Summary: A sermon on Christ-like humility.
Which Pew for You?
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Do you have your favorite pew? Most of us do. For my wife and family, most of my ministry is has been second row, right hand side. I could usually count on her being there with the kids in tow, until the kids got old enough to want to sit with the youth or on their own. For most people in churches today the plan is to get there early because the best seats fill up quickly…you know? The ones on the back row! Best seat in the house right? We jockey for that seat for numerous reasons. First, we can make a quick exit when worship is over. No standing in long lines to greet the pastor, and we can beat the Baptists to the restaurant. Secondly, there’s no one behind me to see my head nodding when I begin to fall asleep. Best seat in the house I tell you. The back row.
It’s not only at church that we seek the best seat in the house. We pay extra to get seats on the 50-yard line. We pay extra to get seats in the “Artist’s Circle” at the concert. We pay extra to be near the orchestra at the opera or the symphony. There’s something within us that drives us to want the best seat in the house. I wonder what that is? Jesus had something to say about wanting the best seat in the house in Luke 14. I want to take a few minutes this morning and look at what Jesus said…see if we can figure something out about our own lives.
Let me set up the scene for you. It’s the Sabbath. One of the leaders of the Pharisees (who would have occupied one of the “best seats” at the local synagogue) invited Jesus over for lunch after the synagogue meeting. It’s not unusual that someone would do so. It was hospitable and fashionable to invite the visiting rabbi over for dinner after church. That’s been going on for centuries. It’s only been in recent years that inviting the preacher over for Sunday dinner has fallen out of favor. Can’t figure out why that is. One of my favorite things to do is eat. I can count on both hands the number of times in 20 plus years I’ve been invited over for Sunday dinner.
It’s not like it was in the old days. I’ve heard Bro. J. Roddy tell the story of his dad, Rev. A. G. Taylor. Old Bro. Taylor was pastor at Hodge UMC when his wife was with child. The day came for the delivery of the baby, and it fell on Sunday. Rev. Taylor sent his wife to the hospital and he went to church to preach. After worship was over, Rev. Taylor had previously been given an invitation to Sunday dinner at a parishoner’s home. Rev. Taylor, with his wife in labor at the hospital, went to Sunday dinner. By the time he got to the hospital, the baby was born. That baby sits with us here this morning. It was an honor to be invited to Sunday dinner, or in the days of Jesus, to Saturday dinner. It was hospitable to invite, and it was hospitable to accept. Hospitality was big in those days!
This scene with Jesus was a set up all the way, though. Luke doesn’t specifically tell us, but he gives us a clue in verse 1: “The people were watching him closely…” Yeah, they were watching him closely, and there just happened to be a man there who needed healing. Not very likely this “leader of the Pharisees” would be concerned with a sick man. The sick man was probably just a tool to use to accomplish their purpose. This was a set up effort to trap Jesus into saying or doing something that he could be charged with.
Jesus knew the routine, too. This wasn’t the first Pharisee’s house he’d been invited to. There was Simon, the Pharisee, with whom Jesus was dining when the prostitute came in and anointed Jesus’s feet with expensive perfume and washed them with her tears. Simon thought to chastise Jesus, but Jesus figure that out long before Simon spoke. Here, too, Jesus, probably laughing to himself as he watched these invited guests scrambling for the best seat, decided to use it as a teaching moment, and as was his custom, chose to use a couple of parable to accomplish the task.
Jesus always taught in parables. There were some parables that were a bit confusing, and Jesus sometimes had to explain because even his disciples couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. Parables like the seed and the sower and the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13. But, here, the meaning is pretty plain. There would be no explanation needed for these Pharisees. It was, quite simply, pride will get you nowhere.