And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
(Matthew 22:1-3; 8-10 ESV)
Yesterday (read here) I began talking about what it means for us to see the truth of the Scriptures, and God’s plan, not merely through our dusty cultural filters, but through the eyes of the Author. Matthew 22 provides us with some clarity in the way God sees things as Jesus offers us a glimpse at the “Director’s Cut” of His story.
Jesus’ authority had been called into question by the religious professionals in chapter 21, and He began telling stories and answering questions with a ferocity that we only see a few times in the Gospel accounts. Through Matthew 21-23 we see the same Jesus who invisibly escaped angry crowds and told recipients of various miracles to make sure they didn’t mention His name boldly step out into the spotlight and rebut argument after argument. He left the “smart guys” dumbfounded and scared to ask any more questions by the end of His verbal assault. And it was this dedication of the scribes and Pharisees to appearing better than anyone and everyone else that inspires this story of the wedding feast.
Jesus tells the story of a wedding meal that a king invites the upper crust to attend, but as the scenerio plays out it is the crumbs that wind up filling the majority of the seats in the banquet hall. Jesus offers the hard-to-swallow truth that those we will be sitting beside in the kingdom may not be those we would ever choose to sit beside anywhere else. The Pharisees, proud of their pedigree and performance, would sooner open a vein than be seated next to a Samaritan, sinner, tax collector or prostitute.
I read this article from a few years ago and, considering the political season, it seemed to fit well:
The Republican Party mistakenly invited an Ohio prisoner to a $2,500-a-plate fundraising dinner in Washington with President Bush. The invitation and a letter from Vice President Cheney were sent to Robert Kirkpatrick at the Belmont Correctional Institution in eastern Ohio. Kirkpatrick, 35, was sentenced last year to nearly three years for drug possession and escape.
“I’m going to tell him that I’d be happy to attend,” said Kirkpatrick, “but he’s going to have to pull some strings to get me there.”
John Bacon, “Guess Who’s Not Coming to a Bush Dinner,” USA Today (6-5-02) p. 3A
I can’t help but wonder who it is in our world that would have been sitting at that table. It seems as though Jesus has a unique way of finding the most sensitive places in our ideologies and taking his scalpel and digging around in them. I’m just antagonistic enough to believe that He would have pointed out that He invited pornographers, pro-choice champions, homosexuals, communists, socialists, arabs, and Democrats. He would have sat them down and then looked at us with His loving eyes and said, “Do you still want to be here? Because I’ve called everyone to Me, not just the ones that you think look right, act right, or those who think they’re right.”
And in the end I believe that the Director’s Cut shows us one thing very clearly: it is not the crowd that makes the place appealing or desirable, but the Groom and His Father who are throwing the party. Our love for each other is not based upon affinity or the fact that we get along or have “so much in common” with each other. Our love for each other is based on the undeserved love that was shown to each of us by the God who loves every individual. What we find out in the Director’s Cut is that all of those “lesser thans” that were invited with us are no less and no more worthy of the grace of God than we are. There is no tiered system with God’s love. He offeres everyone the same seats at the table and the same food. The ironic truth is, however, that those of us that think we are most deserving of it are the ones who are most apt to decline the invitations to the party.
When our focus is on the Host, the guest list doesn’t matter. We can eat and drink and laugh with anyone BECAUSE we were invited. We didn’t have to be invited. But for some reason, with no regard for our insufficient credentials (whether preacher, priest, prostitute, or pagan) He sent His servants to hand us an invitation and say, “The King wants you at His table…don’t be late.”
The clear truth in this story is NOT that we will find some unexpected guests at this wedding feast, but that WE ALL will be unexpected guests at this glorious meal. If we ever begin to believe that we are the ones who deserve it, we are in grave danger of being the ones who have gotten too busy to attend.