ISAIAH 25:6-10A | PHILIPPIANS 4:12-14 | MATTHEW 22:1-14
Today we have a double parable, an interpretation, and a warning to think about. The first parable is very well known: the story of a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. (This is a big-time celebration – no sane person would skip this bash.) But…in the story, people found excuses not to come! They were too preoccupied with the day to day: a farm, a business. The interpretation may, at first, seem obvious. The invited guests were the Jewish people, the first to receive the invitation to the wedding feast. Many rejected the invitation, and some even killed the messengers God sent them.
So, the king sent his messengers out to the roads to invite everyone, good and bad alike, and the banquet was full. An interpretation: The Jewish people were the first to receive an invitation to the wedding banquet, and now everyone is invited. At this point an interpretation was inserted into Jesus’ story.
This Gospel was written between 80 and 90 CE, shortly after the Jewish revolt of 66 CE and the subsequent destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Hence, the interpretation: “The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.” The destruction of the temple, and the permanent transformation of Judaism that followed, was interpreted as God’s punishment of the Jewish nation for its lack of faith. (A dangerous interpretation that has fed antiSemitism through many generations of Christians.)
Now, the second parable…..A man came to a wedding not wearing a wedding garment. Seeing him, the king commanded his servants: “Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” He missed the opportunity to enter the kingdom because he wasn’t dressed properly. He tried to pour the new wine of the kingdom into his old wineskin. This would have been a more appropriate, and less toxic, conclusion to the first parable.
Every time we gather for the Eucharist we pray, “your kingdom come.” These words are a continual reminder that everyone is invited to the kingdom – there are no exclusions. But the invitation to eat at the table in the kingdom isn’t without a stipulation. It calls for a change of heart, a separation from worldly distractions, and an uncompromising focus on the kingdom.