3/5/2020 – The Parable of the Marriage Feast
Passage: Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24
Written By: Lincoln Reynolds – Wesley Alumnus
How would you feel if someone uninvited you to their wedding? Or if someone you invited to your wedding made up an excuse not to come? Or threw your invitation in the trash and ignored you? Weddings are serious business and, in ancient Israel, the culture of feasts and communal meals likely made wedding feasts even more significant than we perceive, with the Messianic Feast being the most important wedding feast of all!
You might notice some differences between Matthew and Luke’s versions of this parable, namely the reaction of the guests (Matthew: by ignoring or killing the servants; Luke: by making excuses) and the four extra verses in Matthew. I think we as Christians are very quick to put ourselves in the shoes of the guests invited off the streets – rightfully so, as that’s what the context involving the Pharisees implies. But in today’s world, where Christianity is dominant in the West, I think it’s fruitful for us to take on the role of the privileged Pharisee guests.
From this perspective, we see two types of people: those who ignore or violently reject the invitation, and those who justify excuses. How and Why do we as Christians do these things? Perhaps we read a convicting passage of Scripture or hear a sermon which challenges our beliefs or practices and then simply ignore it because we don’t like it, or because our current beliefs are easier to hang onto. Maybe a friend attempts to hold us accountable or help us in faith, and we argue against them and turn them away. Or, probably the most common, we shy away from the “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10) with a ‘righteous’ excuse, like “I don’t need to talk openly about my faith – I wouldn’t want to offend anyone and turn them away!” or “I can’t spend my time serving with the church, God wouldn’t want me to slack off on my studies or personal relationships! Besides, I give my tithe….” On that last point, it’s interesting to note that the excuses given in Luke’s account are valid excuses according to Scripture (see: Deuteronomy 20:5-8). Jesus’ reinterpretation of the Law reminds me of the passages where he says, “You have heard that it was said…but I say…” (Matthew 5:21-43).
So, what’s up with those extra verses in Matthew? The guy without a wedding robe is bound and cast out, after the King so nicely invited him in! It reminds me of two things: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” (Matthew 7:21) and the idea of being ‘clothed in righteousness’ (Revelation 19:8, Psalm 132:9). The verses in Matthew present a tough truth: if we seek the benefits of the “feast” without preparing ourselves first through a sacrificial life of faithfulness, we will be no better off than the uninvited guests.
Thankfully, our Savior is a God of forgiveness and grace. Lent is a time of personal reflection, and of preparing ourselves to meet our risen Savior. There is no better time than now to examine ourselves and to turn over our ignorance, rejection, and excuses to God, seek His transformative grace, and put on the robes of righteousness.
Prayer: God, fill us with your grace. Holy Spirit, conform our will to yours, that we may clothe ourselves with your righteousness. Lead us away from selfishness and excuses to find in you true joy and life. In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, who invites us to his banquet, Amen.