Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Luke 14:7-11: Before God with Empty Hands
When Jesus 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 person 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 the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

You never know what may happen when you open your home and invite someone for a meal. A true encounter with another person can be a life-transforming experience.

In chapters 14-16 of the Gospel of Luke, in the course of the journey that led Jesus to Jerusalem, we find him at table in the company of very diverse people. Jesus is welcomed by Pharisees and scribes, by tax collectors and sinners, by his disciples and is often surrounded by a large crowd. A number of Jesus’ parables are told during the meals he takes with others.

In this passage, Jesus is at dinner on a Sabbath in the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees.
The portrait that is given to us in the gospels about the Pharisees is often very critical. They had their own ideas about who should be the Messiah and how that Messiah should act. Since they were masters and teachers of the Torah of Moses, with a great number of followers, they were looked at with respect and admiration. Their prestige may have led them to claim honors and privileges. Without a doubt, Jesus’ success provoked in some of them jealousy and anger.

It is in this setting that Jesus makes an observation. What does he see? He observes how the guest who are invited to a wedding feast pick the places of honor and shove and jostle in order not to be put in the “last place”.

Jesus calls into question this type of behavior. Like the prophets of Israel, he invites his listeners to change their hearts and renounce the values and ways of acting current in society. Jesus upsets the logic of a world which often gives great importance to merit, honors and privileges.

However, Jesus is not just teaching good table-manners. In fact, Jesus is speaking about the Kingdom of God, which often in the gospel is referred to as a wedding feast or a banquet. The Kingdom of God will propose new priorities and other values, calling for an inner transformation and a new way of living.

Through this parable, Jesus denounces a religious practice that leads to self-justification, spiritual pretentiousness and arrogance, of claiming “rights” before God. He invites his listeners to place themselves before God in an attitude of humility.

In God’s Kingdom we are invited to present ourselves before God with empty hands, so that God may fill them. Real honor will come from what is given to us by another. We follow a new logic: everything is gift, everything is grace. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. There will no longer be a need to push and shove. Everyone will be invited to participate and given a “place of honor”. But, in order to enter the Kingdom you must change your way of seeing things.

Furthermore, Jesus speaks in this way because he wants to reveal to us who God truly is. Through the way that he lived, Jesus reveals to us a God who does not pick the place of honor but rather becomes a servant. He is capable of inviting us to a great banquet but also of getting up and washing our feet (John 13). “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

- What are the values that are upheld as important in the world around you? How does the Gospel challenge or affirm them?

- How do you understand Jesus’ words “All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted”?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 February 2023