Jesus continues to teach the Pharisees, Scribes, and other religious elite in parable about the Kingdom of God.
It is a parable that paints a grand wedding banquet, which is more reminiscent of the ever-expanding, universal nature associated with the Gospel of Luke instead of the Gospel of Matthew. Luke often enlists the imagery of banquets with food, drink, and space abundant enough for all people, but Matthew adds a bitter taste of judgment, not once but twice, within this parable.
Recently I had been invited to the wedding of my cousin, who lives in Ohio. The invitation was expected.
Similarly, the Pharisees, Scribes, and religious elite would expect an invitation to the Kingdom of God, to this wedding banquet.
Despite the invitation to the wedding for my cousin, I declined after confirmation that my immediate family in Arizona was not invited. The reasons given were applicable to myself with the exception that my address read Indiana.
Similarly, the Pharisees, Scribes, and religious elite declined the invitation to the feast, the Kingdom of God. Additionally, members of the spiritual elite had seized, caused harm, and killed massagers from the host.
I did not seize, cause harm, or kill any person.
But as we can image, the host was not amused by their declining of the invitation and further their violent actions. Thus, the host ordered his military to destroy and burn their property.
Perhaps, my lack of violence is the reason my Jeep, house, and otherwise was not destroyed, although it apparently caused drama between my aunt and uncle due to a lack of communication. I also was not invited to the bridal shower.
The first part of this parable emphasizes, yet again, Jesus informing the religious elite that they will not enter the Kingdom of God before the sinners, who are considered unworthy. Jesus also emphasized again that the religious elite have ignored, seized, caused harm, and even killed the true messengers, or prophets, sent by God.
The parable shifts into scene two.
The host sends messengers into the town, on the road, in the back alleys to invite all persons to the prepared banquet, again seemingly with food, drink, and space abundant enough for all persons. Yes, the unclean, the unworthy, the sinners, the vulnerable easily dismissed by the elite.
This is that ever-expanding, universal invitation of God for all persons, despite:
- Race, ethnicity, or nationality;
- Gender, gender identity, or sexuality;
- Political affiliations;
- Religious adherence or lack thereof; and
- Any boundaries we seek to place on God’s grace freely given.
These unexpectedly invited guests seize such an opportunity, put on the expected robes, and gladly arrive for this banquet.
Then, we arrive at the third and final scene of the parable and that second bitter taste of judgment.
The host notices and questions one of the unexpectedly invited guests, who was not adorning the proper robe, or clothes, for the celebration. The host has this unwelcome guest removed from the celebration.
This parable does not reflect the reality of the Ancient Near East (ANE), which is common for parables, for the poor and vulnerable may not own the proper robes for such a celebration. And yet, it is deeply ingrained with theological importance, particularly the early practice of Holy Baptism.
In our rite of Baptism, we note that the newly baptized is clothed in Christ. This is when I place a quilt around the newly baptized.
This is to symbolize shredding our sinfulness, in order to take on the commitments, to imitate and embody Christ through proclaiming Christ in word and deed, seeking justice, acting with compassion and mercy, while loving and serving all persons but especially the most vulnerable.
In the ancient rite of Baptism, it occurred in a room with a small but fairly deep pool of blessed water. The soon to be baptized begun on one side of it, while the community of the baptized stood on the other side. The soon to be baptized would strip themselves of their clothing, or old self, and walk naked through the pool ensuring complete submersion in the water, symbolizing their own drowning death to the old Adam, or old self. They would exit the pool among the community of the baptized and be clothed in a white robe to signify taking on those baptismal commitments, of being clothed with Christ.
The wedding and celebratory robe in our parable is simply being clothed for the Kingdom of God. It is God’s freely given grace that incite our good deeds, which to quote Martin Luther:
“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does”.
It is not about proper theological belief.
But it is about how God’s grace changes us.
It is not about completing particular rites or proper worship.
But, in the words of Micah 6:8, it is about seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.
It is not about upholding the letter of the law.
But, it is about upholding the spirit of the law.
In the words of the Apostle Pau, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10, NRSV).
Ultimately, it is about being clothed with Christ.
It is about a change in us by God’s grace alone.
And thanks be to God for said grace. Amen.
Scripture was Matthew 22:1-14.
Originally preached 11 October 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).