If a king invited you to his son’s wedding, would you go? Of course you would go. It would be the highlight of one’s life to attend such a wedding. I lived in Spain for six years, and I remember when the Prince Felipe came to visit the University of Barcelona where I attended school. We stood outside for hours just to get a glimpse of him. It was an exciting day.
The surprising message in Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet is that those invited rejected the king’s invitation. Not only did they reject it, but they killed the messengers who came to invite them to the wedding. Shocking! The king responds with judgment of those invited. Then he tells his servants to “go to the street corners and invite anyone you find” (Matthew 22:9).
One day a poor man is on the street corner begging for food, the next he is sitting in the king’s castle feasting at the prince’s wedding banquet on fattened calves. I’ve lived in Detroit, Chicago, Barcelona and now LA – I’ve seen lots of homeless. I can only imagine what it would be like for one of them to be invited to the king’s royal banquet. I’m sure that they thought, “I’m not worthy. I smell. I shouldn’t be here.” These people knew that the king had done them a great favor, and they would be thankful. This is the grace of God: those who are unworthy are invited to approach God’s banquet table.
Jesus tells parables in order to teach, but also to shock the listener into deeper truths. What is the deeper truth of this parable? The king in this parable is none other than the King of the Universe, God. The son is God’s Son, Jesus. Those invited were the Jewish people. The Jews had been told for centuries that the Messiah was coming, but when Jesus the Messiah arrives, they do not respond to His invitation. They do not believe in Him. Their rejection of Jesus the Messiah results in judgment. Then, surprisingly, Jesus invites those on the street corners, which in Jesus’ day would be prostitutes, the lame, the poor, slaves, and of course Romans. Jesus is stating that the kingdom of God was now available to all.
In the Jewish context, this makes no sense. In Jesus’ time, a Jewish community called Qumran lived near the Dead Sea. They talk about the messianic banquet and who can enter in and eat at the table with the Messiah. They concluded that no one who is defiled in the flesh, paralyzed, lame, blind, deaf or dumb could attend, and, of course, Gentiles would not be invited. Jesus turns this upside down. Jesus invites all to his messianic banquet.
What about you? Have you accepted the King’s invitation? And, if you have, do you understand what is now required of you, to “go to the street corners and invite anyone you find?” The only way people can know about the messianic banquet is if we go tell them – both with our actions and with our words. May our lives be living proof that God loves everyone and has invited them to a banqueting table that is filled with true love, true joy, true peace, and true purpose. Who could you invite today?