How does the parable of the wedding banquet make you feel? At first glance, God is portrayed as a king who throws a party for his son, and punishes those who refuse to attend. There’s violence, mistreatment and destruction—talk about a dinner party gone bad! Then there’s the man not wearing a wedding robe that gets thrown out into outer darkness. Tough crowd. Where’s the good news? Is God like that? Could there be another way to read the parable?
What if Jesus isn’t the son in the parable, and God isn’t the father? Matthew is writing ten years after a civil war that resulted in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem; his audience is intimately familiar with the “imperial theology” of the Roman Empire—Caesar is “Lord” of all the earth—he makes the rules. The “king” of the parable sounds more like Caesar than God. While the wedding banquet is in full swing, the son is silent. Only the servants (Matthew uses the word diakonos, from which we get our word “deacon”) are actively recruiting wedding guests. The man not wearing a wedding robe says nothing when asked how he got into the party. So here’s a thought: the man wearing the simple garment represents Jesus.
Who’s the uninvited guest in the court of Pilate, a “son” of Caesar? What does he wear? Jesus shows up wearing a seamless garment, which will be replaced by a scarlet robe before he’s cast into the “outer darkness” of crucifixion.
Is Jesus a kind, benign gentleman who would never step on toes or show up uninvited? Or is Jesus, the Son of God, the uninvited guest who insists on showing up, particularly to parties gone bad! The next time you host a “pity party”, see if Jesus shows up. When you’re invited to the next weeping and moaning party given by the disgruntled, ask Jesus to crash the party and see how things turn out.
This week as fires rage in Northern California and hurricane survivors continue to re-build, Jesus shows up to the parties, including rescue and clean up parties. As our culture continues to struggle with issues that could be described as, “who’s invited to the party?”, including women, people of color, LGBT, immigrants, and others who have been excluded from power and privilege, see how Jesus shows up uninvited and underdressed. Will you listen to the uninvited guest, or throw him out?