Parable of the Guests

“And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. “But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

We have learned that Jesus did not use Parables for the teaching of His disciples only but to respond to those who challenged Him. As we saw in the Parable to “The Two Sons,” (Matthew 21:28-32) “The Wicked Vinedressers,” (Matthew 21:33-46) and the “The Wedding Feast.” (Matthew 22:1-14)

Jesus also used Parables in a more casual setting as when He was a quest in the home of a Pharisee and told “The Two Debtors.” (Luke 7:41-43) When Jesus replied to a question of a lawyer and told “The Good Samaritan.” (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus used the Parable of “The Rich Fool” to settle a family dispute. (Luke 12:13-21) Jesus also used a Parable to offer His perspective on a calamity by telling “The Barren Fig Tree.” Luke 13:6-9)

In was also in a causal setting that Jesus used a Parable to tech another important lesson. It was the “Parable of the Guest.” (Luke 14:7-11) The Parable can also be called “Taking the Lowest Place” and is an illustration of the value of humility.

Before looking at the Parable let us begin by learning what was going on prior to Jesus telling this Parable. We find Jesus in the home of one of the rulers of the Pharisees on a Sabbath day. As usual the Pharisees were keeping a close watch on Jesus. (Luke 14:1) Jesus had before healed a man on the Sabbath and there was a man there who had the dropsy. Dropsy is a condition where the soft tissue swells from the excess of water that has collected in the body. Jesus knowing that they were watching to see if He would heal on the Sabbath questioned them of the legality of Him healing the man. (Luke 14:2-4) But the Lawyers and the Pharisees did not give answer to Jesus’ question.

Without the quest at the meal responding to His question Jesus healed the man of his illness. Jesus then asked another question of them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” They were unable to answer this question as it would have revealed their inconsistency of obeying the Sabbath law. (Luke 14:5-6)

Jesus has also been alert and had been watching how the quest has been placing themselves in the home. Those that had been invited had been selecting the best places to sit. In choosing their seats it is through that at the time there may have been three tables arranged in the shape of a flat bottomed “U.”

“The triclinia, or Grecian table, then in use had three sections which were placed together so as to form a flat-bottomed U. “The space enclosed by the table was not occupied. It was left vacant that the servants might enter it and attend to the wants of the guests who reclined around the outer margin of the table.” “The central seat of each of these three sections were deemed a place of honor. This struggle for precedence was a small ambition, but many of the ambitions of our day are equally small.” (MCGARVEY) Their petty positioning around the tables prompted Jesus to teach them a lesson by the use of a Parable called the “Parable of the Guest.” (Luke 14:7-11)

The setting of the Parable is a wedding feast, a common social event in that day. Jesus warns the guest against picking out the places of honor when they are finding their seats. If they pick the most honorable place to sit they may find that one of more prestige has been invited. When they arrive the host may come and ask them to move to make a proper place for the honored guest. They then would be shamed to have to move to the lowest place, which may be the only spot left.

Jesus counsels them to choose the lowest place first. That way the host may come to you and ask you to move to a higher place. Instead of being shamed you would be honored and receive recognition from the others at the table you have been seated. Jesus concluded this Parable with this truth. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Jesus has used this truth at other times as we read in Luke 18:14. “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14) We saw Jesus use this truth when He was teaching His disciples to not be as the Pharisees. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12) We also see this truth in the Old Testament. “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, But humility goes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12) James repeats this truth in his letter. “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

The point of this Parable is not choosing your proper place that you not be shamed. It is an illustration of the danger of pride. Solomon who had every reason to fall into self-pride knew the danger of pride and wrote in Proverbs. “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18) The danger of pride is not just social embarrassment but the fact that God hates a prideful heart. If we are prideful, then it will affect our relationship with our God. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Proverbs 8:13)

Pride is one of the evil sins that defiles us from within our hearts and is exposed in our outward character. As Jesus teaches His disciples. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23) Pride is what brought Lucifer down and caused him to fall. The temptation of pride is what caused man to fall in the Garden of Eden. If we are prideful, then the love of God is not in us. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

It is through a broken humble spirit that we receive the Kingdom of God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) We learn wisdom not through pride but through a humility. “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2) Humility brings to us eternal rewards greater than the world has to offer. “The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4) Humility is key in receiving the grace of God. “Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” (Proverbs 3:34)

We are disciples of Jesus, Christians. As Christians we are to be clothed in humility. None of us are holier than thou as we all fall short of the glory of God. “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) We are to have a reverent fear of our God and approach Him in humility. Too often we abuse the privileges of our faith and demand that God give us that we are not ready to receive. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” (1 Peter 5:6) We are to love God and our neighbor so we are to be in humility towards them also. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) We are to express the love of God within us and we should show that love to those who even oppose us and our faith. “To malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” (Titus 2:3)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, March 9, 2017

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