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Sunday, October 11, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 22:1–14
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (NRSV)
Matthew’s version of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet is among the most esoteric and enigmatic parables in the entire New Testament—and frankly is all the more puzzling given the way that Luke uses this parable as an open invitation for the last, the lost, and the least to enter the kingdom of God. In contrast, Matthew’s version closes with the seemingly opposite message of “many are called, but few are chosen” after referencing destruction, death, and “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
It’s possible that Matthew may have been using this passage in a polemical way within his particular context. Scholars believe that the destruction of the city referenced in verse 7 is that of Jerusalem in 70 CE and that Matthew is casting the religious authorities as those who denied their invitation to the banquet (which fits closely with the overall message of Matthew 21 and 22). To add onto this, the bizarre rejection of the one not wearing a wedding robe may be working with a first-century metaphor in which one’s “clothing” is their new life in Christ (see Romans 13:14; Colossians 3:12–15). But all of that admittedly gets us deep in the exegesis weeds. Instead, what are we meant to do with this parable today?
For me, the passage is unsettling—as, likely, it is meant to be. But that unsettled feeling is a reminder that we should not assume we have all the answers in the way that the Pharisees and scribes did. Instead, we remain open to God’s ongoing work in this world—avoiding self-righteousness and embracing self-reflection in our walk as disciples.
Holy God, help me stay continuously open to your work in this world—challenging me when I need to be shaken and giving me the humility to recognize I do not have all the answers. Amen.
Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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