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Gerhard on Trinity 17 – Luke 14:1-11

by pastorjuhl ~ September 20th, 2010

Christ is, of course, a much better physician than ordinary mortal physicians; for they can cure only with the physical means provided by nature. But Christ can bring aid and healing in a supernatural way with divine power. The help and healing given by earthly physicians stretches out from day to day, and from hour to hour, in accordance with the saying: “Sickness comes by the pound, but departs by the ounce.” Yet Christ can heal in an instant. He needs only speak a word and the infirm are completely cured (Matt. 8:8), as we see in the present Gospel where he takes hold of the man with dropsy and immediately heals him.

Other physicians cannot cure some illnesses; but no illness is incurable for Christ. For can’t He who awakens the dead not also cure all deadly illnesses?

Other physicians can cure merely the bodily infirmities, but Christ can remove the infirmities of both body and soul, and “…make a man completely well” (John 7:23). We are given proof of this in today’s Gospel. Christ heals a man with dropsy on the Sabbath and grandly defends this against the Pharisees, who are of the opinion that this violates the Sabbath. But Christ then gives His table companions the magnificent instruction in humility, hoping thereby to heal the ulcerous dropsy of their arrogance and pride.

This is part of the Lord Christ’s high-priestly ministry, for by healing the dropsy He illustrates that He has come to earth to heal our infirmities of the soul. It is also part of His prophetical teaching ministry, for by such teaching He illustrates that He has come to earth to bring forth from His Father’s bosom the consoling Gospel teaching (John 1:18).
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Whoever does not wish Christ to call him a snake or brood of vipers, let him steer clear of this damnable, devilish hypocrisy. Indeed, according to present worldly values it is regarded as clever to behave in a friendly manner toward one’s neighbor, while harboring hatred in one’s heart, yea, even while seeking to destroy him. Speaking against this, however, is the beautiful verse in Sirach 19:19-20: “Cunningness is not wisdom and the guiles of the godless are not clever, but they are wicked and idolatrous, utter folly and stupidity.” True, unadulterated love is described in 1 John 3:18 in the exhortation: “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth,” and thus in our hearts love our neighbor. For what good is it to speak pleasing words to our neighbor when our hearts are the devil’s lair of secret envy and evil malice?
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Therefore, if we wish to celebrate the Christian Sabbath properly, we must refrain from physical work. But this by itself is not enough; for on this day we must also go to the House of the Lord, eat the Bread of Life, confess our spiritual dropsy of sin, turn to Christ for healing, do good to our neighbor, and with holy words perform various acts of devotion. Whoever does this in the right obedience of faith will enjoy temporal and eternal blessings. But whoever turns Sunday into a “sin day” will bring God’s punishment upon him, just as those who trespassed against the Sabbath were threatened with war in Nehemiah 13:21, with fire in Jeremiah 17:27, and with hunger in Exodus 16:25.
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Although Christ deals here with arrogance in our outward behavior and conversation, let us, nevertheless, take occasion to speak about spiritual arrogance as well. Christ often uses the opportunity of the visible things of this world to speak about heavenly things. For example, in John 4 – where the woman is drawing water from the well – Christ uses this opportunity to speak about the living water that quenches thirst forever. In John 6, when the disciples lifted their eyes and saw how everything was white for the harvest, He held a sermon about the spiritual harvest. In Matthew 14 and Luke 8, where He feeds many thousands with bread, He takes the occasion to speak about the bread of life. In so wise, we should also take this seating arrangement as cause and opportunity to deal with spiritual arrogance.

For God has also prepared a meal in His kingdom, as Christ mentions shortly after this Gospel; namely, He displays His heavenly riches before us in His Word, and promises that after this life we will eat at table “…with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in heaven” (Matt. 8:11); and will be abundantly satisfied, for He will “…give them drink from the river of [His] pleasures” (Ps. 36:8-9).

Hence, we must guard ourselves against spiritual arrogance and not deem ourselves worthy of such great treasures nor put ourselves before others, but confess with Jacob in Genesis 32:10: “I am too unworthy of all the mercy and faithfulness you have shown your servant”; and with David in Psalm 84:11: “I prefer to guard the doors of my God’s house than to dwell within the doors of the ungodly.” This is as if David were to say, “I am too insignificant and unworthy to sit in your house at your table; let me be the least of your door-keepers.”

Part of spiritual arrogance is also reliance on one’s own works. For no sooner does a man place heartfelt trust in his own works than he deems himself worthy of heavenly blessings and considers himself better than others. But this should not be; a genuine, humble Christian should not think that his works make him better than even the smallest baptized infant. This does not diminish our obligation to serve God to the utmost of our physical ability, while trusting that our good works issue from the power of the Holy Spirit. For we know that “…in our flesh nothing good dwells” (Rom. 7:18). Therefore, we are much more indebted to God for our good works than He in the least is indebted to us.

Consequently, eternal life is a pure gift of grace (Rom. 6:23); no one can earn this from God. Hence, the greatest holy patriarch Abraham must rely on justification by faith just as much as the smallest baptized infant. “If it is by grace, then it is not by the merit of works; otherwise grace would not be grace…” (Rom. 11:6). Since we are unworthy of our daily bread, how could we be worthy of the coming heavenly supper? May God by His Holy Spirit provide that we acknowledge this. Amen.

1 Response to Gerhard on Trinity 17 – Luke 14:1-11

  1. ~Chris

    Great topic. We would all do well to pray for humility in our quest to be like Him.

    Blessings … Chris

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