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INTRODUCTION. This parable tells the story of a widow who sought justice from a judge. She did not have a lawyer, nor did she have any witnesses to support her claim. Even her adversary did not appear in court. Her chance of being heard by the judge appeared hopeless. Nevertheless, due to her persistence, the judge finally heard her complaint and gave her justice.
A widow in Israel was often poor and had a difficult time. God had pledged to exe- cute justice for the widow (Deut. 10:17-18), and had placed a curse on anyone who perverted justice due her (Deut. 27:19). Even so, widows were generally defenseless and apt to be oppressed by those in power.
The parable of the importunate (persistent, troublesome) widow resembles that of the parable of the friend at midnight, but the friend asked his neighbor for a gift (bread), while the widow asked a judge for justice. The necessity of persistent prayer is the message of both parables.
I. THE PARABLE OF THE CHIEF SEATS
INTRODUCTION. Jesus spoke this parable when He had been invited to eat at the home of a Pharisee on the Sabbath day. At the feast was a man with dropsy, a dis- ease that caused swelling and bloating in the body due to an abnormal accumulation of fluid. Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees present if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath day. Receiving no answer, He healed the man and sent him on his way. Jesus then reasoned with those present, "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?" Again there was no answer (Luke 14:1-6). Jesus then spoke this parable.
Large feasts on the Sabbath day were common in New Testament times although the food was prepared before the Sabbath commenced in obedience to the instructions given the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex. 16:23). The tables were arranged in the form of a U. The servants entered the open end and served the guests from the middle area which was left vacant. Around the outer edge of the tables, couches or cushions were placed upon which the guests reclined as they ate. Each couch or cushion generally held three people, with the middle seat regarded as the place of highest honor. In addition, the seats closest to the master of the feast were chief seats and greatly prized. The exact hour of the meal was not always specified. Those of lower estate generally arrived early as they were grateful for the invitation and eager to participate in the festivities. Those who were of higher importance and esteem, at least in their own eyes, arrived late in order to be seen by all. If one of the early arrivals took a seat that was too high a place, he might be asked to move down to make room for the one of higher honor who had arrived later. This of course would be very humiliating.