The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast . . .
A wedding banquet was about to take place. A few months before the banquet, the prospective bride and her fiancé went to a hotel in downtown Boston to plan the banquet. The two of them pored over the menu, selected the china and silver, and picked out flower arrangements. They had expensive taste, and the bill came to $13,000. After leaving a check for half that amount as a down payment, the couple went to select wedding announcements. But the day the announcements were scheduled to arrive, the potential groom broke off the engagement. When his angry fiancée returned to the hotel to cancel the banquet, the event manager was very understanding. “The same thing happened to me, honey,” she said. But about the refund? She had bad news. “The contract is binding. You’re only entitled to thirteen hundred dollars back. You have two options: forfeit the rest of the down payment or go ahead with the banquet. I’m really sorry.” It seemed crazy, but the more the jilted bride thought about it, the more she liked the idea of going ahead with the party. Not a wedding banquet, but a big blowout. You see, ten years earlier, this same woman had been living in a homeless shelter. She had gotten back on her feet, found a good job, and set aside a sizable nest egg. Now she had the wild notion of using her savings to treat the down-and-outs of Boston to a night on the town. And so it was that in June 1990, the Hyatt hotel in downtown Boston hosted a party such as it had never seen before. The hostess changed the menu to boneless chicken “in honor of the groom,” she said. And she sent invitations to rescue missions and homeless shelters. That warm summer night, people who were used to peeling half-gnawed pizza off cardboard dined instead on chicken cordon bleu. Hyatt waiters in tuxedos served hors d’oeuvres to senior citizens propped up by crutches and walkers. Bag ladies and vagrants took one night off from the hard life on the sidewalks and instead sipped champagne, ate chocolate wedding cake, and danced to big band melodies late into the night.
Contrary to what most people believe, heaven is not going to be one long, boring church service. Instead, Jesus taught that heaven is a big, blowout party to which everyone is invited. But only a few unlikely guests are going to attend. And that’s the theme of the parable in Matthew 22.
In our study of Jesus’ parables, we have seen these were not merely isolated stories Jesus told to entertain the crowd. They were all given in a particular context. And the context of this parable is found in Matthew 21:43. Jesus was speaking to the Jews, and He said, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit of it.” Now this drove the Pharisees crazy. Jesus was teaching that though Israel rejected Christ, God wasn’t going to cancel the kingdom of heaven. He wasn’t going to call off the banquet. Instead, He was going to invite other people to share in the banquet—Gentiles, people like you and me.
The Jews couldn’t handle that truth. They thought of the Gentiles as second-class citizens. To think that non-Jewish people would actually be in heaven, ahead of the Jews who had rejected Christ, was unthinkable. But that’s exactly what Jesus taught.
And to emphasize that truth, Jesus tells a parable to show us all that the kingdom of God is going to be a big party attended by the unlikeliest of guests.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Kingdom of God Is a Party” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.