My family and I missed a wedding last weekend due to Covid. It was distant relations, so while we would have liked being there, we understand that a guest list of 20 wouldn’t include us. In hope, the couple had invited a larger number, but ultimately only a few would get to go. There’s a bible story about that. It also features a scary king.
A king with wild mood swings ought to be feared. The parable Jesus tells describes a king who transitions from warmth and invitation to anger and retribution in the twinkling of an eye. It would be troubling if this was Jesus’ depiction of His Heavenly Father. But it is not. Most parables have one main point and this one is not so much about the King of Heaven as His subjects.
The fundamental action is this: an invitation has been issued and people are incredibly varied in their responses. Some respond with apathy, others with hostility. Some even accept the invitation, but do so with a casualness that undermines their acceptance. It is not a terribly happy story.
Jesus tell us though that the tragic air of this parable mirrors reality:
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Life is chaotic and people respond to it in unpredictable ways. Theological systems that seek to impose rigid order to our lives fail here. We have hope because Jesus is establishing a kingdom of peace and order, shalom, here on earth as it is in heaven. But we are not there yet. And so the tragedy is not done yet. People who ought to be able to see the truth are blind to it. Those who have come face to face with it still turn away. And some people just don’t care. It’s a crying shame.
And the appropriate response is to get to that banquet hall in wedding clothes. Get your party dress on and dance! And grieve the loss of those outside. But don’t bother trying to build theological towers of Babel; that is the one thing that just doesn’t fit in this story.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
In our modern sensibility we are often uncomfortable with such stark consequences to our choices. We would like to recast things; soften the message. But the command is enter; the command is not widen the gate.
Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.