Everybody likes a good meal. We’re at a meal, a full meal, though it doesn’t look like it. Certainly a little wafer and a sip of wine do not a meal make. No one’s physical hunger or thirst could ever be fulfilled or quenched by such a thing. Nor would all these words you hear me speak, let alone all the words you speak, fill your belly. Yet God has invited you here to dine on Christ by means of His Word and Sacrament.
Jesus was invited to a meal. We don’t know where He sat. I suppose He took the lowest seat. After all, St. Paul says He made Himself nothing for us. He watched everyone vie for the best seat they could get, not even wondering if there was assigned seating. And something happened that probably happened a lot to Him: When people found out where He was they showed up to get healed.
This was sure to rile all The Pharisees and lawyers invited to the meal. It even makes me wonder if the guy was a plant; after all, we know the leaders of The Jews made it their favorite pastime to find ways to try to make Jesus’ ministry fall apart. As far as they were concerned, it was illegal to do any work on The Sabbath.
For them, The Sabbath was all about doing no work. After all, when God gave The Third Commandment, He told them to do no work on Saturday. His reason was that He had created all things in 6 days and then rested on Saturday. But they missed something: When Moses restates The Law in Deuteronomy, he doesn’t mention Creation. Instead he mentions The Exodus. He says, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and The LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore The LORD your God commanded you to keep The Sabbath Day.”
What was the purpose of the Sabbath rest? It wasn’t merely to give them a day off. It wasn’t to force them to do nothing. The intent was to get them to listen to preaching! Therefore we confess – What is The Third Commandment? Thou shalt sanctify the holy day. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.
Did you see what Luther did there? He didn’t talk about work at all! He only talked about God’s Word. And what has The Church done? In Christian freedom it gave up the Saturday worship and started to worship on Sundays. Why? Moses told Israel to remember The Exodus. That was God’s big Old Testament redemptive act. God’s big New Testament redemptive act for all time happened on a Sunday. Easter happened on a Sunday! So did Pentecost. When we gather in worship on a Sunday we do well to keep in mind when we walk in the door that this is the day Christ rose from the dead to forgive our sins, to raise us from the dead, and to give us eternal life.
That’s the important thing. Whether we’re here on a Sunday, Wednesday, feast day, any day, or even no day, do not forget these things. There’s nothing more important in life than Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Nothing. Not what your friends or family think of you, not what the world tries to demand of you, not what your own flesh wants – nothing is more important than Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. It’s the difference between eternal life and death, between salvation and damnation, between peace with God and war with God. The world may say you’re good without Jesus, but the world is wrong. It’s good not to listen to the world. It’s good to listen to Jesus. Why? “The world seeks to be praised And honored by the mighty, Yet never once reflects That they are frail and flighty” (TLH 430:3). The people at this feast were fighting over the best spots. They thought they were the crème de la crème, the best society had to offer, and this all thanks to themselves and nobody else. How distraught and embarrassed they would be to be bounced to the last spot! Yes, how much better it is to start at the bottom and get called up to the top!
How much better then it is to be called up from hell to heaven than to be bounced from heaven to hell! For Christ was speaking about pride, and we know what they say: “Pride goeth before the fall.” Pride can make you think highly of yourself, and that in the end means thinking you don’t need a Savior. Either you can make it in on your own merit, you deserve it, or there’s no need for you to think about it. Pride is what motivates you to do something for somebody else by what you might get out of it. That’s not Christian service; it’s taking advantage of people.
So how does Christ want us to act? He wants us to live our lives as a response to what He does for us. He has given His entire self for us and for our salvation. He died for us. He shed His Blood and washed away our sins. He forgives us. He invites us to dine with Him here. He gives us eternal life. He will raise us from the dead and we will dine with Him forever. So where does that lead us?
What He has done for us encourages us to give of our own selves to others. Our Lord tells us that we will be merciful just as He has been merciful to us. We could say it this way: Christians are merciful because Jesus is merciful to us. It’s a cause and effect relationship. It happens naturally. When people are in need, we desire to help them. Perhaps you support through our English District the flood relief in Louisiana. Perhaps you support our school. Perhaps you support CLM, Unity Mission, or the homeless ministry at First Trinity. We do these things, we desire to do these things, because we want to show others the mercy Christ has shown us. He has forgiven our sins, even our pride; when we support mercy work, we’re supporting the proclamation of The Gospel that goes hand in hand with that mercy work.
Why doesn’t He want us to expect a reward in this life? He wants to be The One Who rewards us. “The world is sorely grieved Whenever it is slighted Or when its hollow fame And honor have been blighted” (TLH 430:5), but there is no greater blessing than to be honored by your Lord. Nothing is greater. Nothing can replace it or compare to it. Nothing can be combined with it. It’s the most wonderful all or nothing you could have. Yes, you go by faith and not by sight. You trust His promise, the promise He gives you at this feast when He gives you His Body and Blood as the pledge of life eternal. So you sing (TLH 430:8):
What is the world to me! My Jesus is my Treasure, My Life, my Health, my Wealth, My Friend, my Love, my Pleasure, My Joy, my Crown, my All, My Bliss eternally. Once more, then, I declare: What is the world to me!