Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wedding Rehearsal

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a wedding for God’s Son. God has invited people to join him at the wedding feast of his Son Jesus Christ. Who would refuse an invitation like that? Surprisingly, the first ones invited did. God sent his servants to ask even more to come. By implication, Jewish people were the first two groups to receive invitations and Gentiles the third. Another surprise awaited.

Jesus indicated that accepting an invitation, knowing the groom as a “friend” (22:12-13), and attending the wedding are not enough. One must be clothed correctly, or prepared through one’s obedient living, in order to enter the feast (Garland, Reading Matthew, 225).

The customs of an ancient wedding banquet are analogous to the modern wedding rehearsal and dinner. Even though our weddings do not last for a week, we rehearse the parts, prepare for the event, and feast together the night before the big day. In a rehearsal, the coordinator positions the attendants, practices the processional, coordinates the instrumentalists, and prepares for the big day. As the rehearsal goes, often so does the wedding itself. In the same way, believers prepare for the wedding of Christ to the church each time we gather for worship and serve others. The bridegroom (Christ) has invited all people to come to his celebration. The guest list is open-ended; he has sent people to invite everyone because most of the first invitees refused to come.

When we gather in a church, the service functions like the wedding rehearsal. When we worship, serve, and study, we are learning our parts. We learn how to be obedient. We learn more about the groom and discover the others in the wedding party. We meet the other members of the family who are also on the bride’s side. We study the groom’s story (the Bible). We serve in other ways, too. We visit people in nursing homes, homeless shelters, hospitals, and prisons
who wish they could attend the rehearsal.

The problem, however, is that most people are too busy to come for the rehearsal. They are busy getting ready for other things. They are either at the office working extra time on Sunday morning, going to the ball game, golfing another eighteen holes, or simply staying at home. In essence, many refuse the invitation. It’s their choice. And it is none of our business to worry about their choices. Most of their decisions come naturally to them, and they would not think otherwise.

God says that in order to come to the wedding, though, we must accept the invitation and be prepared when we arrive. According to the parable, some who attend the rehearsal (called
“friend,” 22:12-13) will not be at the wedding, just as there are plenty at church who are not fully prepared for the end.

To be prepared, we need the right garments. The clothes are not a description of the required attire for a worship service. They are the symbols of obedience. Righteousness is clothing for the feast. It’s not merely enough to accept the invitation; we must live appropriately
as well.

(A selection from Sessions with Matthew available now from Smyth and Helwys.)

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