Summary: To receive what Jesus came to give, all pride and arrogance must be left behind. When you enter into God’s house, check your ego at the door.
March 7, 2004 — Second Sunday in Lent
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
Check Your Ego at the Door
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Friends for whom Christ Suffered, Died, and Rose Again:
Restaurants, clubs, and upscale bars sometimes have rather strict policies about what you can bring in with you. Some want to keep things like hats, coats, and briefcases out of people’s way, and so they put a check room just inside the door, and post signs at the entrance that say something like, “For the safety and convenience of all our customers, please check your hats, coats, and bags at the door.”
Those of you who were alive and alert back in the 80s may remember something about the recording of the song “We Are the World”, whose proceeds went to help famine victims in Africa. Recording artists from a wide variety of fields all got together to sing the song.
Now Quincy Jones, the producer, had been in the business a long time, and he knew very well what stars and celebrities are like. But he also knew that the project they were working on was important, and that if they did it well, the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts — their cause was bigger than any one star, or even than all of them put together. And so he put a note at the entrance to the recording studio when all the stars came: “Check your ego at the door.”
Apparently the sign did its job — it was quite remarkable how that group of very diverse stars was able to work and sing together to record “We Are the World”. They understood — for that little time, at least — that there was no room for pride, arrogance, or celebrity when they had such a big and important task ahead of them.
There was a much bigger and infinitely more important task ahead of Jesus at the time he spoke the words of our gospel today. His mission wasn’t the feeding of thousands or even millions of hungry mouths — it was the salvation of billions upon billions of lost souls, and the forgiveness of their countless sins. We’ve talked a number of times in the last few months about how Jesus set aside the glory that was due him as the Son of God — we can hardly call it “ego” — and humbled himself to become a man to save us.
But for anyone to receive the benefits of what Jesus came to do, or to be a part of what he’s still doing today through his church, he or she must also leave all pride and arrogance behind. When you enter into God’s House, into the kingdom of heaven, check your ego at the door.
As I reread today’s Gospel, Luke 13:31-35, try to look at the various people who talk or whom Jesus talks about and consider how pride plays into what they are and where they’re heading:
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day — for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (NIV)
This is the Gospel of our Lord.
I. So what was going on with these Pharisees and their egos? Well, first we have to ask ourselves why they were giving Jesus this “warning” about Herod wanting to kill him. Could they really have had Jesus’ best interests at heart?
Not likely. We can safely assume that these Pharisees did not have the best of intentions. Since Jesus gave them a message to take back to Herod, they were probably working — at least indirectly — with Herod and his people, even though normally they didn’t get along at all. They were willing to work together for a common purpose, though — getting Jesus out of the way.
That was why the Pharisees were being such “nice guys” and warning Jesus about Herod — who probably really had no intention of killing Jesus. Jesus was a threat to them and their position in Jewish society, because up till now, everyone thought the Pharisees had all the answers and so they had tremendous influence. But the bigger Jesus got in the eyes of the people, the smaller they became, and they didn’t like that. So far they hadn’t had much success stopping or discrediting Jesus, so now they were trying to manipulate him into moving out of the countryside, where the people were flocking to him, and on to Jerusalem, where they had more influence and he could be more easily controlled. In their sin-blinded unbelief and arrogance, they didn’t see that they were trying to pull a fast one on the all-knowing and almighty Son of God.