12 March 2023
Our reading this week is the story of the Wedding Banquet. It is yet another “The kingdom of heaven is like….” parable. The gospel of Luke gives us a version of this parable, but with some different aspects and details. It could be said that Luke’s telling is the most well-known version – it’s the one with the plot of land and the cows, that those invited declare they must attend to.
This telling of the parable in Matthew is a little more confronting and confusing than the one in Luke, with the last few sentences telling of a man who has attended the wedding in the wrong clothes, and what the King does when he sees this man. Not too sure where we take that – we’ll see.
As I explored this parable some interesting historical facts came to light. In the Jewish tradition weddings were a very important event and one that MUST be celebrated. Unlike today, in those days there were a certain number of people who needed to attend and witness the wedding for it to be considered legal. Today we only need 2 witnesses, in those days it was many more.
Matthew has bigger themes in his retelling where he allegorises the different groups in the story as those who had rejected Jesus.
Normally a feast like this one would be given by someone wealthy and those invited would be of parallel wealth. This was quite a strict social convention, and it would therefore be quite a serious offence not to take up the invitation. But Jesus has the host stepping out of line and doing something that would have him rejected from his social class by inviting those of other classes.
I recall a conversation with one of our parents telling that in today’s society every member of a school class is invited to a birthday party, regardless of where they sit in the circle of friends of the birthday person. In the celebration of this wedding we are told that the King has a fair amount of hands on organising and that all are invited regardless of their standing in society.
Suddenly the issue becomes political for us all as it did in Jesus’ day because, just as the listeners are laughing off the excuses the non-attenders offer (made more hilarious in Luke’s version 14:15-24), he has pitched the world of the wealthy against the world of the poor and landed on the side of the latter in the very hearing of the rich and powerful.
Like many parables, we ask: where am I in this story? Am I in the wealthy/powerful group or am I in the group who have just come in off the street? It makes for hard reading. Clearly you cannot earn an invitation to this feast. It is a gift. Such is the Kingdom of Heaven.