Reading Time: 8 Minutes
This is the third parable that Jesus told to the same audience. The scene is somewhere in the Temple complex. We can expect a large crowd of listeners, along with the chief priests and elders of the Temple. The air is thick with tension, given the conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities.
Once again, an imaginary narrator will tell the story. This person has traveled with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem. The narrator is a follower of Jesus in the true sense of the word and is aligned with the message and ministry of Jesus. The narrator continues below with the story of Jesus’ challenge to the crowd.
There was a small pause in the action, while Jesus let the full impact of his previous two parables sink in. The crowd was buzzing with opinions. I kept glancing at the religious authorities, because I knew they were one of the targets of Jesus’ words.
Again, Jesus addressed the large crowd with a parable, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.”
When Jesus mentioned the banquet, my stomach reminded me that I wish we had the kind of banquet Jesus provided for us in the wilderness. I would have loved to sit down to an all-you-can-eat meal hosted by Jesus.
I also thought about the friends I had met among the people who had joined us on the way to Jerusalem. The two blind men, who were now able to see, had made the trip. I wondered if they wanted to speak up and tell everybody what Jesus had done for them.
Given the exciting life I had been having by following Jesus, I couldn’t imagine anyone saying that they were too busy with the usual preoccupations of life to be a part of what God was doing through Jesus.
When Jesus talked about mistreating and killing the servants, I glanced over at the chief priests and elders. They looked about as guilty as could be. Maybe I was just imagining things, but they really seemed to resemble the bad guys in Jesus’ parable.
Jesus continued and said, “The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.”
When I heard those words, I thought, “It has always been this way. Leaders don’t experience God’s judgment on their own. Their actions affect the people they are supposed to serve. When they are corrupt, the judgment falls on everyone.”
Then the parable took a direction I wasn’t expecting and Jesus said, “Then the king said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
I looked over at the two blind men, who had recently been healed by Jesus. They both were nodding their heads in agreement. I expect they believed that they were part of the latecomers who were invited to the banquet. My thoughts were confirmed by the bright smiles that radiated on their faces.
Jesus concluded his parable and said, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
“Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22.1-14).
As the crowd stood in silence, I thought about Jesus’ last words. “Many are called, but few are chosen” sounded a lot like “The first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 20.16). People like me are supposed to be last place finishers, but instead we have become the chosen. Somehow, we have been given a chance to follow Jesus and to learn how to live a life like his.
An Invitation We Don’t Want to Miss
Every time when I read this parable, I think of the tremendous opportunity that Jesus has given to us. Every day, we are invited to a banquet where Jesus is the gracious host. Like the imaginary narrator of the story, we can follow Jesus and see him in action around us.
Jesus is active in our world through the presence of the Holy Spirit. If we begin our days in communion with Jesus through the Spirit, we will be better able to see him in the normal activities our our day. As we are conscious of his presence and open to his work through us, he will touch the lives of others through us.
Responsibility of Leaders
Jesus had strong words for the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Jesus made it clear in the parable that not only would they suffer because they refused his invitation to follow him, but their city would also suffer. In forty short years, what Jesus pictured in this parable would become a reality in Jerusalem. Their city would be destroyed during a war with Rome.
When I began preaching in 1968, it was estimated that 34% of Americans attended church. In 2020, it is estimated that 17% of Americans are attending church. Under the leadership of my generation of pastors the percentage of people who attend church has been cut in half.
The failure of the leadership of my generation of pastors has not only affected our personal lives, but it has dramatically affected the people that God has given us to serve.
No doubt, leadership is crucial. I am thankful for people who have prayed for me over the years. Today, I ask you to join me in praying for the leaders of Maywood Baptist Church and the other churches in western Independence. Please spend part of your daily prayer time, asking God to align all of the leaders with his plans and purposes for our community.
A Messy Church
In the parable Jesus revealed that the church would not be made up of “pure” followers. Some people accepted the invitation to the banquet, but didn’t have enough courtesy to put on clean, wedding clothes.
Don’t get me wrong. Jesus was not preaching a “clothes line” religion. He was speaking about people who seem to accept the invitation to follow him, but don’t take it seriously. They may claim to be following Jesus, but what they say doesn’t match up with their behavior. They need to take seriously the parable and the message of the Book of James.
James wrote, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2.14-18).
I don’t want to end this article on a painful note. Jesus has given us the invitation of a lifetime. He invites us to live every day with him. Through the Holy Spirit, he gives us the opportunity to follow him and to learn how to live like him. By all means, let’s take advantage of this great gift.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of being able to follow you. Thank you that one day we will sit down at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Please help us to live a life worthy of the invitation you have given to us.