SERMON: Jesus’ Final Week: The Wedding Banquet

Matthew 22.1-12

1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet. ’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet. ’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.  11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe? ’ And he was speechless.

 

Jesus Final Week: The Wedding Banquet

 

I need to admit something to you today.  I didn’t tell Emily I was going to share this with you today, so I hope she can forgive me.  I have an addiction…to…electronics.

 

Hopefully, no one thought it was anything serious.

 

I have an addiction to electronics.  My current financial situation prohibits me from acting out on all my cravings, but it’s bad.  Normally, I don’t like to blame my problems on others, but this particular problem falls on the shoulders of one particular person–Steve Jobs.  His work at Apple has not only changed the world in which we live–I am guessing there are no less than 5 Apple products in this very sanctuary–he has rendered me incapable of thinking about purchasing anything other than something branded with that bitten-off apple.  I cannot do it.

 

I am not alone.  Apple has developed somewhat of a small-yet-rabidly-devoted following of people who won’t buy consumer electronics if they weren’t made in a Chinese factory under inhumane conditions.  Well, not exactly–but I digress.  There is even a website called Cult of Mac, which is dedicated to all things Apple–keeping Apple fanatics in the loop and wanting more.  It “feeds” the addiction people have to anything Apple has ever made or will ever make.

 

Which brings me back to Steve Jobs.  Now, this week, Apple is planning a big media event where they are reportedly going to announce the release the next model of their successful iPad tablet computer–making my iPad 2 old news (not even a year after it was released).  These media events always attract alto of attention.  One of the staples of these events was Steve Jobs’ one last thing.  This was the last few moments of these events.  Mr. Jobs–which is what you have to call him when you are part of the Cult of Mac–would save one last, important thing to share with the crowd.  It’s always highly anticipated.  It keeps the addicts coming back for more.

 

However, Mr. Jobs was not the first person to pioneer this tactic.  In fact, Jesus was the master of the one last thing.  We are taking the Sundays in Lent and looking into the the last week of Jesus’ life.  If we took the main events of that week–the days we typically observe as a part of Holy Week–we would only have 4 days.  The interesting thing about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was he didn’t just go to mark things off of a checklist–last supper, check; crucifixion, check.  Jesus taught things to the massive crowds which gathered around him.  He confronted the scribes, pharisees and moneychangers.  He imparted some wisdom and essentially taught his disciples some final things before he went.  In fact, you could look at the lessons he taught as a sort of one last thing.  It wasn’t any more important that any of his other teachings, but wouldn’t you want to listen to the last teachings of Jesus?

 

So–this week and next–we are going to look at a couple the one’s I thought were important.  Yes, the importance of one passage of scripture can be different from one person to the next.  The scripture which speaks most to you won’t necessarily speak that much to me.  Some people like John 3.16 (“for God so loved the world”), while still others like 2 Thessalonians 1.6 (“God will repay affliction to those who afflict you”).  The point being that I think you should look at the final week of Jesus life–beginning in Matthew 21–to see which one of his teachings speaks most to you.

 

Today’s passage is Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Banquet.  He tells this parable to a group of people which is partly made up of the religious people with whom Jesus so often quarreled.  For example, Jesus turns over the tables of the money changers right after he gets into Jerusalem–according to the timeline of Matthew.  It takes them a bit to realize, but they finally understand that the parables he is sharing are mostly rebuking them and their actions.  They wanted to arrest him right there, but the crowds were too large and too devoted.  The parable of the Wedding Banquet partly told as a warning to the crowds, and mostly as a warning to those who claimed the highest place of honor–where matters of obedience to God are concerned.

 

As a side note, I am not going to bore you with the seminarian exegesis of this scripture.  In other words, I am not going to bore you with all the metaphors and meanings contained within this passage–and there lots.  What I am going to do is break this down to something we can all take with us, as we go through Lent and seek to be God’s people each day.

 

There are two groups of people in this parable.  The Invited Guests and The Rest.

 

First, the king invites a group of people to the banquet he is throwing for his son–slaves are sent to pass along the invitation.  Some guests ignore the invitation, while the others mistreated and killed the messengers.  The king responds by killing them and destroying their dwelling place.  It’s harsh, but he’s the king.  I’m not gonna quote Mel Brooks (“It’s good to be da’ king,” History of the World Part 1), but the king allowed leeway in these matters.  You don’t refuse the kings invitation.

 

In response to being turned down, the king sends out another group of servants.  Instead of sending particular invitations, the king instructs his servants to bring back anyone who would want to attend the feast.  Why wouldn’t you?  The king had the fattened calf and oxen slaughtered.  The king–much like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son–desired to celebrate what his son had done.  As Jesus said, the banquet hall was full.

 

The good news out of all of this would be that no matter who you were, it appears that the invitation is open to all–and all you had to do was accept it.

 

One thing we need to understand about parables is that–like any good metaphor–they are not perfect.  In fact, metaphors tend to break down over time.  They are too simply designed to work as a way to define our every thought about a particular idea or problem.  So, the key to understanding a parable rightly is to focus on the thrust of the parable.  What is the overarching idea prevalent in this story?

 

For the parable of the Wedding Banquet, we need to understand the point first.  This is something like “living in the kingdom of God implies repentance, righteousness and universality.”

 

The invited guests–which we can read as stand-ins for the scribes and pharisees–were complacent.  Not only that, they had begun to pervert what it meant to live within the kingdom.  In their slaughter of the servants tasked with inviting them to the feast, they demonstrated a lack of respect and reverence toward the king.  For our purposes, we should understand this to mean that complacency within the kingdom of God is not acceptable.  Our relationship with God needs to be understood as an opportunity, and not as an obligation.

 

The king’s invitation for all to attend the banquet demonstrates to us God’s desire for us.  By the life and ministry of Jesus, God demonstrates his desire to meet us where we are.  It’s God’s attempt to recapture what he had desired for in the Garden.  The entire thrust of the Bible is God seeking to reconcile us to him.  Jesus’ parable is a reminder of that.  If you learn anything this morning, that is what I want you to walk our of here with.  God–the creator of the universe–desires a relationship with you.

 

But that’s not all.  This relationship God desires–and that we should desire–means something for us.  As is demonstrated with the guest who isn’t wearing a robe, we need to be properly dressed for the party.  In other words, the relationship God is inviting us into means that we can allow God to transform us–so that we are properly dressed.  Repentance means to acknowledge our sin and desire not to do it.  Righteousness is acting according to God’s call on our lives.

 

It’s Lent, really.  Repentance and desire to act according to how we know God desires us to act.  This parable–being one of the final teachings of Jesus–should alert us to the importance of these things.  Most important of all: God desires to share that with us.

 

And thanks be to him for that.  AMEN.

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