God’s Hospitality

© Nelosa | dreamstime.com

When you receive an invitation to a party or a dinner, do you RSVP right away, or do you delay as long as you can to keep your options open? The latter is what Jesus experienced people doing both in Galilee and in Jerusalem when God invited them to celebrate the coming of his Messiah.  Jesus tells a story to illustrate how God views such an insult to his gracious hospitality (Matthew 22: 1-14). In this culture, two invitations were expected when banquets were given. The first asked the guests to attend; the second announced that all was ready. In this story the king invites his guests three times-each time they reject his invitation. In the end he gets fed up and sends out a general invitation to anyone who wants to
come. The hall is filled with the ‘great unwashed’, including low status people off the streets who thought they’d  never be invited to such an event. An interpretation: if Israel’s religious establishment refused God’s invitation, the powerless rejects and (later) the gentiles would be invited to embrace Jesus the Messiah in her place.
But if the king invited in whoever was willing off the streets, why would he
be angry at someone who didn’t have wedding clothes on? We know that it was
customary back then for wedding guests to be given clean and appropriate
clothes to wear to the banquet. It was unthinkable to refuse to wear these
garments. That would insult the host, who might assume that the guest was
arrogant and thought he didn’t need these garments, or that he did not want
to take part in the celebration. There are several ways to interpret this
story: it could be that the wedding clothes represent the righteousness
needed to enter God’s kingdom-the total acceptance in God’s sight that
Christ gives every believer. Christ has provided this garment of
righteousness for everyone, but each person must choose to put it on in
order to enter the King’s heavenly banquet. Maybe this man was saying ‘take
me as I am or not at all’. Alternatively, Jesus may just be saying that
having accepted God’s invitation, we then need to be living the righteous
life appropriate to being part of God’s messianic kingdom and a person who
associated with Jesus, otherwise we might disqualify ourselves. Food for
thought!

–Philip

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