Summary: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding feast - is this an image that strikes a chord with you?
The Parable of the Banquet
Mt 22.1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4"Then he sent some more servants and said, ’Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5"But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8"Then he said to his servants, ’The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12’Friend,’ he asked, ’how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
13"Then the king told the attendants, ’Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14"For many are invited, but few are chosen."
I wonder how often you think about the afterlife.
What is heaven going to be like? What is hell going to be like?
Jesus gives us an insight into what heaven is going to be like in today’s Parable.
The Kingdom of heaven is going to be like a banquet or a feast.
A bit of strange metaphor isn’t it – because we don’t usually associate God with celebration – with having a good time.
So often God is portrayed as someone we have to fear and not someone with whom we can have a good time.
I wonder how many of us in Church would be offended if we were to have a wedding reception in the back of church - if it was physically possible to have one at St Nicholas’.
Church is where we should be quiet and respectful and reverent – not a place to party.
Yet if Church is where God is – then Jesus gives us quite a different picture of what Church should be all about.
Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who has prepared a banquet feast for his Son
There is some rich imagery here
The King is obviously God. Who is the Son? The Scripture tells us that Jesus is the Son of God.
And the very concept of a wedding banquet invites us to ask the question – Who is the Bride?
If we look to Scripture for the answer, we read that the Church is the Bride of Christ.
What wonderful images this parable conjures up for us
Heaven is the place where Jesus and his Bride come together – as a Bride and Groom at a wedding.
Look at some similar rich imagery in Revelation 21:
St John the Divine writes:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth was passed away – and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
The New Jerusalem symbolises the people of God – that is the Church - the Bride of Christ.
Going back to the parable, I doubt if any of Jesus’ hearers had ever been to a royal banquet, but they would certainly be able to picture the scene he was painting
Royal weddings in the first century Middle East lasted for several weeks and the banquet was the icing on the cake – the key social event of the decade.
To get the full import of the parable, we need to understand the implicit conventions of the day
It might seem strange to us that the king send his messengers out when the food is on the table.
But it would not have been strange to Jesus’ original hearers
Because in Jesus’ time, you didn’t get a written invitation by post. They didn’t have printing presses or computer printers in those days.
Instead, the host of the banquet would send his servants around to the guests a week or two before the day of the BANQUET to ask the guests if they were going to come.