Trinity 17 Sermon, 2021

In many and various ways, the disease—to us—is worth it—or we make it seem that way.

Today, we call dropsy edema, and we go no further. But then—dropsy was the rich man’s disease, a swelling of the body that included insatiable thirst.

The ones who suffered from dropsy, so it seemed, were the ones who could afford to fill their body to the brim. The only ones who could treat the ailment were the ones who could afford to fill it up again and again.

There was the disease—in this case, the man-made ailment that would eventually consume everything—food, drink, time, money—the body and your life—but it was worth it—it was made to seem worth it—because it was the rich man’s disease.

That’s why he’s present at the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees. He was one you’d want to invite, one you’d want to show up.

They don’t think of it as being in the presence of disease. They think of it as someone important showing up to the party, their status is improved by him being there, he being a great and rich man.

The disease is worth it—if you get to be rich.

This is why Jesus speaks as He does.

In verse thirty-three of the same chapter He says, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

And in Matthew chapter nineteen, Jesus says: “Only with difficulty will a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).

The disease—to us—seems worth it.

Maybe you think I’m being extreme, making the man with dropsy into an unrealistic example, but consider your station and life.

I’ll consider mine.

During Street Fair, I worked a shift.

Afterwards, I enjoyed a cheeseburger.

Who wouldn’t?

And since it was right next door, I also bought a cup of ice cream.

With the heat as oppressive as it was, who’ll cast the first stone?

But then—I think it was forty-five actual seconds later, I received a message on my phone—and what do you think that message was about?

It was exercise, a workout, of course it was.

That’s how God works, it seems, from time to time.

It was a workout that anyone could do anywhere—unless, of course, you’re holding a cup of ice cream.

The disease—that is, the sin, the long list of bad decisions in succession—isn’t worth it, but we make it seem that way until some catastrophe occurs.

Now, because of where I’ve served as a pastor and because of where I grew up—I’ve spent a number of hours talking to addicts—drugs, alcohol, pornography, whatever.

Universally, they hate and love what they do.

It’s the worst thing imaginable—wouldn’t wish it on anyone—and—it’s the only fleeting comfort available—do you wanna do it, too?

It consumes everything—time, money, body, and life—leaving an anxious, skulking, empty shadow of once vibrant, thriving life.

Again and again, the disease isn’t worth it, but we make it seem that way until some catastrophe occurs.

The proverb has it this way: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).

That’s some folly, but maybe you’re not an addict.

Or a glutton.

Or a rich man.

Maybe you’ve stopped sinning. Maybe you need no help. Maybe you learned everything a long time ago, and that’s good enough—thank you very much. Maybe everything would be better if it were done your way, because maybe you know better. Maybe you know best.

And—maybe you’re hateful and proud and well on your way down the wide road that leads to destruction. You’re never alone, because those who enter by it are many (cf. Matthew 7:13).

The disease seems worth it—especially to those who deny the disease.

Like satan and his children. They all believe the lies and want you to believe them, too.

He heard the first promise of a savior: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15), but he had it in his hardened heart that he might yet win the world to himself.

It’s as if satan says—and blasphemously—“A world who would not purchase for a bruise?”

As though the world was his to win.

Unbelievably to us—to satan, it’s worth it.

That’s the bargain—his bargain. And ours.

And it’s terrible.

With food, drugs, sex, laziness, hatred, and all else.

We tell ourselves:

Whatever’s good—it isn’t good.

Whatever’s necessary—it isn’t needed.

Whatever’s true, honorable, just, pure, or lovely—don’t even think about it (cf. Philippians 4:8).

“Let evil now become my good.”

That’s what we say whenever we prefer disease to cure.

“A world who would not purchase for a bruise?”

That’s what the devil says—and blasphemously—when he believes his lie, that he could win.

And—in perfect faith—that’s what Jesus says when He considers us and what it take to win the world—us included—from sin, death, and satan.

“A world who would not purchase for a bruise?”

“Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to [bruise and] death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

For Himself He chose the lowest seat. And for us.

For Himself He chose the greatest scorn. And for us.

“A world who would not purchase for a bruise?”

So—“For our transgressions, He was pierced. For our iniquities, He was crushed. Upon him was put the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds are we healed” (cf. Isaiah 53:5).

The world is purchased and won in the bruise and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, who—today—sends the man He healed away because gaining the grace of God is worth losing status in the eyes of Pharisees and principalities and powers.

Rich man or not—he no longer needs the Pharisees, for he has all things in Christ.

Jesus doesn’t forgive your sins and free you from satan so that you’d choose to return to sin and satan.

Jesus forgives you and frees you from sin and satan that you would return, again and again, to Him.

The Pharisees aren’t needed. Satan is conquered.

The disease isn’t worth it—and never was.

Now we see what means we have—the means that God provides—for sin and death and satan to be overcome, not just finally and forever but even here today.

This side of the resurrection you can’t stop sinning.

Return, again and again, to the Lord your God, and He will sustain you.

And—by the grace of God, this side of the resurrection you can, with the Holy Spirit, overcome the rich man’s disease, the glutton’s appetite, the addict’s folly, and satan’s lie.

You are not bound but freed.

You are not proud but humble and faithful.

You are not dead but made alive in Christ who chose the lowest seat for Himself and was exalted by the Father—so that all who belong to Him would live, and live forever.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 17, 2021
Luke 14:1-11
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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