Weekly Gospel Reflection - 09 October 2011
Matthew 22:1-14 (CEB): Jesus responded by speaking again in parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son. He sent his servants to call those invited to the wedding party. But they didn’t want to come. Again he sent other servants and said to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look, the meal is all prepared. I’ve butchered the oxen and the fattened cattle. Now everything’s ready. Come to the wedding party!” ’ But they paid no attention and went away—some to their fields, others to their businesses. The rest of them grabbed his servants, abused them, and killed them.
“The king was angry. He sent his soldiers to destroy those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding party is prepared, but those who were invited weren’t worthy. Therefore, go to the roads on the edge of town and invite everyone you find to the wedding party.’
“Then those servants went to the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding party was full of guests. Now when the king came in and saw the guests, he spotted a man who wasn’t wearing wedding clothes. He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he was speechless. Then the king said to his servants, ‘Tie his hands and feet and throw him out into the farthest darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.’
“Many people are invited, but few people are chosen.”
This story that Jesus tells is part of a continuing, escalating, conversation with the religious opposition that started back in 21.23. And in each story, Jesus seems to be getting more and more irritated and specific.
The basic premise of this story is that the ‘King’ represents God and that the wedding banquet is the ministry of Christ. That Jesus is ushering in the Realm of God is evident by his statement earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, ‘[If] I throw out demons by the power of God’s Spirit, then God’s [Realm] has already overtaken you’ (Matthew 12.28 CEB). Of course, Jesus was doing exactly that. So the message is clear - through prophets like John the Baptist, God was inviting the Jewish people to be part of God’s next phase of the rescue operation. But they refused and even killed some of those who were sent to them. Because of this unyielding and violence, God would bring judgment upon Christ’s contemporaries. And in so doing, this did not mean the God’s Realm was thwarted. It means that God now turned to ‘everyone’ else, both ‘good and bad’ - meaning both Jews and Gentiles.
Now, historically, this is exactly what happened. We read in the Acts of the Apostles, that the focus turned from Jews only to both Jews and Gentiles. But the persecution from the Jewish opposition continued. And within a single generation from Jesus, the Roman Legion came in and leveled the city in 70CE.
But, there is something here I want to zoom in on. That is the idea that, since the time of Jesus, the Realm of God is a reality now. In the story, the wedding party represented God’s Realm - ‘The [Realm of God] is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son’. And, as I noted earlier, Jesus was ushering in God’s Realm. However, the manifestation of it is an ongoing process. But the fact of the matter is God’s Realm is a present reality. ‘Everyone’ ‘good and bad’ are in it now. However, one can’t live or believe any way one wishes. In the story, the king sees someone who is not dressed properly and has him taken from the party. I equate this to those who don’t yet have faith in Christ and / or are not living the Way of Christ. All humanity, since the time of Jesus forward, is living in God’s Realm. However, this is not a guarantee that one will be able to continue to live however one sees fit. No. The scriptures are quite clear that all of humanity will have to give an account for our lives. And, as St Paul wrote in 1Corinthians,
[Each] one’s work will be clearly shown. The day will make it clear, because it will be revealed with fire—the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work survives, they’ll get a reward. But if anyone’s work goes up in flames, they’ll lose it. However, they themselves will be saved as if they had gone through a fire.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC