Monday, May 30, 2016

Witnessing to Profound Meaning and Great Joy (Matthew 22:1-14)

In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus enters Jerusalem only once during his public ministry and then just before his crucifixion. He does so on the back of a donkey rather than mounted on a warhorse to demonstrate that he comes as the Prince of Peace and not as just another Olympian military leader. While this may have pleased his disciples, it threw the whole city…into an uproar (Matthew 21:10, Good News Translation, here and following).
Understandably. According to Matthew, Jesus immediately enters the Temple, chases out the moneychangers, overturns their tables, and condemns their unwitting devotion to Pluto (god of money) in the one national building dedicated to Yahweh (Matthew 21:12-13).

Jesus then makes a habit of going to the Temple and there teaching worshipers, healing sick people, and even appealing to children. In all these ways, he witnesses to the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven while ironically challenging the leaders of God’s people and their most morally upright supporters.
They certainly recognize this challenge and immediately question his authority. He responds by telling parables of the Kingdom. The third of these stories concerns a wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14).
In this parable, Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast. Wedding feasts are profoundly meaningful times of great joy. That’s what participation in the Kingdom of Heaven is like: a profoundly meaningful time of great joy. The great joy, in other words, comes from our conscious participation in profoundly meaningful times. Our times are not profoundly meaningful because we happen to be happy.
If I might apply this parable to our churches today, I would say that Abba decided decades ago to invite all good Christian leaders and their morally upright supporters to know the great joy that comes from witnessing to the presence of his very unconventional kingdom. We couldn’t have cared less (22:3).
No no! Abba wanted all of us good Christians to witness heartily to the union of Christ and Church. He urgently desired all of us to know the great joy that comes only from witnessing to the presence of his kingdom with abandon. We were much too busy. We were much more interested in sticking to our own Olympian agendas, and expecting Abba to conform to them as well, to be bothered with his changes (v. 5). We even had the audacity to silence the many different messengers of meaning which Abba sent to us on our behalf (v. 6). Some, like Martin Luther King, we literally murdered; others, like Karl Barth, simply vanished from neglect.
Not good. Abba withered, and often enough ended, the lives of those churches, and church institutions like seminaries, that abused his messengers and remained indifferent to his invitations (v. 7). He even suffered some churches to grow despite their unwitting devotion to the Olympian gods and rejection of him. He lamented that the people I invited did not deserve it (v. 8).
Enough! Now Abba is sending you and me into the streets to invite everyone, morally upright or not, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Olympian, or not, to participate in the urgent work and great joy of creating an alternative society and culture based on the truth, love, and vitality that are ours through his son Jesus Christ (vs. 9-10).
Careful! Abba is not a god to be trifled with! If we imagine we want to respond to his invitation today, and again tomorrow, we had better do so in an appropriately festive spirit. Otherwise we’re out (v. 11)!
And Jesus concluded, “Many are invited, but few are chosen” (v. 14). Before the foundation of the world, Abba chose all of us human beings to participate in the wondrous kingdom of his son Jesus Christ. The great mystery is why so few of us humans affirm that, indeed, Abba has invited us today, yet again, to participate in the profoundly meaningful work and great joy of the Kingdom of Heaven present in Jesus.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.