Summary: The invitation to be guests at God's banquet in extended to all.
Matthew 22:1-14 “The Invitation”
One of the most difficult concepts to grasp is Christianity is that God wants a relationship with us. The depth of faith is not determined by the number of religious activities in which we are involved every week. Faith is living each day celebrating God’s love and grace, and trusting that God is guiding us and walking with us through our adventures.
It is easy to become complacent in our faith or ignore the faith element (God part) of our lives.
This parable, “The Parable of the Wedding Banquet” addresses these issues.
In the first verse, Jesus sets the stage of the parable by stating that there was a king who wanted to throw a wedding banquet for his son. I really like the fact that heaven is compared to a party—a feast—a celebration. God wants everyone to participate in the celebration, so God invites everyone to the party.
In the Judeo/ Christian tradition, the first people that God invited to the party were the Jews. God invited them through their patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and through the great leader and law giver Moses. But it was not a dynamic, vital relationship that it was meant to be.
• Like the people in verse 3, the Jews wouldn’t come to the celebration. They were angry at God because God didn’t do what they wanted God to do. Or, they decided to add a little spice to the religious side of their lives and to also other gods like Baal. – Have you ever noticed that those times we are angry at God we do not want to worship or celebrate?
• The second invitation of the king, in verse 5, was ignored. The people were too busy with their lives. They had farms or businesses to manage. Certainly that sounds familiar to us.
• Like the Jews of the Old Testament (verse 6) who killed the prophets, the people in the story harass and kill the king’s messengers. The prophets were calling the people of Israel back into a relationship with God. We aren’t the first people who plug our ears and harden our hearts when we hear something we don’t want to hear.
The party was ready. The food was hot. The king still wanted people to come to his party.
The king decided to invite anyone and everyone to his party. In verse 10 the king instructs his slaves to gather all the people they found—both the good and the bad—to the party.
God’s grace is expansive; it is all encompassing. No one is excluded from God’s grace. The grace that was once assumed to be reserved for the Jews was now available to the Gentiles.
Some people believe they are worthy of attending the celebration to which God has invited them. They have lived as good a life as they needed to live in order to gain admission to heaven. Some people think of pass sins for which they are not able to forgive themselves. They believe that these sins block their entrance to the party.
According to the parable all of the people were gathered into the party, both the good and the bad. As Christians, we believe that we are able to come to the party because of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death and resurrection. Entrance to heaven and the party is not determined by our goodness, but by God’s abundant grace. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
The party has started! It began on the first Easter morning when the women discovered that they tomb was empty.
NO CHEAP GRACE
The celebration is a transforming experience. A person goes from the drudgery of everyday life to the celebration of God’s grace. Such a celebration has an effect on our lives.
In verses 11 and 12, the king notices that one of the guests isn’t wearing a wedding garment. The man refuses to celebrate; he refuses to be transformed. As a result of his refusal, the king has the man thrown out into the nether darkness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined the term “cheap grace.” This grace is what is practiced by the complacent and the comfortable. The relish the good news that their salvation is free, but they do nothing in response to God’s grace. These people conveniently ignore Jesus’ words, “If anyone would be my follower, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.”
Sometimes we don’t very well. We don’t clap our hands, sing loud, raise our hands or dance in the aisles. I guess that’s okay. But it is important for us to celebrate by savoring the life that we have, cultivating an attitude of gratitude, and share the love and grace of God with others by our words and actions. Every day God invites us to be guests at the party. Amen