Phil 1:1-11 ; Ps 111:1-6; Lk 14:1-6
Only the LORD works out majesty and glory. From his very being the LORD generates the majesty and the glory. Indeed, his full power and authority are unknown and unknowable, and his beauty and brightness are beyond our vision and our understanding. Our hearts fill up, even as our eyes overflow, when we give thanks to the LORD; with whole-hearted praise we join in the company and assembly of the just. Great, beyond all measure, are the works of the LORD; they are exquisite in all their delights. Only his justice will endure forever. Our justice is so incomplete and limited; it is hardly justice at all. The LORD has won renown for his wonders. We rejoice with the words of another Psalm, “Thank you for the wonder of my being; thank you for the wonder of all your creation.” The LORD is gracious and merciful in all his deeds. All who live in the fear of the LORD, all who are not afraid of God, are given food in due season. The LORD is always mindful of his covenant. Through his faithfulness to Israel; all the nations have come to know true majesty and glory. Indeed, the favor of the LORD is upon those he has chosen; he shares with them all the blessings of the nations and more, so much more. We are confident with Saint Paul that the one who began a good work in us will continue to complete it until the day of the Lord. Indeed, our confidence in the Lord Jesus shuts up the mouths of critics and cynics all around. We who dine with the Lord Jesus are strengthened for his praise and service.
In the synoptic gospels the Lord Jesus redefines family. He speaks of those who hear the Word and live according to revelation as his family. It is faith that relates us in this world and forever. This is the kind of fellowship that Saint Paul reveals in his letter to the church in Philippi, with its bishops and deacons. He greets them in grace and peace and he gives thanks for each of them. Saint Paul prays for his beloved converts. His prayer is joy-filled because of the partnership they share with him in the proclamation of the Gospel from the first day until the present. Saint Paul is so fatherly and so affirming of the good work that has begun in his spiritual children. He makes no excuses for his affection and love for these brothers and sisters in the faith. He holds them in his heart, and they are all partners with him in grace. They did not give up on him when he was in prison for the sake of the Gospel. They continued to support and take care of him in this humiliation. It’s easy to love someone who is famous and popular, but to love and believe in a prisoner is another story. However, this is the quality of love they share. Saint Paul prays daily that this love may increase ever more and more in the truth of Christ, in the goodness of Christ, and in the beauty of Christ. He wants, with his whole heart, that his beloved children be pure and blameless for the day of Christ Jesus. He wants, in all his prayer, that they be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. It is the love of Christ that changes human life into divine life. Indeed, we share in his divinity who became one of us to share in our humanity.
What is so difficult about the Lord’s question: “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?” This is not a trick question, nor is it a difficult question. However, to say no is to deny the compassion of the Father of Heaven and Earth, and to say yes is to raise the suspicions of the Pharisees that you might not be a faithful believer. The Lord Jesus was not at all frustrated or distracted by all the people carefully observing him. He knew that he was under scrutiny; he knew that many Pharisees were looking for any excuse to accuse him of less than faithful observance of the Law. This might discredit his teaching and ministry. This could turn people away from Jesus and back to the Pharisees. The Lord Jesus did not ignore the man suffering from dropsy right in front of him. Perhaps he was a plant; perhaps the Pharisees had set up the whole situation bribing the man to stand in front of the Lord Jesus to see what he would do on a Sabbath. None of that mattered to the Lord Jesus. All that the Lord Jesus could see was the suffering of the man with dropsy and the suffering of the Pharisees who were closed to him and his mission. He confronted the suffering in both. The man with dropsy was healed and dismissed. Then the Lord said to his opponents: “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” He loved even his enemies and he would not leave them in their hardness of heart. At least he spoke to that hardness. Indeed, he took a sledgehammer and struck home so directly that all they could do was stand in silence. The Word of Truth had been spoken. The Goodness of God had been revealed. The Beauty of Grace had shown out in all its brightness.