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who is present with them. Moreover, these events occur in the context of a threat from Herod communicated to Jesus earlier. “. . . some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you’” (Lk13:31b NRSV). Therefore, the parables at the Pharisee’s house establish Jesus’ authority to teach, even after such a threat, with Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.

           If the guests are not to assume seats of honor for themselves, what are they to do? Jesus gives very wise and practical advice. “But when you are invited , go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who are at the table with you” (Lk 14:10 NRSV). The parable points to a higher authority to whom the Pharisees are accountable. It is an appropriate image to convey Jesus’ message, since the metaphor fits their understanding of how seating at a banquet was arranged. “At an ancient meal, the table was usually in the shape of a U, and the host sat at the base. The seats of honor were located next to him. Often the most honored guests arrived the latest.”[1] Thus, the host may displace those who seated themselves in order to seat those who arrived later at places of honor. Jesus’ parable is grounded in this real world setting.

            The guests at the Pharisee’s house could have heard Jesus’ parable on multiple levels. It could have been interpreted as practical advice for attending a wedding banquet. It could have been interpreted as commentary on (or criticism of) the way the guests at the Pharisee’s house chose their seats. Furthermore, it could be interpreted as a lesson on humility, even to the point of humility that they are to have before God. In addition to the other possibilities, Luke makes it clear to early listeners and readers of this gospel that the last point is the important conclusion for them (and for us). In Luke (the only gospel in which this parable is found), Jesus concludes in this way: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Lk 14:11 NRSV). Thus, it is clear that Jesus is making a profound point.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 392.

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Jesus told the parable of the great banquet (or the great dinner) while at a meal at the home of a Pharisee. The parable portrays how the kingdom of God includes people who are downtrodden – the Pharisees had dismissed such people. The parable is in the context of humility (Luke 14:11).

The Parable of the Great Banquet