Matthew 23:6-7 (The Place of Honor)

What four examples does Jesus give in Mat 23:6-7 that illustrate the desire of the scribes and Pharisees to be noticed and recognized by men?  What did Jesus mean by the place of honor at banquets?  Note: In large houses there was a raised platform for the “top table” where honored guests would be received.  The chief guest sat on the right of the host and the second guest on the left.  The largest and best plates of food were given to such guests[1]; cf. Gen 43:34, 45:22, 1Sa 9:22-24.  Besides their desire for recognition, what other aspect of their nature does this also illustrate about those Jesus is condemning?  Cf. also Luk 20:46-47.  Rather than being recognized and rewarded by men, by Whom ought we to seek to be recognized and rewarded, and by what means do we do that?  See Mat 6:2-4, 6,17-18.  Instead of exalting ourselves to a place of honor, what does Scripture teach is the best way to ultimately be exalted in the sight of men?  See Pro 25:6-7, Luk 14:7-11.  What principle do we find in Luk 14:11 and repeated throughout Scripture that is the key to success in the kingdom of God and being exalted to a place of honor?  See also Mat 23:12, Luk 18:14; cf. Psa 138:6, Pro 15:33, 29:23, Isa 57:15, Luk 1:51-52.  How was this principle exemplified in the lives of Saul and David, the first kings of Israel, as well as our Lord Jesus?  See 1Sa 9:21, 16:6-11, Phil 2:5-11.

In Jesus’ day the chief seats in the synagogue were at the front on a platform where they could easily be seen by men; hence the KJV translates the same Greek word as “uppermost” (Luk 11:43) or “highest” (Luk 20:46) seats.  Besides Jesus’ admonition against seeking such places of honor for oneself, what did His brother James warn against showing favoritism in such circumstances based on outward appearances?  See Jam 2:1-4.  What effect has Jesus’ words against seeking the chief seats in the synagogues had upon Christian worshipers today?  I.e., which pews tend to be the “chief seats” in most churches now, and which definitely are not?  Does this necessarily reflect a heart agreement with Jesus’ teaching, or just a mock-humility?  What is the difference?  Think: did Jesus denounce the scribes and Pharisees because they had a sincere love for the truth and were seeking the “chief seats” that would be most profitable to their souls, or because they sought the chief seats in order to be recognized by men?  In a classroom for teaching the things of this world, which seats are universally understood to be the best for learning?  How much more important are those seats for our education in heavenly things?  How was the example of those commended for seeking Jesus in fact very different from the mock humility exhibited by many Christians today?  See Mar 2:1-4, Luk 19:3-4.  Consider too, is a person with true humility any more concerned about occupying the front seat than the back seat?  Is a humble person necessarily any less likely to occupy a “chief seat”?  Cf. Num 12:3.

What was the nature of the “respectful greetings” that the scribes and Pharisees would have loved?  Note: such greetings often involved embracing, kissing (Mat 26:48-49, Luk 15:20, Rom 16:16), or offering the hand, and to a superior may have included such homage as kissing the hand (Sirach 29:5[2]), genuflecting, or bowing or prostrating oneself; cf. 2Sa 15:5, Mat 8:2, 9:18, 15:25, 18:26, 20:20, Luk 7:38, Act 10:25, Rev 3:9.  What is the significance that it was in the market places that they would especially have loved such greetings?  See again Mat 23:5a.

 


1. Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times.

2. One kisses another’s hands until he gets a loan, and is deferential in speaking of his neighbor’s money; but at the time for repayment he delays, and pays back with empty promises, and finds fault with the time.  Sirach29:5.

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