Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:1-14
Doesn’t everyone love a wedding party!
You celebrate the love of a young couple and wish them a long, long life together. There is the partying with friends and family. There’s food, dancing, drinking, laughter, tears, storytelling. And we mustn’t forget the murders!
What did we just read in our scripture reading today?
Jesus is telling us another parables, a story he uses to describe the kingdom of heaven. And in the story a king’s son is getting married. So the king is throwing a huge wedding banquet, a great and wonderful feast! This is the king after all, no expenses will be spared. No cost it too high! This is going to be the party of all parties.
The invitations go out to all the dignitaries, friends, family to have everyone come. The king is having a party and everyone should be there!
But those who are invited ignore it. The invitation goes straight to the recycle bin. Some of the invitations end in death as the people attack and kill the servants who have delivered it! And what does the king do in response? He sends out his troops to kill those who killed his servants and burns their cities to the ground.
Well that escalated quickly.
First, who turns down an invitation to a party with the king? If you were invited to Will and Kate’s wedding, would your first thought be, “Let’s kill the mailman!”?
The story challenges us in many, many ways.
We totally understand the party. Everyone loves a good party. And since the king is throwing it, what a wonderful party it would be!
But that killing, it’s hard for us to understand. It confuses us in this story. This parable is challenging us in our thinking. It’s even confusing us.
Jesus is in Jerusalem, and he’s there in his final days. In Matthew 21, Jesus makes his final entry into the city on the back of a donkey. He goes into the temple and clears out the money changers, flipping their tables. And now he spends time there teaching.
He sets up today’s parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” so we know we’re going to learn a valuable lesson about God’s kingdom.
As we go through it, we might ask ourselves who the principle players are. There’s the king, the servants and the invited guests.
God is clearly the king in this story, which is why the story challenges us so much. We get that God is generous and invites everyone to come to Him. But why the violence? What is the purpose of the violence?
I’m going to look at the final guest addressed in the parable for help in understanding this.
There is a guest at the party who did not have appropriate clothing. Which again is confusing because these are people randomly invited from the streets to attend. And this guy was under-dressed and ends up being thrown into the “outer darkness”, punished for all eternity.
This seems exceedingly harsh doesn’t it? He was a random stranger invited in a desperate moment in order to make sure the party was well attended. And all of a sudden he’s judged on what he is wearing?
Do you remember scenes on TV shows or movies where a man is trying to get into an upscale restaurant, usually to reach the love of his life before she makes a decision to move on without him? But he’s stopped at the door by the maitre’d because he’s not wearing a jacket and tie. Sometimes the maitre’d says, “We have a jacket and tie we may loan you.” Seems like a bit of an odd service to offer, but then again, I’ve never been able to afford such a restaurant, so maybe it happens more often than I would expect.
This party with the king is something like that.
What if everyone who was invited to the party received fancy clothes worthy of a royal party. These random people who showed up in their jeans and t-shirts received clothing to wear at the party. The men got fancy tuxedos. The women got royal gowns. What impact would this have had on their lives?
If you did receive an invitation to Will and Kate’s wedding as a regular, common person, and on the invitation it said, “Wedding clothing provided” and you went and wore the nicest, fanciest clothing you’ve had seen to the party of the century, how would it impact you?
I would think it would be a life changing event.
And so is God’s invitation life changing.
If God is the king in this story, His invitation is life changing. Our ratty old clothes we’ve worn working in the yard have been exchanged for clothing worthy of a party in God’s kingdom. Our sin, our frailties, our weakness, our shame have all been exchanged for a life in God’s kingdom.
Our old ways are gone, and God’s ways become our ways.
The invitation is there for everyone! The card says:
“Come to God’s party! All are welcome!”
Jesus is the servant in the parable. He brings us that invitation, and look what happened to him.
Jesus was killed for trying to invite us into God’s kingdom. For trying to show the world the extravagant generosity of our King.
People rejected him, even one of those who followed him through his ministry. We remember Judas.
This story is about the consequences of rejecting God’s invitation. The story ends with Jesus saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
The invitation is for everyone, but not everyone sends in their RSVP.
Jesus brings the love, grace, and extravagant generosity of God to us in person. People respond in different ways, but there is only one right way.
That way is to realize what God is offering us and to let it transform us. God offers us new life, a new way. Our old life is gone and we are dressed in a new, pure and eternal life.
To reject this invitation is to reject God. To reject this invitation is to receive what comes of those who rejected the invitation in the parable: death, darkness, a life apart from God. A life in the “outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Our options are there before us. God’s wedding banquet or the weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Which do you prefer?
Let us welcome this gift from God. Let us receive the extravagant generosity offered to us through the invitation presented by Jesus Christ. An invitation to a new and eternal life in the generosity only God can offer.