And it happened in His (Jesus') coming into a house of a certain ruler of the Pharisees on a Sabbath to eat bread, & they were watching Him closely. And look, a certain man who was suffering edema was before Him. And answering, Jesus spoke to the law-experts and the Pharisees saying, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to heal, or not?" And they kept silent. And having taken hold, He healed healed and sent him away. And to them, He said, "Who of you, a son or an ox into a well having fallen, and you would not immediately pull him out on the day of the Sabbath?" Yet they had no strength to reply to these things. And He spoke to those invited, a parable, noting how the foremost reclining places, they were choosing, saying to them, "Whenever you are invited by anyone to a wedding, do not recline into the foremost reclining places, lest one more honored than you have been invited by him, & having come, the one who invited you & him say to you, `Give this man place' & then you will begin with shame the last place to hold. But whenever you are invited, having gone, fall into the last place, in order that whenever the one inviting you comes, he will say to you, Friend, go up higher! Then there will be to you glory before all those reclining with you. Because every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one humbling himself will be exalted.
In today's Gospel, we have two things going on which seem unrelated at first glance. First, a question of healing on the Sabbath which Jesus answers by healing the swelling of an ill man. Secondly, there is the question of banquet seating which Jesus answers with the parable of the embarrassed wedding guest. But don't think these two issues have nothing in common. For both situations have man's sinful pride at their heart. Jesus uses each of these circumstances to show the Sabbath way.
So we should be sure to understand the Sabbath before we look at Jesus' words and actions. The law-experts and Pharisees hadn't a clue what Sabbath meant. Perhaps you don't either. You were probably taught that the Sabbath is a day of rest. But it really isn't at all. If it were, you would still be tucked into your bed this Sunday morn. Sabbath means *stop*–that you stop doing your thing so that God can do His special thing, just as God stopped creating to proclaim His good words and to bless creation.
The Pharisees and law-experts were prideful concerning the Sabbath, thinking it was all about them & what they refrain from doing. Perhaps you too mistakenly think that Sunday morning worship is all about what you do. Do you pride yourself that you are here this morning, unlike those church-skippers out there? And is your focus this morning your praying, your singing, your paying attention, or your money in the offering plate, or the service you render to others in God's house today?
Remember the Sabbath is not about your work or lack thereof, but about what God does. That's why Jesus took the bait of the trap laid before Him healed this swelled-up man on the Sabbath day. He did it to show them and you that the Sabbath day is about God's work to declare things good again, and to bless. He made the ill man well again, and sent him away blessed. Today Jesus proclaims sinful you forgiven, and blesses you with His holy righteousness in exchange for your sins He bore on the cross.
These law-experts and Pharisees were prideful when it came to their places of honor at the table. We are the same. No doubt you've been to a wedding reception with the honored places for the wedding party at the head table, compared to the loser table in the back corner. Who wants to be relegated to the lowly spots at that far table? Who isn't envious of the honored places up front? Or here, what if a stranger came in and sat in your pew today! But, oddly the honored Lutheran seats seem in the back.
Jesus gives you the place of honor here in worship. He is the host of the Lord's Supper in this, His house. He invites each one of you to come to the one and only head table to the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. You have the most honored position of all, for the church is Christ's holy bride, and that's who you are in this wedding banquet. You feast on His body given in the bread, and on His blood shed in the cup for your forgiveness, for your salvation, and for your eternal life!
Jesus sums up these two incidents with words about being humbled and being exalted. He makes it clear that if you try to exalt yourself it won't work. Who can sprout wings and lift himself up to heaven? And we may try to be humble, but quickly become proud that we are more humble than others. So what's a body to do? Remember that the Sabbath is not about our works, but about God's. His Law is sufficient to humble us sinners, buried with Christ by baptism into His death, and His Gospel works to exalt us to the honor given to us who are raised in Jesus through baptism to new, glorious life! Amen.