Friday, June 12, 2015

Hey, Wanna Come to a Wedding?

     This parable comes right after the two parables about the two sons and the landowner.   Jesus first addresses His authority with the parable of the two sons.  At first, the one son will not heed his father's wishes, but then changes his mind, and goes about his father's business.  The second son says the right thing--that he will be obedient--but then he isn't.   
     Then Jesus ups the ante by talking of a landowner, who leases his property to some tenants who, because they are farmers, seem to be the men for the job.  But the tenants refuse to allow the landowner to collect what is rightfully his: the harvest.  He sends his son, thinking he will be received respectfully; instead the tenants kill him, trying to steal his inheritance.  
     Now Jesus goes one step further, and shows upon whom the Kingdom of God will be built:  

"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.  
     Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'  But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  
     Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.'  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.  But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
     He asked, 'How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?'  The man was speechless.      
       Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:1-14)
     The Kingdom of God is an invitation.  No one is forced in; no one is bullied in.  No one is shamed in; no one is cajoled in.  You are simply invited.  Everyone knows what a wedding banquet was like in this 1st century culture!  Think of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle.  Dancing, singing, drinking, fine food and joyful fellowship all around, and all because two people are uniting in marriage.  Their union is a visible reminder of how God sees us:  He wants us to join Him in a lovely union, creature to Creator, with singing, dancing, and a sense of having been invited to something deeply special.  
     So, this king has prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent out the invitation earlier.  Now, he sends his servants out to let the invitees know all is ready and to head on down.
     But, the original invitees refuse to come.  Why?  Do they see the occasion as special?  Do they respect the king enough to want to be a part of what he is doing?  Do they value the king's son enough to make their appearance and support him?  They knew this day would come; yet, they refuse.  
      Perhaps the invitees are not fully aware of how ready the banquet truly is.  So, the king sends out some more servants with instructions to be very specific about how ready is ready:  the meat is a-steamin' and the ice is clinking in the glasses as the drinks are being poured.  Someday is here.  Come on down!
     But the invitees have more pressing matters--one goes out to his field and one goes over to his place of business.   
     The day is here already?  Yeah, I know the king's son would show up one day, and ask his dad for a wedding party, but not today!  I am too busy!  Wish him well, but I just can't be bothered.  
     Then it gets ugly.  The rest of the group are not just busy; they harbor murder in their hearts.  Why?  Their hatred of the king and his son has lain under the surface for a while, and now it comes boiling up in murderous rage.  
     The king's son, huh?  Who does he think he is?  What, we're supposed to stop everything and run gushing to him?  Hey, we got lives.  We got obligations.  This king's son expects way too much from us if he thinks that he's so important that we will just drop everything and show up.  Besides, you say you are the king's servants...How do we know that?  Any losers could just show up in rented costumes and start throwing their weight around, acting as if they're special 'cause they're on some kind of mission.  Sorry, boys, but such arrogance deserves a take-down.  
     Next thing you know, the servants are killed.  
     The king then takes action.  He sends in his army and gives them a right royal rubbing.  Their city fares no better.
     Everything the invitees had invested in, their fields, their businesses and their arrogance (they were so sure of themselves) is gone.  He destroys "those murderers."  The king will not be mocked.  It was one thing to refuse the invitation.  It is another thing entirely to kill the representatives of the king.  Simple refusal, while regrettable, is not a capital offense.  Refusal based on anger and jealousy that leads to murder, justifies the king's wrath.
     So, what to do?  The king sends his servants out to gather new invitees... Anyone and everyone is invited.  The servants went and brought in the "good and the bad" and the hall echoed with laughter.  The king comes in to see his new guests.  He notices one person, not attired correctly.  
     This would imply that the good and the bad managed to go home first, and out of respect to the king and his son, got into their Sunday best.  They didn't just show up.  They were shocked no doubt to be invited to such a glorious affair.  Their shock soon converted to respectful behavior and they arrived, attired in humility and joy.
    One guy, though, slipped in.  Was he invited like everyone else?  Well, he seems to know about the banquet.  He shows no respect, gives no honor to the son nor his father, the king.  
     He doesn't respond to the king's question of how he got in.  He is "speechless."  
     Does this guy think that because the invitation is given far and wide, that it is no big deal?   In other words, because the king extended it to "those people"--the sinners, the cast-aways, the failures--why should dressing up matter?  It's, well, those people!
     He shows no respect for the king, the son, and his guests.   
     The Kingdom of God is filled with those whom the King invites, and they deserve respect.   Not because of who they are, but because of the One to whom they belong. 
     These new guests walked in humbly into the banquet.  They had enough love in their hearts to be considerate of the king who called them, and the son whose wedding they celebrate.   
     The king already displayed his wrath on those who murdered his servants; he also displays his wrath on those who may accept his invitation, but don't show him or his son the respect they rightly deserve.  Just like the son in the parable who mouths his obedience and then doesn't do it, this guy accepted the invitation and then acts as if it is no big deal.  
     Obviously, the King is God and He extends His invitation to all.  He will not tolerate disrespect nor disobedience.  God is not a cosmic Santa Claus, jolly and happy to everyone, regardless of what they do or think.  This parable reminded the Pharisees and all of us that God is merciful and just.  
     His mercy swings open the doors to His kingdom, and He invites all near and far to enter and rejoice in Him and His Son.  
     His justice closes the door on those who reject Him and on those who consider His provision as insignificant.  
      Jesus, as He tells these parables, is nearing the cross.  The banquet His Father will host will serve His Son's body and blood as the meal.  Jesus is warning His listeners not to take any of this lightly.
     He is telling us, as He nears His return, the same thing:  the doors are swinging wide open to all that hear Him and accept His offering of forgiveness and grace.  
    The doors will close to those who chose to ignore or belittle His invitation.  

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