not understand that their lives are significant personally with His grace and His peace—then you go to them, not as an object to theologize, but as an extension of the love of Jesus for the people for whom He died. Never meet a stranger. Because everyone that you meet is someone for whom Jesus died.”
That is how we Christians look at others. We are not better than them. We do not merit more honor than them. No, we are all people for whom the Lord Jesus suffered, died, and rose again so that we might all receive forgiveness and the great invitation, “Friend, move up higher,” so that together we might be seated at His heavenly table. See yourself as someone for whom Jesus lived, died, and rose. Look at others in love the same way. Amen.
 Concordia Seminary Newsroom, August 23, 2019, accessed August 28, 2019, https://www.csl.edu/2019/08/seminary-welcomes-new-students-begins-181st-academic-year.