A Precept Parable
The opening verse says it’s a parable, but it just doesn’t read like a parable. It reads more like a set of precepts about good manners at a Jewish wedding banquet. So . . . what are we to do when a Scripture doesn’t gel? Ask the Spirit for enlightenment, and read the five verses again.
Soon our imagination kicks in as we picture an actual banquet with no place cards for the seating, so everyone scopes the room for a good spot. Is there an open seat at the head table? But that would be a faux pas. How about a seat close to the kitchen, on the hopes of being served first? Maybe that’s OK . . . but few would choose a remote corner, too far away to be included in sparkling conversation, a corner too dark for the busy host to note your presence.
Aha! So this is a parable about attitude! Jesus is making a point about one’s spiritual posture before God, even (especially!) in view of the great and wonderful marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).
The company which Jesus kept at that Sabbath supper (v. 1) needed help with more than their table manners. They needed enlightenment about God’s standards for inter-personal relationships and God’s preferential plans for heavenly seating. He brought home to them God’s displeasure at human pride as well as His favor toward humility.
Though the usual parable format (“The kingdom of heaven is like…”) is missing, the lesson is clear: “For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
That’s one of God’s steady standards; it works for angels, for Jesus, and for us. (By the way, Satan was the first to exalt himself, and we know what happened to him. Jesus had the opposite attitude, and, to be reminded of the attitude that produced a Savior, read Philippians. 2:5-11.)
Back To Basics
An eye-opener introduction eases us into the heavenly concept: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place . . . . ” The situation is sketched in as the self-centered person plunks himself down at the head table, telling himself the awful lie that he merits some such honor . . . oblivious to the host with his own higher standards.
It’s pretty basic: if you want to avoid the sting of public shame and exposure of your grubby selfishness, conduct yourself in such a manner that you do not prompt the host to unseat you from the dais and send you off to a corner. On the other hand, if you await the pleasure of the host, to your astonishment you may be offered a seat at the head table.
It doesn’t take long for an opportunist to figure the angles and jockey for position by hanging back in the crowd; but it takes the host even less to recognize his friend and save a special place for him in preference to the sham.
Oh, Lord, we hear echoes of “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. . . I never knew you” and “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom . . . . ” And yet another: “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . blessed are the meek . . . . ”
That’s what this parable comes down to: the attitude which God’s redeemed child has toward his redeeming Father and his fellowman: the lowliness of heart, the meekness of spirit which simply cannot be pushy against others who are also invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And, of course, Jesus does not dull the point that it is the Host who will exercise His own judgment at His own table in His own house. “The first shall be last, and the last first.”
And now we are faced with the HOW. HOW can a person change his inborn, inbred, Satan-fed, and world-nurtured natural self-seeking inclinations so as to become self-sacrificing and self-effacing and asking only for the crumbs from the Master’s table? It’s got to be a miracle.
God bless you.
–Prof. Em. Paul Koch