Luke 7:24-30

When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

(And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.) Luke 7:24-30

No matter how hard we try… No matter how often we hear that “you are no better than anyone else, and no one else is better than you”… No matter how much we want to believe that – before God – there is no hierarchical pecking order of human merit… We can’t pull it off.

Martin Luther said that “we are all beggars at the foot of the cross.” Does that sound good or does that sound bad? Does that sound right or does that sound wrong?

This is one of those times when Jesus turns the world upside down. “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

The world as we know it simply can’t handle a truth like that. It flies in the face of everything that we are taught, everything we see modeled in the world, from our earliest days. We set up pecking orders for everything. We pride ourselves on our achievements or we carry resentments against those who have achieved more.

We’re not taught to have an open, honest, authentic, loving relationship with the Jones’. We’re taught to keep up with them.

Everything for us needs to be bigger and better. We’re supposed to move UP in the world rather than finding ourselves DOWN on our luck or BENEATH other people. We get educations so we can climb corporate ladders. We look DOWN on those who we decide are at the BOTTOM.

None of that works anymore if our standard of humanity looks like “we’re all beggars at the foot of the cross.” But it looks GREAT if we still think that building the Tower of Babel – maybe even putting our name at the top in great big neon letters – is a worthwhile human pursuit.

Imagine that tax collector who climbed down in the river to be baptized by John. He knew full well that his success came at the cost of propping up a corrupt system of political power. He knew he was despised by many. And he knew how empty that left him. In his decision to be baptized, he knew what he was leaving behind and what he was receiving. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Restoration. Reconciliation. Mercy. Justice.

Now consider the lawyers and Pharisees who refused to be baptized. Luke tells us “But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.” But what did they gain? They retained their earthly power, their privilege, their influence over others. They retained the illusion that they were better than those beneath them.

Sure, they might not have used that language. They might not have even been conscious of their own privilege. Certainly they believed that everything about their lives was godly and good. Obviously, they thought their place in life was worth preserving – which is why they went after Jesus. Why wouldn’t they when he said stuff like this: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?”

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, thank you for the gift of life, for the gift of every person you have crafted in your own image. Forgive us for clinging so strongly to our Towers of Babel and all of the systems that prop up our twisted thinking. Teach us anew that we are all beggars at the foot of the cross. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: