Kingdom Seating Charts
Kingdom Seating Charts
Words of Faith 9-26-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this 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 man 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 your fellow guests.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
The response of Jesus to this whole situation might strike us as a bit odd. At first, it sounds something like the encounter we read a few verses back where Jesus suddenly began giving legal advice, but we soon could see that Jesus was teaching on a much deeper level. Here, the response of Jesus seems equally strange as He appears to be giving a set of guidelines for proper dinner etiquette.
What do you do as a guest invited to a banquet or when entertaining guests? We might find ourselves asking: Is this Jesus of Nazareth or Miss Manners? Why is Jesus talking about seating charts and invitation lists when Jerusalem looms on the horizon? Let's take a look and see.
Jesus used the setting of the banquet as a way to teach about the Kingdom of God. We might call this "Banquet Etiquette for the Kingdom.” We must realize that in the culture of the first century, a banquet was a wonderful and festive meal. Whether a religious banquet or a wedding celebration, a banquet was a leisurely meal that might last as long as six hours. It was a time of relaxed celebration where there were no enemies. To dine together was to be at peace with one another. It was a part of the Messianic hope that all Jews would one day share in a great banquet with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Prophets.
But Jesus taught that a Kingdom Banquet is quite different from those planned by our human devices. The Kingdom of God is itself a sort of banquet planned by God with some very different rules of etiquette than what we might imagine. Jesus focused on three matters that concerned banquets-- seating, invitation lists, and how we respond.
The first issue that Jesus dealt with was seating. At a banquet, guests were seated reclining on the floor around a low table or series of tables. There was a specific order in the seating that denoted the importance of a guest.
The seating chart told a great deal about either the social or religious pecking order. Where one sat was a matter of significance in terms of status. A special seat was reserved for a person who was to be especially honored. Others would hope to be in one of the better positions.
In fact, where you were to be seated might make a difference in your decision whether or not to attend a particular function. Everyone knew the social etiquette regarding such banquets, but Jesus now used the image of the banquet to teach several Kingdom principles.
Jesus noticed that the guests at this hastily arranged banquet were not seated-- instead they chose their own seats seeking the places of honor. So Jesus told 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 man 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 your fellow guests."
Can you imagine having to be asked to move from the head table? Or being ushered to a different seat? Nothing could be more embarrassing than to be told you are not as important as you thought you were. Better to pick the lowest place. Instead of picking the place of honor, choose the lowest place. For at the Kingdom banquet, those who exalt themselves will be humbled-- and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
The seating in the Kingdom is opposite of how we think of it in the world. Rather than vying for the best spot, we are to take the back seat. Rather than promoting ourselves, we are to lift up others. Rather than demanding to be recognized, we recognize others.
The way of the world is to seize for ourselves seats reserved for others. The flesh is at work when we push to the front of the line. How embarrassing if the Master of the banquet should have to ask us to move.
Have you been overly worried about your place in the seating chart of God's Kingdom? Have you refused to be seated unless you have a seat of honor? Unless you are in charge? Unless you are well recognized. Perhaps it is time to make a decision to take the last seat-- take the back seat-- offer the seats of honor to others-- offer the recognition to others. That is the Kingdom way.
Father, give me a spirit that is like Jesus. Help me to see the Kingdom seating chart. Help me to put others ahead of myself. In Jesus' name.