The Invitations to the Kingdom

“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.'” Most of us are familiar with the story found in Matthew 22, right? We went over it in Sunday School on (you guessed it!) Sunday. But so many new ideas started to reveal themselves to me while I was reading.

The story starts with a typical Jewish custom of the king calling on those whom he invited. So he calls on his friends. They “refused to come.” A little surprising to say the least. Let’s call this Invitation #1.

More servants are sent, because obviously these people don’t understand how good the food is. But they don’t really seem to care much either. In fact, some even decided that they didn’t care so much that they killed the servants (a logical course of action). This made the king mad (to say the least). It’s one thing to say no to a party twice, but quite another to literally kill the messenger. We will refer to this as invitation #2.

The king sends out servants a last time, but this time not to the invited ones. They are told to go to the street corners and invite anyone they can find (Invitation #3). The servants continue to obey – they get good people, bad people, and I assume the okay people (I like to refer to them as the purgatory people… sorry – bad joke).

When the king looks at his guests, he notices a guy who seems to have a wardrobe malfunction, and sends him to hell.

(Actually, if you want to know what really happens, see Matthew 22:1-14.)

So here’s what I’m thinking. The first invite gave me the image of Eden: God setting aside a place for us to have communion with Him. Why would anyone pass it up, right? Well, we all know what happened just two chapters later. Adam rejected the invitation. We rejected the invitation. The second is representative of Torah. God asks again: “Why don’t you just come and join me?” And yet, ultimately the Israelites decide that Torah is not for them. Israel rejected the second invitation. The third invitation is the prophetic invitation to see that “the king” is pretty mad. So Jesus is introduced. And if you actually read anything about Jesus in the gospels, you will find in no time that he extended this invitation to the poor, to the outcast-the previously uninvited. The call to communion with Yahweh is not only for the select few anymore. The select few didn’t want to come. We didn’t want to come.

So lots and lots of people are coming to the party now, but notice that none of them were originally invited (kind of scary, right?). But there is a man who doesn’t belong. Somehow he slipped in, wasn’t wearing wedding clothes, and the king throws him out. There are lots of directions I could go with just this: who invited him and didn’t tell him about the clothes? They must feel bad. Or maybe: is that a description of hell that he is sent to? No… I want to focus on the bigger issue of the story. This man missed out on the banquet because he wasn’t dressed properly. Bringing in the metaphor, this man missed out on the kingdom of heaven because he didn’t take care of something relatively basic.

I have linked “us” with the Israelites because it is us who break Shalom. We ignore Torah. We decide that food prepared by the God of the universe is just…eh-not really for us.

It takes beggars to appreciate this food. It takes the humble to say yes to the invitation. It takes the broken, the outcast, the ones that no one cares about, to admit, “Hey, I could go for a meal right now with somebody…it’s all I have going for me.” Maybe this is why a few chapters earlier Jesus said that it is the “poor in spirit” who actually have the kingdom of heaven.

And then there’s a poor man who wasn’t wearing wedding clothes… Maybe he couldn’t afford them. If so, that servant would be responsible for the hell he ends up going through (pardon the figurative language). Or maybe one of the invited would have been able to buy him some proper attire.

Or maybe that’s not the case. Maybe the guy was a slob. Maybe he was lazy.

Moral of the story:

Shopping = Salvation

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2 Responses

  1. Good thoughts Mark.
    Like with most of the parables there are parts of this story with which I just don’t know what to do. Notice that the Pharisees are pretty pissed off by what Jesus has just said. Why? Was it only because he had just indirectly associated them with those who rejected the invitation? Or does this discussion of not having a wedding robe have something to do with them as well? What kind of guy just tosses people out, especially when his guests are just pulled in off the streets anyway? I find it interesting that Jesus says “many are called but few are chosen,” when the guests weren’t really “chosen” at all… they were invited and they accepted. All they had to do was at least take it seriously enough to wear a wedding robe. But then again, this would mean Jesus only likes people who can afford a wedding robe. Is there a dress code in the Kingdom of God? Sometimes I think Jesus is just being sarcastic.

    Some scholars suggest that, originally, this parable was two separate parables: one about the guests refusing invitations and another about preparedness (the wedding robe incident).

  2. […] Mark Montgomery has written some very good thoughts on how we are invited into God’s Kingdom. […]

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