Text: Matthew 22:1-14
For growth in the Christian life
For joy in the Lord Jesus
For banquet workers and servers
THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING BANQUET turns on the encounter between Jesus and the religious officials in the Temple. That encounter, you may recall, began with a question: by what authority do you do these things?
We moderns tend to answer such questions in terms of rights, particularly my rights. I have a right to do these things! In our consumer society, we think that the matter ends there, conveniently forgetting that our “rights” rest on the authority of the God of Creation that establishes and maintains such rights. Those who are a part of our vast law system illustrate this point: no police officer, no prosecutor, no defense attorney, no judge may act beyond the authority of the law; the careful citation of precedence is every judge’s way of saying “ I can do this only because so-n-so or such-n-such gives me authority to do so.” As citizens and as human beings we have room to act only under the authority of another.
This is also true of Jesus! We think "well, Jesus is the Son of God, so of course he can do what he wants!" A careful reader of the Gospels will notice that this is not true. The Gospel authors are keen on presenting Jesus’ work as in line with the authority of God—that Jesus did or said nothing outside the framework that God established. Jesus himself was clear about this: that he did nothing on his own authority, but on the basis of what the Father was doing, what the Father had shown him (John 5:19, 8:38). As it is with Jesus, so it is with us who are being shaped to resemble him in every way: we act not on our own authority, but under his authority. We study our Lord’s word so that we might learn how to act in accordance with his loving will. To be under his authority will likely mean that we must forgo our desires, let go our wants, endure inconvenience and even suffer for the sake of others as we grow in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), as we put on Christ like a garment (Romans 13:14).
So, what of the wedding guest? Many modern readers get indignant on the flabbergasted fellow’s behalf, yet it is important to point out that his lack of a wedding garment sticks out like a sore thumb—the host can spot him in the vast crowd. Out of everyone there, this one can’t be bothered to participate in the basic behavior expected of wedding guests, not even for the sake of gratitude! Given Matthew’s concerns for ethical behavior in the Church, it is clear that this character in the story represents those who accepted the invitation of Christ but had no interest in behaving like a follower, no interest in wearing the garment of the baptized, and no interest in being under Christ’s authority and, by extension, God the Father’s.
Let’s not forget that all we do as Christians is under the name of Christ—let’s conduct ourselves as worthy guests.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks