Monday, Jan. 23, 2022 – Matthew 22-23
Our reading for today starts with a parable told by Jesus of a great wedding feast. In this parable, a king prepares a celebratory banquet only to result in all of his guests' refusing to attend the feast. Despite only needing to show up to this great party, the guests ignored the invitation and went about their business. Some even “seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them” (Matthew 22:6).
My first question while reading this parable is why? Personally, I have a hard time saying no to free food, so I’m puzzled as to why these guests would ignore an invitation for a feast, drinks, and a party. Even further, why would some go so far as to insult and kill the messengers bringing good news of a free gift and celebration?
Ironically, after Jesus tells this parable the religious leaders confront him and attempt to catch him in a bind. They first interrogate him with the question, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (verse 17). This question is not a genuine inquiry, but rather a ploy to force Jesus to say something that could get him arrested. Aware of their intentions, he answers their question, then is met with the next trap regarding a question of the law and resurrection. After Jesus astonishes the crowd with his answer, the Pharisees try for a third time to trap him by asking what the greatest commandment in the law is.
These three attempts by the religious leaders to stop Jesus put his parable into perspective. Maybe the guests had no interest in coming to the banquet because they thought it had no benefit for them. Maybe they weren’t hungry or thought they could make their own food much better. Perhaps they were trying to avoid others that were invited to the feast, didn’t support the marriage, or were just simply too busy to attend. Whatever the reason may be, they surely missed out.
Although the king’s reaction to his guests’ refusal might seem extreme (“he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town.”), we have to take a closer look at what’s actually being destroyed. The message of bringing goodness and favor to the oppressed and outcasts destroys the system that boosts up the rich and pious leaders. It uproots the Roman government that sees itself as invincible.
The message in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, which is actually a re-emphasis on the message of the prophets in the Jewish texts, is “Blessed are the poor.” Whether they are poor in spirit, in possessions, or in another way, this message of bringing blessing to the downtrodden is radical and offensive to those who aren’t poor.
Every single person has a seat to this great feast of grace, but those who show up to celebrate are the ones who are truly hungry for the feast. The food has already been prepared, all that is required of us is that we show up and put aside the ways of our lives that prevent us from participating in the work of God’s Kingdom. The rich people are invited, but have better things to do – those “better things” are destroyed by the radical news of the Gospel.
Questions for reflection:
- In Matthew 23:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.” How does this relate to the Parable of the Great Feast? What does it mean to “shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces”?
- Do you ever find yourself thinking the Gospel is “too good to be true?”
- What is keeping you from showing up to the feast?