TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
October 12, 2008 (Lectionary 28)
Psalm 23 (5)
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 (4)
DAY OF THANKSGIVING (CANADA)
October 13, 2008
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
October 18, 2008
Isaiah 43:8-13 or Isaiah 35:5-8
Psalm 124 (8)
2 Timothy 4:5-11
Luke 1:1-4; 24:44-53
1a. CONTEXT - Matthew 22:1-14
This proper, the parable of the wedding feast, consists of two
originally unconnected parables (22:1-10 and 11-13) reinterpreted and
incompletely harmonized, concluded by an independent logion (22:14) that
first appears to be a non sequitur.
Matt. 22:1-10 seems to be an altered version of the parable in Luke
14:15-24 paralleled in the Gospel of Thomas. The Gospel of Thomas uses
the parable to condemn those involved in business (who decline the
invitation), concluding with the words, "The buyers and merchants shall
not come into the places of my Father." Luke is most likely to reproduce
the original, dominical version. There the parable is about a man who gave
a great supper. When those originally invited provide excuses, the
frustrated host sends his servant into streets and lanes of the city to
invite the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame. When there is still
room left over, he sends him out into the highways and hedges to compel
people to come in. Luke puts the parable of the great supper in the context
of sayings of Jesus in which those on the margins of society (in this case
the actual guests) are preferred to respectable citizens (those originally
Matthew's editing transforms this parable by applying it to the
displacement of the Jews by the gentiles as God's people, placing it in the
context of sayings about God's rejection of most Jews. It immediately
follows the parable of the vineyard (Matt. 21:33-46), which interprets
Jesus' crucifixion as the final act of disobedience on the part of a
rebellious people. This reinterpretation destroys the parable's
verisimilitude. In Matthew, a king gives a wedding feast for his son. Some
of the invited guests make light of the invitation and go about their own
business, but others actually kill the king's servants. Only after the king
has sent his troops to destroy the murderers and burn their city (while the
feast is waiting prepared and ready!) does he send his servants out into the
streets to gather in guests so that his feast may be full.
Vv. 11-13, originally a separate parable, is not entirely compatible
with vv. 1-10. Those invited off the street could scarcely be expected to
come in festal garments, and the word for servant used in v. 13 (diakonos)
differs from that used four times in vv. 1-10 (doulos). The reference to
"both bad and good" in v. 10 is an attempt to harmonize the two. The
source of vv. 11-13 was probably the Jewish parable variously attributed
to Jochanan ben Zakkai and Judah haNasi. In it, a king proclaims a wedding
feast but does not specify the time. The wise procure wedding garments,
but the foolish go about their ordinary business. When the king does
suddenly proclaim the feast, the wise are ready and come in, but the
foolish are excluded. Thus it was a parable of vigilance like that of the
wise and foolish virgins in Matt. 25:1-13.
This parable has also been reinterpreted. It has become a parable,
like that of the wheat and the tares in Matt. 13:36-43, about the
coexistence of both good and bad in the church until God's final judgment.
This thought, along with the verbal similarity of kletoi in v. 14 to
keklemenoi in v. 3 ("called" and "invited" are the same in Greek), probably
suggested concluding the newly joined parables with the saying, "Many are
called, but few are chosen." Even so, v. 14 contrasts oddly with vv. 11-13,
where only ONE guest is rejected; presumably the "many" called but not
chosen must include the unresponsive and murderous invitees of vv. 1-10.
Matthew's heavily redacted passage is cumbersome but coherent.
Matthew's reinterpretation of the first parable to refer to God's rejection
of the Jews in favor of the Christians could easily tempt Christians to
adopt an attitude of complacent superiority. By incorporating the
reinterpreted parable of the unworthy guest, Matthew suggests that they
would do better to adopt the attitude Paul commends in Romans 12:23, "If
God did not spare the original branches, neither will he spare you." Alfred
Loisy may have been right when he wrote that Jesus proclaimed the
Kingdom, and it was the church that came, but Matthew does not want us
to identify the church with the Kingdom. Brevard Childs' words (THE NEW
TESTAMENT AS CANON: AN INTRODUCTION, p. 78) could apply specifically to
this parable: "Matthew assigns no place of special privilege to the church
in regard to the coming day of judgment. There is never a single
identification between the church and the kingdom of heaven, but the
church stands under the constant warning, along with all persons, before
the great divine reckoning."
"Many are called, but few are chosen" is thus a word of warning
for Christians in the church, who are to look upon God's judgment upon
Israel as an object lesson.
1a. TEXT - Matthew 22:1-14
ESV: The Parable of the Wedding Feast
22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants  to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
 - 22:3 δουλους − Greek bondservants; also verses 4, 6, 8, 10
1και αποκριθεις ο ιησους παλιν ειπεν εν παραβολαις αυτοις λεγων, 2ωμοιωθη η βασιλεια των ουρανων ανθρωπω βασιλει, οστις εποιησεν γαμους τω υιω αυτου. 3και απεστειλεν τους δουλους αυτου καλεσαι τους κεκλημενους εις τους γαμους, και ουκ ηθελον ελθειν. 4παλιν απεστειλεν αλλους δουλους λεγων, ειπατε τοις κεκλημενοις, ιδου το αριστον μου ητοιμακα, οι ταυροι μου και τα σιτιστα τεθυμενα, και παντα ετοιμα: δευτε εις τους γαμους. 5οι δε αμελησαντες απηλθον, ος μεν εις τον ιδιον αγρον, ος δε επι την εμποριαν αυτου: 6 οι δε λοιποι κρατησαντες τους δουλους αυτου υβρισαν και απεκτειναν. 7 ο δε βασιλευς ωργισθη, και πεμψας τα στρατευματα αυτου απωλεσεν τους φονεις εκεινους και την πολιν αυτων ενεπρησεν. 8 τοτε λεγει τοις δουλοις αυτου, ο μεν γαμος ετοιμος εστιν, οι δε κεκλημενοι ουκ ησαν αξιοι: 9πορευεσθε ουν επι τας διεξοδους των οδων, και οσους εαν ευρητε καλεσατε εις τους γαμους. 10 και εξελθοντες οι δουλοι εκεινοι εις τας οδους συνηγαγον παντας ους ευρον, πονηρους τε και αγαθους: και επλησθη ο γαμος ανακειμενων. 11εισελθων δε ο βασιλευς θεασασθαι τους ανακειμενους ειδεν εκει ανθρωπον ουκ ενδεδυμενον ενδυμα γαμου: 12και λεγει αυτω, εταιρε, πως εισηλθες ωδε μη εχων ενδυμα γαμου; ο δε εφιμωθη. 13τοτε ο βασιλευς ειπεν τοις διακονοις, δησαντες αυτου ποδας και χειρας εκβαλετε αυτον εις το σκοτος το εξωτερον: εκει εσται ο κλαυθμος και ο βρυγμος των οδοντων. 14πολλοι γαρ εισιν κλητοι ολιγοι δε εκλεκτοι.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 22:1-14
Matthew 22:2 - homoiothe he basileai ton ouranon anthropoi basilei,
hostis epoiesen gamous toi huioi autoi - "human king" (anthropoi basilei) is
the Greek equivalent of Midrashic Hebrew phrase "king of flesh and blood."
Besides clarifying the historical reference, the transformation of the
"great feast" of Luke 14:16 into the feast for the king's son evokes a
powerful image of consummation most memorably expressed in Rev. 19:9,
"Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."
22:7 - pempsas ta strateumata autou apolesen tous phoneis ekeinous kai
ten polin auton evepresen - This is apparently a reference to the fall of
Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The implication that the Roman army is God's army
is consistent with the prophetic description of foreign powers as God's
instruments of chastisement in, for example, Isaiah 10:5, where Assyria is
the rod of God's anger.
22:11, 12 - enduma gamou - The "wedding garment" probably alludes to the
"robe of righteousness" of Isaiah 61:10 and symbolizes a new, righteous
life in Christ. Compare Gal. 3:27, "For as many of you as were baptized
into Christ have put on [evedusasthe] Christ;" Rev. 19:8, "it was granted to
[the Bride] to be clothed with linen, bright and pure--for the fine linen is
the righteous deeds of the saints;" and 7:14, "they have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
22:14 - Polloi gar eisin kletoi, oligoi de eklektoi - In the mystery of grace
what appears to be our choice to respond to God is more adequately
expressed as God's choice of us. For the contrast between many and few,
compare 2 Esdras 8:1, "The Most High made the world for the sake of many,
but the world to come for the sake of few," and 8:3, "Many have been
created, but few shall be saved."
3. STRATEGY: Matthew 22: 1-14
The passage raises serious questions for the preacher: how much of
the redactional background, if any, do we want to mention? Do we find in
Matthew's version of the parable, with its anti-Jewish sentiments, a
message for a contemporary Christian congregation? How do we reconcile
judgment and grace? Given the extent to which the original meaning of the
parables is obscured, it may be best to take our cue from the canonical
approach to biblical interpretation advocated by Brevard Childs and preach
on the redacted text as it stands. In this case, though, the redaction is so
rough that it poses serious questions. Any parishioner who has listened at
all carefully to the gospel read will wonder why the poor guest without a
wedding garment should be treated so harshly. It would help such a person
to know that we can trace Matthew's version to two earlier parables.
Ironically, Matthew's inclusion of vv. 11-14 brings the whole
passage closer to the spirit of the presumably original parable in which
the respectable people invited first are displaced by the poor, the maimed,
the blind, and the lame. The rejection of the Jews and their replacement
as God's chosen people by gentile Christians in vv. 1-10 is, by itself,
scarcely an edifying topic for a contemporary Christian congregation.
Viewed in th larger context provided by vv. 11-14, however, God's
rejection of those Jews who failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and
put him to death (a rejection expressed, in the language of grace, as THEIR
rejection of HIM), becomes an object lesson in how we cannot rely on God's
grace as something that is ours by right any more than an invitation we
make light of; we in the church are not yet the Kingdom. It provides an
opportunity to discuss how grace evokes in us, not only an initially
favorable response, but new life in Christ.
Childs, Brevard S. THE NEW TESTAMENT AS CANON: AN INTRODUCTION.
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.
Exegete: Joseph W. Trigg is Rector of Christ Church Episcopal in La Plata, MD (firstname.lastname@example.org). He is an expert on Origen, and author of Origen: The Early Church Fathers
(Routledge, 1998) and Biblical Interpretation (H.P.A., 1988) and other writings in Church History.
MacAdemia, Dartmouth, MA 02747