1 September 2013Luke 14:1, 7-14
“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (v. 11)
By this point in the Gospel the opponents of Jesus are watching and listening carefully in order to formulate charges against him. Some of the Pharisees were among his adversaries yet others in this group of committed godly people appreciated the ministry of Jesus, and warned him regarding the plots (Luke 13:31). The leading Pharisee who invited Jesus to lunch after the main synagogue service of the week was more likely a friend than enemy.
At a formal meal the host's place would be at the head of a long table or in the most central place if the tables formed three sides of a rectangle; the most honoured guests would be next to him and the least honoured furthest away. Precedence depended on one's rank and distinctions within society; later, after AD300, it was determined by age. As still happens in some contexts the most important guests would typically arrive late after everyone else was seated so that their entry could be the centre of attention.
In many cases the word "parable" (v. 7) refers to a story, but in this case it was used to describe some advice on etiquette because in Jesus's view guest/host relations at a banquet illustrated, or in other words is a parable of, how God will relate to his guests at the heavenly banquet. You may like to compare the parable in Luke 18:9-14 and its concluding lesson with this one.
In relation to verses 12-13 we need to know that Jewish speech idiom would say starkly, "Not A, but B" where we would speak more literally saying "B is more important that A". Jesus enjoyed parties called by his friends and yet if the kind of people who never usually got an invitation turned up then he was particularly drawn to them. He is not banning us from throwing family parties!
Belief in "resurrection of the righteous" (v. 14) developed at the end of the Old Testament period, but the New Testament usually refers to the resurrection of all. However the subsequent fate differs between those who are right with God and those who are not.
- Both the advice on how to behave as a guest and that on drawing up a guest list are presented in ways that might suggest we should be underhand and calculating in order to achieve the best personal outcome. How might we read this teaching of Jesus to avoid this conclusion?
- At a present-day wedding feast there is likely to be a clear seating plan. What contemporary situations can you think of where we may have to judge 'our rightful place'? In such instances are you likely to aim too high or too low?
- "Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind" (v. 13). If Jesus were addressing this to you today how might the list differ, and to what could you 'invite' them?
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