This is the first of three blogs in a series of posts about the parable of the wedding feast found in Matthew 22:1-14.
We all understand basic wedding custom and courtesy. We know how important that is, because this is most especially one of those days where it's definitely not about us. That day is all about the bride, groom, and their families. Jesus told a parable to some religious leaders about a king who throws a traditional wedding feast for his son. The king sends out several invitations, and it's interesting who shows up.
So let’s look at the first invitation that the king sends out. The king’s son is getting married, so he starts the preparation for a wedding feast. Today, we spend a lot of time and money on our weddings, and the same was true back then. The main difference is that we have a ceremony and a celebration, and the whole thing lasts a few hours. In the time period that Jesus tells this parable, a wedding feast would last for days. There would actually be multiple large meals. It was totally common for a royal wedding to last for a week.
And since invitations went out early, you’d better have a good reason to turn it down. Even more so if the invitation came from the king. There’d be an announcement of the wedding date, then once all the final details were set, they would also be announced separately. Then, once the feast was almost ready, there’d be another announcement that it was time to make your way to the party.
Jesus says in Matthew 22:3, “He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.” It tells us that the people the servants have been sent to gather have already been invited. So they’d received their invitation and knew when the wedding would take place. No one could plead ignorance. No one could say they didn’t get an invitation. But these people still refused to come. This would have been the pinnacle of rudeness. You’ve gone through the trouble to invite people to what should be a very happy event, people you know and care about, and no one shows up.
But this is exactly what man’s response has been to what God has done. Over the course of history, God has sent out servants with the invitation to come to the wedding feast of his Son. God formed the nation of Israel to be a nation of priests to the world. Through the way he loved and disciplined Israel, the world would see God’s character and nature. God sent prophets to Israel to draw them back when they started to wander. But they ignored God’s warning and constantly went their own way. They consistently refused to come. And the leaders were most culpable. They ignored the prophets God had sent to draw them to himself. And what’s important to the leaders becomes important to the people.
But now, the Son is here. So God has sent John the Baptist as the last in a long line of prophets before Christ. John would preach the message that Israel is invited to join in the celebration of what God is doing, that is, uniting his Son and his people in marriage, an unbreakable union, thereby cleansing his people of all unrighteousness forever. And the religious leaders of Israel had still rejected the invitation that God sent out through John. They presumed that based upon their standing in the religious community that they were good. They didn’t need to come to the feast or respond to God’s invitation.
But how easy is it to think you’ve arrived? How easy is it to fall into the trap of the religious leaders no matter who you are? I think it happens a couple of different ways. Sometimes for those of us who have been raised in the church, it’s tempting for us to rely on what we’ve been blessed with—a lifetime of the church, as something that holds us above those who are just now coming to faith. And it’s usually subtle. No one just comes right out and says they think they’re better because of being raised in the church. But sometimes it comes out and other people see it. Or, because of our social standing in the business place, our profession, or our money that we should be revered in the church. Our success in the outside world should transfer into the church. But either way, we must never presume God’s grace. We need to remember that no matter when faith was given, it was all grace, whether as a child or as an adult.
The first invitation was rejected because the guests presumed the generosity and grace of the king.
What do you think the rejection of the first invitation shows us about responding to God's call?