1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.” (NRSV)
|rush hour by Beat Küng. Creative commons image on flickr|
He put a bowl of candy out on his front porch, and behind it was a sign that read: “Take one piece.”
Then he placed a hidden camera near the candy bowl, and sat behind a tall bush, watching the monitor—dressed up as the Boogeyman.
Inevitably, some trick or treaters took two or more pieces. A few especially-brazen youngsters emptied the whole bowl into their pillowcase.
When this happened, he jumped out from behind the bush and yelled, “I SAID ONE PIECE!”
He certainly gave those errant youngsters a good scare—and he felt good about teaching them not to abuse someone’s generosity.
What’s really scary (and not in a humorous way) is the king we encounter in Jesus’ parable…
He throws a wedding banquet for his son, the crown prince—and invites the who’s who of the land. This would’ve been the hottest ticket in the land. But many blow off the invitation—because of more “more important matters.” Some even kidnap, assault, and kill the king’s slaves who were sent to gather them in.
In his rage, the king destroys the murderers and the cities they live in—and then, refocuses his attention on the banquet. He sends his slaves out into the streets to bring in everyone they could find, both good and bad—until the hall is full of guests.
But there’s another problem: a guest is not wearing a wedding robe. The king asks him how he got in without one—and the poor sap has nothing to say. The king has him bound and thrown out like a sack of trash.
At this point, I’m feeling sorry for him. He comes across as a victim of the king’s crazy obsession about having a full banquet hall full.
But there are a few things we need to understand about this king: he doesn’t want a full hall to stoke his ego. He wants a full hall because the presence of guests increases the joy of the occasion. He wants people to share in his joy. Free food is but a small part of the gift here.
That’s all that the improperly-clad man seemed to be interested in. If he’d told the king that he couldn’t afford a wedding robe, the outcome would’ve been quite different. But he said nothing. He didn’t care.
The folks who didn’t come didn’t care either. All that mattered was their farms, businesses, and their own more important matters.
This parable teaches that there is nothing that you can take for granted more than the gift of God in Jesus Christ and the invitation to stand up and be counted as a member of God’s family.
In all our lives (including mine), there is a point where you say to “NO” to Jesus—and go your own way. Then, you pick up your smartphone. You turn on your TV. You choose sports, recreation, possessions; whatever you think will make you happy. You strive for perfection. You busy yourself to exhaustion. Whatever makes you look good. You wear your Christianity like a Halloween costume, but only when it benefits you.
You claim the grace of God—but God’s grace has no claim on you. Your neighbor’s good matters only to the extent that it impacts your own good. Aggression, ambition, retribution win out over patience, compassion, and forgiveness. You judge people as beneath you if they do not believe or live as you do.
Today’s parable is one of the most disturbing in all of Matthew’s Gospel—and for good reason, because you can’t afford to take God’s grace lightly. You are free to choose your commitments. God’s grace must reach the very depths of who you are if it is going to have any effect—and you choose how far that goes.
You and I have cause to be uneasy, because without Jesus, we are hungry, naked, and lost. But Jesus wants you at his banquet where the feast of life is spread. Get ready—because Jesus is going to meet you in your frustration, exhaustion, and disappointment. He will meet you in your shame, guilt, and failure. He will come to you in these difficult moments to break the vicious cycles in your life and give you life anew! And God’s not going to give up easily on you!
Life in Christ is like getting new clothes as a child—at first, it may not feel right—but you’ll grow into it! It’s the life that was meant for you!
When you’re feeling anxious or uneasy, and your heart is longing for something more—Jesus will be calling you! He wants to break the vicious cycles that wear you down and show you life anew! Let every choice and commitment be a trust in his promise. And God will fill you with wonder as you witness God’s grace and work it with your own two hands!
It’s time to leave the desert of busyness—because the feast of life is spread.