At our service of Parish Communion today Gerry Stacey preached on the Parable of the Wedding Banquet as follows:
Last time I preached you may remember it was about the man who asked his two sons to go and work in the vineyard and I said that in the end it was actually a very simple parable Jesus was basically just saying it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.
Well this weeks is also about what you do but more so about why you do it which makes it a little more complicated. It’s about taking our walk with God seriously.
Todays reading is about a marriage. Well actually probably about two marriages. Many academics believe that this is a composite or marriage of two stories that Matthew has put together, the first about a wedding where the guests failed to turn up and strangers from the street were invited in and then the second where a guest was ejected for wearing the wrong robe.
And then the addition of an extra couple of verses 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Having started off by saying that many made light of the invitation and just ignored it it seems a bit extreme that some then killed his slaves. And this is thought to have been a later addition by Matthew in reference to the Romans killing the Jews, sacking Jerusalem and destroying the temple.
A further problem is that many have read this lesson and wondered why a guest invited in off the street is then ejected for wearing the wrong robe. Well this does not make sense. But it does if they were originally two stories which would have made sense to the audience of the time.
So let’s have a look at what this part would have meant to the people of Matthews time. At that time anyone who could afford them would have had wedding robes which they would have worn to show how wealthy they were. But for a kings wedding he would not have wanted to risk being upstaged by anyone and would have supplied robes to everyone as part of the invite so that they would all appear equal and he would stand out.
So to wear the wedding robes was to show you had accepted the invitation. Now we know from verse 2 where Jesus is going with this because he says The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son So Jesus has invited us to the wedding and we hear he has told his servants or disciples to go and invite everyone so there is no doubt we are all included — yet now he is going to throw us out for wearing the wrong robes. Now for help in understanding this I think we need to turn to Pauls letter to the Colossians.
Paul writes about us taking off our clothes and putting on new ones. And he describes us stripping off our old practices like anger wrath greed hatred and violence and clothing ourselves in new ones like compassion kindness humility and patience. And he ends up saying Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Because everyone has been invited and it is the putting on of the new clothes, the wedding robes that show you have been chosen and nothing to do with what you were before.
So this brings us to the final line of the reading which also causes some problems. “for many are called but few are chosen”
Many see this as a denial of free will but this is to misunderstand the reading. The Father will choose all those who have chosen of their own free will to put on the new clothes he has offered us. I will say that again. God will choose all those who have chosen of their own free will to put on the new clothes he has offered us. Or as Paul says “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
So maybe this story is straightforward after all. The original invite to the Jews throughout the Old Testament is rejected by many so Jesus comes along and opens the invitation to everyone. He offers the wedding robe or the new clothes to all. We can freely choose them and if we do the Father will choose us at the day of Judgement.
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 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.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 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.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 22:1–14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.