Matthew 22:1-14
A Parable Of The Kingdom Of God

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  "Jesus used parables and spoke them to make it easy for people to understand."  Sometimes there are people who say that.  It is usually people who have never properly read the Bible.  Actually, when you read the parables of the Lord one by one, they are not easy reading at all.  Instead, when you look at them with common sense, many of them are abnormal tales that are hard to accept.  They are the kind of stories that make us feel like saying, without even thinking, "How dumb!"  It's not because they are words spoken about two thousand years ago.  The people back then must have thought that way too.  The parable for today goes like that too.  We should direct our attention closely to its abnormality first.  In addition, it seems that the Lord designed them for us to place our very selves into them.

Abnormal People And An Abnormal King

2.  So, where lies the abnormality of this narrative?  The words, "Thereupon, the king was angry, sent his soldiers, destroyed even the murderers, and burned up that town," (verse seven), may get stuck in the hearts of some.  The text certainly says something very unsettling here.  Or, there may be some who have felt resistance to the words of the king in verse thirteen.  "The king said to those nearby.  'Retrain the hands and the feet of this man and throw him out into the outer darkness.  He will weep and grind his teeth out there,'" (verse thirteen).  When people read harsh words like this, they will think, "There is no way Jesus said such a thing."

3.  But, what this king did is not abnormal at all when we speak with the common sense of the world in making distinction between matters of good or evil.  This is something that happens a lot.  [It can happen] even among ourselves; don't we get in a huff when we are insulted?  If a tyrant of some nation is insulted in some similar fashion [as the king was in the parable], then something akin to this might just happen.  Likewise, the abnormal thing we ought to see in this narrative is not the severity of the king.

4.  Let's look carefully at this scene.  The first thing that appears in the text here is "the people who had been invited."  They were invited to the wedding feast for the prince.  It was a banquet that meant a great deal to both the king and the prince.  The king invited the people there and wanted to share his joy with them.  According to the custom of that time the king sent his aides to "the people who had been invited" again on the very day.  But, they "didn't want to come" at all.  Such a thing must have been unthinkable to do in the world back then.  First, we are given here an illustration of the very abnormally rude people.

5.  However, there is something baffling about the above.  It is the actions of the king afterwards.  Why in the world would the king of a nation send another message to such discourteous and rude people?  What's more, when this king sends his aides he even prepares a polite message of invitation.  "The preparation of the meal is set.  We have butchered the steers and the fattened cattle and have made thorough preparations.  Now, please come to the wedding feast."  Are these the words of the king?  It is truly an image of an abnormal king here.

6.  Whereupon, the people have an even more abnormal action in response to it, which is, "The people ignored it and one went out to the field, another to trading."  It seems as if the vegetation of the field was more important than the wedding feast of the prince.  In addition, some dreadful words continue after it.  "And, the others violently seized the aides of the king and murdered them," (verse six).  What could such a thing as this possibly be?

7.  If we think about this whole situation, that the king was angry is not surprising by itself.  It was the command of the king that followed that ought to surprise us instead.  The king gave the following command to his aides, "The preparations for the wedding feast are made, but those who have been invited are not worthy.  Therefore, go out on the main streets of the town and bring along to the wedding feast anyone you find," (verses eight and nine).

8.  A lot of common sense seems to be lacking if a person says since many seats at the wedding feast are open "bring along anyone you find."  Servants are but servants.  After the king said something like that, doesn't it seem to be going too far that "Both the good and the bad, everyone, had come together?"  At the least "the good people" could be regarded as a good thing.  No doubt, there are abnormal aides here in this text as well as an abnormal king.

9.  And, the end is a reprimand.  The text there says that "There was a man who was not wearing the proper dress clothes for a wedding ceremony."  Insofar as the flow of this narrative one would not assume the presence of anyone who did not have the proper attire [because since it was a royal wedding enough clothing would have been available].  So, it has been explained for a long time that this wedding attire was not their own personal property, but was to be furnished equally for all by the sponsor of the wedding ceremony.  As it was a wedding feast of a prince, one could think that well enough.  At any rate, the point is that it is not that he wasn't able to wear the proper attire for the wedding ceremony but that he dared not to wear it.  We understand this from the silence of the person in the face of the question, "Friend, why did you come in here without wearing the proper attire?"

10.  This person had originally not been invited.  He got an invitation in a special way.  As a person who was not expected to be there, there he was.  It was just a miracle due to the king's kindness.  However, he sat there in his every day attire without paying respects to either the king or the prince as if he just rudely said, "I'm here, ain't I?"  Was such a thing possible?  It was truly a bizarre spectacle.  It might have fully been possible if it were a world where values were diverse like today.  But, to say the least, if the people of the world, in which the king and the people were one, had heard this back then, it would have been natural for them to think, "There is no one more impolite than this man anywhere."  And more so, if one listens to this narrative without bias, a person would have to accept the man's being thrown outside as the normal conclusion.

Making Sense Of The Abnormality

11.  Well, what does an abnormal story like this mean?  I would like for us to return to the top of the parable and think together based on the words of the Lord.

12.  The parable of the Lord begins with the following words, "The kingdom of heaven is similar to when a certain king gave a wedding feast for the prince," (verse two).  This narrative is a parable of the kingdom of heaven.  It is a narrative that expresses the kingdom of God at the end times and the world where the relationship between God and person is perfected.  It is illustrated by a parable of a wedding feast.  A wedding feast speaks of a place where everyone shares in the happiness.  The kingdom of God is expressed as something characterized by such "a joy."  It means that God wants to share in the joy in a relationship with humankind.  God invites persons to a relationship in which they share the joy.

13.  Next, let's pay attention to the image of those invited to this wedding feast.  We see in it those who did not come although they were invited.  They didn't inadvertently forget to come.  They flat out refused to come.

14.  Those who did not want to come are depicted in two ways.  The first people are those who "ignored it."  One kind went to the field and the other went out to market.  Field work is certainly important.  Trading is important no doubt.  But, if you ignore the invitation of a king and head out to those places, obviously you couldn't help but call that strange behavior.  As we hear this we may say, "If that was me I would never do that."  But, the Lord says, humanity does strange things similar to this to God.  Swung around by what is right under their noses and danced upon by the every day world visible to the eye, they would not truly consider what the important things are, the things that have eternal value.  And, they may obtain a fleeting satisfaction, but they end up bringing eternal happiness in a relationship with God to naught.

15.  The next kind of people are the ones who are outright defiant.  "The others violently seized the aides of the king and murdered them," (verse six).  There was no reason to murder the persons who brought the message of the invitation to the wedding banquet, was there?  Why is there a need to hate?  But, those who disliked having a king over them were unable to love the king.  They did not like the king's invitation.  Those who wished they were in the center did not like the invitation to the banquet where the prince was the center focus.  In their case, the invitation to the king, the invitation to the celebration party called up their hatred instead.  The Lord was speaking about the unreasonable and strange extent of the hostility towards the king's invitation as well as the figure of humanity against God.

16.  Well, putting it in the original context of this parable, "the persons who were invited" clearly stands for the Jews.  We see the sin of humanity as spoken of in this parable in the Israelites who we see in the Old Testament.  The fact is they hated, persecuted, and killed the prophets when they called out to them to turn to God.  And even the Lord Jesus who told them of this was hated and killed.

17.  However, we do not only see just the sin of humanity in the history of these Jews.  There is another theme that permeates that history.  It is the fervor of God.  It is the strange figure of the king sketched in this story.  If we use the expression of this story, it is God's passion that would try to bring about a celebration banquet no matter what.

18.  God called them.  But, they wouldn't come.  God kept on inviting still more the invited guests who wouldn't come.  He continued to patiently call them.  We can see in the Old Testament the character of God like this.  God repeatedly sent the prophets.  God repeatedly spoke to them.  And he ultimately sent his son and spoke through his son to them.

19.  However, in spite of God's calling out to them, Israel did not return.  The people invited earlier would not respond to the call out to them.  However, the passion of God that was wanting to bring on the celebration party was boundless.  God was hoping no matter what to perfect his relationship with humans and to share his joy with them.  The refusal and rejection by humankind could not bring a setback to God's hopes.  The king cries out, "Bring anyone you find to the wedding feast!"

20.  The message of God's invitation was not confined to the Jews. It did not end with the resistance of the Jews.  The good news jumped to the outside at the king's command.  It jumped out to the whole world.  As seen historically, this is the Gentile mission begun in the early church.  Thus, the aides sent by the king came to us Gentiles.  The message of invitation was sent even to us sinners who had been aimless through the main streets of town.

21.  However, we shouldn't think of our being able to attend the celebration dinner for the prince as a matter of fact.  We shouldn't think of living in a relationship with God and living as we share in happiness with God as a matter of course.  We can't attend making a face as if "I showed up, now what?"  Because this is from the king, and is nothing but a special gift.  It was the same for those invited earlier and those who were assembled after that because the very invitation of God comes out of the special gift of God.

22.  Therefore, wearing the ceremonial clothing we ought to go out into the presence of the king.  The king requests that we sit before him wearing the ceremonial clothing.  What is the ceremonial clothing we ought to wear?  Is it the few good deeds we pull off?  Well then, let's try to wear [that].  Please try.  Doesn't it have holes opened in it everywhere?  Isn't it coming apart at the seams?  Even though we may think it's fine clothing that we have, when we look at them under the bright light of God's celebration dinner don't they look like worn out crumbling second hand clothing full of stains and wrinkles?  The wedding clothes that please the king have no sin stains, but must be perfect.

23.  Outside of Christ no such wedding clothes exist.  The scene in which this parable is placed is just before the events of the Lord's cross and resurrection.  The Lord headed to the cross to redeem our sin and so that there would be a true wedding outfit to let us sit in fellowship with God.  To wear the wedding garb we become one with him and take part in his death and resurrection life and then we will attend the celebration banquet.  It won't do to sit apart from Christ and wearing our tattered clothes.  If we go out into the presence of the king without regard for his expectations and by doing what we want to do the king will ask us about it.  "Friend, why did you come in here without wearing wedding attire?"  The results of that will be nothing but outer darkness.  Therefore the Lord says, "There are many called persons, but there are few chosen."

24.  Well, we have read this parable to the end and anyone who asks back and forth in his or her heart the questions, "Who in the world are those who are called?  Who are those who are chosen?  Who are those who are not chosen?" has still not placed himself or herself into this illustration.  They are checking it out from the outside.  Were they to place themselves in this illustration, they would have heard the heart cry of the Lord as he was going towards the cross, "You should not bring the invitation of God to naught.  You should not be a person who will be thrown into the pitch darkness.  I want you to be a person at the celebration dinner in fellowship with God and who shares in the happiness with God.  Because now you are listening to this message."

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