Then Jesus took him and healed him and sent him away…Which one of you wouldn’t immediately pull your son or ox out of the pit?
Why’s that guy there? What claims did he have? He had none. He’s sick. He’s not really there for Jesus. He’s there for the sake of the Pharisees, and he’s there to be a trap for Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t seem to care. Nothing will stop Jesus from being Jesus. He heals him and lets him go. The Pharisees could claim the “moral high ground,” that they did the right thing. They kept the Sabbath, were obedient to the Law. They were proper Pharisees, Lawyers, Rabbis. Jesus wasn’t. He worked on the Sabbath.
Their claims separated them from that man, from each other, and even from God. That’s what claims do. But Pharisees, sinners, you and me, well, we’re good a claims, at justifying ourselves and our actions to ourselves, to others, and even to God!
There’s no unity in that. No peace. No love. And there’s certainly no Jesus either. Just empty claims. Claims and words and actions that end with nothing. But Jesus just ignores it all. He does His saving thing, His healing thing. What He claims and says and does are really what matter.
((2. We don’t have any claims before the Lord.))
We make claims all the time, always looking at how we measure up based what we do and don’t do. What others do and don’t do. Being better or worse, more or less, faithful or unfaithful are all familiar categories for us. That’s what sinners do. We make our claims before God all the time. It’s how we get off the hook for doing what we shouldn’t or not doing what we should.
Our claims destroy Jesus’ Gifts. “Remember the Sabbath day.” Or to put it more simply: “Go to church,” not to check a box in God’s to do list. He created the Sabbath as a Gift for us so that we would have a time and place for Him to serve us with His Word and Sacraments. Just like the doctor’s office schedules an appointment for you on a specific day. But the Pharisees used the Sabbath as a checkbox. They were better at it than others, even Jesus! He did work, healing that man with dropsy. But even they would help their own son or ox. It’s okay for me to skip because I go enough, certainly more than those other people. Gift lost, an unused Gift Card.
Our claims separate us from Jesus and our neighbor. When we look at what we do rather than Jesus, we’re ignoring him and acting like we know better than Him. So we live without Him, His Word, His Gifts, and so our claims also cut us off from each other. We use other people to make our claims of greatness. It’s why we get upset when others don’t “do enough.” Because what we mean is they’re not doing as much as me. It’s also why we don’t love and forgive others when they mess up. We’re better than them: at parenting, teaching, farming, going to church faithfully, even being forgiving, I guess. We turn everything into a claim before God and neighbor.
All claims will put you in the same spot. There’s only one final place for all who make claims before God, even claims of being humble! It’s the same place your sins get you. The Pit. Hell. “Whoever exalts Himself will be humbled.”
The Lord doesn’t do claims. Those with claims don’t have Him. He resists the proud, those who make their claims, but He gives His favor, mercy, and forgiveness to the humble, those who have no claims. In fact, when you’ve got nothing, when just you have sins, when you’ve got no place at the table, well then you’ve got everything. For the Lord lays claim to such people. He claims the nothing, the sinner, the man with dropsy, the pit-fallen.
((1. The Lord lays claim to us.))
The Lord Jesus lays claim to us, even though we cling to our claims, our doing, our comparisons, our calculations. Jesus had all sorts of claims: Son of God, holy, without blemish, but He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:7–8)
He emptied Himself of all His own claims, and He claimed your claims, your sins, your making up for them. He died for them, in your place. He claims you, and so you are claimed by Him, just as He did for the man with dropsy. He claims the pit-fallen, saves them. Those who are sinners, those who are worthy of hell. They are His. He is theirs.
That now is your only claim, that He has claimed you, saved you, redeemed you, pulled you from the Pit, from Hell, from your sins, too. The Pharisees are those who reject His claiming them. Those sorts of people choose to live in their sins and their own personal making up for them. Rather than His claim they want their own.
Jesus claims us to His table, the marriage feast, where all our claims end. There is only His claim: “My Body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Our only claim, our only hope, our only trust is in His claim. Anything that smacks of claims or works has no place. Those who make claims of worthiness to the table get sent down the table in Jesus’ parable. “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’” “Friend, move up higher.”
His claiming us ends in peace, in love, in unity. “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.” One body. One blood. “One Father.” All His gift for you. We are one in Baptism. We are one at His Table. We are claimed by Him. His claims not ours.
We make claims. We stake our claims on what we do as compared to others, how our nice outweighs our sins. Those with those sorts of claims don’t have Him. They reject His claim on them, on their lives, on His loving others through them. In ourselves that’s all we’ve got: our sins, our death, our claims, hell.
The Lord has claimed you, saved you, like the man with dropsy. Jesus was there for him. “Healed him and sent Him away.” Jesus claims those in the pit as His own. You, too. He went down into the Pit, into death and hell, came up out again, too, to do it. In doing that Jesus claimed you as his own, and now JESUS’ CLAIM ON YOU IS YOUR ONLY CLAIM.
At His Font He claimed each you, claimed all of us! He unites us to Himself again today. Only in His Word and His body and blood are we one. With His forgiveness, we forgive. With His love, we love. That’s true peace: With Him and with each other. He created this time for us, as a Gift. Here He claims you, your life, for Himself, and you are claimed in His body and blood for you, “keep in body and soul unto life everlasting.”