When I was in fifth grade I was placed in a class that was doing some experimental learning. Among other things, I particularly remember that we studied set theory and binary number systems. Little did we know at the time, that binary numbering was setting the stage for the computer age. Binary numbering took what is ridiculously simple – having only zero and one – to process enormous amounts of data.
Binary systems are actually very old, and they function on the same principle as computers. For example, if there are only two categories of people – lets say good and bad – I can extrapolate that to pretty much sort the entire population of the world. Likewise for us and them, clean and unclean, right and wrong, correct and incorrect, smart and stupid and even male and female.
The problem, of course is that we are not computers and the world we live in is not binary. Light itself is never just on or off. The dawn comes, followed by noonday then, especially in Arizona, terrific sunsets. And even after that, the nighttime sky puts on a different kind of celestial show.
The binary system of Jesus’ time was shame and honor. Status was important; being labeled honorable meant everything while being shamed was humiliating and destructive. So when Jesus made a point of including those, who by the binary system were to be excluded, it caused a major scandal. It went against the grain of how human worth was counted; it invited chaos into a system that was orderly and clear (at least to those who were on the honored side of the system).
Jesus tells us to take the place of least honor at the banquet. Only two things can happen to you then. Either you stay there, or you get invited to a place of greater honor. Neither possibility is humiliating. In the end, he took the most shamed place in the culture, the executioner’s cross, and the symbol of imperial domination. He did not stay there.
Here is a part of our second lesson from last week, Hebrews 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.