Looking at the most Jewish oriented of the gospels, we see a work traditionally attributed to Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples. This text recounts the parable of the marriage feast similar to that in Luke 14:15-24, but Matthew 22:11-14 has no parallel in any of the other gospels.
The king is holding a wedding banquet in honor of his son. As is the custom, he sends his servants to call those who have been invited to come to the feast that is ready. But the guests hold the king’s invitation in low regard, which symbolizes Israel’s resistance to the first servants sent by the king, the Old Testament prophets.
The king then sends out “other” servants, representatives of “the way”–the early Christians. They too, announce the arrival of the Great Banquet: “Behold! I have made ready my dinner…come into the marriage feast. All is ready.” (salvation language or eschatology speaking of the kingdom of God having come into reality) The son does not appear in this parable, because the son had been killed previously in the parable of the wicked tenants. In this parable the son is alive. The story assumes that the son has been raised from the dead. It is in his death and resurrection that “all is ready.” This time, the invitees are called neglectful. They did not care about the king’s dinner. One went to his farm, another went to his business. Both went back to preserving and expanding their economic interests.
The “other servants” are seized, mistreated, and killed. The king retaliates by sending soldiers who destroy the murderers and burn the city. You do not get angry, start a war, and conquer a city all before the pot roast gets cold!
The king zeroed in on an inappropriately dressed guest. The host must have supplied the wedding garments. How could you expect people randomly gathered off the streets to have the proper clothes for a formal affair? You do not leave for work in the morning with a tuxedo packed in your lunchbox on the off-chance that someone might drag you to a formal wedding party later in the day.
The wedding garment represents the death and resurrection of Jesus, the bridegroom. The Great Banquet has been made possible by Jesus. Anything other than the wedding garment of Christ’s death and resurrection is irrelevant. How can we relate this story to our lives? Jesus put it to the chief priests and elders about God’s invitation to Israel to attend the wedding banquet of his Son. They offered excuses and even executed God’s messengers. God was trying to extend salvation to all–but some were– and are unwilling to accept–even today.
Let us look at God as the “Inviter.” God is always inviting us to come to the water, come home, come to the banquet, come to an abundant life, come to eternal life, come to worship, come to God–be in relationship with God. In the parable God was excited about the banquet–even prepared the fatted calf, aged the wine and elegantly set the tables. God wants everyone to come to the feast to honor the Son and his bride.
What exactly is God inviting us to? What is in the invitation? God’s invitation is an invitation to service (Matthew 28:19), abundant life (John 10:10), worship (Psalm 100), eternal life (John 3:16), to enjoy Jesus’ presence (Revelation 3:20), to experience rest (Matthew 11:28), to pray (Philippians 4:6), and to turn to God in times of need (Jeremiah 33:3).
The “Invitees” are the people asked to the party, but maybe they do not like to dance (How about the “chicken dance” at weddings?). Martin Marty talked about a priest who went to visit Mexico. As each man approached the church, he opened the door for his wife or girlfriend and then gathered outside the church with the other men, who had done likewise. They would smoke until their loved ones emerged. The priest asked the men why they escorted the women to mass and then waited. “You are Catholics, right? Why don’t you go in?” “We are not fanatics.” Maybe that was the problem with those invited to the king’s banquet. They did not want to be considered fanatics. Fanatic or not, the invitation goes to all in the realm. Some reject the invitation, treating it casually. Can’t you hear the king saying, “You are kidding, right? What could be more important than an invitation to this event?” As those who have been sent out to invite others to the wedding party, we need to understand that not all will welcome us–they do not want to be seen as fanatics. Those who were invited from the streets may have been judged to be “unworthy.” We need to remember that it is only by God’s grace and mercy that we are included amongst God’s guest list.
Invitees need to remember that they cannot come to the party dressed in their own clothes. There is a “dress code.” When we stand before God we need to be dressed in the garments of righteousness that do not belong to us, but to Jesus Christ himself. Paul reminds us that righteousness comes to us through faith in Christ. The righteousness of God is based on faith (Philippians 3:9).
- God invites us in spite of our background.
- God invites us without respect to our level of education.
- God invites us without regard to our bank account.
- God invites us without regard to our race, gender, or any other criteria.
- God is building a future for us and a present time.
- God invites us to a banquet, to be present in what God is doing.
We do not want to treat such an opportunity from God casually, indifferently or even with hostility. We want to RSVP in the most rejoicing terms possible. We want to say, “Yes, God, I accept your invitation.”