Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:1-22 (NRSV)
Wow! There is a lot to unpack in this passage today. To miss a wedding banquet in that ancient culture was the height of disrespect. My friends of Middle Eastern descent are still basically “required” by their family to attend weddings of their first, second and even third cousins. Family is important and the ties are kept.
For the parable of Jesus, those invited are the family of God. Once again, it is difficult not to read “He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city” outside of the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred about a decade prior to Matthew writing his Gospel.
It is interesting how the good and the bad are invited into the wedding feast. This would be indicative of Jesus referring to the tax collectors and the prostitutes going ahead of the Pharisees in the previous chapter. It also reminds us of the parable of the weeds and the wheat from earlier in Matthew.
This parable definitely has an eschatological or “end times” feel to it. It is first collective and social as we see large groups of people but then it turns individualistic as one man is singled out for not wearing the correct garments. We are reminded that while parables can deal in the everyday such as with plants and weddings, they can also be kind of surreal. After all, this man was just plucked off the street – how could he be expected to be wearing the right clothes? And didn’t Jesus tell us not to worry about what to wear from the Sermon on the Mount?
A wedding should be a happy occasion
where all contribute to the joy!
This makes us nervous because it seems ambiguous. We don’t want to be the one wearing the wrong thing and to be cast out of God’s presence. I’ve seen lots of interpretations for what this wedding robe might be, such as the baptismal robes symbolizing the Christian commitment or possibly the good works accompanying repentance or maybe the festal attitude that we must adopt in accepting God’s grace.
Matthew’s Gospel has focused a lot on social categories and the humility we need in addressing one another. He was clearly trying to break down these barriers that crop up in society so easily. And so I would guess that the man not wearing the right robes may have not assumed the egalitarian posture of the Christian community. He may have placed himself above the other guests and is tossed out for his impertinence. This would align with the passage from the Sermon on the Mount which states, “the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
We then turn to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees on display as they try to trap Jesus by asking him about paying taxes. When he asks them to show him a coin and we see the emperor’s face on it, they become exposed. This was why there were money changers in the Temple. A good Jew would be carrying their own money rather than Roman coin. Thus, they cast themselves out as they do not allow the same mercy for others that they allow for themselves!
This may be one of the difficult pieces of the Christian walk. We try not to place ourselves above others but our natural tendencies to rank things spills over into our relationships. We want to do well and be perceived well. The lazy way is to tear others down rather than build ourselves up!
Prayer for the day:
God, we don’t want to miss the wedding feast.
We don’t want to misplace the invitation or dismiss it
because something else got in the way.
We want to prioritize our Christian walk over all else.
The difficult thing is when we see others walking differently than we do.
Can I be comfortable with their gait and mine if we don’t travel at the same pace?
We like things to be orderly.
Help us to look more often with your eyes and see the larger order.
Photo by Armistead Booker via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.