How to Respond to Jesus
In the last week of his life, Jesus told some stories in the form of parables that would be controversial enough to get him killed. As you may know, that is what actually what happened.
Jesus knew quite well that people responded to him differently. He also knew that their response to him as king would determine the course of their lives as well as their eternal destiny. That’s why he so often told parables about how people responded to him, which he does in Matthew 22. In this story, a king invites his subjects to wedding party for his son, but they refuse to attend and even kill the servants who tell them that the banquet is ready.
In doing so, Jesus is explaining how people respond to his invitation to celebrate life with him in the kingdom of God by using a wedding banquet as an illustration, which was a big deal back then and is now. Refusing to go to someone’s wedding (without a good reason) today is basically a refusal of the relationship.
Have you ever had someone important to you refuse to attend a party you thew? It really hurts!
In this particular story that Jesus tells, the first people invited to the wedding in the parable refused to come when the king invited them.
They were too busy with their business and paid no attention even after great pains were taken to prepare for them. The wedding for the son of a king would be for the entire country to enjoy and the preparations would be massive.
The feasting would go on for days at a time in that culture. Refusing would be worse than saying no to an invitation from the Whitehouse. Saying no would dishonor the king and was a passive act of rebellion.
It wasn’t just a rejection, it was an insult to the king and his entire family. They acted like they had no need for a king at all. These people believed, like many people today, that they are the lords and rulers of their own lives with more important matters and priorities to attend to.
The other day, I was dropping off my son at school when we pulled up behind a vehicle which had a big car detail sticker on the back window that said “My rules … my life.” Then they stopped to drop off their kid at a place that backed up the entire car line. That just about sums up the attitude people have about their lives. Many people are so self-absorbed that they could care less about others or what God thinks.
The story Jesus tells gets out of control where the servants who invited people were mistreated and killed by those who were invited! The king’s response within its context – to destroy them and burn their city – would have been more than appropriate and even applauded by the audience.
As we learned for the last parable, this is a judgement against the pharisees and religious leaders who were planning his death as he spoke. Their end would be judgment, destruction, and burning.
This actually happened physically to Jerusalem in 70AD when the Romans totally destroyed the city. But this parable also serves as a warning about the eternal consequences of rejecting Jesus (that he repeatedly made clear in his teachings.) And it serves as a warning to us today.
The refusal, rebellion and dishonor didn’t stop the king from filling up his house so he sends his servants to gather all the people they could find, both good and bad – until the wedding hall was full. This is a pretty accurate picture of life in the church – the halls are full of both good and bad people…
As God’s servants, this is our role: to go out into the world and gather all the people we kind find, no matter who they are or what they’ve done and invite them to come in. Not to judge them. That’s God’s job.
It’s not our job to control how people respond. Our job is to invite people to the party. Of course, if people rejected Jesus, people will reject our invitations as well. But we give them anyway, and without judgement, because God is the one who judges, not us.
Our job is simply to extend the invitation despite whether we think they will reject it or not or whether we think they are good or bad. People’s responses are not our responsibility. Even though the stakes are high.
The parable isn’t over yet. There’s the surprise ending: The king notices a man that comes in without wedding clothes and the king tells his attendants to tie him up and throw him out into the darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
So you might be thinking … wait, what? That seems a little harsh for just not having the right clothes on! What is this about?
Most commentators believe the “wedding clothes,” especially for the poor, represent clean, unsoiled clothing. To refuse to wear clean clothing to a wedding would also be an obvious and ungrateful act dishonoring of the king’s authority. These would represent the people “in the church.”
In Colossians 3, Paul uses the illustration of taking off the old clothes and putting on new clothing to represent the new life we have in Christ. Living in the kingdom of God means we take off the old self: sexual immortality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, drunkenness … and put on the new clothes – the wedding clothes: things like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We put on forgiveness & love, which binds them together in perfect unity. It is the life Jesus describes in the sermon on the mount.
The church is community of hospitality, but it is also a community of holiness. The invitation is to come as you are, but not to stay as you are. It is to come as you are and be restored.
If you are a believer in Jesus, you were chosen to be holy and transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Jesus expects the people of his kingdom to bear the fruit of his kingdom, and those who don’t are cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. What that means exactly I don’t know but it does not sound good.
Many people want to have the kingdom but don’t want Jesus as their king. They’d rather be just a fan and a friend than a follower. You can’t inherit the kingdom of God without Jesus as your king.
Putting on new clothes is repentance. To repent means to change your mind and the direction you are headed in. If you can see in your own life a need for repentance, you can start with the A/B/C/D’s of repentance:
Acknowledge your sin before God.
Believe in Jesus as the saving king.
Confess your sins to God and a disciple of Jesus.
Demonstrate genuine change through a life of discipleship.