Wider still

Matthew 22.1–14

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ. 

Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have. It is the costly pearl, for whose price the merchant sells all that he has; it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow him. 

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which has to be asked for, the door at which one has to knock. It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship


We heard a parable today from the Gospel According to Matthew. It’s a story in three acts. It’s also a very odd story, a story of people who can’t be bothered to accept a king’s invitation to a banquet. 

Act 1
A king is holding a wedding banquet for his son, and invites many people. 

Strangely — considering a king has invited them — they don’t show. They’re just not interested. More than that, they kill the king’s servants. The king exacts bloody revenge. 

Act 2
Now, the king hasn’t been put off. He still wants to have a wedding banquet for his son! So he tells the servants to go out and bring people in from the streets, no matter whether they are good or bad or somewhere in the middle. He just wants the place to be filled. 

Let’s have an interlude between Acts 2 and 3.

There is a similar parable in the Gospel According to Luke. In Luke’s version, the king is just ‘Someone [who] gave a great dinner and invited many’. The excuses are elaborated upon: one has bought land and has to look at it (didn’t he look at it before he bought it?); one has bought a yoke of oxen, a third has just got married. This anonymous someone doesn’t go and kill them like Matthew’s king does; instead, he instructs his servant  

Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. 

Luke 14.21

That was done, and there was still room! So he tells the servant, 

Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.

Luke 14.23

And this is where Luke’s version ends. It’s already easier to read than Matthew’s, which has frankly a cartoonish level and style of violence in which the king sends in his troops, kills those he had invited and burns their city to the ground. All while dinner is waiting to be served. 

But we haven’t yet reached the hard bit of Matthew’s version.

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