February 21, 2012 David Balzer

Matthew 22:1-14: The best sort of BBQ

Aussies and BBQ’s. They’re an Aussie cultural icon. They go together like peaches and cream. Perhaps it’s our long summer evenings. Or hot kitchens where mum refuses to cook. But the Aussie climate and culture just suits BBQ’s perfectly.

And it doesn’t matter what part of society you’re from either. Everyone’s GOT one. It doesn’t make much difference whether you live in BELLEVUE Hill or ROOTY Hill. Blue collar, white collar.

Every bloke’s gas bottle is full of the same stuff, every bloke sits on basically the same outdoor chairs, every bloke’s BBQ is basically the same – a sheet of iron on legs. And every bloke burns the sausages the same.

BBQ’s are a great LEVELLER.

And I reckon that’s ANOTHER reason why we love BBQ’s so much. Because everyone’s WELCOME at a BBQ. Everyone’s included. Everyone’s EQUAL around a BBQ. Everyone can feel comfortable around a BBQ.

There’s nothing fancy about a barbie.

But there’s also nothing much BETTER than a barbie. A beautiful summer evening. It’s relaxed, casual, welcoming. Hanging out with friends, a drink in hand. There’s laughter, and jokes. There’s family running around everywhere.

Everyone brings something to share. And no one really minds. There’s the bowl of chips, the potato salad. And plenty of MEAT. Sausages, steak. Perhaps kebabs or ribs if you’re feeling fancy.

And as Jesus thinks about what life’s like at its best. Life with God in his rightful place, and people living the way he designed them. He tells a story about THE BEST SORT OF BBQ to describe it.

This is a banquet put on by A KING. Celebrating the wedding of HIS SON. So no expense is spared. With plenty for everyone. There’s plenty of meat. Fattened cows butchered in preparation. The choicest cuts, the finest recipes.

And there’s a huge guest list. Everyone’s invited. Doesn’t matter what banner you march under. Says Jesus.

And while it’s great news for those who are AT THE PARTY. There’s a STING in the tail for those who can’t be bothered responding to the invitation. Or for those who THINK they have, but are just fooling themselves.

And that’s where the story fits in context. Jesus tells it to the Jews. To the Pharisees and the Jewish teachers who want him dead.

He’s in the temple in Jerusalem. He’s come there to clean it out. To get rid of the rubbish that’s stopping people meeting with God. He’s come to pronounce judgment on a system that SHOULD be producing fruit. But it’s empty instead.

It’s people who assume they’re part of God’s final party. But who might be in for a shock if they’re not careful.

Who’s who?

So who’s who in the story? The king is God. He’s the one with the right to RULE everything because he CREATED everything. Planets and stars. Mountains and oceans. Forests and flocks. Even angels and demons. He’s king of it all.

And over it all, he’s placed Jesus. His SON. The guest of honour at the party. The reason everyone’s come together.

And Jesus has arrived announcing that the party’s about to start. God’s kingdom is beginning. And Israel’s invited to join in.

But, for the MOST part, the leaders, and the rest of Israel who followed them, had REFUSED THE INVITATION.

Which is what Jesus says happens in the story. The king’s invitation goes out. There in v3. And no one’s interested.

I think we have a hard time getting our heads around how incredible it would be for a king to graciously invite guests. To put on the world’s greatest BBQ. And then for people to actually REFUSE his invitation.

We’re not big on respecting our leaders in Australia. America even calls their EX-presidents by the title “Mr President”. But we call OUR leaders “Little Johnnie”, or “K-Rudd”.

But I think even for disrespectful Aussies the response of the FIRST invited guests is shocking. The servants went out, but those invited REFUSED TO COME.

Imagine you got an invitation to Prince William and Kate’s wedding. Surely you’d do whatever you could to BE there. You’d rearrange your schedule. Fit everything else around that invitation. But not these citizens.

So the king resorts to BEGGING. V4.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

He’s saying, “The meat’s on the barbie. I’ve cooked dinner myself. The wine’s poured. Please COME!” But it makes no difference. V5.

5 “But they paid no attention and went off  one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.

 

Not ONE of the invited guests bothers to come. Now, on the ONE hand, you’ve got people you’d EXPECT would want nothing to do with God. Violent murderers. The grubs of society.

 

But did you notice who ELSE wants nothing to do with God’s invitation? There in v5. People who went off to their field, or their business.

 

They don’t seem too bad, DO they?

 

You see, ignoring God isn’t just what BAD people do. Even the good, respectable, law-abiding, family-valuing, hard-working, responsible person ignores God. It’s in the BUSY-NESS OF THE EVERYDAY that God gets overlooked. The “second-bests” shutting out the “best”. Someone so busy making a living, he forgets to make a life.

 

God deserves and demands to be the number one. It’s his rightful place. And putting him anywhere else doesn’t measure up.

 

All sorts of decisions we think matter. But it’s THAT ONE DECISION that counts MOST for God. God is the king who requests our attendance – our ALLEGIANCE – says Jesus. Who DESERVES it. And who’s designed US to GIVE it.

 

How are YOU responding to God’s invitation? Ignoring it, or accepting it?

 

Because ignoring God’s invitation. Is something ALL of us are guilty of. Every one of us has DECLARED OUR AUTONOMY. Like Leonard George Casley, better known as Prince Leonard of Hutt. In 1970, in a fight over wheat quotas, he split from Australia and formed the independent Hutt River Province, 75 square km, about 600 km from Perth.

 

Still going today. He’s pushing 90. And he refuses to recognise Australia’s right to rule him. He doesn’t pay taxes or rates; he has his own stamps and coins, even his own army and navy. You can go there, and get your photo taken with a real life Prince!

 

And the Australian government largely seems to IGNORE him. Perhaps they figure THEY’RE going to be around a lot longer than HE will. So they’ll just wait him out.

 

But IGNORING rebels is something God will only do for so long says Jesus. His invitation’s gone out. And, for the moment, for YOU, the RSVP date’s still open.

 

But, one day, God will give rebels justice. They’ll get exactly what they want. The just punishment for ignoring God in THIS life, will be God ignoring THEM for all eternity. Shut out from God, and the life he gives.

 

We don’t know exactly what that will be like. But Jesus paints us a symbolic picture down in v7.

6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and DESTROYED those murderers and BURNED their city.

 

The Jews who’d killed God’s OT prophets were destined for God’s judgment. In the SHORT term that meant the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in AD 70.

 

In the LONG term, it meant ETERNAL separation from God. The absence of all comfort and peace and goodness.

 

Which is the same punishment for those of us TODAY who refuse God’s invitation. Whether that be through active rebellion, or just a passive re-ordering of priorities. So that God becomes IRRELEVANT.

 

Saying YES

Jesus makes no apologies about the fate of those who say NO to the king’s invitation. But his emphasis is actually on the BREADTH OF THE INVITE, rather than the punishment.

 

So, let’s move from OUTSIDE the party to INSIDE.

 

Back to the story. Once the FIRST round have refused their request, the king still has a wedding to host. There’s plenty of food and drink. Meat’s on the barbie. But there’s no guests. V8.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to THE STREET CORNERS and invite to the banquet ANYONE YOU FIND.’

 

That’s the invitation to EVERYONE. Regardless of past achievements or behaviour or status. Doesn’t matter what banner you march under.

 

And notice there in v10. It’s not a matter of attaining a certain level of performance before you score an invite.

10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, BOTH GOOD AND BAD, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 

For the Jews, the people Jesus is talking about are OBVIOUS. He’s just told them a story about two sons who are asked to work their Father’s farm. One who says NO, but changed his mind and DID it. The other SAID he’d do it, but got around to it. And Jesus said the FIRST were the tax collectors and prostitutes who believed the way of righteousness when they heard it.

 

EVERYONE’s welcome. No performance criteria required. It’s like the World Masters Games. It was actually on in Blacktown a couple of years ago. The only criteria for the World Masters is that you’re 30 or older. You don’t need to be a superstar. No performance criteria. But the invitation goes to EVERYONE.

 

And it’s the same with God’s offer to join the party.

 

That means God’s inviting YOU TOO. Doesn’t matter WHO you are. Or WHAT you’ve done.

 

And so they come into the party. The BEST sort of party. Where EVERYONE’s welcome. With plenty of food and friendship and fun.

 

It’s a picture of life in ETERNITY. When God will live with us. Without separation and frustration and disappointment. When this world, as we know it, has come to an end.

 

But it also represents life NOW. Life at its best. Lived honouring the GUEST of honour, God’s son Jesus. Enjoying all God’s DESIGNED to be enjoyed. Getting the MOST out of life.

 

It’s not a promise that life will always be PERFECT. That once you follow Jesus, there’ll be no more trouble or sickness or pain. Life as a Christian ISN’T always easy. But it’s rich and fun and real and full. It’s life with purpose and meaning and perspective.

 

And God’s inviting us to LIVE it.

 

Make sure you follow the dress code

And it’s almost the end of the story. The camera pulls back, the music begins. It pans across the room. The whole crowd’s enjoying the party.

 

Except for a final little cameo. Where the camera zooms in on ONE GUEST IN PARTICULAR. An imposter. And it’s the sting in Jesus’ tale.

 

Because this guy’s snuck in without following the dress code. See there in v11.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12’Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.

 

The servants grab the man, tie him up, and throw him outside, where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

It almost seems out of place. A party where EVERYONE’S invited, both good and bad. And yet one guy’s singled out because he’s not DRESSED right. And he’s punished.

 

In some way, even those who’ve been BAD are wearing the right clothes. So it’s not about meeting a certain standard before you can come in.

 

So, what does it mean to not be dressed in the right clothes for the wedding? To have received the invitation? To have ACCEPTED it? To be in the party, celebrating? But still not be wearing the right clothes?

 

Jesus doesn’t specifically TELL us in this parable. So, perhaps it’s best to not speculate. But we get some HINTS. One thing to notice is that, when the king confronts him, the man’s SPEECHLESS. He’s been busted, and he knows it. He’s AWARE he’s not wearing the right clothes. The opportunity was there to dress PROPERLY, and he chose NOT to.

 

The SECOND thing to notice is the way Jesus sums up the story. V14. “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

This guy was invited. But his clothes show he didn’t RESPOND the way he SHOULD. They show he wasn’t CHOSEN.

 

He’s assumed that being INVITED is the same thing as being CHOSEN. That there’s no need for him to personally RESPOND to the invitation.

 

And it’s aimed directly at those Jews who assumed they’d be part of God’s party simply because they were JEWISH. Jews like the Pharisees and teachers.

 

And Jesus’ warning is that unless they respond correctly to the invitation, they’ll end up OUTSIDE the party.

 

So, looking at OTHER parts of the Bible. What does it mean to respond correctly to God’s invitation?

 

First, it’s about accepting the gift of sins washed clean that God offers us.

 

In the language of the parable. The king himself offers us clean wedding clothes. And we’ve just got to accept them.

 

There’s another verse in the Bible that talks about people wearing clean white clothes – a picture of forgiveness and purity. Listen to what it says. Rev 7. John sees a vision of what eternity with God will be like.

9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (that’s Jesus). They were WEARING WHITE ROBES

 

That’s the wedding party. Then a bit further down John asks

“Those in white robes-who are they, and where did they come from?”

 

And one of the guests answers

“These are they who’ve washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

 

Which sounds pretty gross. But what it means is that Jesus has taken the punishment their sins deserve. His death accepted by God as a substitute for THEIRS. And so they can be FORGIVEN, and WASHED CLEAN.

 

That’s the clothes we must wear to Jesus’ great BBQ. The forgiveness God offers through the death of his Son. No other clothing is acceptable. But luckily for US it’s FREELY OFFERED. And all we have to do is ACCEPT THE OFFER.

 

And when we DO that, we’re never the same. (God will change us on the INSIDE). But that ALWAYS makes a difference ON THE OUTSIDE. In the way we live.

 

A bit further on in Revelation, there’s another reference to clean clothes. In particular WEDDING clothes. Rev 19. Jesus is the slain Lamb, whose blood washes people clean. And he’s getting married. There’s an announcement in heaven. Rev 19 v6

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'”

 

Not only are we INVITED to the wedding. But now, we’re the BRIDE. Intimately connected to the groom. And we’ve been given beautiful clean clothes to wear. The clothes that stand for GOOD DEEDS.

 

We respond to the king’s gracious invitation by LIVING OUT  HIS grace to OTHERS. SHOWING we’re a citizen of the king by reflecting his character. By living out generosity and kindness. Living out acceptance and forgiveness.

 

Passing on the king’s open invitation and graciousness in our words and actions.

 

We can give people a TASTE of what the king’s heavenly party is like. It’s only a foretaste. An entree. But it’s REAL. And it’s our job to make people hungry for the MAIN COURSE.

 

People can experience the kingdom of God through US. Through the way we ENJOY it. And the way we live it OUT. The way we live out the hospitality and generosity and joy and forgiveness and the goodness of the kingdom.

 

God’s invitation came to US. We didn’t EARN it or DESERVE it. Our job is to accept it. And respond appropriately to it. To live it out, and pass it on. And ENJOY it.

May that be something YOU do THIS week.

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