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The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of my favorite parables. I know, I know… I say that about all of them. But seriously this one is good. If you haven’t read it do it here: Luke 10:25-37

Jesus displays his genius by not only not falling for a trap, but by turning the tables back on the person who asked the question.

Let’s start with the set up. 

The Set Up

Anytime a religious leader, in this case a lawyer, tries to trap Jesus you know it’s going to get good. And this case is no exception.

His opening question (Luke 10:25) seems very reasonable, What must I do to inherit eternal life? But the author tells us his intentions were less than stellar. So right off the bat we know he doesn’t really care about what Jesus has to say. He wants to trap Jesus. And he does with a complex theological question.

The first thing we should take note of is who is asking this question. A lawyer, or religious expert. In other words this guy knows his stuff. He likely has most of law (scripture) memorized. Because he’s so familiar with the law he knows that this is not an easy question to answer. He’s not asking because he’s interested in the answer; he’s asking because he wants to trip Jesus up. And he asks a question that would trip up even the best teachers of the day.

Rather than answer this trick question, Jesus asks another question (Luke 10:26). He knows that this guy would rather talk than listen. So Jesus throws the question back at him. What do you think?  And here’s the thing… He answered correctly (Luke 10:27-28). He gets it right.

Jesus even tells him he answers right, but he tacks on that it’s not okay to just know it. You have to actually live it. The lawyer is sharp and he sees what Jesus just did. Jesus just called him out on not living up to what he believes. Now he’s faced with how to respond. He can either repent and fix his ways. Or try to justify his actions. He chose the latter.

The Twist

And who is my neighbor?  – The Lawyer

Realizing he can’t actually live out the law perfectly, he searches for the loophole. He’s not interested in following Jesus; he just wants the rewards. He doesn’t want to know who his neighbor is; rather who his neighbor isn’t. That way he can narrow the field so he can claim that he is fulfilling the law.

Before we go about criticizing this guy, he was following common teaching of the day. Rabbinic literature of the day made a clear distinction that your “neighbor” was only to include Israelites. What Jesus’ story does is it expands the parameters of who is my neighbor far beyond where this lawyer, any Jew, or even us today feel comfortable.

The Start of the Story

Jesus launches into his parable (Luke 10:30) that gives response not just to the Lawyer’s second question, “Who is my neighbor?” but also his first, “What must I do to be saved?

While Jesus’ story is fictional, the details are pulled from real life. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was known to be dangerous. Thieves would often hide in the many caves, curves, and cliffs and ambush unsuspecting travelers. So when Jesus mentions this road and that a man was traveling alone those listening would instantly have thought how of how foolish of a decision this man made by traveling alone.

The inevitable happens… The traveler is beat up and robbed. To no surprise of the audience. The surprise of the story is what happens next.

The Religious Losers

The traveler is barely hanging onto life when a Priest comes across him (Luke 10:31). But the initial hope is soon dissipated. He doesn’t help. Not only does he not help, Jesus makes clear that he went out of his way to pass by on the other side of this half dead traveler.

Then a Levite comes by the traveler. Surely he will stop and help, right? Nope. He too passes by on the other side.

To really understand what is going on in Jesus’ story we need to understand the customs of the day. Both of these first two people are clergymen. A priest’s job was to officiate temple sacrifices and Levites helped maintain the temple and its’ services. Both of these jobs required them to remain ceremonially clean while on duty. There was a list of things they couldn’t do, one of them being touching a dead body. Of course these rules weren’t supposed to keep people from helping those in need. Thus they are likely using this as a selfish excuse not to help.

These religious leaders were more concerned with their outward appearance of cleanliness than the actual condition of their heart. This isn’t the only time Jesus makes this point. He criticizes the Pharisees for only cleaning the outside of the cup but neglecting the inside in Matthew 23:25 and Luke 11:39. Jesus is getting at the same point here. It’s where your heart is that matters. And for these characters in the story, it was in the wrong place.

The lawyer’s heart has to be sinking because he can see himself in the story. But it’s about to get worse for him.

The Unsuspecting Hero

“But a Samaritan…” Luke 10:33

Those words today are lost on us. When we see the word Samaritan we think of something good. The term “Good Samaritan” would have been an oxymoron to the lawyer and the Jews of the day. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews and were seen as half-breeds. There was an intense rivalry that often turned violent. So the fact that an unclean Samaritan was the hero of the story would have been a punch straight to the gut.

Jesus doesn’t stop with the Samaritan just checking on the guy; he goes above and beyond (Luke 10:34-35).  The Samaritan not only has compassion but his compassion moves him to action. He cleans and binds up his wounds, brings him to an inn, cared for him, and paid for his stay. At great cost to himself he ensured this man was cared for.

The symbolism in this story is striking. The Samaritan was hated by the religious leaders. As was Jesus. He rescued the person that needed him the most. As did Jesus on the cross. And he did all of this out of love for someone that could never repay him. As did Jesus.

The Punchline

The story is over and the audience is stunned. But Jesus isn’t done yet. Remember this story was brought on by two questions and Jesus is now circling back around to them.

The lawyers questions of “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” and “who is my neighbor?” show that he was focused on the wrong thing. He was concerned with correct theology. But Jesus shows that knowing the right answer is insufficient. All the correct Bible knowledge is usual if we don’t lead it to life transformation.

Jesus shows the lawyer he was asking the wrong question. The question isn’t who is my neighbor, or what’s the right thing to believe. Rather, how can I be a good neighbor, or how can I live out my beliefs?

Jesus ends with a punch to the gut. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer can’t even answer… “The one who had mercy on him.” He cannot even mention the name. But he can’t ignore the obvious message of the parable. He knows what he must do; now he has to wrestle with if he will actually live that way.

For Us

It’s easy to read this story and look down on the lawyer. But this story should be used as a mirror to examine ourselves. Are we more like the lawyer or the good samaritan? Are you being a good neighbor? It’s easy to quickly answer that question. But Jesus’ story forces us to actually examine our lives to see for ourselves. 

We’ve heard the story. Now the question is how will we respond. Do we think our correct theology, or beliefs, are enough? We will be a good neighbor to everyone in life, even those we don’t like?

If you liked this article, check out some of the other articles I’ve written on Jesus’ parables.

What We Can Learn From the Rich Man and Lazarus

Judge Not (what Jesus really meant)

What We Need to Know About the Parable of the Talents

The post Who Is My Neighbor? (the parable of the good samaritan) appeared first on rethink.

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It wasn’t so long ago that divorce was a taboo subject within the Church. Today the controversy has been replaced with normalcy and even support for those going through it. But there still is a lot of misconceptions about it and what the Bible says about divorce.

The Bible actually says quite a lot about divorce (you can read all the verses here: Verses About Divorce). The problem is when we read these verses we impose our understanding of divorce onto the text. This has left many people with incorrect ideas and led many to wrong, and sometimes dangerous, practices. 

Since there are so many verses I had to do some picking and choosing. We will look at two key passages from Jesus. Since he incorporates many of the Old Testament teachings into his, this will still give a good understanding of what the Bible says about divorce. 

Before we look at the scripture we need to look at what divorce was in the 1st Century and who it affected so that we can understand what the Bible is actually saying about divorce.

Divorce in Jesus’ Day

The world was very different in First Century Israel. Maybe the most difficult thing for us to grasp today is their extreme patriarchal society. This wasn’t unique to their culture; it was the norm for the time. Men were in control and women were second class.

This mindset played heavily into marriage and divorce. Only men were allowed to divorce their wives; women had no say in the matter. Based out of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 the belief of Jesus’ day was that a man could divorce his wife if something “improper” happened. What exactly is improper? That was the debate.

By Jesus’ day there were two common camps of thought. Some followed the teachings of Shammai, who said divorce was only acceptable if the woman committed sexual offense, such as adultery. But the more commonly held view was that of Hillel. He taught that a man could divorce his wife if she displeased him in anyway. Even something as trivial as burning dinner.

Divorce for a man was easy to move past, especially with an acceptable (albeit misplaced) reason. However for women the repercussions were severe. A divorced woman was seen as damaged and likely lived the rest of her life single. To complicate the situation women typically weren’t allowed to work. Typically they had two options, move back in with their family (often they weren’t accepted) OR beg for money.

This created a system that put women, and often children, at a severe disadvantage and often in dangerous situations. Divorce in Jesus’ day was “good” for the man, but detrimental for the woman. And Jesus was not okay with that.

Matthew 5:31-32

While short, Matthew 5:31-32 is an often quoted text as to what the Bible says about divorce. Again, the problem is that we impose our understanding of divorce onto this text. So the first thing we need to remind ourselves of is the context of the culture to which Jesus is speaking.

The first thing we should take note of is who this is addressed too… the husbands, the men. They are the ones that are making the decision to divorce, so Jesus directs this towards them. That might seem odd to us, but knowing the context that makes sense. Not only does Jesus direct this towards the men, but he shows them that they aren’t getting off so free and clean as they thought.

“anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

What a strange thought, right? At least at first glance. Most people read this literally. But Jesus is using a metaphor, comparing divorce to adultery figuratively. Jesus is not saying that divorce = adultery. Rather he is saying divorce is like adultery in that the consequences are the same.

When a man divorces his wife the foundation of commitment is broken, thus the marriage is dissolved. When one commits adultery, the foundation of faithfulness is destroyed, thus the marriage is broken. Both divorce and adultery end the same way. So in that way they are the same. What Jesus is saying is the practical result of divorce is the same as that of adultery.

The point of this teaching is… Divorce destroys a marriage just as adultery does. They result in the same thing, but they are not the same thing.

Again, this is directed at the men in the audience. Jesus is pointing the finger at them. He’s telling them that they are as guilty as a woman who commits adultery. Those who divorce their wives for their own selfish reasons, they are guilty.

Jesus is flipping the script and offering protection for the women of the day.

Matthew 19:1-12

At this point in Jesus’ ministry the Pharisees are always trying to trap him. But Jesus doesn’t back down; he’s not afraid of a good fight. In this case Jesus is tested about his knowledge of divorce.

“Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

We know this is a trap, Matthew points that out to us. But what we might miss is how exactly this traps Jesus. This question is based around whether Jesus follows the teaching of Shammai or Hillel. No matter how he answers, which side he chooses, he is likely to alienate half the crowd listening.

Knowing what’s going on, Jesus starts off with a jab at the Pharisees… “Have you not read” would have been an offensive question to the religious elite who not only have read, but had memorized much of the scriptures. Now he dives into his teaching on divorce.

The question posed to Jesus aligns closely with Hillel’s teaching, that a man could divorce his wife for any offense. We clearly know that is not where Jesus lands. However he doesn’t fully align with Shammai’s view either in two key ways.

  1. As we talked about already Shammai bases his theology of divorce from Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus goes further back and bases his theology on Genesis 1-2.
  2. Shammai takes a patriarchal approach, only giving permission to the men. Jesus deals with the obligations of men AND women.

The bottom line here is the same as in Matthew 5:31-32, however this time Jesus expounds more on his reasoning. In this case Jesus goes all the way back to the beginning, creation. Jesus’ argument is that marriage unites. A married couple is one. God’s original design was on of lasting unity that was brought together by God himself. This was God’s original design and intent.

But Then Came Sin

God’s design was for marriage to last forever. Throughout the Bible that is made clear and clearly where Jesus lands. But it’s not so cut and dry. The problem is sin. We often think sin separates us from God, and it does. But it also separates us from each other. Just as sin separated us from God, it can also separate us from each other.

In marriage that can mean the sin of one person (adultery, abuse, etc…) can cause irreversible harm. Or it could be a mixture of both parties. We need to know that divorce was never part of God’s plan. It is not God’s desire for divorce to happen. It’s his desire for reconciliation to take place. But for that to happen, all parties have to be willing. And that’s not always the case.

Sometimes sin wrecks a marriage beyond repair. While God’s design was one of lasting unity, sin disrupts that.

Here’s how I think divorce is best understood Biblically… Divorce is ALWAYS bad. However, sometimes all you have in life is two bad options. So you have to choose the lesser of the bad options.

I’ve never known someone that went through a divorce and just loved it. Or thought it was the best thing ever. However, I do know many people that divorce was the best option they had. Take an abusive relationship for example. Divorce is still messy, difficult, and will cause damage. In other words, it would be hard to call that a “good” option. However in that case, divorce is a much better option than staying in an abusive relationship. Because of sin, either of one party or both, divorce is sometimes the better of two bad options.

Of course we know that sin is forgivable and our situation is redeemable through Jesus. In other words, if you are in a broken marriage there’s hope! But both parties have to be willing to let God restore them.

Implications For Us Today

So where does this leave us?

1. Jesus Protects The Vulnerable

The first thing we should recognize in Jesus’ teaching on divorce is his protection of the most vulnerable, the women. They were being taken advantage of by a system that was set up against them. Jesus evens the playing field in marriage showing an equal responsibility for both men and women. He puts an end to the rules that put women at a disadvantage and restores his intention for marriage.

Jesus does a lot more for women, you can read that here: Jesus Valued Women (and why that matters)

2. Jesus Stands Firmly on Truth

God intended for marriage to last for our lives. From the beginning in Genesis he makes that clear. It seems today we take marriage less and less seriously, but God doesn’t. The Bible shows us the level of commitment we ought to enter marriage with. For some that should come as a kick in the pants. If you are in a marriage that is falling apart you should pursue your spouse to the extent that Jesus pursued the church.

3. Jesus Offers Restoration

It was never God’s intention for marriages to be broken. But sin has destroyed many marriages. But it doesn’t end there. The message of the Gospel is one of hope, of reconciliation, and God’s not going to leave us in our brokenness. Whether you’ve been divorced or are in a struggling marriage, God’s desire for you is not for you to stay broken, but be restored.

What are your thoughts? How have you understood the Bible’s teaching on divorce? 

The post What Does the Bible Actually Say About Divorce? appeared first on rethink.

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The rich man and Lazarus. Yet another great story told by Jesus that packs a punch. If you haven’t read this story you should, it’s fascinating. Read it here: (Luke 16:19-31)

Let’s look at what’s going on in this story. 

The Set Up

This story is all about the contrast between the two characters in this story, the rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus doesn’t even bother to give the rich man a name in his story. Rather he let him be a representative for all who live life in such a manor as he did. He makes it clear that this man is living a lavish lifestyle, at the extent of others. This man lived his life adorned in the finest clothes, including purple, which only the wealthiest could afford, and feasting daily. This guy had it made.

In starch contrast there’s Lazarus. The only thing that adorned him was sores, and all he had to eat were scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Jesus even adds a detail that showed just how low this guy was, that dogs licked or snipped at his wounds. This detail is significant as it would have made him unclean, unable to worship properly. This was the ultimate degradation. The only thing that Lazarus had that the rich man didn’t was a name. Jesus personalizes his concern for the poor man with a name.

Jesus’ story starts with these two men whose lives couldn’t be more different. Even in their death there is considerable contrast. The rich man is buried, undoubtedly anointed with oil, wrapped, and carefully placed in a tomb. And Lazarus’ body was tossed aside; a fair assumption is that he was thrown into the city dump, Gehenna. Jesus offers detail after detail to show just how different these guys’ life, and death, really was.

Now dead, we get a glimpse of their “life” on the other side.

New Place, Same Man

This is where Jesus’ story now gets interesting. Lazarus is carried to Abraham’s side. And the rich man goes to Hades. Even in the after life they still live in contrast to each other. But now the roles have reversed. Lazarus is now living in luxury and the rich man is living in torment. Ironically he’s still called the rich man, though he now has nothing.

The rich man is now in torment, important to note he is not being tortured as many picture hell. Rather torment, and we will see that this is a self-inflicted torment not one brought on by an outside force.

While in torment there seems to be a moment of regret, a time where the rich man seeks forgiveness. Luke 16:24 tells us that he calls out for mercy. And we might feel bad for him… But we just need to read to the end of the verse to see he hasn’t changed a bit.

The rich man asks for mercy, but not mercy to be saved from his current circumstances. Rather he asks for Lazarus to be sent to Hades so that he can dip the end of his finger in water and cool his tongue. That might seem like a rather strange request, but his intent is crystal clear. The rich man wants Lazarus to once again be in a place of servitude of him. In other words he still thinks he’s more important and he wants to be the top dog. He hasn’t changed one bit.

The Hell He Chose 

Many people reading this story assume the picture Jesus is painting is hell. And it very well might be. But we shouldn’t try to take from this story what Jesus didn’t intend. This isn’t a teaching on hell. Rather a teaching on the consequences of our actions towards others.

For more on what Jesus said about hell check out this article: What Jesus Said About Hell (and what it means) 

In Jesus’ story the rich man wasn’t thrown into hell because he didn’t believe. He found himself in a place of torment because of the way he treated others, specifically Lazarus.

God is not locking the rich man away. The rich man locked himself away; he chose to go there. Even when there seemed to be an opportunity to repent and change his ways he didn’t. Instead, he demand that Lazarus come and serve him again.

Jesus ends his story with a rather sad statement, but one that will prove true. Even if someone were to raise from the dead they would not be convinced to change their ways. In a short time Jesus will do just that, but still that won’t be enough for some to change their ways.

In this story Jesus makes clear that the man is locked up in his place of torment. But the lock is on the inside. The man refuses to come out. He would rather reign in torment than be a servant in God’s kingdom.

I’ve written more on this topic here: Rethinking The Traditional Views of Hell

The Implications

This parable is both a jab at the religious leaders and hope for those oppressed. Jesus gives a warning to those that aren’t paying any attention to the needs of others. That attitude has no place in God’s kingdom. Until they repent and change their ways they live in a place of self-torment. That’s the way it has to be; true happiness is not found at the expense of others. Jesus is warning his audience, the religious leaders, that their treatment of others does not lead to where they think it does.

While a jab for some, there is hope in this story for many as well. Many listening were the oppressed, the poor, the sick, the taken advantage of. For them this story is one of hope. That one day their pain will end and they will find the life they truly desire with God.

This parable is designed to force us, the readers, to reflect on how we treat Lazarus-like people. The rich man remains nameless so that we can place ourselves in his shoes.

Where Do You Fall?

Are we like him? He clearly knew Lazarus, he asked for him by name. He knew he was in need, but he refused to even give him the scraps from his table. Lazarus was forced to gather only what fell. The rich man saw the need and ignored it. He had no compassion. Even in death he still saw Lazarus as beneath him. This story asks the question, is that you? Do you treat people like that? Do you have the resources but refuse to give them? Is your heart hardened towards those in need?

This parable shows us that we get what we ultimately want; we get what our lives were truly about. We can either reign in torment, be a god in our own hell. Or we can be a servant of God and be in paradise with Him. It’s up to us. The way we treat others shows us which direction we will take. But it’s not too late for us if we find ourselves on the wrong side of the equation. Unlike the rich man who refused to repent, we can and find the life that we were meant to have.

The post What We Can Learn From The Rich Man and Lazarus appeared first on rethink.

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Let’s face it. Evangelism isn’t working. Or at least it’s not working well.

In high school I remember being taught the importance of having a personal testimony that you could share at a moment’s notice. It was stressed to me that these conversations could lead someone to salvation (aka save them from hell). In college, Bible College to clarify, I had assignments to write out my personal testimony and have it critiqued by the professor. And again during my Masters (seminary) a similar story played out.

I know, I know… Not what you expected the curriculum to be for theological degrees.

The problem in all of this is I don’t think personal testimonies are effective. To me they are kinda like getting a sales pitch for that item that you don’t really want, but feel pressured to buy. They might result in an occasional sinner’s prayer. But rarely will it result in someone actually following Jesus. And yet they are still one of the primary tools for evangelism.

Here’s the problem: Most evangelism focuses on creating converts and not training disciples. Not only is that not working, but it’s the wrong focus.

Let’s look at what we get wrong about evangelizing. 

We Emphasize Conversions

The church in America is obsessed with numbers. How many people came on Sunday, how many people were baptized this year, the number of first time commitments, and sadly sometimes the amount in the offering plate. We like numbers.

And listen, I get it. Numbers are easy to track and understand. When it comes to evangelism, this mindset makes us feel like we are accomplishing something by the amount of prayers prayed. Conversions are easy to track. But tracking whether someone is following Jesus is a lot more difficult. You actually have to know them.

We are called to make disciples, not convert people. We are called to be involved in people’s lives, even the messy parts. Not have a conversation, pray a prayer, and duck out. Following Jesus isn’t about a one time prayer. It’s about a life time of ups and downs and daily dying to our desires and following him. There will be days we struggle, maybe years we struggle. And in those times we need people that are doing life with us.

That’s our call. Discipleship, not converting.

We Share Our Faith, But Don’t Talk About It

People need to see real faith in action, not be convinced that something is true. This is more true than ever in our current culture. People already know about Jesus, or at least think they do. The problem is they haven’t seen Jesus. Faith is increasingly becoming this personal thing. And that’s not how it should be.

If your faith is the most important aspect of your life it should come up naturally and regularly. You shouldn’t have to force it or craft a sales pitch. If your faith played an important role in the decision you make, share it.

Faith isn’t personal, it’s communal. And people need to see it. And not just the good side, they also need to see the struggles. When you are doubting or have questions you should show that side too. Hiding your weakness doesn’t make you a better follower of Jesus. It makes you a fake follower. 

So many people reject Jesus because his followers aren’t real. Following Jesus has many benefits, and we should talk about those. But it also has struggles, and we can’t ignore those either. I’ve written about mine here: Faith and Doubt (and how they coexist)

Be real about you faith. Tell the people in your life about your faith. The good parts and the bad parts. Share the difference it’s made, the impact it’s had. But don’t leave out the struggles you have too. Don’t just share your faith, talk about it.

We Try To Do The Saving

Many times Christians act as if they are the ones doing the saving. But we aren’t saving anyone from anything. That’s not our job. Jesus already did the heavy lifting.

Here’s the message of the Gospel… You are already saved! You’ve already been reconciled to God. Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished that. Now it’s up to you to accept or reject what he did. You have an invitation to the party of a life time. It’s up to you to decide if you want it or not.

The common belief is that you aren’t saved until you place your faith in Jesus. But I don’t think that’s what the Bible says. We are already saved, we just choose whether to accept or reject God’s gift. Jesus didn’t tell us to go save everybody. Rather to go tell everyone the good news. What’s the good news? That they are already saved! Jesus has paid the price for their sin.

There inlays one of the problems with evangelism. A central focus is to get people to pray a prayer for salvation. But there’s no magical prayer that convinces God to save you. That’s not how things work. Otherwise Jesus would have walked around telling people to repeat after him.

There’s no prayer that will save you. It’s Jesus that saves. Followers of Jesus are tasked with telling others and showing others God’s love for them. We aren’t saving anyone. Rather pointing them to the one who already did that.

We Aren’t Focused On Our Relationship With Jesus

You will never lead people to where you are not. In other words, if you aren’t close with Jesus you aren’t going to lead anyone there. Not only will we lead people to the wrong place, but it comes off as fake.

How many of you would trust the words of a salesperson that doesn’t use the product he’s selling? Probably not many because it’s not genuine; he just wants a paycheck. That’s how many Christians come off. They aren’t really interested in Jesus, at least not enough to change their actions.

If you want to actually see Jesus change lives through you, you’ve got to first pour into your relationship with him. Otherwise what you do will be ineffective and come off as disingenuous.

Our culture is changing. Our evangelism needs to change with it. Methods that once worked will increasingly become ineffective. Somewhere along the way we lost the main objective and now it’s time to get back to it.

What are your thoughts on evangelizing?

The post What We Get Wrong About Evangelizing appeared first on rethink.

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Jesus is fascinating. If you aren’t fascinated with him there’s a good chance you aren’t reading the Bible close enough. So what I thought I’d do is write a few articles looking at a few of the parables that Jesus told. I doubt I’ll get to all the parables, but check back for a few more articles in the coming months.

Parable is just a fancy word for a story. But the way Jesus used these stories is BRILLIANT. There’s always a twist that his audience didn’t see coming.

Let’s start off with the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

The Parable

If you haven’t read The Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, go read it. Seriously click the link, spend 2 minutes reading it, then come back and finish this article. I promise it will still be here.

Here’s the 60 second version of the parable. There’s a wedding. A huge wedding. It’s the party of a lifetime thrown by a king. A party isn’t a party without people so the king sends out his servants to the invited people. The problem is the refuse. Not only do they refuse, but they do so disrespectfully and violently. So much so that one of the servants ends up dead.

Now in a little bit of a pickle, because a party isn’t a party without people, the king decides that everyone is invited. The servants go back out inviting everyone, even the bad people. The street people are welcome. Who ever wants to come is invited.

Jesus’ story ends on an interesting note. Someone that initially declines the invitation realizes his mistake and sneaks in. But he is not wearing the right clothes and is quickly kicked out. “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Before you get into what this all means. Let’s look at the context.

The Context

In the chapter prior to this parable we see Jesus just rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and created a huge stir. People were going crazy. But he wasn’t done yet; he went into the temple, overturned tables, and drove out the money collectors. He cursed a fig tree, told a story, and generally pissed off the Pharisees. Who at the end of all of this went off looking for ways to arrest Jesus.

This is where it gets interesting. The next day Jesus makes his way back to the temple. The same one where just the previous day he caused mass chaos in, he now decides to go back top. Things are going to get good! The chief priests are not happy and immediately challenge him and try to trap him. As if often does, this leads Jesus to tell a few stories.

This leads us to the Parable of the Wedding Feast. A story that is a direct stab at the Pharisees, which takes some cojones!

We have to understand who Jesus is talking to before we can understand what Jesus means.

If you still haven’t read the passage, go read it now: Matthew 22:1-14.

For on reading in context: How to Read the Bible (better)

What It Means

We get so hung up on certain parts of passages that we often miss the bigger picture that is being painted. This parable is a picture of the nation of Israel. Israel is invited to a wedding party. They decline. So the king, God, extends the invitation to everyone else. Anyone that wants to go is invited.

This is a direct stab at Israel, particularly the religious of the day. That’s who Jesus is talking to. It’s not a blanket statement of the whole of creation. Rather it is precisely directed at the nation of Israel, God’s people. They were invited to a wedding party. Not just any party but the greatest party of ALL time. What did they do? They tore up the invitations, murdered the messengers, and went back to their lives. This is a picture of the actions of the nation of Israel. This is how offensive their actions were in the eyes of God.

Does this parable apply to those outside the nation of Israel? That’s a great question. Within the context of this story that Jesus told the emphasis is on those that claimed to be God’s people. Certainly, for those today claiming to follow Jesus we should make sure we aren’t making the same mistakes that the nation of Israel made. However the point of this parable is not that those far from God are cast into hell, as many use this passage to say. Rather the point is that everyone is given the opportunity to join the party.

One interesting detail that Jesus highlights is that they were weeping. Many use this as proof that they are being tortured in hell. Jesus is alluding to those that decline will be cast into hell. But that’s not what this passage is about.

Why are they weeping? Because they are in physical pain and torture? I don’t think so… They are weeping because they were kicked out of the party of a life time. Is that unfair on their part? No! Remember they are the ones that tore up the invitations and murdered the messengers. They were invited in and they declined, and not with a polite no thank you. They intentionally decided not to go. They willingly said no to the invitation.

Jesus ends with a picture of a man thrown out of the party. The king approaches him and asks where his wedding clothes are. When given the opportunity to repent and ask to join the party, he still remains speechless. He cannot admit to his wrong. He’s cast out not because he’s unworthy to be at the party, everyone is unworthy that is there. He’s cast out because he refused to enter worthily. That’s the picture of the nation of Israel. That’s what Jesus is getting at. The nation of Israel cannot admit their faults and refused to enter the party worthily.

The Point

The parable is a slap in the face, a wake up call, to the Pharisees. They thought they were shoo-ins, that they were on the in crowd. But Jesus makes it clear, everyone is invited. But you still gotta have manors, you gotta clean yourself up. They thought their lineage guaranteed them a spot. But Jesus points towards their heart.

What Jesus does with this parable is brilliant and bold. He holds no punches and shows the Pharisees exactly where they stand. Of course this story isn’t just for them, there’s implications for us today too. The biggest of which is we are invited to the king’s wedding feast. We don’t have to do anything to get an invitation other than accept it. But we still gotta look the part. Of course we aren’t talking about clothing here. Jesus is pointing at our hearts. Are we hypocrites like the Pharisees who looked good on the outside but were a mess on the inside? Or do we allow the king, Jesus, to clean us up and transform us from the inside?

The post The Parable of the Wedding Feast (and what it means) appeared first on rethink.

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