When you were a child, perhaps one of your favorite times was when you were invited to a birthday party. For some, an invitation was proof that they were actually “seen”. Even if that person was thought to be a friend, it was a surety that the friendship was true. If your parent(s) said you couldn’t go, oh, the drama!
As a ruler and public person, culturally, the king would be expected to have a (semi-)public feast, where at least the connected or (at least of) the correct blood would be invited. Also, the cultural expectation would be—barring something truly serious (illness and death being about it)—to accept the invitation and attend.
So, the same people were invited again. Those that went on to their mundane (i.e., not culturally serious enough to not attend) tasks insulted the king in one way. By abusing and even killing the king’s servants, the others found a different way to insult the king. Servants were often the “carriers” of the king’s will, so killing them would be similar to declaring war.
Which helps explain the next part. The king declares war. Some sort of retribution to salvage his honor would be required. Add to that the killing of his representatives…nothing good would come of it. Jesus’ listeners would understand.
Those originally invited were, to the hearers and our understanding, the Jews (who were the remnant of Israel). So, why waste the feast? It would be shameful to have an empty feast. So, all the unconnected and non-blood were invited. For those keeping track, this would be the Gentiles (most of us).
It is here that there is another unexpected twist. Culturally, everyone would be expected to show up dressed appropriately. This is not the tuxedo or suit, but a more common, yet special, overwear that displayed that one was honoring the host.*
The man dishonored the king. The king had had enough dishonoring, but at least he only tossed the guy out. The commonness of the “overwear” means that this was a deliberate choice. That shows it was more than being poor. It was something more.
Jesus’ concluding statement, though, tells us something far more. All too often, people believe they are called to God (they are). However, they allow the things of the world to be a priority over God. Others think that God’s magnanimousness is carte blanche to do whatever, as long as they “just” show up.
While the Jews, at the time, were accused of caring more for the world (and the forefathers) more than God (and God’s prophets), others (in general, could be Samaritans or Romans or other Gentiles) were also being accused of wanting the spoils without even showing the slightest care for the one who gave them.
Truly, these accusations can be justly put at the feet of all of us at some point in our lives. There is an ebb and flow to each. Yet, the Lord of the Banquet calls us to the Love Feast, and we have to be at least somewhat prepared.
Lord of the Feast, help us prepare the ways of heart so that we come to the table hungry for you. Amen.
1) Can you think of a time when some wore inappropriate attire to a gathering? What was the gathering? What made it inappropriate?
2) Have you ever made an excuse to not attend a function that you were otherwise perfectly able to attend? Why? What did it gain you not to attend?
3) While it appears the king had an open door invite to the feast, that really wasn’t so. What kind of other situations have you experienced like that?