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Dallas Willard is one of the most influential authors in my life. I remember the first time I read his illustration about “Bar Code Religion.”
The story goes like this. A man peeled the bar code off of a banana and placed it on a jar of mayonnaise. When the bar code was scanned it read “banana,” but it was still only a jar of mayonnaise.
Willard used the illustration to confront a current phenomena in American Christianity. People who have been baptized, prayed the “sinners prayer,” or occasionally attend church may believe that they are secure in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
However, they may be deceived. To quote another of my favorite authors, Henry Blackaby, “You can’t stay where you are and go where Jesus is.”
The point is that if we don’t exhibit a change of life because of our new relationship with Jesus, the “bar code” may be a false sense of security. When we follow Jesus, our actions show that we obey his guidance for life.
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
The parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22 is the climax of three parables that Jesus addressed to religious leaders in the area of the Temple complex. His words were designed to shock, confront and motivate them to repent.
As in other articles, the parable will be studied in sections with comments added for clarification.
— Verses 2-4 – “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.'”
People today often receive a “Save the Date” invitation and later receive the actual invitation to the event. The two invitations by the servants of the king are in some ways similar to how this common practice.
— Verses 5-6 – “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.”
There were two responses to the invitation.
(1) Some people ignored the invitation, because they thought their own business was more important than responding to an invitation from the king.
Luke recorded another time when Jesus used the parable in his ministry (Luke 14.15-24). The main emphasis in Luke was on how people thought their own activities were more important than attending the banquet.
(2) The second response was a violent rejection of the messengers who delivered the invitation. This is an unveiled condemnation of how the religious establishment opposed the ministry of Jesus, as is displayed in Matthew 21.
— Verse 7 – “The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.”
Approximately, 40 years after Jesus encountered the religious leaders in the area that surrounded the Temple, the Roman army occupied that space.
Let’s remember the purpose of parables is to shock people into repentance. Jesus’ desire was for the religious leaders to look seriously at their lives and to change their attitudes and actions toward him.
— Verses 8-10 – “Then he 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.”
Jesus was often criticized for who he accepted into the ranks of his followers. The invitation had gone out to all of Israel. The religious authorities opposed him, but the tax collectors and sinners joyfully entered the kingdom.
— Verses 11-13a – “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.“
The way the man came dressed demonstrated disrespect for the king. God gives all of us a gracious invitation to live in his kingdom, but he also requires a proper response from us.
— Verse 13b-14 – “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.”
The many (all) were called, but only a few responded to the call. The people who refuse God’s offer will find themselves on the outside of his kingdom.
Our Response is Crucial
Jesus told parables as a persuasive device to help people think about their lives and to respond to the good news of what he was doing in the world. That is why the parables are so important for today.
We have received an invitation to live as citizens of the kingdom of God. We have the opportunity to live in a daily, personal relationship with Jesus through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
The wisest Being of all is willing to be our counselor and guide. He desires to give us a new personality that is characterized by such traits as love, joy, peace and so much more.
God does not want us to cheat ourselves out of the best life possible. He doesn’t want us to be baptized or pray a prayer sometime in our past, but to not actually experience the joy of a living relationship with Jesus.
He doesn’t want us to be deceived like Willard’s “bar code” Christians. He confronts us and calls us to live in a daily relationship with Jesus that will totally change our lives.
Let’s be sure to accept his invitation.
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.