[Luke 14:8-11] “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Sit in Your Sins to Sit in His Grace
If you’re at a meeting and you’re not in charge, don’t seat yourself to close to the head of the table. It looks presumptuous. If at a reception you’re only the friend of a friend of the bride, don’t seat yourself right in front of the head table. Someone might have to ask you to move. And imagine this: Your child invites a friend over for dinner. At dinner, this friend seats herself at the head of the table and starts telling the family how things ought to be. In life and before God, don’t be like that person.
In life and in God’s presence, we should not place ourselves into a higher place than what we’ve been called to. Humility means accepting the seat in life to which we’ve been called and not living like we have a higher place over others. We live ordered lives in the order God has given us – at home, at work, in church, and in society.
Don’t presume to be in charge if no one has asked you to be in charge. And don’t undermine or envy those who have been called to lead. Instead, we should all ask how we can best serve.
Children, do not presume to be the parents or to be above them. Wives, do not presume to be the husbands and do not undermine them or their decisions. Husbands and fathers, do not presume to be higher than God by shirking the responsibility of family leadership God has given you.
Children of God, do not presume to know more than God by being argumentative against His Word. Instead of calling God’s Word old and archaic, call yourself young in faith and in need of learning. Humility sits in the chair of listening.
Do not take the higher chair over all your neighbors by correcting everyone you talk to. Your neighbor might need your ears more than your mouth or your great intellect.
Do not get so worked up and bitter about politics every time you take a seat to watch the news. Don’t think that you know so much. It might be that lifetime politicians know something about governing from their lifetime of governing, as opposed to our lifetime of mere grumbling.
Humility sometimes means seating ourselves in a chair of honest self-assessment.
Jesus today, in our Gospel lesson, tells a parable to a crowd of fellow dinner guests who had a tendency to seek honor from their fellow man. In their desire to have honor in the presence of others, Jesus noticed that these men were seating themselves in the best seats around the table, the seats closest to the head of the table, the places of honor.
In His parable, our Lord tells them that at a wedding feast, if they sit in a place of honor, the master of the feast might, in front of everyone else, have to tell them to stand up and move down lower to make way for some other more distinguished guest. This would be a great embarrassment.
Instead, we’re shown in the parable, it’s better to assume less about oneself and sit in a lower place so when the master sees you there he speaks and asks you to move up higher. In this way you sit up as high as the master has called you. And in this case the master calls you friend – “he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.”
The men to whom Jesus told this parable belonged to what crowd? To the Pharisees. The Pharisees tended to place themselves in seats of honor not just around the table but also in regards to righteousness. In regards to that question, “Am I a good person”, they sought to look better than they really were in the presence of others.
In fact, it might not have just been about appearances. These Pharisees may have really thought of themselves as being better than what they really were. The Pharisees did not make an honest assessment of themselves. Therefore, they did not seat themselves in the right place in relation to others. And they did not seat themselves in the right seat in relation to God.
How do you and I make an honest assessment of ourselves? Where should we sit in relation to God and to one another?
The Pharisees at dinner that day heard this parable. But there is a man who lived this parable. The man who lived this parable is Jesus Christ Himself, the one who told it. Jesus lived this parable, but with a twist.
Jesus, who is highest by nature, took the lower chair by choice. Jesus, who is Son of God and King of Heaven, became man – a stinky helpless child, born to a young woman. Jesus, who is rightly Master of all, took on the form of a servant and sat in the chair of slaves [Philippians 2]. And Jesus, who alone is Righteous, Pure, Without Sin, sat Himself in the sinners’ chair.
Jesus, who is All Good, sat Himself in the sinners’ chair. Jesus sat Himself in the chair that is unclean. Jesus sat Himself in the chair that is under the weight of God’s displeasure. Jesus sat Himself in the chair of those who are alienated from God. Jesus sat Himself in the chair that is in Hell and under God’s wrath and judgment. Jesus sat Himself in a chair where He did not belong, but where I belong and where you belong, in order to save you and me. The Innocent One sat in for the many guilty.
Jesus sat down in EveryMan’s chair, and thereby became the Friend of Sinners to save them. Jesus, in that saving-chair, was the friend of God who desires not the death of the wicked, but wills and desires to save the guilty.
But again, how do I assess myself? God has revealed to us a truth which gives us an honest assessment of ourselves. That truth is all of God’s Law and Commands – a law which speak not just to actions but to motives and to thoughts and to passions. The assessment is that I’m guilty.
But thanks be to God that the honest assessment of my guilt and my sin puts me exactly the chair where I find my salvation. When I sit honestly and admit all my sin and failure to God, I sit in God’s grace. When I sit in the chair of my sin, I sit where Jesus has died for me. I sit in God’s life-renewing forgiveness. When first I sit in the confession of my sin, God then calls me upward to sit at His table as His invited friend – a friend whom He helps.
Because Jesus took my guilty chair and died for my sins in it, I am know forgiven and am therefore free – free from the burdensome work of trying to convince myself that I’m better than what I am. I don’t have to do that anymore. And now I am free from having to seek the more righteous looking chair in the sight of others. We are forgiven and freed and have a friend in Jesus.
And, because the King of All has sat down in a servant’s chair, you are now freed from the burden of seeking honor in the eyes of this world. This world has seen its Creator sit in a low seat. When you seat yourself in a disposition of service toward others you sit in the King’s place. You can therefore find peace and real happiness in the lower chairs of life.
And lastly, because by my honest assessment I am found to be a sinner, I am freed from placing myself above others. I am the same as others. Therefore, I can love them.
Your Savior Jesus sat low, died and was buried. And on Easter morning God His Father called Him up to His Throne on High. Trust and love your Savior Jesus and follow behind Him on His course to your seat in heaven. Seat yourself lower than others; faithfully carry out the responsibilities of your callings in life wherever you’ve been seated by God; and when and where you’ve sinned, call yourself a sinner who is saved by a great Savior. Amen.