19 June 2013Matthew 22:1-10
“Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (v.10)
Each Gospel writer has his own way of gathering some of the stories Jesus told in order to get people thinking about God's kingdom. This writer is sometimes more interested in offering detailed possibilities of meaning, rather than leaving the reader to reflect on the whole story.
In the verses before this passage the reader has been given a story about the leaders of God's people rejecting God's messengers (Matthew 21:33-46), and this particular banquet and feasting tale has a darker side which involves punishment as well as reward. This was a society where hospitality was very highly valued, and an invitation from a person of power and status makes it even more important. So it may be that some of the original hearers would not have been surprised by the vengeful response to the insulting rejection of the king's invitation.
It is possible that the similarities with the earlier story were simply about underlining the meaning. However, it might be about making it clear that all God's people must take responsibility for rejecting God's word. This would then make the joy of those who received the unexpected invitation also open to all who accept.
It is usually accepted that Jesus was seeking to give people images of heaven as well as challenging their behaviour in this life. So the hearer is reminded that they may well be surprised at who is accepted into heaven and who is judged as unworthy.
The story which immediately follows this (Matthew 22:11-14) adds a dimension about being willing to be prepared, which was another strand of Jesus' stories about the kingdom.
- How would you feel about people who rudely dismissed your invitation to a party you had spent a lot of hard work preparing?
- Do you feel that gives you any idea about how disappointed God might be?
- How far does this sort of story about God's kingdom make you feel welcomed by God's invitation or worried by what it might say to you about God? Why?