Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 22:1-14
March 2 – 8, 2015
Monday, March 2, 2015
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son” (Matthew 22:2).
Life was hard. Villagers worked hard to sustain a meager existence. Times were slightly better when the weather was good and a little worse when the weather was bad. Death was common. There was little to celebrate.
When an occasion arose to celebrate all the stops were pulled out. It was a big celebration in which everyone participated. It is odd that the people declined the invitation to the party, but they had their reasons.
God’s invitation to celebrate is extended to us. A party is being thrown to celebrate new life, restored relationships and new possibilities. This is only the beginning of the list of reasons to celebrate. What will we do with the invitation?
Loving Lord, Thanks for the invitation to celebrate. Enable us to accept your invitation every day of our lives. Amen.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
“He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet. But they would not come” (Matthew 22:3).
The invitees made dozens of excuses why they couldn’t come. Some were convenient excuses because they didn’t want to attend the festivities. For some reason they wanted to snub the king and demonstrate their independence. Others, though, were just too busy, they had to get back to work; they had to focus on the important things in life.
We all can understand that. The rattles, squeaks and whistles of life demand our constant attention. There are those times when life overwhelms us. It crashes over us like a huge wave and we struggle to keep our heads above water. Even in the good times our schedules are so crowded with activities that we begin to feel our lives are being consumed by trivia. Into such lives God extends the invitation to us to celebrate. We are given permission to take a break and give thanks for God’s steadfast love, unconditional forgiveness and overwhelming grace.
Accepting the invitation is not only a good idea—“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It is also an act of obedience. The king knew all about the harsh realities of life and still he issued the invitation. The king wants us to accept it.
Gracious God, We are often heavily burdened and tired. Help us put our burdens down and raise our hands up high to celebrate your blessings. Amen.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
“But they made light of it and went away … while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them and killed them” (Matthew 22:5-6).
The parable contains a thinly veiled critique of Israel’s relationship with the Lord and their rejection of the prophets. The early church was wrestling with question, “Why did God include Gentiles with God’s children?” An answer was reached that stated, “Since the Jews refused the invitation, there was then room for Gentiles at the wedding feast.” The Gentile believers’ place in God’s Kingdom was legitimized.
Today we may not be asking the same question, but we act in a similar manner. We often ignore facts we don’t want to hear. We may even “kill the messengers” by discrediting them or by reacting in anger at the absurdity of their words. Our stiff necks, hard hearts and closed minds rear their ugly heads.
There are times when the truth hurts, but it is still necessary for us to hear it. The truth brings with it healing, wholeness, restored and renewed relationships. The truth may come in different forms and by different media, yet it is still God who is speaking to us.
Forgiving Lord, forgive us when we don’t want to hear what you have to say to us. Open our ears and our hearts that we may listen and obey. Amen.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
“Go therefore into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet” (Matthew 22:9).
The actions of the king are shocking. First he leveled the city in this outlandish tale and then sent his servants into the city to invite everyone to the celebration. Between the two, inviting everyone is probably the most amazing.
In the first century C.E. there were few “we” and many “us” and “them.” Of course, there were Jews and Gentiles. There were also slave and free, men and women, righteous and unrighteous. The king’s slaves were sent to bring all of them to the banquet even the bad. There were no circles of exclusion; only one big circle of inclusion.
Would we have been as all-encompassing with our invitation? Christians tend not to be as expansive with God’s grace as God is. We usually find some small group of people that we deem unworthy of God’s grace. Thankfully God doesn’t listen to us and steps over our lines of exclusion. Instead of trying to figure out who is worthy of God’s grace and who isn’t, it is much better to give God thanks and praise. God is an inclusive God and in God’s inclusion God has included us—even though we may not deserve it.
Inclusive God, Thank you for adopting us and including us in your family. Amen
Friday, March 6, 2015
“There slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found good and bad so the wedding hall was filled with guests” (Matthew 22:10).
There is a story of a sixteenth century teacher in Germany who would start every school day by bowing to his students. This was very strange behavior for a teacher and he was questioned about his behavior. The teacher answered that he could not clearly see the potential in each of his students. Some may have a lot of potential and one or two may become important, powerful, famous men. Since he did not know which boys would attain greatness he bowed to all of his students. One of the young boys in his class was Martin Luther.
Both good and bad were gathered into the wedding celebration and the festivities had a transforming effect on them. The good became better and the bad became good. Celebrating with the king can accomplish that in people. People who complain bitterly about the inequities of life can change and see the precious gift that life is. Other people who are sour on life because of their suffering can meet the king and have their perspective changed. Suddenly they see the abundance of God’s love and grace.
The only people who didn’t come to the king’s wedding banquet were the perfect people—because there weren’t any. All the other attendees had the ability to be changed by being with the king.
Powerful Lord, Mold us and shape us into your image so that when people see us they see you. Amen.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
“He noticed a man not weary a wedding robe” (Matthew 22:11).
Jesus’ parable gets curiouser and curiouser. The subjects reject the king’s invitation. The angry king destroys the city. Servants go out to gather an all-inclusive group to the wedding banquet, and then the king sees someone without a wedding garment and throws him out. Was a dress code even published?
Having explained why the Lord reached beyond the Jews to include graciously the Gentiles in God’s family, Matthew points out the need to live a new life. The old street clothes were to be thrown away and new wedding garments were to be worn.
Some Christians don’t want to change. They’re satisfied with who they are with bad habits, sins and all the rest. Other Christians want to do nothing but bask in God’s love and grace. Matthew encourages the abandonment of such attitudes and practices by including the brief vignette about the man without the wedding garment.
Complacency is the enemy of the growth and change that is a natural part of a Christian’s life. The bumper sticker “PBPGINFWMY—Please be patient God is not Finished with me yet” is so true. We are all a work in progress. Thank God! The Holy Spirit continues the Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives.
Powerful God, Forgive us when we don’t want to change. Enable us to be pliable clay in your hands so that we may be the people you want us to be. Amen.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
“Bind him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness” (Matthew 22:11).
Talk about a severe punishment. The man wasn’t just thrown out of the palace. He was cast out into the outer darkness where there was weeping and the gnashing teeth. That’s a pretty good description of hell.
The warning is clear that Christians need to be open to change in their lives and to lead disciplined lives. But, our salvation is not based on our willingness to be changed or to discipline ourselves. Our salvation is based on the cross of Christ and the forgiveness and new relationship with God that it provides. Our occasional—even frequent—hard hearts do not threaten our salvation.
At the same time, people who refuse to change; who are satisfied with their sameness create their own hell. Their minds close and their perspective shrinks until they can see only themselves. Not growing they begin to die. They live in the hell of self-centeredness and selfishness. They are bound by fear.
Such a life is not what God wants for God’s children. God offers each and every one of us the gift of an abundant, full and free life.
Savior, rescue us from the hells we create for ourselves. Restore us and renew us that we may experience the abundant life that you died to give us. Amen.