Tales from the Kingdom of Heaven: The Big Party

Here is another post from my other blob on Sunday, September 04, 2005:

On Friday, August 26, we discussed a story Jesus told about a wedding feast prepared by a king. It is found in Matt 22:1 – 14.

In the story, the king has everything prepared to throw a wedding feast for his son. He sends his servants out to remind those that had already been invited that it is time for the feast to begin. The guests ignore the invitation, so the king sends his servants out a second time with a more enticing description of the feast. This time there is a more violent response to his invitation.

After dispensing justice on those who murdered his servants, the king sends another group of servants out to extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to come to the feast. The banquet hall is filled with people. As he walks through the hall, he notices a person one guests is not wearing appropriate wedding clothes. When the man cannot give the king a reason for his oversight, the king has him cast out of the feast.

In this story, it seems those who were on the original guest list did not place a high value on being a part of the king’s feast. The king showed great patience in extending a second invitation to the same group of people. The violent response illustrates the way many people have responded to God’s prophets throughout history and may be a foreshadow of the way Jesus, the Son of God, would eventually be treated as well. The people’s own rejection of the invitation disqualifies them for the honor of being a part of the celebration.

The open invitation that is extended later illustrates God’s graciousness and His desire to have people enter celebration with Him. He wants to lavish His goodness on all that will enter His kingdom without regard to human standards.

The scene between that king and the man who was not wearing appropriate wedding clothes is a little hard to reconcile with the image of a God who loves all people. Some play down the possibility that the king would have provided appropriate wedding clothes for those who could not buy their own (not specifically mentioned in the story, but assumed by some people). Still, the image fits when you consider that in Christ’s death God provided the means by which all who are unworthy (all of us) can enter into His celebration.

Regardless if there were clothes provided for the guests, the man’s inability to give an answer shows that he himself realized he was without excuse for this oversight. He did not value the gracious invitation he had received to even change into clothes that would be appropriate for the wedding.

The key to understanding this story hangs on the closing phrase “many are called, but few are chosen.” Some have used this phrase to defend the idea of an arbitrary predestination by which God selects those who are admitted to heaven. This view reminds me of a line from REM’s “Man on the Moon:” “See you in heaven if you make the list.” This story does not express the arbitrary decision of a malicious tyrant trying to create an elite society. It is the broad invitation of a loving and good King that is unfortunately rejected by many.

The challenge for us is to take seriously the invitation of God to enter His celebration. It is an offer of unmerited favor. One person at our gathering wondered if perhaps the reason the guests did not value the feast is that they didn’t see the value in how the invitation was extended to them. When you consider that God’s invitation to us takes the form of Him dying on a messy cross, it does not seem too far from the truth.

As we closed our meeting, we pondered this question together: How seriously, do I take the invitation of God to enter His celebration?

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