09 October 2011

"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son." (v. 2)


Whoever said the Gospels were easy reading? This story is really tough to decode. Let's begin at the beginning. A wedding feast has been prepared, and guests have been invited. But they turn away to pursue their other interests, and the host is furious; he visits harsh punishment on them for their discourtesy.

The food awaits on the groaning tables, and the host, in disgust at the casual indifference of his intended guests, decides to open the invitation more widely. His staff roam the streets with flyers, inviting all and sundry, and so the hall is filled with wondering guests. Among them, however, is one whose dress does not match the dress code; he is ordered out -not to the bleak streets from which he had been plucked, but to a far worse fate.

Many will ask: Why? Did he have an opportunity to go home and change? Was the dress code clearly specified on the invitation? Or was the nature of the event such that everyone would know how to dress, without needing to be told?

It's clear that attempting to read this story literally, element-by-element, can finds us in a real muddle. It's hard to nail down all the details and declare them, one-by-one, either 'true' or 'false'. Teasing out the meanings is precisely what this teasing tale calls us to do, and it is in the teasing out that we shall discover what our heart is saying to us.

This story is a parable - in a style that particularly delights Matthew - about the so-called 'last things', including judgement! And in it are issues of invitation, response and commitment. God's gracious invitation calls for an appropriate response. Something more is going on than simply 'turn up and enjoy yourself'. Are you 'up for it'?

To Ponder

What, for you, is the key element in this story?

There will be guests at the wedding feast, even if not those originally intended. God's goodness is not thwarted by human indifference. What experiences can you think of when this has been the case?

What is of central importance in our response to God's gracious invitation?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr John Ogden

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