An estimated 1.9 billion people worldwide tuned in to watch the 2018 royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. For the 2,640 actual attendees – you can bet that most did just about anything to be there. In Matthew 22, Jesus tells the story of another royal wedding celebration. The king’s son was getting married and the reception would be a huge event, but the invited guests didn’t respond the way you might think.
Wedding celebrations were a bit different in the first century. For starters, it was the father of the groom who took on the responsibility of planning and paying for a reception. Secondly, celebrating a marriage lasted more than a few hours – we’re talking up to a full week! Finally, rather than sending out a “save the date” invite a few months in advance, the king would send out servants to let people know the celebration was happening, right now! And amazingly, the guests would drop everything to attend.
Only, in Jesus’ parable, the guests didn’t show up. The king’s servants were ignored; some were even attacked. This definitely wasn’t your usual response to a royal wedding invitation. So, the king told the servants to invite anyone and everyone they could find – the typically “undeserving guests” or the ordinary folk you wouldn’t expect to find at a king’s banquet table. Since Jesus’ parables always have a deeper meaning, what’s this story getting at?
The king represents God the Father, and His son is Jesus. The servants, sent out as messengers, are the Old Testament prophets, the disciples, the early church — everyone sent before and after Jesus to share His story with others. The guest are the Jews, because Christ, as a Jew Himself and born in Israel came first for the Jews. But the majority of the guests (just like many Jews throughout history) refused to attend the celebration. Their hearts were hardened.
Jesus’ message in this story is God’s heart for the lost. It’s a reminder to the church that we are to go out to the highways and the byways of the world, inviting every kind of person to the celebration that is the Kingdom of God. This means both the “good” and “bad” people, high society and the outcasts are invited. But as with any invitation, each of us has a choice. Will you attend the celebration?