A wasted invitation: Matthew 22-23

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Today’s reading: Matthew 22-23.

 “Why would anyone turn down an invitation from God?”

Jesus’ parables imply that his return will follow the pattern of the ancient Jewish weddings.

  • Following the betrothal, the groom goes to prepare a home for his bride ( “I go to prepare a place for you”).
  • The bride doesn’t know when the groom will come, but must watch for him and be prepared (“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come”).
  • The groom doesn’t know when he will go for his bride, but waits on his father’s word (“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”).
  • When the wedding takes place, there is a great feast for the wedding party and guests (And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”).

The parable of the wedding banquet comes from the same Jewish tradition. It looks forward to Jesus’ return, but it also looks back to the long history of the Israelites’ unfaithfulness. Jesus uses the parable, an earthly story with a heavenly secret, to describe how God asked his people to the wedding banquet with their Messiah, only to have them ignore his invitation. Even worse, they murdered the messengers sent to invite them. In anger God destroyed their city (Jerusalem).

 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matt. 22:8-10

Most of the Jews in Jesus’ day rejected the invitation to the kingdom, so God opened the doors wide to the Gentiles. The parable pictures that future day when Jesus will be joined to his bride, the church. The Jews, as a nation, are left out for now, though individual Jews have accepted the invitation since the beginning. But God longs for his chosen people to respond as a nation to his invitation. Despite his anger expressed in the seven woes against the scribes and Pharisees, we see his heart of love in Jesus’ words of mourning for Zion:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ “

His cry contains a challenge and a promise. The invitation to the wedding will come again when the nation of Israel accepts their Messiah.

Image by David on Flickr, CC by-sa 2.0

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4 thoughts on “A wasted invitation: Matthew 22-23

  1. Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. Matthew 23:1-3

    Of course this idea of “Moses seat” is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament. It comes from the Mishna, originally an oral tradition of the Jews, eventually written down. It developed an idea of a teaching succession from Moses down through rabbis to the present. This both prefaces Apostolic succession and points to the importance of extra-biblical oral and written tradition.

    • Every generation has to learn God’s truth anew, and the oral tradition from our teachers, whether parents or institutional guides or books, is important. I think God’s word, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ example are more important. The problem with using this passage to support the oral tradition is that it is so full of condemnation for those who sit in “Moses’ seat” interpreting the law. Jesus pronounced seven woes in this passage. He even says not to call anyone on earth “Father.” In Mark 7:7 Jesus condemned the Pharisees further, saying “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Not everyone who interprets God’s word is guilty of the Pharisees’ mistakes. There are Godly teachers in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions. But whoever is speaking, we must use discernment to evaluate their message. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world” I John 3. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” Act 17.” But there will always be a need for the oral tradition. As Luke said in the opening of his gospel, he recorded the events “just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” The greatest oral tradition is telling others what God has done in our own life.

  2. What is compelling is how Jesus does not renounce their authority to teach (obey them and do everything they tell you), but rather their example, as if perhaps through grace they were protected from teaching error. Sadly they couldn’t take the truth of what they were teaching and apply it to their own lives, or develop an understanding of God’s plan for Israel and the world.

  3. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – A wasted invitation: Matthew 22-23 | ChristianBlessings

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