The invitation went out. Come it said, come to the banquet. There is nothing like it! You’ll see the King’s son in all his splendour, and you’ll meet the bride that He loves. You’ve never meet anyone like her.
The invitation was good.
The King and his servants sat back expectantly waiting for them to come streaming in, but none came. So the King sent more servants to extend the invitation, inviting them to come. But they were indifferent. They had things that they would rather do. One went to his farm, another to his business. Others rejected the servants who came with the invitation to come.
The king was deeply upset and disappointed at how the invitation had been ignored and his servants rejected. He knew that in rejecting the servants, it was really he, his son and his bride who were being rejected.
Jesus told this story in Matthew chapter 22. It’s a story about the banquet that he has prepared for his guests in the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a banquet that we are all invited to. And he sends his servants out, people like you and I who have chosen to become his servants, to extend the invitation for people to come.
The sad reality is that many will receive the invitation but won’t come.
Verse 5 says that they were indifferent to the invitation and had things that they would rather do. How many times have many of us invited a friend to church and waited expectantly, hoping that they would come. But then when they don’t come as planned, the penny drops that our friends are indifferent. There are things that they would rather do because these things are more important to them; time with the family, painting the spare room, going to the footy, the list goes on.
What’s important to some wont be important to others. Unless they have learnt and understand why it is important, they will (as Jesus said) be indifferent. Some may even be hostile.
So the King changed tack.
Those he invited weren’t coming. He changed his plans and the emphasis went from “come” to “go”.
“He said to his slaves, ʻThe wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.ʼ And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (verses 8 to 10)
It’s much easier to invite rather than go and gather.
Over the years I have preferred to invite; to send out a nice invitation, to place an advert in the newspaper, to share an invitation on Facebook. In a way, when they rejected the invitation and opportunity to come, it wasn’t personal. It didn’t feel like they were rejecting me. That was because in my timidity, I wasn’t investing a lot of myself in the invitation, In fact I was probably hiding behind it.
But as this parable shows us, inviting like this doesn’t work.
I’ve come to understand that the emphasis the King brings is more on the command to go, rather than the invitation to come. I’ve also come to realise that the banquet is more about the kingdom of God than it is about church on a Sunday.
It’s about ordinary people like us going with the message of the kingdom; the good news that Jesus came to bring and to bring in. It’s a message that carries an invitation; an invitation to enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s the message and the invitation that we are called to go and take.
They are two big paradigm shifts that I’ve had. Instead of invite to church and wait, hope and pray that they come, I think what Jesus is really asking us to do is to go, to share His good news and to gather. And when we go like this, the wedding hall will be filled with his guests.