Day Thirty-one: Monday, July 20th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 21:1-22
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
We finished our readings last week with these words from the end of Matthew 21:
“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Matthew 21:42, where Jesus is quoting from Psalm 118) The tension between the rejection Jesus will experience and God’s plan to use the rejection of the Beloved Son to bring about something marvelous is on display all throughout these last chapters in Matthew’s gospel, chapters which slowly and yet unyieldingly lead us to the death of Jesus.
Tension is a helpful word as we seek to explore the events of the last week Jesus lived on earth. Tension will grow throughout the week until we hear the angry cries of the crowd, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” But tension also describes the interplay between various themes and events that help us recognize the deep complexity of God’s plan, God’s marvelous plan that includes the unthinkable, the death of his Son.
The parable Jesus tells about a Wedding Banquet highlights the tension.
- What good news we hear: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” Such an image of celebration. Such an image of rejoicing. Such an image of a party.
- What good news to be ones who receive the invitation saying, “Come to the wedding banquet.”
- What an affront to the host, to the king who gives the invitation, to the son who is the bridegroom. “But they paid no attention (to the invitation) and went off…” They paid no attention and carried right on with their daily routine.
- What alarming news follows their rejection of the invitation. “The king was enraged and sent armies to destroy those murderers.”
- What good news that there is a second invitation, an invitation that now moves to the street corners, gathering all that can be found.
- What bad news to hear about someone who is without proper attire being thrown out.
- What bad news to hear that in the darkness of those outside the wedding banquet there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The tension in this parable, like the tension between the rejection of Jesus that is so marvelous for us, is not a tension for us to resolve. We seek to resolve the tension when we focus only on God’s love…or only on God’s judgment. What we will witness as we walk with Jesus this final stage of his earthly journey is that words and actions that display and describe God’s grace and God’s judgment will come to us time and time again. The tension will rise as the final chapters of the life of Jesus unfold for us. We do not resolve the tension by seeking a quick resolution or an easy understanding. There will always be a deep mystery surrounding our salvation. “At just the right time, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is God’s resolution to the tension. Our salvation is found in the midst of that marvelous rejection.
Without seeking to resolve the tension, I do find it of great comfort to move from the parable of the Wedding Banquet to the question that follows, the question of paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus holds a coin that has the inscription of Caesar. He says give your coins to Caesar. Your coins bear the inscription of Caesar. But what about our lives. Whose inscription is on our lives? Are you ready for some good news? Our lives bear the inscription of God. We are created in the image of God. Holding firmly to the belief that our lives bear the inscription of God may we embrace the tension that surrounds the final days of our Lord Jesus. God is at work to save his precious children, precious children created in God’s very own image.
Regarding the parable of the Wedding Banquet: “Most human institutions have some restrictions and limitations on who can be admitted. Yale University received 26,000 applications for admission to the class of 2013. Of that number, only 7.5 percent were actually admitted. Yale does not say, ‘Come unto me, all that are weary and burdened.’ Most public universities admit no more than 60 percent of those who apply for admission. There is no institution or organization of which I am aware where everybody/anybody can freely come, whether they are good or bad. That is rule number one with Jesus; the Lord will take anybody who shows up. This is the good news of the gospel; Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Paul says, ‘While we were still sinning, Christ died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:8). This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, ‘The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life’ (Romans 6:23). This is the message that has mesmerized the world; ‘For God so loved the world…that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).” (Marvin A McMickle, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4, p. 169)