In this parable Jesus likens the chief priests and the elders of the people to those invited by a king to a great feast but they chose not to come...one went to his farm and another to his business; each one was too busy to be bothered with attending the great feast.
Some of those invited even beat and killed the messengers of the king who brought the invitation! And the King, angered at the people’s behavior, disinvites them all and instead invites a whole new group of people.
Once again, Jesus is proclaiming that the chief priests and the elders of the people have been “disinvited” to the great feast because of their bad behavior, because of their lack of faith and unwillingness to accept who Jesus really is and his message of God’s deep and passionate love for all peoples, just as they are. Because of Jesus’ public rejection of religious civil leaders in these moments like we have just heard, the plot to have Jesus killed takes shape.
The leaders are outraged that Jesus would have the audacity to tell them that they were not faithful to the covenant...to the original invitation! And they were completely blind to the “new invitation” that Jesus was giving them, and they rejected the invitation and rejected Jesus himself.
They were also angry that he was inviting “others” to the feast -- ”others” who were sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes...and even Samaritans! The lavish nature of God’s invitation was just beyond the understanding of the religious leaders and the elders of the people. They just couldn’t imagine a feast where “everyone” gets invited!
Like all parables there are many layers and multiple implications to this parable. But the central theme is that of God’s invitation to the heavenly banquet and our response to that invitation, and as well, just how broad God’s invitation is, that it is extended to everyone. The lesson is that it is up to us to accept the invitation and come to the feast!
So, a few questions: Will I make time to accept God’s invitation, or is my life just too busy? To what do I understand God to be inviting me to, and what does that look like in my life? And how do I feel, in my heart of hearts, about God inviting “the others”...tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners... to the banquet?
The deeper realities of this last question are central when reflecting on our attitudes toward violence, aggression and war in our society, and no doubt plays a huge role in the war between Hamas and Israel.
Let us all continue to pray for an end to the terrorism and war in the region and for the international community to help work to broker a lasting peace agreement for the people of Palestine and Israel.