Our reading this week is about a wedding banquet in the gospel of Matthew:
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
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“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14)
The first thing we must stress as we ponder this week’s reading is that the parable is not about heaven, but about the Kingdom. In the gospels, the Kingdom is Jesus’ vision for a just human community. Jesus was leading a Jewish renewal movement, and his “kingdom” was his vision of what a safe, inclusive community could look like if his society returned to the social justice themes in the Torah. This is the soil out of which Luke’s and Matthew’s versions of this parable grew.
These two versions are very different. Most scholars believe that Luke’s version is the oldest and most closely resembles the oral parable passed down in the Jesus community between Jesus’ crucifixion and the writing of the Jesus story. Let’s consider Luke’s version: it will help us understand the changes Matthew made and, possibly, why.
We’ll begin with Luke’s version, next.
(Read Part 2)