Summary: We should be willing to take a back seat so that God will lift us up.
It’s only human nature for us to want to sit in the best seat in the house. At sporting events it’s the skybox seat, or the seat on the 50-yard line or the seat directly behind home plate, or a ringside seat at a boxing match. Those are the places that have the best view and carry the highest price. They also carry the greatest bragging potential. It impresses people when we tell them we have those seats.
This desire for the best seat in the house shows up in other places as well. Watch people in a store parking lot sometime. The best parking places are the ones closest to the front door. I’ve seen people nearly collide, competing for that one open spot near the store! Nobody wants the parking spaces out on the far end of the lot.
At a theater or a play, the best seat is the one right in the very middle where you have the best view of things. There have been times I felt like I needed to carry a tape measure with me to the movies because Sueanne would want to know, “Is this the seat in the exact middle?” That’s the best seat in the house, far enough back that you’re not straining your neck, but close enough so that you have a good view.
The Jews had “best seats” in the synagogues. Jesus made mention of it when he said of the Pharisees, “They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues.” (Matthew 23:6). As in most church buildings today, synagogues typically had a raised platform in the front where the worship leaders would sit. Visiting rabbis and other religious dignitaries were often asked to participate by reading a scripture or giving a lesson. So it was an honor to have the opportunity to sit in one of these seats up here. They were the best seats.
We also have a “best seat” in our church buildings. It’s the row on the back. I know that’s the best seat because that’s the one that fills up first.
In Mark 10, we read that two disciples of Jesus named James and John tried to get into this "best seat" thing. Jesus asked them in Mark 10:36, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And they said to Him, "Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left." “We want the best seats in the kingdom - the places of honor and prestige and power.” That’s a natural response -- we want the best seat.
In Luke 14, Jesus had some things to say about the best seat in the house, and that’s where I want us to spend our time this morning.
Let me set up a little of the background to this passage. According to verse 1, Jesus was invited to the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath for a meal. It was apparently one of those dinners that was attended by the religious "who’s who” of Jerusalem. Everybody who was anybody was there.
While Jesus was in the home, a man was brought to him who had a condition the Bible calls "dropsy." The man was probably invited so the Pharisees could put Jesus to the test, but Luke doesn’t actually say that. And despite their objections regarding healing on the Sabbath, Jesus cured the man, proving to the religious leaders that Jesus was a rabbi who had no regard at all for their traditions.
Then as things began to settle down and the guests made their way to the table, Jesus noticed there was some jockeying for position going on at the head table. The places of honor were quickly filling up. Most likely, the places of greatest honor in that day would be those closest to the host. So Jesus took this opportunity to teach a lesson. We pick up in verse 7 of Luke 14:
“So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: ‘When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, “Give place to this man,” and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, “Friend, go up higher.” Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 14:7-11)