I have recently enjoyed spending time in the Gospels. Reading through anew the life of Jesus. Just reading through and hearing from the Word what my Savior had to say. This week I was reading in Matthew 21 & 22 where Jesus was gathered amongst the crowd in the temple, it was a mixed group of Chief priests, elders, religious people, plus all the common people including tax collectors, prostitutes, etc… who had followed Jesus in after his entry into Jerusalem where the crowds sang “Hosanna”. Honestly just imagining a crowd like that gathered together is interesting to think about. I am not sure it would ever happen today, we have TVs and Smart phones….we don’t gather in person very often, and when we do we aren’t really paying attention to each other.
When the Chief Priests confronted Jesus while he taught in the temple, he responded by sharing in Parables. Here are the two consecutive parables that caught my attention, mainly because of the harsh ending of the second.
Matthew 21:33-45 33 “Listen to another parable. There was a [a]landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to [b]vine-growers and went on a journey. 34 When the [c]harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 Therefore when the [d]owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” 41 They *said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
42 Jesus *said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a [e]people, producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.
Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven [a]may be compared to [b]a king who [c]gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own [d]farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 Then he *said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with [e]dinner guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are [f]called, but few are chosen.”
In the first parable Jesus confronts the Chief Priests & Pharisees, in the same way that the Prophet Nathan confronted King David in the Book of Samuel. He tells the parable clearly portraying the Chief Priests & Pharisees as the villains. The ones who having gained profit and recognition in something that had only been lent to them. The ones who would become so greedy that they would even go so far as to kill the Son of the one who entrusted them with His possession. Before even realizing it, in responding to Jesus, they condemned themselves.
Here is what caught my attention. I imagine the crowd was filled with people who had been hurt by the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. There were probably many with feelings of rejection and pain at the hands of the ones who were religious. I don’t think it is far fetched to think there were smiles on many faces as Jesus very publicly shamed those religious people. They probably had a feeling of vindication. Don’t you think?
And then he told that second parable. And he called out all those who might be confused thinking his only purpose was to come and condemn the religious sinners and make all of those who had been rejected feel good. Jesus immediately switches to talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven” and what it is like. The King was honoring his Son with a wedding feast. Those whom he invited (the Pharisees) didn’t come. So the King called in all he could find, both “good & evil” (the crowd) and shared with them a wedding feast. But the King saw one who didn’t change for the wedding feast, and the King threw him out. He threw him out into the streets where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I can imagine the smirking and smiles left the hearts and faces of those standing around in the crowd. They must have realized that Jesus noticed. When they heard his second parable I imagine each of their hearts were convicted about their own personal sin. Jesus words must have left them thinking, “Having been invited to the feast no matter what my sin, will I change? Am I willing to set aside whatever I have in my life that doesn’t honor God?”
In these two parables Jesus manages to confront (and probably offend) everyone standing around him as He is speaking. But he wasn’t really worried about that, it is so obvious that he is actually not focused on the sins of those who are “in the Temple” or those who are “out of the temple”. He is focused on His Kingdom. I feel like Jesus is saying “all of you listen, there is something greater, get rid of yourselves and join in this feast with me, join in this great movement. Come and see God do amazing things”
Here is why I found these two parables back to back to be significant. Today in my time there are people saying “God Hates You for this or that” only to have it followed up by others responding with “God Hates religious people like that”. For me it is refreshing to see Jesus’ perspective.
We are all invited. We are all welcomed. God is doing something great! No matter what sin we have in our lives, we shouldn’t show up for the party without making changes in our lives where changes need to be made.
It is important to see it is not all about “those evil Pharisees” of today. It is important to realize it isn’t all about “those evil sinners” of today. It is important to realize it is all about The Kingdom of God.
Jesus is calling all of us.
I have decided to follow Him and participate in that great feast!