The Wedding Parable
Once I had a friend named Bob. Bob had a birthday coming up, so I wanted to get him something he would like. I thought about it and thought about it, but Bob was the kind of guy who was just really hard to shop for. I thought about what Bob liked to do, and really, the only thing Bob liked to do was..., well..., Bob liked to eat. I mean, Bob really liked to eat.
I had hoped to avoid the obvious gift idea once again, but it was inevitable. I decided that I would get bob a gift certificate for food. It wasn't just any old gift certificate, though. It was a gift certificate for free pizza that, once redeemed, would yield a never-ending supply.
This wasn't the first time that I had given someone a gift certificate for free food, but strangely enough, most people didn't appreciate them. I could tell. I think they thought that a gift certificate was an uncreative gift and tacky besides for such important occasions as birthdays and Christmas. You would think that people would be happy to have a never-ending supply of pizza, but I'll bet that none of those gift certificates were ever used.
Bob, on the other hand, was different. Surely Bob, who liked to eat, would appreciate them. Yes, this was the perfect gift for Bob. So I went to this small pizza place to get the gift certificate. The The odd thing about these gift certificates, though, was that they were free. It seems that this pizza place couldn't have sold their pizza because it was of infinite value, so it instead it was free. All you had to do was come and get their gift certificates and they would give them to you, because they wanted you to have their pizza. Oh, Bob would love this, I thought.
On the way there, I passed many other pizza places. They were offering double cheese, tripple cheese, quadruple cheese, green pepper, red peper, black olive, green olive, onion, pineapple, mushroom, stuffed crust, thin crust, hand-tossed,...basically anything you can think of; I can't remember what all they had. But I know this much: you had to pay for all of it, and it could get really expensive. It wasn't any never-ending supply either. The pizza I was getting for Bob was better than any of that, anyway. I knew I was getting the right thing. I had to go way out to get to this hole-in-the-wall, but it was worth it.
After I got this free gift certificate, I wrapped it up in a box so Bob wouldn't be able to predict what it was as easily. When Bob's birthday came up, I presented the gift to him. Bob was still thinking about birthday cake, so he wasn't too intereseted in gifts yet. I tried to get Bob to pay attention to his gift. He looked at the box and, judging by its shape and size and weight, didn't suppose it had much to do with food.
"I think I'm going to order a pizza," Bob said as he moved toward the phone.
I tried to stop him. "No! No. Bob,...Wait!" Bob looked a litte flustered.
"I think you want to open your gift now," I said.
Bob grudgingly opened the gift and looked at the gift certificate. "It says 'THIS CERTIFICATE ENTITLES THE HOLDER TO A NEVER-ENDING SUPPLY OF PIZZA.' What have I done to deserve this?" Bob asked.
"Nothing," I said. "It has infinite value and you couldn't have earned enough to buy it, but it's a gift because you're my friend and I want you to have it.
"What do I have to do to receive it?" Bob asked.
"You don't have to do anything. It's a gift."
The next day I saw Bob jogging very slowly. I went up to Bob and asked him if he had begun to partake of his never-ending supply of pizza. He hadn't.
"I don't know about that," he said. "Does it have green peppers on it?"
"Yes," I answered.
"Yes, Bob! It has every topping you could imagine and more."
"Is it stuffed crust, thin crust, or hand-tossed, or is it one of those pan pizzas?"
"It's all of those at once," I replied.
Bob was still unconvinced. "I don't know," he said again. "It sounds kind of fattening. I've been trying to start this exercise routine..."
"It isn't fattening," I piped in to the rescue, "It causes you to loose all your excess weight. Because you were born with a low metabolism and a high appetite, you can never hope to lose all that excess weight--at least, not on your own you can't, no matter how much of that jogging you do. I know how out-of-shape jogging makes you feel, Bob. And not only that, it causes you to build muscle. It's really good for you. In fact, this pizza is so good for you that if you eat of it, you will live forever!"
I supposed that Bob would soon be enjoying his never-ending supply of pizza, but the next day, when I saw him at his house, he asked, "So, where's my never-ending supply of pizza?"
I was a little confused. "You have to go and pick up the pizza," I said.
"What? I thought you said I didn't have to do anything to receive it."
"Okay, Bob. I meant what I said, so I'll go and pick it up for you."
I went and picked up the pizza for him, but when I came back, Bob had already found a bag of potato chips and was eating them in the other room.
"Where's my pizza?"
"I got it already. It's on the table in your kitchen."
"You mean I have to walk out to the kitchen? I thought you said..."
I was a little frustrated and disappointed with Bob by this time, but I got up and brought the pizza out of the kitchen and set it on the coffee table in front of the chair where he sat. He didn't eat right away, so without any further prompting, I went back out into the kitchen and got a plate and a fork and a napkin. I came back into Bob's living room and put a slice of the pizza on the plate with the fork and set it on the arm of his big chair with the napkin underneath.
A little while later I found Bob still sitting in proximity to the pizza of which he had not eaten any.
"You haven't eaten your pizza," I said.
"How am I supposed to eat it?"
"Well, put out your hand and take hold of it and use the fork or don't use the fork, but put it in your mouth and eat it!"
Bob thought for a moment. "I think they have feeding tubes and things like that at the hospital. Couldn't you just get one of those and put the pizza in a blender and..."
"No, Bob, No!" I said, "You have to go to the place where they make it and pick it up or you have to walk out into the kitchen to get it or you have to reach out your hand and take it and put it in your mouth, or something... But I can't force it down your throat!"
"Why not?" Bob asked insistently.
"Because I love you too much to force you to take something you don't want."
I'm sorry to tell you that I last week I saw Bob out in his large sweat pants jogging, with much effort indeed. In front of him he carried a flat cardboard box. It didn't have the mark of the Great Pizzamaker on it, but instead the mark of those who make pizzas that are fattening and costly. I'm sorry because Bob won't be with us forever. His certificate, of infinite value and yet a free gift, was wasted, because Bob refused to eat of the pizza that gives eternal life. It seems strange to me. I remember when I came to the shop of the Great Pizzamaker for the first time, and how He said that the pizza was of infinite value. I told Him that I didn't have any money, but He said that it was free. I didn't even know Him very well at time, and He gave me His pizza for free. All I had to do was eat it. Since that time I have become a little more like the Great Pizzamaker every time I eat His pizza. I try to get others to eat it, but the sad thing is that most of them don't. Some of the people who don't are my friends, friends like Bob. There is a hope for Bob, though. On the bottom of those gift certificates--and I hope Bob notices some day--are the words "REDEEMABLE AT ANY LOCATION WITHIN ONE WHOLE LIFETIME."
(See Matthew, chapter 22, verses 1 to 14)
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