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 servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, 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 servants, 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 servants, ‘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 servants 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” (Matt 22:1-14).
It is all or nothing with God. He sends out a “save the date” announcement for his son’s wedding and expects us to get ready and come to the wedding feast of his Son when invited.
But we are invested in other priorities – “our” properties and businesses. They are tangible. We can work them, build them, and depend on them. We identify with them. We possess them. They require our urgent attention.
Ah yes, but here’s the rub — Jesus is telling a story about the kingdom of heaven. That kingdom is ruled by the “capital K” King, of course. This is no democracy. The King is sovereign over everyone and everything. The King has servants of course, but in reality everyone is at the service of the King.
We are not owners. We are stewards subject to the direction of the true owner, the King. It is an insult to refuse his invitation.
We are without excuse if we do refuse him or seek to hoard the resources he entrusts to us for ourselves. It’s his property and business and we must not presume that he does not know what is best for it or for us.
Years ago, I was talking with a friend, a successful physician, at the end of a church business meeting. He told me about the change that God had worked in his life. “When I was in high school and college, I looked forward to making it into medical school. If I did that I would have what I wanted and be set for life.
“In medical school I thought, ‘I am going to become a physician and make good money and have everything I want and need for life.’
“Now I am the physician that I wanted to become and I realize that everything I am and possess including my income belongs to God. It’s his, not mine, to do with as he pleases. I am OK with that.
A woman overheard our conversation. She and her husband were notably ambitious for material success and worked very hard to achieve it. She could hardly believe what she was hearing from my friend.
“But Jeff she exclaimed, “Think of all the good you can do with your money!”
“The thing is,” he replied, “it’s not my money, it’s his. And he decides how he wants it used.”
My physician friend understood that Jesus is the rightful owner of our lives and livelihoods as our Creator, Savior and Lord. Our true treasure is his love for us. Our true capacity for good is our dependence upon him. Our responsibility for good is our obedience to him.
The woman’s interjection represents a real temptation that has existed since the Garden of Eden. We are right here and can see opportunities and needs all around us. Why wait for God, why not act now for righteousness and goodness.
We can see what has to be done and nothing or no one should stop us from doing it. This viewpoint is compelling. It inspires political action and government policy. Wars are fought and lawsuits prosecuted with this thinking.
The mob, in Jesus’ story, sought to carry out this popular will by killing the King’s servants who came with the announcement of the royal wedding and feast and the expression of the will of the King for them.
The King says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
The mob replies, “We are proud of our labor and own strength. We are wearing ourselves out for a good cause – our cause! Our burdens are our traditions, our way of doing things, our desires and consciences!”
The crucifixion of Jesus illustrates how this mob rule works in action, “He (Pilate) said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered we have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him (Jesus) over to them to be crucified” (John 19:14-15).
The problem with having it our way on earth is that eternal life is God’s unique gift and finite humanity cannot replicate or manufacture it. When the mob kills off the King’s emissaries and ultimately the King’s son, it eliminates the possibility of escape from this doomed earth (John 3:16-18).
Those that resist God and insist on doing things their own way pass judgment on themselves. They extinguish God’s light leading them to his saving power in order to keep the darkness covering the truth that their own ways always lead to death in a sham, conspiratorial hope of freedom, equality and community (John 3:19-20).
A freedom that does not deliver us into the light and love of an eternal God is no freedom. A community that is only an end in itself will quickly turn to the oppressive tactics of self-preservation. An equality that is not sourced in the unconditional love of God will be rotted out by the legalistic machinations of a powerful, guilt-manipulating elite.
Only God can take us beyond limitations of death. Those who live and act in belief in him have no fear of his light (John 3:21).
Jesus says the King will ruthlessly put down the rebellion that would mislead so many into following a futile and destructive cause, because the kingdom of Heaven is all about eternal life and those who will kill to maintain power have no place in it.
But this King wants life and lots of it. He has prepared the banquet and he wants people to enjoy it. He sends out servants to cover the main streets and highways and indiscriminately invite as many as possible regardless of whether they would be classified as “good or bad.”
And by “bad,” Jesus means the worst kind of sinners full of selfishness and malice. If they are willing to accept the invitation to the King’s party, they get in the door.
Dressing for a party is always important, and the King provides attire for all his guests. He covers them with beautiful clothes so that the guests know that everyone there is invited and wanted. By clothing his guests he eliminates the inevitable comparisons that war with grace.
But one crasher decides his clothes are better than anything the King could offer. He gets in wearing his own bought-and-paid for clothing, no doubt congratulating himself on his sense of fashion and self-sufficiency.
“The King doesn’t have to give me clothes. I earn the money to buy everything I wear. I am doing just fine for myself, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Of course, that means he won’t have it the King’s way, either.
The King is neither pleased nor amused. He spots the proud interloper and has him forcibly removed. The King’s party is for those who want to be there and are willing to accept the King’s hospitality on his terms.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like this story. You can, and should, read it for yourself.
I have discussed the story this week because I find it very apt to the workaholic environment around me – friends and colleagues prioritizing jobs and performance over an intimate, steady relationship with Christ. Even successful ventures in the name of Jesus are no substitute for a relationship with him. The decision to accept his invitation is literally a choice for eternal life over death (Matt 7:21-23).
I put business ahead of everything until I was exhausted and sad that everything I was working for wasn’t enough. In that weary and grieving state, Jesus met me and began to teach me about grace and how to rest in him. It’s been nearly thirty years, but it has been a good thirty years of learning.
My work still gets done, but by his strength and initiative.
And the mob that wants to force everything to its will and way — Listen to the news, it’s out there more aggressive than ever. Just name the crisis, social, environmental, spiritual, or political, and God is blamed for it, or at least his followers are blamed.
There is blame enough to go around. Christ’s own followers have done their share of damage by attempting to force his will on the world, instead of waiting and watching for him to fulfill his purpose by sovereign grace and following the impulse of his love to serve in that fulfillment (Rom 8:28).
In reality, those who seek to force God on the world through displays of power and coercion and those who seek to eliminate his rule by power and coercion are both driven by the need for control that is antithetical to his gospel of love and means of grace.
It turns out that the kingdom of heaven is a party open to all who accept the King’s hospitality. Those too preoccupied or discriminating to accept, are left out. Those who insist on coming on their own terms end up outside.
As I said, at the beginning, it is all or nothing with God. How is it between him and you?
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alask