Save the date! Matthew 22.1-10
Today I flew to Northern California with my daughter, Amy and six-month-old Alyssa to participate in the 50th wedding anniversary of my brother and sister-in-law. Fifty years … really? How could so much time have passed since I wore the long yellow satin dress and dropped petals down the aisle for the lace-covered bride to follow? What a remarkable achievement to be married to the same person for 50 long years!
In the West, weddings are still popular and momentous occasions for so many blessed folks. It seems popular these days for an engaged couple to send out ‘Save the Date’ memos to their guest list, letting them know an event is in the offing, that they should mark their calendars. Some time later the wedding invitation with all of the details follows.
In this story that Jesus tells in Matthew 22, the ‘Save the Date’ has been sent but the particulars are not announced, which was apparently customary for the day. When the preparation is complete, the invited guests (Jesus is referring to the Jewish people in this parable), do not pay much attention.
Matthew writes, “Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“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.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. Verse 7 - The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
Here’s what I would like us to notice—different than the judgment of those who knowingly spurn the invitation of the King, the invitation of the Father, which has been referred to before this in Matthew’s gospel. (We already know that when we have had an introduction to the King’s Son and choose to thumb our nose at him, it will be more than a little unfortunate someday.)
But notice what the King has in mind for those who respond positively to the invitation – a royal banquet, a joyous feast prepared especially in their honor – something no one would want to miss! Don’t miss this--choosing to respond to Jesus is not just avoiding judgment, Hell and eternal separation from God, but rather walking into a rapturous eternity, filled with the presence of the One who loves us most of all! Paul captured the notion best, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”1 And while celebrations in this life are short-lived, Paul said Heaven entails
‘what is too sacred to even speak about, to even put into words.’2
So the fiftieth wedding celebration was nice, and well deserved. It was wonderful to be with family and friends too. But can you imagine what it will be like to be at the wedding feast of the Lamb? Captured so beautifully by the 18th century English hymn-writer in one of the later verses perhaps: ‘When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.’3 We just will not get tired of Heaven; neither the joy or the love will ever end. Love that.
p.s. Matthew’s gospel was written after the gospel of Mark. This underlined verse, verse 7, indicates that Matthew wrote after A.D. 70, when Rome did in fact destroy Jerusalem, completely quieting the political unrest and punitively quelling the troublesome Jews. Once again, when something does not make sense, when it seems obtuse, when something seems out of keeping with Jesus’ nature, we must dig a little more.
Heaven – a joyous, sumptuous, glorious celebration!
1 – 1 Corinthians 2.9, NLT
2 – 2 Corinthians 12.4-5
3 – Amazing Grace, John Newton,