Our class this week was looking at Matthew 22:1-15, the parallel of the Luke passage from a couple of weeks ago, in the lectionary. This is the story of the banquet where the invited guests refused to come. In Matthew though, the king is enraged and sends his army to destroy the city, before inviting the poor and downtrodden to the feast. Someone observed that it is interesting in that Matthew was Jewish and Luke was a Gentile. One would think it would be the reverse, at least in the interpretation where the passage is an inditement of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or the Jewish nation as a whole. With a bit of reflection though, it may be that Luke, as an outsider, would be less inclined to such inflammatory language, simply out of courtesy and respect for others. Matthew, on the other hand, was also an eyewitness, and may have simply recalled an extra detail, or as a Jew, felt he could speak to attitudes within the family, so to speak.
Again, we mentioned the concept of the two-part invitation, which was new to some. That is, that those invited had already said they would attend, then came up with silly excuses to get out of it. This is the point where the parable becomes a knot. I have heard that each parable has something about it like that. No self-respecting middle eastern person would ever dare to do such a thing. It would be like spitting in the face of the king. Of course, it is setting up the second half of the parable where they invite the poor and disabled instead.
We were after a different take on the whole thing though, and were asked to look at the whole situation from the eyes of the servants, sent out to call the invited to the banquet. How did they feel when people were telling them no, and giving excuses. Some thought they would just be sad or surprised. But then someone said, “Don’t kill the messenger.” We pretty much agreed on that, that the servants would be in fear for themselves, and probably would have tried to persuade the invitees to change their minds.
And after that, the king sends in the army and kills the original guests and burns the city. Then he sends the servants out again and tells them to bring in whoever they can find. Well, you can imagine that they would be even more fearful and urgent. And yet, we wondered if they found the task repugnant, since they were now dealing with the dregs of society. Or, on the other hand, since they were lowly themselves, would they not be bothered about the social standing of those they were now inviting?
Then we got into the wedding clothes. Apparently it was the custom of the host to provide suitable clothing for such an occasion. And yet there is this bit about someone found not suitably clothed and tossed out. I always wondered about that part. I mean, how did the person get inside the door in the first place? And if clothing was provided, then why were they not wearing the right things? But someone observed, as if it were obvious, that they had refused to put the clothes on, for whatever reason. That makes sense, especially if you juxtapose the verse about clothing ourselves in righteouness.
Around that point, I had to leave for choir, so I’m not sure how it all wound up. All I can say in closing is, for heaven’s sake, say yes to Jesus!