Week 13: Day 1 - Sunday (March 24, 2019)
Thought I would share the Bible study that goes along with the message today.
Lent - Week 3
The Parable of the Wedding Party
1 Jesus responded by speaking again in parables: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son. 3 He sent his servants to call those invited to the wedding party. But they didn’t want to come. 4 Again he sent other servants and said to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look, the meal is all prepared. I’ve butchered the oxen and the fattened cattle. Now everything’s ready. Come to the wedding party!” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went away—some to their fields, others to their businesses. 6 The rest of them grabbed his servants, abused them, and killed them.
7 “The king was angry. He sent his soldiers to destroy those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding party is prepared, but those who were invited weren’t worthy. 9 Therefore, go to the roads on the edge of town and invite everyone you find to the wedding party.’
10 “Then those servants went to the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding party was full of guests. 11 Now when the king came in and saw the guests, he spotted a man who wasn’t wearing wedding clothes. 12 He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to his servants, ‘Tie his hands and feet and throw him out into the farthest darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.’
14 ”Many people are invited, but few people are chosen.”
What is your honest first impression of this parable?
We now move along with Jesus on his journey to the cross. He enters Jerusalem.
This parable, like the others, needs to be put in context to be fully understood. Let’s take a look at what happens to lead Jesus to respond in such a way.
Jesus is making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) Hosanna meaning ‘save us’ was being shouted in the streets. When Jesus entered Jerusalem the people were stirred. When Jesus makes his way to the temple area, he finds the temple being misused and tosses the tables. “It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.” (Matthew 21:13) Jesus healed the lame and kids ran around shouting “Hosanna”.
The chief priests and elders were upset. Who does this person think he is? Strife begins to build. The religious leaders confront Jesus and they pose the question, “By what authority” do you do all these things? It is clear that the questioners have already answered their own queries. They seek not information but an opportunity to trap Jesus by means of his response. Jesus answers the question with three parables. Three parables of judgment.
The first is the parable of two sons (Matthew 21:28) A vineyard owner has two sons. One is asked to go to work. He responds ‘no’. He later does as his father asked. The second son is asked to go to work. He responds ‘no’. Which one did the will of the father? Jesus asked. The temple leaders answer that the first son did the will of the father. The first son Jesus is referring to is John the Baptist. The second, Jesus. Judgment - as religious leaders, they claim to be faithfully obedient to God, but they are blind to the fact that authentic obedience includes responding in faith to the new things God is doing. This withholding of faith in God is exemplified in their reaction to John the Baptist. Their refusal to see God at work in John’s ministry anticipated their rejection of Jesus. The sinners in Israel, who had carelessly ignored the demands of their religion, will have a place in the kingdom, while Jesus’ adversaries will be shut out.
The second is a parable about tenant farms in a vineyard. The owner hired tenants to tend to his vineyard. The owner sent his servants to collect the harvest. They were killed on arrival. The owner sent a second group. They were also killed upon arrival. The owner sent his son. He too was killed because they wanted his inheritance. Jesus asked the temple leaders what the owner should do. They replied that the owner should hire a tenant that will produce fruit and give it to the owner when it is ready.
Judgment - in this case, the tenant farmers stand for Israel’s religious leaders, who, despite their alleged loyalty to the Torah, fail to give God his due by believing in God’s present activity in the ministries of John and Jesus. Although they are charged with the responsibility of leading Israel in the way of righteousness, they have in fact rebelled against God and will be replaced. (This parable also insinuates the murder of God’s son by the religious leaders.) This, of course, angered the religious leaders knowing Jesus was talking about them and they were bent on arresting Jesus.
This leads us to our Scripture for today. The third parable to answer the challenge of Jesus’ authority. It too is a parable of judgment. But, it differs from the previous two by ending with an emphasis on the judgment of Christians.
Let’s jump in: this parable can be characterized as an allegory of salvation history. An allegory is simply a story where ideas are symbolized by people. The king is clearly God; the wedding feast for his son represents the messianic banquet (Rev. 19:7–9). Those sent to invite the guests are God’s prophets, including Christian missionaries. The reference to the mistreatment of the king’s slaves recalls the tradition concerning Israel’s violent treatment of God’s prophets. The burning of the rebels’ city seems to be an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., an event that Christians regarded as God’s punishment upon Israel for its rejection of Jesus and the gospel. The invitation offered to others, “both bad and good,” signifies the Gentile mission of the church.
The supplemental parable of the guest without a wedding garment can sound offensive when we read it. Why should the king be so incredibly harsh to a poor man who has hastily been brought from outside the city, who presumably had no opportunity to borrow a clean tunic fit for the occasion? And why should the king ask, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” After all, was it not the king who told his slaves to bring in everyone they could find? The answer to all such questions is to remember that this is not an ordinary story but an allegory. The wedding feast is not the church but the age to come. The required garment is righteousness, that is, behavior in accordance with Jesus’ teachings. The man is speechless because he has no defense; he accepted the invitation of the gospel but refused to conform his life to the gospel. The attached saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen,” should not be taken as a forecast of the proportion of the saved to the damned. Its function is not to frighten Christians with the thought that the statistical odds are against them but to encourage vigorous effort to live the Christian life.
Engaging the Word:
1. Now that you have heard the preceding context of this parable, what are your impressions of the wedding banquet?
2. What are the kinds of people God seeks?
3. By what authority does Jesus act according to these Scriptures?
1. Where are we too “busy” to hear a call from God or see what he is doing in our midst? God is moving - what are we missing around us?
2. In this passage all are invited that the servants could go out and find. How are you inviting people to church or sharing your faith?
3. How have we become hardened to God’s invitation and the response it requires?
4. Jesus announces judgment on those that do not produce fruit. 5. What fruit are you producing in your life right now?
6. How do you see God’s redemption in this passage?
From the ‘Reflection Questions’ 1-4, pick one and intentionally pray about it this week and take the next step in your faith walk in that area. For example, question 2: When is the last time you talked to someone about your faith or invited someone to church? Make a challenge to do one or both this week.
Gracious Father, as we begin a new day, help us to engage your will with a reckless faith. Teach us to trust in you, and help us grow in righteousness. Heavenly Lord, give us the courage to step out in faith this day. Fill our hearts with your spirit, and let us speak your words with boldness.