Today’s Reading: Matthew 22:1-33 (additional reading: Psalm 27:1-6 & Proverbs 6:20-26)
It was unlikely that any of the people Jesus was speaking to had ever actually been to a royal wedding feast, but they were all familiar with wedding feasts in general and had some idea of the importance and magnificence of one that a king would prepare for his own son.
In that day and time, a wedding feast was the highlight of all social life. And a wedding feast that a king prepared for his son would be the “mother of all feasts”. Jesus was picturing the most elaborate celebration possible. This was the ultimate party.
The truth that the parable is relating to us is that God is going to throw a huge party at the end of the age. In fact, the preparations have already begun and drinks and hors d’oeuvre are being served. It is going to be a party in honour of his Son and his bride — all those who love and belong to him. So the first thing we notice about this parable is that: God’s invitation is a summons to joy. God’s call is an invitation to a party! There will be feasting, dancing and great joy. There will be nothing lacking at this party. The food and drink will never run out. There will be friends and loved ones there, and best of all the King and his Son will be present.
For sure Jesus’ hearers were probably shocked at this story, because those who were invited did not want to come. They must have thought – who wouldn’t go to a royal wedding? In the parable, people found excuses. They had other things to do. More than that, they did not want to be invited to the king’s party and became angry at those who were inviting them. Jesus’ audience could not imagine people failing to accept the invitation to a king’s banquet. The story bordered on the absurd, because no one would turn down such an invitation. The parable points to the staggering sin of indifference. Some of the people ignored the invitation. They had other things on their minds. They wanted to get caught up on their work or take a walk, and the invitation was interfering with their plans. What Jesus was doing in this parable was attacking the appalling apathy that looks at God’s gracious invitation to life and joy, and merely sighs with indifference. Not to mention the hostile reaction of those who were invited. It is an unbelievable response — a gross discourtesy!
But the call of God is always an invitation to ecstasy and life. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). He also said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). How is it then that the world looks at God’s invitation to a party like it is an invitation to a funeral? This is a King’s feast, a once-in-a-lifetime experience! How can God’s good news be thought of as bad news? Worse yet, how is it that it is treated as no news at all.
Maybe part of the problem is that we who are supposed to be feasting at this table of joy seem to be so little affected by it ourselves. Their attitudes are sour and their expressions dour. It all seems like such serious business, instead of a celebration. Nietzsche, the famous atheist, said, “If you want me to believe in your Redeemer, you’re going to have to look a lot more redeemed.” As someone said, “If you have the joy down in your heart, notify your face.”