Unchristlike Images of God in Matthean Parables
A Mini-Minyan with Brad Jersak, Brian Zahnd, Derek Flood, Andrew Klager
Introduction (Brad Jersak)
I was recently invited to share thoughts and respond to questions about my book, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, among a theologically mixed group of very perceptive readers.
Prior to the meeting, the facilitator gave me the consideration of a heads up about a question he was planning to ask. He wanted to me to address the problem of why Jesus’ parables sometimes seem to represent God in a rather un-Christlike light—especially as an infuriated and vengeful king who not only destroys, but even tortures those who do not respond to his invitation. Specifically, he asked me to look at the parable of the banquet as told in Matthew 22.
I was aware of the difficulties in that passage and thought to invite three colleagues to weigh in with their collective wisdom, rather than speaking on my own. Namely, Brian Zahnd, Derek Flood and Andrew Klager. I also received behind the scenes input from Pastor Jason Tripp, who I’ll reference later as well. The conversation that followed seemed well worth sharing, so the following represents excerpts from it.
We begin with the text:
Matthew 22 1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who 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 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 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 called, but few are chosen.”