Holy Week Meditations (Monday): The Ungrateful Party Guests
Sandwiched between the triumphal entry of Jesus riding into Jerusalem are a string of parables in Matthew’s gospel.
These parables aren’t random and haphazard for the biblical writer. Matthew has an agenda to explain the actions of Jesus leading up to his eventual death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.
The parable of the Wedding Feast is one of the most haunting teachings of Jesus in the Scriptures.
Matthew 22:1-14 "The Ungrateful Party Guests"
Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven/God to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. A common tradition among the cultures of Jesus’ day.
But for one problem. No one accepts the invitation.
This would be a social taboo and inexcusable for small and tight-knit communities. The father has bought the choicest of foods and drink and the guests say: no thanks; I have business to take care of.
The father in the story is not happy as you can imagine. Not only did the guests reject the invitation to the party, they killed the servants who were making the invites.
Father, sends out an army of people to destroy the ungrateful guests, and burns their city. Not happy…
But the food and drinks are still waiting to be enjoyed. The father sends a second group of servants to find anyone on the highways and byways to enjoy the wedding feast. People who’ll be grateful for the gracious invitation.
The wedding hall was packed.
But as the father comes into the party, he notices one guest in particular. This guest wasn’t wearing any wedding garments signifying they had been properly invited. He asks: “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?”
The guest had no answer. Then the king sent for his attendants and cast the wedding garment-less man out into the darkness, the place of gnashing of teeth.
What is Jesus teaching us from the parable?
God’s plan from eternity past was to choose a people for his name (Israel). Through these chosen people redemption would come by way of Jesus.
Israel are the first set of guests in the parable. Like the prophets of old, Israel rejects, and often harms these messengers of God.
The beauty and power of the parable is what the son represents. Father has spent time and money on the best wedding feast possible, and the guests want nothing to do with the festivities. In an act of grace and kindness the father invites the community to enjoy the marriage of his son.
Israel wanted nothing to do with the son, what son? Jesus, of course.
So the next invitation goes wider. Israel is still God’s chosen people, but the father (God) will find people who want to come inside and enjoy the feast (Gentiles). The gospel invitation is a message of wide-grace. The mission of God was always to include all people, not just Israel.
The curious man at the wedding feast who is not wearing the proper garments is Jesus. He is the son who will be sent out into the darkness and the place of gnashing of teeth. The one who dies for the ungrateful guests.
Jesus will be separated from the Kingdom party for a time as he suffers on the cross.
These parables woven into the last week of Jesus’ life do this kind of work on our hearts. We are the ungrateful guests when the gospel call and invitation comes.
“Sorry, don’t have time, busy, maybe later.”
But it’s not only that we reject the Kingdom-party invitation; we get violent toward Kingdom-messengers. We want nothing to do with the Kingdom-party or anyone who represents the King.
Yet, God in relentless love and grace prepares a table for all who will receive, believe, and trust the King.
The party is still on regardless if you come or not.
Jesus is uninvited, so we could be on the list. The son experiences the outer darkness, so we can be healed of our inner darkness. Jesus dies on a lonely hill outside the party on a cross, abandoned by his family; so we could be part of his family.
Oh merciful Father, I’m the one who rejects the Kingdom invitation. I know you have the best and most satisfying food and drink, and yet I’d rather eat baloney and mustard sandwiches. Father forgive me for rejecting your son like the people in the story. I’m no different. God help me ‘taste and see the Lord is good.’
*Image: creative commons