Our story in Luke 14:1-14 begins when Jesus is invited to a Sabbath feast at one of the Pharisee’s house. At this feast, Jesus “noticed how the guests were jockeying for places of honor at the dinner” (The Voice). And so Jesus told them a parable:
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (NIV)
Now, is Jesus simply trying to give us savvy social advice? Is He trying to teach us shrewd ways to seek our own honor? I found this commentary very interesting for our discussion: “The parable Jesus told is actually a version of one told by other rabbis at the time – but with a noticeable difference. Other rabbis advised that one should take a seat two or three places below where one would normally sit – but not all the way at the end” (carefulfornothing.com). You see, in Jesus’ day the lowest seat was reserved for the lowest guest who was expected to act as the servant for the meal in the case that no servants were present. It was the seat that no one wanted! “[I]n taking the lowest seat one would be indicating to everyone else that he or she is not unlike a hired servant or slave.”
How often today do we catch ourselves ranking those around us? Trying to figure out how we fit into the social hierarchy? (I have certainly been guilty here.) But when Jesus tells us to take the lowest seat, he is telling us to completely skip ranking anyone (under any circumstances) and to simply consider ourselves as everyone else’s servant! Is this a radical paradigm shift for us? You bet! But how can we ever break out of these destructive thought processes that are so deeply ingrained in our psyches? Perhaps our only answer is to spend time with the Servant of Servants! After all, the more time we spend with Jesus and observe His example, the more we can’t help becoming like Him! Let’s spend some of our personal devotion time this week meditating on Christ’s example. I, for one, plan on re-reading John 13 and Philippians 2:5-11. Would you be willing to join me?
We all know the story. And we think we know what it means. I know that this is a parable that is very familiar and maybe even a little boring to many of us, but I maybe we can gain some new insights today. Of course, this parable brings many applications for our lives. Jesus wanted to give us an example of how we should love and serve those around us. But, I also think Jesus had Himself in mind when He told this story! Does that surprise you a little? Let’s think through some of this together:
“33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.” Christ journeyed from His throne in heaven to us. He saw us and had compassion.
“34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Jesus bandages our wounds from this hurting, dying world and gives us oil and wine – the Holy Spirit and the redemption of His blood. He takes us to an “inn” (the Church) and there facilitates our care and nurturing of each other.
“35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” What’s even more exciting is that Jesus Christ promises He will return and bring his reward and salvation with Him!
I love seeing a picture of Jesus through this parable! Sometimes I think we can get so caught up in seeing ourselves as the Good Samaritan that we lose sight of our own need of rescuing. Is it possible that we can even misplace our hope for salvation in our obedience to the law and our adherence to a system of worship – represented by the passing priest and the Levite, maybe? What if Jesus is trying to tell us that it is only when we see ourselves as the beaten, helpless man in need of a Rescuer, that we can receive the gift of salvation? I hope Jesus words will give us some food for thought and meditation for this next week!
In closing, I just wanted to share this beautiful and thought-provoking quote from Christ’s Object Lessons:
The Samaritan had fulfilled the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” thus showing that he was more righteous than those by whom he was denounced. Risking his own life, he had treated the wounded man as his brother. This Samaritan represents Christ. Our Saviour manifested for us a love that the love of man can never equal. When we were bruised and dying, He had pity upon us. He did not pass us by on the other side, and leave us, helpless and hopeless, to perish. He did not remain in His holy, happy home, where He was beloved by all the heavenly host. He beheld our sore need, He undertook our case, and identified His interests with those of humanity. He died to save His enemies. He prayed for His murderers. Pointing to His own example, He says to His followers, “These things I command you, that ye love one another”; “as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.