12.02.05 Lk. 14:7-14
BANQUET PLACE OF HONOR
7 He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: 8 “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. 9 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.
10 “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.
11 For everyone who exalts himself
will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself
will be exalted.”
12 He also said to the one who had invited Him,
“When you give a lunch or a dinner,
Don’t invite your friends,
your brothers, your relatives,
or your rich neighbors,
they might invite you back,
and you would be repaid.
13 On the contrary,
when you host a banquet,
invite those who are poor,
14 And you will be blessed.
because they cannot repay you;
you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Jesus instructed the disciples to invite the poor, the crippled, and the blind, so they would be blessed. These were the people with whom the leading Pharisees and Sadducees would not associate, because the religious leaders believed God cursed them by giving them an infirmity and poverty. Furthermore, these leading Jews believed they would become defiled by even associating with such people. Therefore, the status seekers were generally quick to place themselves in the most favored positions.
It was the cultural norm that, when at a banquet, guests would be seated in the order of the greatest honor to the least. The one seated to the left of the host held the “the best place” which was also known as the “place of honor.” This passage, as with the one following, provides social rules for receiving and giving of hospitality. In the ancient Middle East, social outcasts were invited to wedding banquets – it was a way of demonstrating charity to the poor. They were asked to sit quietly on the floor, lean against the wall, and were fed at the end of the banquet. These invitations were recognized by the community as a noble gesture by the host. Caring for the poor and outcast has always been a significant element in Judaism. It is highly probable that Jesus used this rule of social etiquette in the structure of His parable. One such rule of social engagement is found in the Hebrew Bible:
6 Don’t brag about yourself before the king,
And don’t stand in the place of the great;
7 for it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here!”
Than to demote you in plain view of a noble.
8 Don’t take a matter to court hastily.
Otherwise, what will you do afterward
if your opponent humiliates you?
9 Make your case with your opponent without revealing another’s secret;
10 otherwise, the one who hears will disgrace you,
and you’ll never live it down.
At banquets and feasts, guests were seated according to either their social position in the community or their relation to the host (1 Sam. 9:22; Lk. 14:8). This was commonplace among all the ancient Middle Eastern peoples. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” This basic principle was taught in years past and is another example of how Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament and not to replace it. This paradoxical phrase also emphasized the contrast by being present in Hebraic poetry. In rabbinic literature is found a similar story that the people knew quite well. In it, a certain Rabbi Yochanan, the son of Zakkai, told a parable:
It is like a king who invited his servants to a feast and did not set a time for them to arrive. The wise adorned themselves and waited by the door of the palace, for they said, “Is there anything lacking in a palace?” The foolish continued working, for they said, “Is a feast ever given without preparation?” Suddenly the king summoned his servants. The wise entered the palace adorned as they were, but the foolish entered in their working clothes. The king rejoiced when he saw the wise, but was angry when he saw the foolish, and said, “Those who adorned themselves for the feast shall sit down and eat and drink; but those who did not adorn themselves for the feast shall stand and look on!”
Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 153b
Jesus never said it was wrong to honor someone, as that is related to respect. He did condemn, however, the arrogant pride that was flaunted by the religious leaders. This narrative underscores an important point: Jesus told stories in various forms to explain His theology and, therefore, understanding the language and culture of the Storyteller is critical. In this case, there can be little question that the wedding banquet narrative gives a hint of the coming messianic banquet in which Jesus will be the central figure and His saints will be the guests.
. The significance of the messianic banquet was very important to Jesus (Heb. Yeshua). The wedding imagery between Himself and His church as it was reflected in a first century Jewish wedding is discussed by Dr. John Fischer, a messianic scholar and rabbi at 09.03.04.V1. See the following as well: Wedding garments needed at the wedding in Mt. 22:1-14 (13.03.07); the great messianic banquet in Lk. 14:15-24 (12.02.06); the wise and foolish virgins in Mt. 25:1-13 (14.01.07); only the father knew Mt. 24:36 (14.01.05); the preparation of a new home in Jn. 14:1-4 (14.02.14). See also 14.02.05.V2 where Professor John Metzger discusses the purity of the (L)lamb during the Passion Week and the related imagery of the bride and groom to the Messianic Wedding Banquet.
. Babylonian Talmud, Derek Eres Zuta 59a; Bailey, Jesus through Eastern Eyes. 246 n15.
. 2 Ch. 7:14-15; Pr. 3:34; 25:6-7.
. See also Mt. 18:4; 23:12; Lk. 11:43; 18:14; 20:46; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:6.
. Rabbi Zakkai was the last disciple of the famous Rabbi Hillel. See Parry, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. 38-39.