Perhaps you have recently been to a wedding or some event such as that where the tables are arranged by a host. Thus, certain seats have been designated “Reserved” usually for family or friends of the bride or groom or host (who ever is putting on the party). This is to accomodate all and facilitate the seating process. Also, it would be an embarrassing thing for the host to come and have to ask to move because you are sitting in someone elses seat. Now we are getting a picture of what Jesus is talking about in Luke 14.7-11 where we find the parable of the Wedding Feast. The middle positions around the table were esteemed as honorable and were reserved for the upper class and elites who came to eat. Verse 7 says Jesus spoke this parable to the people invited who were taking those positions around the table. Perhaps some of them had to be moved, a humiliation, when a more honorable guest arrived. And so Jesus used this opportunity to teach a spiritual lesson using this earthly practice.
As we saw in v.1-6, Jesus has just established his authority as a teacher. He has healed a man of a serious and no doubt painful disease. Based upon that miracle, he has authority to teach. Again, this was the purpose of miracles – it established the authority of the message and confirmed the word spoken.
What not to do – Negative
Jesus is speaking to the guests (v.7) and so he begins “When you are invited… do not sit down in a place of honor” (ESV). The reason is because a person of greater honor than you will arrive later; this was the practice of the day – the more honorable or distinguished a person, the later they showed to the engagement. It was probably so that they could be recognized by all. Guess what? You are in their seat. And so the host has to come and ask you to move, embarrassing him. You have to move, shaming you (v.9). It is a humiliating thing all around. Jesus says you want to avoid this.
What to do – Positive
So in verses 10-11 Jesus explains what to do. Instead of taking the places of honor, when invited, sit in the lowest places around the table. But do not do this as false humility; certainly Jesus is not advocating this. In the same way the honorable guest should not be seeking the praise of men when they arrive late, so the person who takes the lowest seat should not be seeking the praise of men for their humility. Rather, have in your mind this attitude of humility. If you do this, chances are you will be asked to “move up higher” by the host. And through your humility, you will be honored by all.
Jesus has been driving toward the spiritual truth of verse 11: God opposes the proud but exalts the humble. WHen it comes to the kingdom, it is like sitting at the banquet table in the high halls of heaven. And when you are in that majestic presence, you should not think of yourself more highly than ought. Instead, you ought to honor one another above youself (Rom 12.3, 10). So how ought we to act? Peter, who may very well have been there that day, says “clothe yourselves with humility” (1 Peter 5.5). Peter goes on in that context to say that if we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that “he may lift you up in due time.” Note that God cannot exalt the person who has exalted himself. It is only the humble, the humiliated that God can exalt.