As we wrap up the Journey through Matthew, I want to end with a look at one of Jesus’ final parables. In Matthew 22, Jesus begins with the story of a wedding feast. A king prepares a banquet, sparing no expense for his guests, and at the last moment, they refuse to come. What is worse is that others actually attack and even kill some of the king’s servants. While a great chasm exists between 1st century Jewish culture and us today, this kind of response to a king is universally understood as unacceptable.
To reject the mercy and kindness of a king in the ancient world would have been a great offense, one that would cause even the most merciful kings to respond with force.
Jesus’ original audience would be equally shocked by what happens next. The king sends another group of servants to the streets to invite another group who would never expect to be recognized by a king. Those who enter receive a welcome that they could have never dreamed. However, our story provides one final warning. A final guest comes into the party not wearing the appropriate clothes. It is important to note that the king calls him friend, implying that this guest has the proper clothes yet has refused to wear them, an insult to the king. (In Matthew 26, Jesus addresses Judas with the same term when he is betrayed). The result is that this final person is thrown out into darkness for eternal punishment. Jesus is teaching in this parable that it is possible for someone to be associated with Jesus and a church and yet to have rejected his message.
As Jesus looks ahead to the cross, he exclaims the message that the King has extended an invitation to all of us, but failure to respond to the king comes with eternal regret and separation from the King.
As citizens of this great king, the final sentence of this section is something to meditate on, “for many are invited, but few our chosen.” We have been invited. How do we respond?