Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our text for today is something of a puzzle. What is the common theme of the three parts of this text?
Let me give some background on the factions among the Jews at that time. Two are mentioned directly in the New Testament and two are not mentioned. One party not mentioned was the Zealots. "Zealot" means "zealous". This was a revolutionary and nationalist movement. The Zealots wanted to raise an army against the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel to its glory in the time of King David and Solomon. Their tendency was to think of the Messiah, the Savior promised in the Old Testament, as a superhero, a mixture of David, Solomon and Moses.
Another party not mentioned was the Essenes. Like monks, the Essenes withdrew from the world of the unbelievers to live in closed communities dedicated to prayer and meditation. Their focus was on the final day, when the Messiah will judge all nations.
I want to say, against a popular idea today, that Jesus was not a revolutionary, nor a nationalist. He said that the kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom established by the sword. On the contrary, the Messiah should suffer and die on the cross to gain eternal life for people of all nations.
Against the Essenes, the church is a missionary church. Jesus sent his apostles to proclaim the gospel in all parts of the world, baptizing and making disciples of all.
The Zealots achieved their goal when they rose against the Romans in years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The consequence of this revolution was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD and the exile of most Jews, as Jesus prophesied. The Essenes were almost forgotten until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the twentieth century. They kept copies of the Old Testament books in a library near the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea Scrolls was an important discovery for archaeologists, but the Essenes did not survive as a community of faith.
The two parties mentioned are the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees were typically of the upper class and many worked in the Temple. They followed the rites established by Moses, but they did not believe in messianic prophecies, miracles, angels, or Messiah in a literal sense. In the same way, today many people say, "I am a Christian, but I do not take the stories of the Bible completely seriously. It is good for the children to be baptized and take the first communion, but in the daily vine we will live as we want. "
On the other side, the Pharisees were zealous to apply the law of Moses in their daily lives. They were zealous to observe every rule of law and more than the law demanded. The Pharisees were similar to evangelicals today, who say a Christian should never drink beer, no make-up for women and women's skirts should extend up to their calves. They were honest and fair men, and they had the admiration of the community for their good works. In addition, the Pharisees believed in the prophecies, miracles, resurrection and coming of the Messiah in visible form.
So why the conflicts between the Pharisees and Jesus? Let's see what the first part of our text says:
"And it came to pass on a sabbath day, that when they went out to eat bread in the house of a prince of the Pharisees, they closely watched him. And there was a man with dropsy before Him. "
This man has put on weight by the retention of water in his body in an uncomfortable and disgusting way. The only reason for his presence in the house of the prince of the Pharisees was to set a trap for Jesus. The Pharisees had heard of the miracles and compassion of Jesus and wanted to see Jesus heal this man to spread gossip, "He does not respect the Sabbath."
However, Jesus first asked them, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" And they were silent, so He took him, healed him, and sent him away. The Pharisees were silent because they knew that the Law of Moses allowed works of mercy on the day of rest. "Who of you, if his donkey or his ox falls into a well, will not take it out on the Sabbath day?" If they could show mercy to the animals, why do they show no mercy to human beings?
Therefore, the second part of the text. "And observing how they chose the first seats at the table, he told a parable to the guests, saying: When you are invited by someone to a wedding, do not sit in the first place, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and the one who invited you and him, comes and tell you: Give place to this one; and then you begin with shame to take the last place. But when you are invited, go, and sit in the last place; so that when the one who invited you comes, he may say to you: Friend, go up higher; then you will have glory before those who sit down together at the table. Because whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted. "
This parable and the following parable do not teach how to behave at weddings. The wedding is a figure for the kingdom of God, as in other parts of the New Testament.The culmination of the plan of salvation is a heavenly wedding. Who is the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who is the bride, the church. The invitation of the gospel is an invitation to the heavenly wedding, which is eternal life in heaven with Christ.
In this kingdom of grace, no one deserves the favor of God, we are all sinners and we are members of the church through the blood of Jesus Christ. So the rule of this kingdom is not to find a place above others, but to put the welfare of others on top of our own in humility, for we have received the unmerited mercy of God in Jesus Christ. So our motive for doing good works is to win the favor of God or the admiration of others, but to share with others the mercy that God has shown us.
Theproblem with the Pharisees, like evangelicals today, it is they looked for external marks for their Christian identity. To be a Christian is a way of dress, the amount of good works. They did not search inside their hearts to examine themselves in the eyes of God. We can distinguish between two types of righteousness: Righteousness in the eyes of men, or civic righteousness; and righteousness in the eyes of God.
It is good for the welfare of all for all to do good works. But, the only reason we have a good relationship with God is because of the merits of Jesus Christ. If we recognize this, good works are the fruits of our faith. But it is possible to do good works for bad reasons. When we seek reward from God or our neighbor, it is a bad motive. So, says our Lord in the third part of the text, "When you make food or dinner, do not call your friends, or your brothers, or your relatives, or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you again, and when it becomes a reward to you, when you make a feast, call the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed, because they can not repay you, for you will be rewarded at the resurrection of the righteous. " The Lord has not forbidden us to invite our friends or family to the house, but to show God's mercy to all, especially those who can not pay us for our help. God has shown us his mercy even though we could not pay the price of our sins. Therefore, our reward is eternal life and peace that surpasses all understanding, which is enough. Amen.
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