“So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: ‘When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, “Give place to this man,” and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.’ But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.”
Isn’t this little parable the theological foundation of the entire Bible?
It relates to the cosmic battle between Michael and Satan. Satan’s first temptation was, “You can be like God!” Michael’s name is a question which asks a very interesting question that’s both paradoxical and illuminating, “Who can be like God?” The answer to that question is, on one hand, “No man,” and on the other hand, “The man who is God,” which is to say, “Jesus.”
It’s paradoxical because it seems to have an answer and its opposite at the same time – “no one” and “someone.” It’s illuminating because at one time it takes our focus off ourselves but at the same time directs them to our Lord Jesus, the man who is God. In Adam we are “no one,” but are born again in Christ, our “some one.”
In any event, Jesus’ parable sets up a similar cosmic contrast.
Satan chose the best place, and wanted to sit there. Isaiah prophesies Lucifer saying, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.”
There it all is: the exaltation, the sitting, the claim to be like God. It’s the path that ends up in hell, as the prophecy continues, “Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.” Or as Jesus teaches, “then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.”
There’s the pit we find the donkey and ox in, where the high ones end up, but where the low ones begin. Yes, it’s where we ought to begin, as Jesus teaches, “go and sit down in the lowest place.” Go where the ox and donkeys are, fallen, in a pit. Go there, confessing that you are among them and need help. Join the prayer, “Lord, have mercy!”
It’s at the lowest place where the one who invited you calls you “friend.” Indeed, Jesus is the friend of tax collectors and sinners – He justifies them, as we learned from the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector.
He calls you “friend” and says “go up higher.” That’s the exaltation. Ascend. Or, join the ascent of the One Who “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant,” Who “also first descended into the lower parts of the earth” and “ who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.”
St. Paul uses this truth as the foundation for the new life: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Yes, you died. You confessed yourself as “in the pit.” You joined Christ in the crypt of His manger, where the ox and donkey gathered around. Why? So that your life could be “hidden” in Him, to be revealed at His second coming.
That’s the lowest place – death. It’s the confession of Christ on the cross (from Psalm 22), “I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.” Forsaken by God, the place of cursed man; the lowest seat in the house! Where Jesus sat.
But from there, we “go higher” and “have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.” With whom do we sit at the table with?
With the one we eat in Christ’s kingdom. This theme flows throughout the Gospel of Luke. In the kingdom there is a feast. Jesus, after giving out His body and blood in bread and wine, says He won’t eat of it again until His kingdom comes. Well, He eats bread three days later in Emmaus, where they recognize Him. Clearly the Eucharist is the place of feasting with “those who sit at the table,” namely the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we have glory.