Meals play a central role in Scripture. The crucial holiday in Israel’s calendar was a meal that commemorated their deliverance from captivity, and the central commemoration of Christians is a weekly meal that reflects on God’s ultimate deliverance from bondage.
Our presence in the new heavens and earth is sometimes described as a huge feast where we take our places at a banquet table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the central part of our favorite Psalm is about God’s preparing a table in the presence of our enemies.
It’s no wonder, then, that Jesus made meals an important part of his ministry, and of all the gospel writers Luke emphasizes them the most. Some of Jesus’ most important work and teachings happen around the dinner table, and tomorrow we’ll focus on a meal where Jesus responds to implied criticism with an important lesson.
In the honor-shame culture of the first-century near eastern world, the dinner table was a great place to find honor, so Jesus uses people’s concern for the best seat at the table to show them where true honor is found.
The table is set, so to speak, by the presence of a sick man at this Sabbath meal–perhaps he was planted there to test Jesus. Regardless, Jesus challenges their belief that it would be wrong to heal on the Sabbath. He presses them to consider that perhaps their traditions had caused them to forget the purpose of God’s Sabbath law . . . to show compassion.
But Jesus’ deeper point is about where true honor is found. We often seek it through accomplishment, or we revel in the praise given by the world we live in, while Jesus says that the kind of honor that matters is found in humility . . . in following the selfless example of Jesus. In lowering ourselves and exalting others–especially those who are disadvantaged in some way–we look like Jesus, and we find true honor. The praise of our peers will fade away, but when we live an other-focused life, we anticipate incredible honor from the only One who truly matters. The way we live may not draw the praise of the world, but God watches, and he knows.
And he rewards. The best seat at the table is the one where we serve others–that’ll bring true blessings in the end.