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Message Supplement 12 October 2014

Today’s parable from Matthew 22:1-14 leaves little to the imagination. Jesus is making one of his most powerful statements about rejecting the Jews and Israel. Jesus’ metaphor of a king sending slaves to invite people to a wedding banquet is code for Jehovah’s historic connection to the Jewish people, and the wedding banquet for the king’s son is a reference to Jesus’ status as God’s son.

The invitation has been made—the Jews claim to be God’s singularly chosen people—but God has rejected them. Well, almost. The danger here is in anti-Semitism, either ancient or modern, since even Paul warned his gentile audience that the Jews are the first-born of God and cannot be summarily dismissed. So, where are we, the gentiles, in Jesus’ parable? The king’s invitation had been made by his slaves, but then we learn that those invited have weak excuses for not attending. The outraged king then sends his slaves to invite everyone in the area, hoping perhaps that more worthy and eager persons will respond favorably.

As the new round of invitees began to arrive, the king comes to inspect the situation. Apparently, the custom was for guests to wear a wedding garment, which one unfortunate man did not have for some unknown reason. The upset king then told his servants to bind the offending guest’s hands and feet, and throw him into outer darkness. Ouch! That’s a sad end to the guest’s brief celebration. I wonder if that poor guy had a chance to get any cake before his destruction. You can imagine some modern-day despot doing the same thing, killing a guest who offended the royal style.

What’s the moral of the banquet parable? What is Jesus trying to say to his ancient and/or modern audience? As always, there’s no knowing for sure what it is that Jesus was trying to accomplish. One of the more popular, traditional interpretations of this parable is that the Jews are risking their own alienation as they refuse God’s kingdom. Jesus may have meant that rejecting him was the same as rejecting the king’s wedding banquet. Similarly, the invitation of other guests may represent the Gospel message shifting away from the Jews and toward the gentiles. Note, however, that all guests at the wedding banquet must wear the proper uniform, which might be a metaphor for righteousness, merit, etc. In other words, there are some entrance requirements. So, if the Jews risk rejection then so do the gentiles if they also ignore proper protocol. As Jesus said himself in verse fourteen, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

–Reverend Larry Hoxey