They Would Not Come

Christ gives us insight into the heart of Man, what we’re all like unless God interferes with our free will, in a parable about a king inviting his subjects to a wedding for his son, the prince. The king sends out the invitations and prepares a lavish feast (Mt 22:2), but when the time comes to celebrate, no one shows up: the wedding has zero guests.

So, the king sends messengers to call on those he’s invited, encouraging them to come and enjoy the wedding, but all of them decline, refusing to attend. (Mt 22:3)

So, the king sends more messengers to plead with his subjects, explaining that the food is ready, that it can’t wait much longer; he’s laid it all out and it can’t be taken back. If they don’t come the food will spoil and the prince’s wedding will be ruined. As their king, he commands them to come. (Mt 22:4)

But the people don’t take their king seriously, having no fear of him; he’s patient and merciful, so they presume he won’t do anything if they just ignore him. They simply go on about their busy lives, leaving the king and prince to enjoy their little wedding alone; they’ve no interest in celebrating with royalty, to share in their joy and fellowship. (Mt 22:5)

however, a few citizens are so irritated by the invitations to the royal marriage that they capture the king’s messengers, treat them hatefully, and eventually kill all of them. (Mt 22:6) The rest of the people get wind of this tragedy, but don’t bother to arrest the murderers or apologize to the king, and just go on about their business as if nothing’s happened, essentially making them accomplices in the treachery.

When the terrible news gets back to the king, how his own people have murdered his servants, though he’s a temperate man, this outrage makes him so angry that he sends out the army to kill the them all and decimate their city, razing it to the ground. (Mt 22:7) Those he has invited to the marriage have shown themselves to be murderers, traitors and enemies; they have no right to dwell in his kingdom, much less attend the wedding.

But the time is late and the banquet is close to spoiling, yet there are still no guests attending the prince’s wedding, and the king is determined to share his celebration with others. So, the king sends out more servants to try to find travelers, vagabonds, the homeless, no matter what their background is, anyone at all that’s willing to come, and invite them to the marriage. These servants do manage to find some folks who are willing to oblige the king and come, so the wedding now has a few guests. (Mt 22:9-10)

The king is pleased that a few people have decided to come, and enters the banquet hall to introduce himself and get to know them, but notices a guest who has declined to put on the fine clothing the king has provided for all of them to wear to the wedding. (Mt 22:11) The king is concerned about a person showing up for the food and dancing, but refusing to identify with the wedding celebration itself as the king has intended, and politely asks the improperly dressed guest about it to understand what happened. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding.

But there’s simply no good reason to do has this particular guest has done, to ignore the king’s provision and behave like an intruder crashing the wedding without a proper invitation. As he faces the king surrounded by other guests, who all have accepted the fine clothing provided for them and become full participants in the celebration, the guest can’t think of anything at all reasonable to say —  he is speechless. (Mt 22:12) Though willing to take advantage of the free food, this guest has treated the king, and the wedding celebration itself, with utmost contempt, and for no particular reason other than disdain for the king and his son.

The king is indignant at the insult and commands his men to tie up the intruder, immobilize him, and expel him from the banquet hall and the safety of the king’s house, into the darkness outside, expecting the intruder to suffer immensely. (Mt 22:13)

What does this parable tell us about Man, about ourselves in our natural, unaided state before God? It is this: no one seeks the living God, to understand Him, to know Him and enjoy Him. (Ro 3:11)

This isn’t because we lack awareness of God, and of His interest in having a relationship with us, or that we don’t know how to respond to Him. The problem is that we dislike and despise Him, so we just don’t bother making any effort to honor Him, walk with Him and enjoy Him. (Ro 8:7) And even if some of us happen to be willing to take advantage of His gifts, without His aid we won’t come the way He has provided, but we insist on our own way, remaining obstinate, alienated from Him (Ep 4:18), separate from Him and His way.

This universal behavior in Man is totally inexcusable, and we’re all guilty as charged. (Ro 1:20-21) If God left salvation up to us, to respond to His call to enjoy His lavish provision of personal righteousness and eternal acceptance with Him, Heaven would be empty — not a single human soul would dance in its streets. God calls us all to the marriage of the Lamb, but He must choose some, working in them to be willing to come, or no one would respond. (Mt 22:14) Thank God that He does!

The implication of the parable is clear: God is both the author and finisher of our salvation (He 12:2); apart from Him no one is saved. And salvation is much more than a willingness to take free stuff; it involves a heart-transplant, a new creature. Those who are not actively loving and pursuing Jesus Christ, submitting themselves to God and to His way, remain His enemies, and will be destroyed. (1Co 16:22) No lukewarmness is to be tolerated within our hearts (Re 3:16); He has come to save us from that. (Ro 7:24-25)

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Jesus Stooped Down

As Jesus is teaching in the temple early one morning, the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to Him that they’ve captured in the very act of adultery. (Jn 8:2-3a) They set her down before the crowd, and start asking Christ if He’ll honor the Mosaic Law (Jn 8:4-5), which requires her to be stoned to death. (De 22:22)

Their motive in doing so is to accuse Him (Jn 8:6a); they’re setting a trap: if He sides with the woman, then the people will recognize He can’t be their Messiah (Is 8:20); yet if He sides with Moses, He’ll be in trouble with Rome. (Jn 18:31) No matter what Christ does, they think they have Him.

But Christ doesn’t answer them; He stoops down, ignoring their question, and begins writing with His finger in the dust on the temple pavement. (Jn 8:6b) His enemies, evidently energized by the thought of finally stumping Him, begin pressing Him for an answer (Jn 8:7a)

But then Christ does something striking: He rises up, publicly invites anyone who is sinless to go ahead and throw the first stone, and then He returns to writing in the dust. (Jn 8:7b-8)

Christ honors the Law, but in a way that’s fitting for their circumstance: lawful subjects of a foreign civil power. God gave the Law to Israel to enforce as a sovereign community, not as individuals living under pagan rule. But a sinless person acting on God’s behalf should be able to call on God to rescue them when the Roman soldiers storm the place. So, Christ effectively says, “If you feel you’ve got God on your side enough to defy Roman law, be My guest: go for it.”

As the accusers begin contemplating what He’s just invited them to do, and also noticing what kinds of things He’s writing in the dust, they scatter, every last one of them, being convicted by their own conscience. (Jn 8:9)

Exactly what Christ writes on the ground is a mystery, but the narrative suggests that He’s exposing the sins of the accusers, how they’re all presumptuously breaking God’s Law, and are worthy of death. (Nu 15:30) After all, they aren’t even following this particular law that they’re asking Christ to honor: in their ploy, they hadn’t incriminated the adulterous man, as the Law requires. (De 22:22)

The fact that Christ doesn’t enforce Mosaic Law here tempts many to claim this as evidence that He came to abolish it and give us a better one. Nothing could be farther from the truth: He Himself says so, explicitly. (Mt 5:17-19) Court is adjourned, not because God’s Law is obsolete, but because the community has opted out: there’s no one left to carry out the sentence. (Jn 8:10-11a)

Christ’s wisdom here lies in the fact that lawful punishment must only be carried out by recognized civil authority. Christ Himself is not obligated, as a single individual under Roman civil law, to enforce it, and He chooses not to. (Jn 8:11b) It’s the prudent choice, a testament to His infinite wisdom and discernment.

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