Luke 14:1-14  "Where to Sit"


            Who cares where to sit right? What does that matter? Well, actually there has been  a lot in the news lately about people on airlines tricking others out of their seats, for which they paid more, saying that they want to sit with a loved one. It has become a kind of a scam.

            Actually the last time I flew back from Germany to San Francisco on my way back here, I came to my seat that I had selected and there was a woman already sitting in it. Has that ever happened to you? Usually one points out that the seat is actually ticketed to one's self and their is an apology and life goes on. This woman had a different idea. She told me that she was in her seat and that I was mistaken.

            The plane had video screens showing the corresponding seat numbers and I had my boarding pass still in hand. I held it up for her to read. "No, you are sitting in the middle seat!" she insisted. "Do I need to call the flight crew?" I responded. She finally gave me a growl and moved over. Some time after take-off she just disappeared. I guess she did find the better seat.

            Just so you all understand, I once gave up a booked seat on a train from Volos, Greece, back to Germany, a two day trip that I spent outside in the hallway of the train standing or sitting on the floor. The lady who was sitting in my seat was pregnant. Also, she was polite and kind. I never told her that I had the seat reservation card for that seat. I just stood outside that compartment in the hallway. When we finally reached our destination I remember overhearing her saying to the others in the compartment, "I am so glad that the reservation holder never showed up. I do not think I could have made the journey otherwise."

            That is to say, I do not mind giving up my seat for the right reason. If there really is a need, and the person is polite about it, I will get up and move over or stand. Another Greek story, I was taking the city bus to the National Museum when an elder lady got on with groceries. Nobody got up, so I offered her my seat. She thanked me in Greek, "parakalo para poli," and I responded, " then ina tipota." But then she just kept on talking rapid fire Greek at me, so I shrugged my shoulders and told her I was not Greek. Then, she proceeded in the loudest voice possible to shame all of the riders on the bus, stating in Greek how foreigners are polite but Greeks are not. Everyone was looking at me then. Yes, I understood that much!

            So, where we find ourselves in relationship to others does indeed matter, whether on a plane, train, or bus. What about elsewhere? When I was at Berkeley for seminary, I would swim in the athletic department's big Olympic swimming pool. So many students were swimming there all at once that everyone had to swim in circles depending on how fast they could swim. Swim too slow, and the person behind you will hit you. Swim too fast and you run into the feet of the person in front. I was like a mid-range swimmer. One time however, I really was too slow, and so came the embarrassing moment when the lifeguard tapped me on the head at the end of the lane to tell me to get into the slower lanes. What a terrible thing!

            One last example before we get to the bible again, on game night here at the church on Tuesday nights, folks really do plan out where they are going to sit for playing dominoes. Really, for instance nobody ever wants to sit to the left of Tom. He is a very astute player and knows how to mess up other people with the game! It does matter where to sit!

            Jesus is once again healing on the Sabbath. This time he is at a dinner party being hosted by Pharisees. He asks the question after healing a man if it is legal to do so on the Sabbath. It is legal by the way. You can rescue on the Sabbath, So, if your car falls into a ditch while driving to church, we can tow it out for you. Just the same, the Pharisees did not know the answer and so keep quiet. One good way to stay silent is to feign having food in your mouth. So, they all go sit down at table to eat.

            While they are seated there at table, it becomes clear that Jesus is apparently not seated at the place of honor at the table. Why else would he tell the parable that he does?! Someone else, most likely the head Pharisee of the house, has taken the place of honor. Jesus is probably somewhere near the kitchen out of the way. The moral of the story is that we should always be humble and take the lower seat until such time as we are duly elevated and invited to sit the place of honor. That is what Jesus always does even though we know that His true place is at the Right Hand of God in heaven.

            I want to unpack this idea by stating outright that in all of our dealings and meetings, Jesus should always be in the seat of honor. Right? Whenever we gather, Jesus should be the most important person. I say this partly because Thanksgiving is coming up, and we must make sure that Jesus is at table with us and is being duly honored for he is always the greatest person present.

            When you come to church, you might have noticed that we always focus on Jesus' life. Jesus is always honored here in this place. We just need to expand that out so that Jesus can be honored in all places. Jesus needs to be honored at work, at school, at the airport. Hey, you know, give up your seat for Jesus! Whatever importance you place on your own life, give that up so that Jesus can be honored in whatever the situation.

            This is great practice for when we all get to heaven. I mean, what if we get to heaven and are expecting to see Jesus but we look up at the throne and it is not Jesus! Maybe it was your former boss! Your husband? My gosh, what if it is some rapper you never even knew? So, I put forward to you the idea that if you put Jesus on the throne in your life right now, Jesus will be on the throne when you get to heaven, too! I always say our eternal life does not start at the time of death, but rather when we accept Jesus as our Savior.


            In that time, then Jesus will honor us. Jesus is the host after all. I hope you all got that from the parable. Verse 11, "for all who humble themselves will be exalted."


            After this, Jesus turns to the one who invited him, and remember that we are all supposed to be inviting Jesus to the place of honor, so this is to us, and He says: "Do not invite your friends to dinner, but people from whom you would expect nothing in return." I love this idea. You see, back in the day 2000 years ago the society was based on what is called "patronage." You tried to better your life by getting close to patrons who could give you money and honor. All of society kind of operated like a drug cartel!

            So, what will happen if you just invite people into your life to just shower them with undeserved grace? That is what we get from Jesus by the way. None of us has actually earned a free ticket to heaven. It is but by invitation to the feast in the End of Days. Jesus will let you know by invitation!

            What happens when we practice that kind of incredibly humble kind of grace with others? It says in verse 14: "You will be happy." The word here that is translated as blessed is actually the word for "happy" (makarios). Do you want to be happy in life? Really, who does not want to be happy? When you come to church you are supposed to feel happy. So feel that now! The grace is flowing down as we exalt Jesus. And, we are just going to continue to pass around that grace.

            To the last line here in the text for today: It seems to be saying that we will be “repaid” in heaven for the kindness we show in this world. I have a small difficulty with the way this is phrased in our text in the pew bibles. The original text actually does not mention “payment.” It quite clearly uses the verb “didomai” in the Greek which just means “to give” not “to pay.” And, this is for my wife who just studied about this, the verb is in the aorist middle tense, meaning “reciprocal” in nature.

            We were having a discussion in the car coming back from Friday Art Night in Hanapepe when it struck me that the way to idiomatically describe what is happening with this tense in Greek is to use the idiom in English “take on.” So, my translation is not that we will be “repaid,” but rather that we will “take on that gift from God.” I hope you all hear the difference. I also hope you all can appreciate how erudite conversations can be if you are married to a pastor. 

            To be sure, older translations of the Bible use the word “recompense.” That word is not really in use anymore. However, it simply means from the Latin “compensare” to weigh one thing against the other. The grace that you have shown others “put on the scale of justice,” if you will.

            Eugene Petersen in The Message says “the favor will be returned.” I still like my “we shall take on the gift of God” better.


Please do take on the gift of God as you show God’s gift to others!