Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Missional Jesus 51

posted by xscot mcknight

Missional Jesus, facing the evidence of rejection by the seat of power in Jerusalem, tells a parable that reveals once again the potency of judgment in the theme of Jesus. In essence the point is simple: Jersualem is about to be sacked because those invited to the wedding are not showing up.
1. Missional Jesus aligns himself with the missio Dei, the mission of God. It is God’s mission to call Israel to the banquet.
2. Missional Jesus aligns himself with the persistence and patience of God: unlike John and James, who wanted fire from heaven after first offer, God sends his servants over and over to the people.
3. Missional Jesus aligns himself the prophetic oracles of doom: if Israel does not repent, God will act in the pages of history with the destruction of Jerusalem.
4. Missional Jesus, so it seems to me, predicts that after the destruction of the City (v. 7) Jesus’ missional agents, will begin to summon others — namely, the Gentiles (v. 9).
5. Missional Jesus speaks here, in parabolic and not easy-to-interpret language, of the need for all those at the wedding to be properly attired. Lots of folks lay their hand to this plow, but what a historically-grounded interpreter will do is offer a reading that reflects the context, words, and mission of Jesus: so I would say “follower of Jesus” is the point.
Matt. 22:1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, 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.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Matt. 22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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posted September 3, 2007 at 9:04 am

Scot maybe you can help me out with this: one day I was thinking about this story and I thought, why doesn’t the story go like this:
When the King says that, why doesn’t someone with “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” step out of the crowd and say to the person without garments, “here, take my wedding garments”.
And they switch clothes and that person is thrown out instead as the full wrath of the King falls on him.
Especially since, we never hear why the one person doesn’t have wedding clothes on. It’s not like he’s there being arrogant about it.
These are the sorts of things I wonder about when I get deeply into the stories.
Maybe it comes down to: it depends what the purpose of the story was.

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Scot McKnight

posted September 3, 2007 at 9:13 am

This little vignette in the parable, a parable within a parable, comes out of the blue and confuses all of us. All we know is that someone has sneaked in uninvited and his garment gives him away. A theme of this parable is being invited; this person was not invited. Calvinists, of course, chime in with election theology but the minute one enters that theology into the parable we have the problem of the elect becoming un-elected in the parable (which is not Calvinism). One could of course go to Israel being elect and with Jesus they lose their election, which is at best partly true.
I think the way to go, instead of meandering into speculative theology like that, is to see the man as an interloper. No matter how you see it, there is some “violence” (in the social sense) here.

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posted September 3, 2007 at 9:28 am

Thanks Scot. I see what you mean.
Hypothetically I’m right aren’t I, that if Jesus had been at that wedding, he would have offered that man his wedding garments? That that’s what Jesus would do? Or am I not to think that because that man is implied to be beyond hope?
Sorry if I took this in the wrong direction but I have been wondering about this for years.

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Scot McKnight

posted September 3, 2007 at 9:31 am

Well, I wonder about this same point as well. But the point of the parable is not reality. The point of this little vignette seems to be that interlopers are not to be at the wedding. The wedding is for guests. The interloper has to be read as a morally deviant person who needs to wake up — something along that line. I don’t think Jesus would give the man a garment but summon him to repent; then he could sit at the table.

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posted September 3, 2007 at 9:36 am

Doesn’t it depend on what the “wedding robe” signifies in this parable? I have thought of this in the context of the sermon on the mount Mt 7:13-27, or the various judgement scenes eg. Mt 25:31-46 and others. But perhaps this is wrong.
But then of course we are still left with verse 22:14 above – what does it mean that “few are chosen?”

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Scot McKnight

posted September 3, 2007 at 9:44 am

My basic point is that we can’t come to solid ground by arguing for any of the typical interpretations of the wedding garment. “Invitation” and “election” seem to be distinguished here.
The “chosen” are those with wedding garments, clearly, but who are they? I agree with you that we should proceed by way of what is clear in the mission of Jesus: the “chosen” then would be those who are following Jesus.

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posted September 3, 2007 at 11:04 am

It does seem consistent with other things Jesus said to equate wedding-garment wearers with those who were following Jesus.
These are the ones he knew – because they were at work every day – vs the ones he didn’t, who claimed to be doing his work but no-one was ever at their desk when Jesus walked by. They are also the ones which weren’t surprised without oil.
So many times Jesus implies the people who are his are the ones whose life-orientation is different in a way that takes intention, time and effort. They are not the ones who have nothing when surprised. They are the ones who thought about the wedding enough to realize they’d need a garment.
…or so it seems to me.
Yes he can show grace to a thief dying on a cross but most of us aren’t there so it would be reasonable for Missional Jesus to have different expectations of us.
The wedding story is a strong strike against the presumption of anyone who says “oh, sure, I’ll be invited – I’m one of his favorites”, instead of humbly making every effort to live in a way which would make them worthy of the guest list.
Wow, I am really into this story…

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posted September 3, 2007 at 10:35 pm

I’ve always seen this parable as being about the need to always keep ourselves in covenant with God and to be grateful for his blessings. In the context that Jesus spoke the parable the invited wedding guests were the Hebrews who were God’s chosen but ignored God’s invitation to stay in convenant with him. However we can extend that to all people who see themselves as “saved” or “chosen” by God, but who take their membership in God’s family for granted, allowing the things of this world to take precedence over being part of God’s kingdom. The subsequent invitation to anyone, good or bad, they can find in the street to replace his ungrateful and faithless favouorites, represents God’s invitation to the gentiles in Jesus’ time and sinners and non-Christians in ours. Jesus is telling the Israelites that they blew it – lost the chance to be “the chosen” because they disrespected God and couldn’t be bothered to make time for him.
I think the man who angers the king is not necessarily someone who was not invited. After all the King told his servants to round up anyone they could find. I think the robeless guest angers the King by disrespecting and taking advantage of the King’s generosity without even bothering with the minimal requirement of getting dressed up for the occasion. The robe could represent a lot of things – I think it is something we do to show respect for the One who provides us with everything. Furthermore I think the lazy guest knows what he is doing and this is why he is speechless when the King confronts him. He doesn’t have anything to say for himself. He has abused the King’s invitation for his own selfish purposes and doesn’t care. I see this as akin to that mysterious “unforgivable sin” against the Holy Spirit. God invites you to take part in his kingdom, you hear the invitation, understand what it means and what is expected of you, take advantage of God’s blessings without being grateful or respectful. You throw God’s grace back in his face. That “many are called but few are chosen” is along the same lines as what Jesus says about the rich getting into heaven in Mark 10: 23-24. If we are too busy with the things of this world to take the time for a relationship with God we won’t be chosen to be part of his Kingdom. Sadly, if you take these stories to heart, that’s probably quite a few of us.

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