1. This occasion took place on a Sabbath day. It was not uncommon at Jesus' time for Jews to have a feast on the Sabbath after the synagogue service, so long as the food was prepared on the previous day.
2. The text makes clear that host and all guests were Pharisees, except Jesus. Jesus was invited as a friend but they were watching Him closely as vs. 1 indicates. They had much to learn.
3. Vss. 2-6 show how loveless these Pharisees were. The Sabbath Day was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It was a day of rest to remind the OT Jews of the rest which Christ would give. It was a "sign." Ex. 20:8-11; 31:12-17. It was a type of eternal rest. Christ fulfilled the Sabbath. Col. 2:16. See Heb. 4:1-13. There remains a rest (eternal life) for us. The Sabbath was a day of mercy not of rules to earn eternal life. The Pharisees viewed the Sabbath as a harsh day of strict rules and regulations. Jesus asked the Pharisees: "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" The obvious answer was: "It is lawful." But that was contrary to what they believed. And so they would not answer. They remained silent. They had not yet entered the Kingdom of God. They lacked faith in Christ and love toward their neighbor. That is why Jesus spoke the three parables in vss. 7-11, 12-14, and 16-24.
4. Vss. 7-11 show us the sinful pride of fallen human nature. Vss. 12-14 show us the loveless, selfish attitude of fallen human nature. And vss. 16- 24 show us how these fallen sinners often refuse to repent and heed the call of Jesus to His great Gospel banquet in the church. Notice that each parable has an important concluding sentence. For vss. 7-10 we have vs. 11. For vss. 12-13 we have vs. 14. And for vss. 16-23 we have vs. 24.
5. Our text today is only one of the three parables, vss. 11-14. The principle enunciated in vs. 14 is one of the great laws in the kingdom of God. It is identical with Lk. 18:14. Compare Mt. 23:12 and similarly Mt. 18:4. For the thought compare Mt. 11:23; II Cor. 11:7; Jas. 4:10; I Pet. 5:6 and also Lk. 16:15; Rom. 12:16; I Tim. 6:17.
6. Sinful pride amounts to fear that we won't be recognized for our imagined greatness. But true humility has no fear. It trusts that God will provide, in His mercy, whatever is necessary. The Pharisees were Pharisees even among the Pharisees. They all wanted the most important seats. They were like the Pharisee in Lk. 18 who said: "God I thank You that I am not as the rest of men." That included other Pharisees too. Even in their own company it was impossible for the Pharisees to conceal their Pharisaic tendencies. They are a picture of all of fallen mankind. Natural man, like Adam and Eve, wants to be God. But, like Adam and Eve, he sinks very low and will be ashamed on Judgement Day unless he repents of his sin and believes in the Gospel. Read Php. 2:1-11. If the sinless Son of God humbled Himself so deeply, how much more must not we sinful, proud sinners do so! The Son of man came to serve, not to be served. Mk. 10:45.
7. By repentance and faith a sinner becomes a new creature. II Cor. 5:17. Old things have passed away. All has become new. He constantly cries "Lord have mercy on me, a proud sinner!" A Christian still has an old Adam, a sinful nature, but he confesses it and finds forgiveness in Christ. He begins to live in humility, putting himself last as Christ did. Our newness in Christ rules over our sinful pride.
8. Gal. 5:26 reads "Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." Sinful pride is the cause of all lies, false teachings and sinful strife. Satan is the father of lies, false teachings and strife. Jn. 8. It is impossible for sinful, human nature not to be puffed up by praise for self. Even Paul, who had the spirit of Christ, was kept from sinful pride by the thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. II Cor. 12:7. Lord have mercy on me, a proud sinner! Faith in Christ conquers the stubborn flesh.
THEME: GOD RESISTS THE PROUD BUT SHOWS MERCY TO THE HUMBLE
Our theme is taken from Prov. 3:34 which is quoted in the NT, Jas. 4:6 and I Pet. 5:5. Read all of Jas. 4 and I Pet. 5. Pride is a characteristic of a pagan person. Humility is a characteristic of a repentant Christian. That is a constant theory in the Bible. See the passages under #5 in the Sermon Notes. That's what Jesus meant when He said in vs. 11 of our text: "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted."
I. GOD RESISTS THE PROUD
A. Who the proud are. The Bible describes the proud in various ways. But they all have one thing in common. They have no love or mercy for their fellow-man. They are described for us in our text in vss. 2- 6. A man who had dropsy came into the dining room. Jesus asked the guests: "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" They couldn't answer. Then Jesus used a simple illustration. If you have a child or an ox fall into a pit on the Sabbath, don't you pull him out? They refused to answer. If they had said, "No" they would have denied mercy. But if they had said "Yes" they would have agreed with Jesus. They refused to do that. Why? Their attitude toward the Sabbath was wrong. The Sabbath was a day of remembrance of rest, not of merciless rules which the Pharisees had made. They did not love their neighbors. They had impenitent hearts. They were still dead in their sins. They proved this by taking the first seats at a dinner.
B. What will happen to them. Note carefully vs. 9 in our text. If a proud man takes a seat too high for him at a dinner, he will be shamed when the host tells him to take a lower seat. Jesus is not merely telling us where to sit at dinner. He is talking about an incorrect attitude which leads to destruction. The proud man makes himself god. He wants to be lord over other people. He refuses to be a servant to mankind. Like the Pharisee in the temple he says: "God I thank you that I am not like other people." Unless he repents of his sin he will suffer great shame on Judgment Day. God resists the proud not only in this life but also in eternity. Pride cometh before the fall.
II. GOD SHOWS MERCY TO THE HUMBLE
A. Who the humble are. They are like Jesus. Jesus healed the dropsied man on the Sabbath Day. He did not violate the Sabbath. God did not forbid deeds of mercy on the Sabbath. God never forbids deeds of mercy. He is a God of mercy and is merciful all the time, forever. Why was Jesus merciful? Because He was humble. He said: "The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, to give His life as ransom for many." Mk. 10:45. Read Php. 2:5-11. Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death. God wants us to be that way. The humble person is the person who confesses his many sins, his sins of pride too. Until death man is a sinful person who is proud. The humble man confesses his sins of pride daily as did David and St. Paul. He cries: "God be merciful to me, the sinner."
B. What will happen to them. The Lord hears the cries of those who confess their sins. He shows mercy to the humble. For Jesus' sake He forgives the sinner. Such a person becomes a new creature. he glorifies God by living a new life of humility and love. Peter sinned greatly when he proudly denied Christ. But he confessed his sin and was forgiven. He spent the rest of his life in humility. The final exaltation will come at death when Jesus will take this humble man to himself in heaven. At death this humble man will lose his sinful flesh. Jesus will raise his purified body to life everlasting in heaven.
God resists the proud but shows mercy to the humble. Cast all your sins of pride on the Lord. He forgives you and helps you to fight your pride and to live the life of a servant to others.