by Michael E. Brooks
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy, therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding” (Matthew 22:8-9 NKJV).
We received the invitations to a wedding and reception in Bangladesh a few weeks before the events took place. Each invitation included the initials “RSVP”, which we understood as the desire for our prompt confirmation or rejection of the invitation.
We in the United States view invitations to most events as opportunities, not obligations. The prospective guest is free to accept or decline. Yet, we also realize that there are some invitations that we cannot, or at least should not, reject. The wedding of a close family member is one example. A presidential summons or Royal invitation would be another.
Once the invitation is received, however, there is usually at least the understood need to respond as to whether or not one plans to attend. And once committed to attendance, the obligation increases. Only true emergencies should prevent one from going.
Most of us have been on both sides of this issue. We have been invited to events that we greatly anticipated as well as those we would just as soon not attend. We have also planned and hosted events where we had to choose just who and how many would be invited. Just as there are those events which one must attend, so there are those guests whom one must invite.
That is the basic social background of the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 22. A king was hosting a wedding celebration for his son. Invitations were sent out. Given his status, there was great obligation on both sides. Nobles and other important persons in the area would expect to be invited. The king would have expected all who were invited to attend with pleasure.
But that is not what happened. His subjects rejected his invitation with contempt and mistreated those whom he sent to bear it. How did the king respond?
“But when the king heard about it he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7).
The secondary result of their refusal was that the king then opened the invitation to include those who would not have expected to receive it. The wedding hall was filled with those who came, “both bad and good” (V 10).
It is clear that Jesus used this parable to rebuke the religious leaders of his day for their rejection of him as God’s chosen Messiah. Later, in the evangelistic efforts of the early Church, we see that it also foretold of the inclusion of the Gentiles into the kingdom which he would establish. Paul would describe this process as the pruning of the branches of a wild olive tree and their replacement with grafted in branches from a cultivated variety (Romans 11:16-20).
It was the rejection of God’s message by the Jews that later, somehow, allowed the inclusion of the rest of the world. We may not always understand just how that fits into God’s eternal purpose, but we can understand the lesson and warning contained in it.
God’s invitation is precious. It is also urgent. Those who refuse it do so at their own peril. Willful sinners are described by one inspired writer as having “trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29).
One can hardly read those words without being reminded of the angry king whose invitation was spurned. Let us not make that same mistake.