Dear Baptized of God, forgiven of God. Last Sunday we heard those comforting words from Christ, who raised the young man of Nain. He told the man’s mother to weep not, and then proceeded to raise her son.
Jesus has that power. At His Word, all believers in Christ will rise on the last day.
But that resurrection begins here on earth. Jesus raises us to new life, by the power of His Word and Spirit. His Spirit calls us by the Gospel and He raises us from the power of sin. He raises us up by the forgiveness of our sin through Baptism, His Word, His true body and blood, given and shed for us. Jesus exalts the humble. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Children of God, may we continue to humble ourselves by confessing our sin, and by believing in Christ for the forgiveness of our sin. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Last Sunday we reviewed how Jesus’s resurection proves that the Father accepted His sacrifice for our sin. So does that mean then, in the spirit of the resurrection, we will want to get more comfortable with sin? Or, so that we might turn from it, by the power of His Word and Spirit?
When we say we are sorry for our sin, do we really mean it? Are we willing to humble ourselves to the point that we admit that we were wrong? Are we willing to humble ourselves to the point that we admit, that “I should never do it again?” And do we then by the aid of God’s Spirit, make an effort to not do it again?
This is really at the heart and center of today’s lesson. To be truly humble, is to be truly repentant. The opposite would be to elevate ourselves above God’s Word, and say, “ya, maybe it is wrong, but I’m going my own way, thank ya very much.” Or, simply deny that it’s wrong. Or, place the blame elsewhere, like Adam in the garden. “God it’s your fault. God, the woman, whom you gave me, it’s her fault.” It’s really the same thing today, “It can’t be me. It’s gotta be someone or something else.”
Yet, God exalts the humble. What greater humbleness is there than to say and believe, “I am the chief of sinners.” What greater humbleness is there, than to believe from the heart, that without God’s forgiveness, we are completely lost, completely unworthy of eternal life with Him.
The comfort of the Gospel is that God promised a Savior would come. And He did come. Conceived by the power of God’s Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, Jesus had a completely perfect and sinless birth. He gives us His perfect birth and life. And He became sin for us, who knew no sin, to be judged by God, for our sin.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Pretty simple and that is exactly how simple the Gospel is – Jesus did it all. I did nothing. I can do nothing to earn salvation. That’s for our comfort and assurance. Since it doesn’t depend on me, I can be completely confident, Jesus did everything needful to save me from my sin.
And there, in that confession, there is true humbleness. If Jesus did it all. I did nothing. There’s nothing of which I can boast, as the hymn goes, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” Salvation is a completely free gift in Christ.
Have we ever been invited to a Christmas party, and then arrived, and then were handed a gift, and then realized, “oops, I didn’t get this person anything.”
But isn’t a gift a gift? Even if we know our friend truly gave from the heart without expecting anything in return, even if we truly know that - still there’s that feeling, “they invited me to their party, even got me a gift, and I showed up with nothing.” Sound familiar? “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”
That’s the gift of salvation. Absolutely nothing to give in return, that would even come close to being equal to the gift God has given. We might think we can do something, somehow, to repay. But we can’t. “By grace are ye saved, through faith…”
The Pharisees did not see things this way. To them, salvation was earned. And they didn’t like this Jesus coming along and saying He would do it all. Because that meant all their hard work attempting to please God, was all for nothing. “But, look at everything I’ve done. I deserve honor and respect. I deserve to be seated in the highest room. I deserve to be rewarded for all I’ve done.” So much so that when a man needed to be healed, they weren’t the least bit concerned about him. They were concerned about healing being classified as work on the Sabbath, therefore classified as a sin, rather than being concerned about their fellow human being.
Imagine them reaching for their book of laws, “gotta see whether it’s right or wrong. Gotta stop and think here, is it right or wrong. But which one of them would reach for their book of laws, and stop and think, when their animal needed to be rescued from a pit on the Sabbath? Which one of them wouldn’t immediately help their animal? How much more valuable is an eternal human soul? But their main concern seemed to be to use God’s law to elevate and exalt themselves. “Look at what all I can do for you God.”
So Jesus went on to address that pride in their hearts. The Pharisees had a tendancy to always take hightest seats of honor for themselves. But Jesus basicly said, why run the risk of taking that high seat, and then being asked to take a lower one?
That’s exactly what God does to those who try to enter His kingom by exalting themselves. “Look at all I’ve done for you God. Look at how great I am.” And He will say, “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” By Grace we are saved through faith, that not of ourselves. It is the gift of God.
Jesus’ main concern wasn’t to teach them about dinner table etiquite or manners. “Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
God exalts the humble – that’s the attitude of the publican in the temple, who couldn’t even seem to look up toward God, but rather prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” God exalted Paul, who confessed “I am the chief of sinners.”
Real humbleness realizes our true spiritual condition before God, that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and unworthy of eternal life. Yet, Jesus exalts the humble by the comfort of His word. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Blessed are you children of God, who are troubled by your sins, and “hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” God lifts us up by lifting up His only-begotten Son to the cross to make satisfaction for all our sins. “We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” God exalts us by forgiving our sin in Jesus Christ. He assures us of this fact by His means of Grace: His Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. He continues to exalt you, and lift you up, believers in Christ. Amen.