For everyone who
exalts himself will be humbled,
who humbles himself
will be exalted.”
“The Great Reversal: The Humble Exalted”
“The Great Reversal:
The Humble Exalted”
Up is down, and down is up,
kingdom of God. Or so it seems sometimes.
the kingdom of God is all about
It’s just that rightside-up may look upside-down from our
From God’s perspective, though, the way things are in
his kingdom is just right,
the way things ought to be.
Such is the case with our text for today, the teaching of Jesus that we find in Luke 14. Here Jesus makes one of his many paradoxical statements, which he seems to do all over the place in the gospels, statements that sound like the reverse of what you might expect. Today’s example goes like this:
"For everyone who exalts himself
will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself
will be exalted.”
This is so typical of
He always is saying things like this. Just last week we heard him say,
“Some are last who
will be first,
and some are first who
will be last.”
And later on in the Gospel of Luke, in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, Jesus concludes that story with virtually the same words that he says today: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
And this theme really runs throughout the entire Bible.
Theologians like to call this theme
“The Great Reversal.”
“The Great Reversal”:
that in the end, God is going to turn things upside-down–or really, rightside-up–from the way they are now in the world. We find this idea in so many places in the Bible.
Mary, in her Magnificat,
says of God:
"He has scattered the proud in the thoughts
of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from
their thrones and exalted those of
Both James and Peter, in their epistles, quote the same verse from Proverbs when they write: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
And so this same principle that holds true in the kingdom of God is stated here by Jesus in our text for today: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” It’s the Great Reversal, yet again.
How do we come before God?
Proud, or humble?
How do we enter into
thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought,
or with a
sin and unworthiness?
That is the big question we are confronted with
Jesus applies this teaching
context of a real-life situation,
that of being
invited to a dinner party.
was at a dinner party,
invited to dine at the house of a
and he noticed that many of the invited guests
choose places of honor.
Pharisees tended to be like that,
to make themselves look good and
look important in front of others.
Jesus says elsewhere of the
scribes and Pharisees:
"They love the places of honor at feasts.”
And so that’s what they’re doing
here at this feast.
So Jesus uses the occasion to tell
that applies not only to dinner parties
but also to the
kingdom of God.
"When you are invited by someone to a
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.”
Now you’ve got to realize how a big-deal dinner party would go in the ancient Near East. Where you sat–actually, where you reclined at table, in relation to the other guests–was fairly important. In some ways, this would be similar to how it goes at a big-deal dinner party in our day–although as a culture we have grown less formal and more casual about such things in recent years. Nevertheless, if it is a big-deal dinner party, with a certain degree of formality, there are some unwritten rules that hold true, in Jesus’ day and in ours.
First of all, there’s a certain priority
And what you don’t do is,
you don’t seat yourself
than you should.
You don’t just plop yourself down at the head table, if you’re only a friend of the third cousin of the fourth bridesmaid. No, that isn’t done. Do that, and you will be asked to remove yourself and to take a place in the back, back near the kitchen, next to where the busboys take the dirty dishes.
All you will gain from your advancing
is some justified embarrassment.
But what Jesus teaches here is about
This is a principle that holds
in the kingdom of God.
all over the gospels Jesus is always
the kingdom of God to a
A wedding feast, a wedding banquet, is just about the most joyous, celebratory occasion we have in human experience, across all cultures. We pull out all the stops at a wedding feast. It’s a big deal, and it is lavish, and it is full of joy. And this is what Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like. And so you want to be there, you want to be a part of this party.
Now, how do we get in? How do we come in? With what sort of attitude? Barging our way in, as though we own the joint, and “everybody ought to be paying attention to me,” and “give me a seat at the head table, because I deserve it”? “Look at me, how great I am!” No, of course not. That’s not how we come into God’s kingdom. That’s what Jesus warns us against in this parable.
we come before
God with humility.
And believe me, you and I have a lot to be humble about.
Are you aware
your many sins?
Of how your life has not matched up with God’s design, how you’ve messed things up over and over again?
Think of the people
Think of all the wrong turns you’ve taken, that you should have done differently. Think of how you’ve neglected God and his word, not listening to what he’s been telling you all these years. Dear brothers and sisters, how we’ve messed things up! This is why, if we are invited to come to the party–and we are–this is why we come, not with a big braggadocio and saying “Hey, look at me!” but rather we come before God in lowliness, in humility, in repentance, knowing how gracious God is to let us into his party.
But, oh, how gracious and how good God is that he does invite us in! He does! It’s all because of Christ, of course. Talk about the Great Reversal! This is the greatest reversal of all. For Christ, the one and only Son of God on high, came down from heaven and came to earth to be our brother. What did he do? He humbled himself. In the words of Philippians: “Christ Jesus . . . though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus humbled himself by being
lifted up . . .
on a cross.
And he did this for you.
The Great Reversal thus is also the
He gives you his righteousness.
This is what God the Father
sent him to do.
And he did it, for you and for the whole world. And after humbling himself in the greatest way, Jesus now is the most highly exalted. Again from Philippians: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that 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.”
By our Lord’s sacrificial self-humbling, and by his glorious resurrection and exaltation–because of what Christ has done, and through faith in him, you now are lifted from death to life, from sin to righteousness, from shame to honor. You are invited to the banqueting hall, to the wedding feast, and, amazingly, you are given a place of honor at this party.
And so we come humbly.
We’re invited now, today–we are
invited to a foretaste of the feast to come,
here at this Supper of the Lord,
the Sacrament of the Altar.
I’ve often said to people: Imagine a great big banner over this altar,
and it says, “For Sinners Only.” Do you qualify?
Are you a sinner? Do you know it? Then come. This is just the place for you. This is where you will find forgiveness for your sins, as you
receive the very Body and Blood of our Lord,
given and shed for you.
Do your sins bring you shame? Does your unworthiness bring you low?
Frankly, this is as it should be.
This is called repentance.
But at the same time, now
voice of the gospel,
calling you to faith and forgiveness.
your host–and your host at this Supper
is none other than
Humble sinners like you and me
are exalted, lifted up,
by being invited to the great and
wedding feast in the kingdom of God.
What a party it is, and what a party it will be!