12 October 2014Matthew 22:1-14
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.” (vv. 2-3)
What a fuss there is about weddings. Yes, it is an important day for all concerned, but many, including the bride and groom, may begin to wonder whether it would have been simpler to have eloped.
Look at the consequences of this wedding feast. Not only did the guests refuse to come, but the father of the groom wreaked vengeance on them for not doing so. Then he sent his servants out to bring in anyone from the streets, poor but honest, or undeserving and bad. It didn't matter, as long as his room was filled and his food eaten.
But that wasn't the end. One poor guest wasn't dressed properly (verse 11) - how could he be if he'd just been dragged in from the street - yet the angry father had him tied up and thrown back into the street again. Rough justice?
Local customs may explain some of the chaos. Guests would be invited in advance to a special occasion, but the time would not be specified. Only when the food was ready would the servants be sent out to bring in the invited guests. It was extremely discourteous to refuse that invitation even if your ongoing business provided an excuse.
To understand the story fully, we must remember that it is one of a series of parables in Matthew's Gospel set in the time of Holy Week, after the incident when Jesus angrily cleared the temple court of traders (Matthew 21:12-17) and while the Jewish leaders were plotting for his arrest (Matthew 21:45-46). Those Jews had been chosen by God, but were now rejecting the invitation to meet with their Messiah. In their place, everyone else was welcomed to join the celebration. The destruction of the invited guests was probably added to the original parable, which was written down around AD 80-90 after Jerusalem had been destroyed in AD 70, and to make the point of many Jews' rejection of Jesus.
And the guest who wasn't ready, even if the invitation was unexpected? It may seem harsh, but this isn't the only warning about always being prepared to meet with God (eg Matthew 25:1-13).
- How do you rationalise the difference between a reason and an excuse?
- How would you translate the imagery in this story into a situation today?