“The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.” Just reading this line produces anxiety in my soul. I’m a person who is completely ignorant of all wedding etiquette. Now, as a pastor, I’m expected to be the authority on these matters and I’m clueless.
Actually, the more I think about it, the image is quite accurate. Weddings are full of unwritten rules interpreted differently by each individual couple. Violation of the interpretation of an unwritten rule can produce condemnation. For example, I once had a bridesmaid rip into me because the lighting of the unity candle was in the wrong place according to her interpretation. Really? There is a manual with the universally accepted, holy and sacred placement of the unity candle? I must have slept through that class.
The kingdom of heaven is often the same. People have in their heads rules, interpreted differently by each person, where violation produces judgement and condemnation. The judgement is often coming from the person providing the interpretation.
I’m amazed at how many people believe there are unforgivable sins. Despite the fact that Jesus proclaims the forgiveness of sin; dies for the forgiveness of sin; is raised from the dead to defeat the punishment of sin, death. We start worship with the confession and forgiveness of sin. During communion we eat and drink the forgiveness of our sin and yet, despite it all, people still feel unforgiven. Maybe at the end of the day, the one who will not forgive us is ourselves.
Jesus doesn’t help matters much with a parable like this one. It reads like a scene out of the “Godfather.” Imagine the banquet is an invitation to embrace forgiveness. Can you see how walking away might produce spiritual death? (Mt. 22: 1-14)