1 Jesus also told them other parables. He said, 2 “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. 3 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!4 “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ 5 But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6 Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.7 “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. 8 And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. 9 Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ 10 So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.11 “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. 13 Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14
Another parable. Another story meant to make a point. Another timely message that falls on deaf ears. Except for mine.
Today I sit in the presence of Jesus rapt in his explosive passion and reminded of a time not too long ago when he confronted me with his truth of who I was and what I was doing. I am slightly awed and intimidated by this righteous anger that burns bright, that is unrelenting, that is wrapped in his incredible love. Do the Pharisees sense his love?
I envy the Pharisees this opportunity to know Jesus, to know this man that stands before them. This opportunity they do not accept. This opportunity they do not seem even to acknowledge. This opportunity for forgiveness and redemption and change.
Of course if one does not see the need for these things, they will not see the opportunity either. Neither will they see the compassion, the love, that stirs Jesus to action. The Pharisees are blind to their part in why Jesus has come. Instead of seeing someone who has come to help and to heal, they see a rebel who is trying undermine them. A rebel who is trying to ruin their lives.
It can feel like that sometimes.
Jesus’ parables are becoming more pointed, more piercing. He is taking aim at the hearts of the Pharisees because above all else, he cares about their hearts.
I definitely believe that he was concerned with the way that the Pharisees were behaving and how they had corrupted what God intended for good for his people. But the events over the previous three years show that Jesus was more interested in peoples’ hearts than in their actions, in their sins. His actions were motivated by his unconditional love, his grace, his willingness to forgive.
Yes, he admonished the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the rich young man, and the disciples who sometimes just didn’t “get it” despite how long they’d been with him. But he loved them as much before as he did after. This is what he offers the Pharisees in these encounters, through his parables. Grace. Forgiveness. Love.
But it doesn’t feel like that sometimes. I have uttered more times than I can count the words, Why are you doing this to me?!
Because sometimes it feels like Jesus is trying to ruin your life when he stands in front of you and calls you out and confronts you. And convicts you. That’s how it felt to me not so many years ago.
I was young and single and driving over the Old Quinnipiac River Bridge in New Haven, Connecticut on may way to meet a married man. I was so desperate for a relationship, for love, that I was willing to betray my heart, my conscience, and another man’s wife.
The Q-Bridge on Interstate 95 was a permanent fixture on the local traffic reports for its rush hour traffic jams, backups and breakdowns. It was several lanes in either direction and often bottlenecked where Routes 95 and 91 split and where several local exits fed into the city. It was not the best place for a breakdown, especially an emotional breakdown.
But that’s where it happened. That’s where Jesus confronted me yet again. Yes, again.
There on that bridge as cars and tractor trailers thundered past me I pulled into the barely-existent breakdown lane and stopped my car. After several deep breaths I directed those all-too-familiar words at Jesus: Why? Why are you doing this to me?!
I was miserable as Jesus pierced my heart with his truth. My heart was breaking and I was sobbing sitting there in the driver’s seat of my car, in the driver’s seat of my life. Through my wracking sobs I heard him. Actually, I not only heard him, I listened to him. This time.
This wasn’t about what Jesus was doing to me. This was about what I was doing to me. What I was doing to my heart. What I was doing to my life. In that moment, I finally realized the role I was playing in my misery. That I was playing in steering my life out of control. And I had a choice to make.
Would I continue down this broken path or would I let Jesus steer my life, my heart, in a new direction? Toward healing. Toward forgiveness. Toward unconditional love.
Letting Jesus take away the sin in your life is beyond humbling and beyond painful. It is excruciating. It can feel like he is ruining your life. But really, he’s redeeming it. He’s refining it. He’s redefining it. He really is every bit the rebel the Pharisees feared. A rebel of redemption.
I drove past my exit that day with tears still streaming down my cheeks. But beneath the rush of the traffic around me, I heard the whisper of hope. And my life has not been the same because of it.