Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Best Seat in the House Part II

He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don't recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:7-11  HSCB

Let me set things up for the incident described here.  Jesus had come by invitation to the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath for a meal attended by the religious "who’s who" locally among the sect of the Pharisees.  When He arrived, He found one of the guests was a man who had a condition the Bible calls "dropsy."  This was an abnormal accumulation of serous fluid in the body’s connective tissue.  It caused terrible, painful swelling in the body of its victim.  The man was probably invited so the Pharisees could put Jesus to the test, but Luke doesn’t actually say that.  Over their known objections regarding healing on the Sabbath, Jesus cured the man.

Though I’m sure some of them might have liked to challenge Him as to His "right" to heal on the Sabbath, they all kept quiet, perhaps only verifying to themselves what they had already heard - that this rabbi violated 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.  Probably the places of greatest honor in that day would be those closest to the host.  Jesus, ever busy explaining the Father’s attitude about things like this, could not let this one get by. You probably recognize with me that what Jesus is teaching here is the opposite of nearly everything we hear today about success.

It is not easy advice easy to take, because according to Jesus…
1.    The Best Seat in the House is the Last Seat.   "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place…"

I think it’s fairly obvious that Jesus had more in mind here than seating arrangements at weddings. Luke tells us in verse 7 that this was a parable.  The lesson of the parable is in verse 11 where it says, "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."  If you want to force yourself into the first seat, you’ll be humbled. If you willingly take the last seat, you’ll be exalted. Oh, how that goes against the grain of our culture!

I don’t remember who said it, but I do remember the quote. Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi quoted, "Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing."  In other words, being first is so important to some that it becomes the only thing they will settle for. Nothing else is acceptable. Everything else is disgraceful. I hope you understand that such a philosophy, while it might be useful in sports, chokes on Jesus’ words here. It chokes primarily on the means.  Doesn’t sound much like a winning formula, does it? You probably wouldn’t find it listed in the "Ten Most Important Habits of Successful People."

Do we see the difference in means? Our sports figure says, "go for first!" Our Lord says, "go for last." Both are telling us how to get to the top, but the difference of means is like night and day. "Recline at the last place," Jesus said. Then, when you’re asked to move up, it will be an honor.

Scripture to Claim:
"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." Mark 9:35

Devotional Archive