Jesus now delivers the last in his trilogy of parables to the listening religious leaders. His teaching of tax collectors and prostitutes inheriting God’s Kingdom before or instead of them had caused disquiet. Likening them to evil, opportunistic, murderous tenant farmers created uproar and fury. Now he delivered another blow to their self-righteous puffed-up religious superiority. This story from Jesus may well be one of the most hotly debated of any of his teaching. We must remember a parable is a simple story used to illustrate a specific moral or spiritual lesson, firstly to the listeners of that time. Often times controversy is created when the allegory is taken too far and hidden meaning suggested that seems a far cry from the original context.
Jesus’ primary audience is clearly the religious leaders who were up in arms over Jesus’ actions in the temple just a short time ago. Who did he think he was? Who gave him authority to clear the temple and fill it with noisy children and the sick. Healing some of those sick, was he some sort of wizard? This story, along with the previous two, were his answers to the questions posed.
First-century Middle East culture was much more about honour and shame than our western day to day lives of the present day. But in any era or culture, an invitation from the reigning monarch to the wedding of their son and heir the prince is a big deal. I think it is safe to say that our Instagram feed would feature at least one photo of the invitation. Other appointments would be moved or declined to sit with the other chosen few in the presence of the king.
But we find the characters in Jesus’ story ignore the invitation and the reminder follow up. They were at best preoccupied with everyday work and at worst treacherous to the King. Faced with this indifference and hostility the king invited others in their place filling the banquet hall with the ‘good and the bad’. Building on the previous stories, the religious leaders plotting against Jesus were left in no doubt which side of the equation they found themselves.
The Kingdom of God is still like a banquet. The invitation has and is going out to the banquet of all banquets to celebrate the joining of Jesus the bridegroom and the sacrificial lamb that took away the sin of the world to his bride, the church as seen in Revelation 19:7-8.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.
This parable returns to an often-repeated theme in Jesus’ teaching; The expected are absent and the unexpected were present.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23
The invitation of unlimited grace brings with it limitless demand. It is not enough to wear the right label or belong to the right group the kingdom must have invaded our lives reshaped our priorities and desires. Through the work of Christ not only will our behaviours have changed but also our identity transformed. For those in this parable, their possessions became an obstacle to their discipleship but they can also become the biggest opportunity for discipleship.
Father God, I thank you for the invitation that came to me to the greatest wedding banquet in history. I will be humbled and grateful for all eternity. Continue to help and empower me through your spirit to reorientate my desires around your heavenly kingdom and help me detach from anything that draws my time and worship away from you.
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series