Parable of the Guests
7 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, 8 “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, 9 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. 10 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. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Dang, I knew I had too much time yesterday... I just didn't remember why!
Well, this parable isn't difficult to decipher. It's human nature to want as much or the best for ourselves as possible. We buy tickets for the best seats (we can afford) at a game or concert. We get to the theatre early so we get a good seat for a movie. Choose the largest piece of pizza, or the one from the middle with no crust, take the crust piece of a freshly baked loaf of bread, even though it may be someone else's favourite. The list goes on.
This parable is still talking directly to the Pharisees, who had invited Jesus into a trap (so they thought), as discussed yesterday. The Pharisees were all about self-importance. "I'm better than you; I'm holier than you; I pray more often and more loudly than you; I'm going to have a better place in the kingdom of God than you because I'm so good." Our friend Mr. MacArthur says this in Humbling the Exalted--Exalting the Humbled:
And He says, "When you are invited to wedding feast don't take the place of honor." Don't rush to that chief seat and find that all of a sudden somebody shows up who is more distinguished in the eyes of the host or more capable of reciprocation than you are. And you're going to find yourself being told get out of that seat, give place to this man. And then in disgrace you're going to find yourself at the back. You've gone from the proverbial penthouse to the outhouse. The wise thing to do, He says in verses 10 and 11, is start at the last place so that when the one who has invited you comes and sees you there, he's going to say, ah prasan abino, move all the way. You belong in the front. And then you're going to have honor in the site of all who are the table. They're going to say oh look, oh look at him going way up. That's good advice. I think that's practical advice, you know, be humble when you go to an event like that. Don't rush to sit in the chief seat.
You know, in a sense this was nothing new, nothing really revolutionary. These guys were experts in the Old Testament. They were experts in the law of God. They probably remember Proverbs 25:7. "It is better for it to be said to you come up here than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince whom your eyes have seen." Just built on that Proverbs 25:6-7. It's a lot better to be told to come to the front than to be told to go to the back. Is that all it's about. No, it's way more than that. This is all about the kingdom of God. This is all about clamoring for the chief place in the kingdom of God. Rushing in a display of pride and arrogance to the front only to be told by God get out of that seat.
Moving on to the second part of the passage:
And so He says, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner," there were only two meals a day in Jewish life. There was ariston, early in the day, deipnon, dinner at the end of the day. On the Sabbath, they added a third one in the morning, but it was only those two meals and so He says when you invite someone for any of those meals, do not invite...and let me just clarify this, do not only invite. This is a Semitic idiom. Not so much would be a way to say it. It's not so much for you to invite your friends or your neighbors or your relatives or rich neighbors. It's not that that's an absolute prohibition. Don't ever do it under any circumstance. Of course, you're going to have your friends. Of course, you're going to have your brothers and relatives and your rich neighbors because they're you're neighbors.
But what He is saying here is don't do that exclusively. And what He's doing is addressing the pride and the superiority and the self-seeking that He saw in their separation. And what they did was they only invited the people who could invite them back. It was, how can I understand this? I guess maybe one way to say it would be this. An invitation to a meal with a Pharisee was a kind of currency in the marketplace of Jewish society. It was a kind of currency. They exploited hospitality for the sake of self-glory and elevation.
It was the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back" kind of thing. It was a way to elevate them. I'll elevate you and you elevate me. And Jesus says, why don't you instead of doing that all time and only inviting the people who are going to promote you the way you promote them, why don't you give a reception and invite the poor, the cripple, the lame, the blind and be blessed. Why don't you, He is saying, humble yourselves? Why don't you humble yourselves?
Don't wanna be a Pharisee
Don't wanna be a Pharisee
'Cause they're not fair, you see
Don't wanna be a Pharisee
Tomorrow's scripture focus: