Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.

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.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 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.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14

Whenever I read the words “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God” or “reign of God” I always and immediately do a quick translation in my mind – a kingdom is a relationship. Thus each of these phrases paint a picture of what it means to live in relationship with God. A kingdom, first and foremost, is a relationship. None of the rest of what we associate with the word “kingdom” (thrones, crowns, castles, armies, lands) matters. Those are trivial compared to the heart of the matter – the king is the king and the subjects are the subjects. So we start there.

Then I want to notice a little difference between this parable of the kingdom and the one we saw in Matthew 20. There it began with the words, “the kingdom of heaven is like” but this parable begins “the kingdom of heaven may be compared to.” To me, that changes how we hear it.

The story begins with the king’s plan for a wedding banquet. His invited guests ignore the invitation or worse, mistreat the slaves who bring word from the king. Their disrespectful attitude and actions toward the king results in their deaths and their cities being destroyed. This is a king who takes party planning seriously. For a long time, people thought this was the way God acted toward the people of Israel who rejected the prophets and did their own thing.

The king doesn’t want his food to go to waste so he changes his own expectations. He sends his troops to gather anybody within range, regardless of their “worthiness” and invite them to come to the banquet. The hall is quickly filled to bursting with hungry party goers. Now this seems to be a different picture of how God connects with people.

But then the king notices someone who is inappropriately dressed. He treats him harshly and kicks him out. Now there is a surprise, no wonder the guest is speechless. How was he supposed to know? All he knew is that he was invited to attend and he willingly showed up. What is wrong with this king? How could you possibly trust a king like this one, a king who changes on a dime and treats his subjects so cruelly? This king sounds much more like the earthly tyrants that the readers of Matthew knew all too well.

How different this king was than the loving, healing God people could see modeled in Jesus! When I compare this king to the kingdom of heaven I’ll take the kingdom of heaven every time.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, unlike the capricious, power hungry, entitled earthly kings who abused their positions and used people like pawns, your reign is one of peace. Of love. Of justice. Of inclusion and community rather than exclusion and caste. May we meet you as you are, just as you meet us as we are. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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