Summary: #13 in Proverbs & Parables series (#12 unavailable) From the Parable of the Banquet in Luke 14 - a look at humility and greatness using Proverbs
A Place Among the Great
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 14:7-11
Many of us have seen the movie THE PASSION. For 2 hours we watched the suffering Jesus endured during the last hours of his life. We know that Jesus humbled himself to the point of torture and death. But that is not the whole story of Jesus’ time on earth.
It’s true that Jesus was mistreated and persecuted. But Jesus was also adored, honored, and exalted. On Palm Sunday, we remember a triumphal moment when Jesus receiving earthly praise and honor from the masses. People literally shouted their praises. They laid down the 1st century version of THE RED CARPET … in this case, a Green Carpet of Palm Branches.
When you read about the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry, you’ll see that Jesus had plenty of ups and downs. If they’d been taking Gallup Polls like they do now, His would have gone off the charts --- in both directions.
But whether he was being vilified or praised, Jesus never let it go to his head. Jesus was the one case where Absolute Power did not Corrupt Absolutely. In fact, Jesus Christ is the only ONE who has both Absolute Power and Perfect Humility.
The TEXT we read this morning gives us a glimpse into a fancy dinner party where Jesus was the guest of honor. In those days, it was customary for one of the prominent Pharisees to put on a banquet after the synagogue services for the “visiting preacher” (in this case, Jesus).
The truth is, these Pharisees had ulterior motives. They pretended to honor Jesus. But in reality, they were looking for ways to build their case against Him. Well, they had their purposes and Jesus had His. He used this fancy banquet as an opportunity to give a much-needed lesson about humility.
Jesus told them: When someone invites you to a feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. Luke 14:8 That sounds kind of like Emily Post’s Rules of Etiquette for a formal banquet. Jesus may have been giving them pointers on Earthly Etiquette, but His real topic was the Eternal Etiquette of Heaven.
Jesus explained that when God gives a banquet Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11 This was similar to what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 19: But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. Matthew 19:30 Jesus used the Pharisee’s bad table manners to remind them that THE FIRST WILL BE LAST.
1. The First will be Last
At First Century banquets, the basic item of furniture was the triclinium: a couch for three. A number of these couches were arranged in a U-shape around a low table. Guests reclined on their left elbows. The place of highest honor was the central position on the couch at the base of the U. The second and third places were to the left and right of that honored person.
One thing was the same back then as now: the important guests would manage to arrive “fashionably late.” That way they could make an entrance and be escorted to the place of honor while everyone looked on in envy. If someone less important had to move down so they could have the best spot, then that was so much the better! (Now if you’re thinking that we 21st century Americans are more mature than that, think about what happened last time you saw one good parking spot and several cars heading for it!)
At this particular banquet, there was evidently a noticeable … probably undignified … scramble for the places of honor. I can just picture everyone finally settling into place … Some were muttering under their breath, resentful because they weren’t high enough … Others were feeling smug because they managed to claim a good seat.
Then they all turn toward the guest of honor. They were probably expecting Jesus to say a few gracious words of appreciation to the host, or to praise for the feast set out before him.
You have to wonder how many faces turned bright red when Jesus made this unexpected … and certainly embarrassing … observation: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ’Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. Luke 14:8-9
Well, no one can accuse Jesus of being afraid to call a spade a spade. He took their little social power-games … those subtle games that everyone knows about but no one talks about … and he laid it right out on the table in front of everyone.