The Lowest Place
In Luke 14 Jesus was invited to dine at the home of a ruler of the Pharisees. The Pharisees and lawyers were watching him closely. It was the Sabbath and, of course, Jesus healed someone. But what happens next is what I want to consider. Luke 14:7-11 (ESV):
7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 "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, 9 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. 10 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. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Since customs have changed, what Jesus says in this parable might not directly apply to us when we are invited to a meal. But the general principle of verse 11 and the command to take “the lowest place” (vs. 10) applies to us in a general sense virtually all the time.
By nature, we all want the first place, the place of honor. Our old Adam desires to be first, to be served, and to be exalted. If I’m in a group, I want the others to take an interest in my life, to laugh at my comments, and to ask my my learned opinions on theology, sports, and politics (preferably in that order). Not only do I desire the first place, I want others to make way for me to sit there. I become annoyed when they do not.
If you are also like this, then it demonstrates why the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death. If we keep exalting ourselves, then finally, on the Last Day, God will bring us down.
In verse 10 Jesus teaches us the good and righteous way. We are to “go and sit in the lowest place.” This is how we should act and regard ourselves before others and before God. One example might be how Jacob humbled himself before Esau when they finally met after many years. Or how Ruth & Naomi spoke and acted before Boaz, their gracious protector and redeemer. But most of all, we think of our Lord Jesus. He did not snatch at the glorious place of honor that, by all rights, was his. Instead, he
emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:7-8).
The Lord came to serve his servants. The master wrapped a towel around his waist and washed his disciples’ feet. The visiting rabbi let the little children come to him, and he took them up in his arms. The holy one touched the leper. The righteous one spoke with the adulterous woman. He stayed at the home of Zacchaeus. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. We sing of our Lord’s humble manner at Christmas:
He came down to earth from heaven Who is God and Lord of all,
and His shelter was a stable, and His cradle was a stall.
With the poor, and mean, and lowly, lived on earth, our Savior, holy.
Born in the lowest place, the Lord went on to take an even lower place. As we sing on Good Friday:
O Sacred Head, now wounded with grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown.
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn;
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!
The cross is the most shameful, cursed place of all. And Jesus took this, the lowest place, for sinners such as us. He took the lowest place so that we might be seated with him in the highest place. God exalted him to this place. Through baptism and faith, we are raised up and seated there with him (Eph. 1:20-2:6).
In Luke 14 Jesus teaches us the proper attitude and actions we must have before God and men. We remember that Jesus is the exalted one who took the lowest place. He is the Lord who came to serve. Resting by faith in his becoming low to serve us, we now pray that we would become like him. So let us take the lowest place; let us take up our cross, in the sure hope that on the Last Day, God will raise us up.
“He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” (Luke 1:52)