Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Mt. 22:1-14 The Wedding Garment
Another parable proposed by the Lord as a reply to those who ask about his authority (cf. 21:23-27) is about a wedding feast. A king's son was going to be married and so gives out the invitation to those whom he usually invites. These excused themselves due to other commitments. Not only that, some of them even killed the king's messengers (vv.2-6). The king answers with a violent reprisal (v.7). With the usual guests finished off, the king sends out his messengers once more to call in anyone -- both good and bad -- into the banquet. And so the banquet did get underway.
If we compare the parable at this point to the other parables that Jesus tells his interlocutors., we can say that the present one is telling the same thing:
1. Those who refused, stand for the Jews who turned away from the invitation to the reign of God. (21:43)
2. The reprisal of the king, already hinted at in the previous parable about the tenants of the vineyard, represents the judgment that will laid upon the wicked, i.e., those who refuse the invitation of God's grace.(cf. 21:40-41)
3. Finally, those who respond to the invitation are like the tax collectors and the prostitutes in the parable of the two sons (21:28-32) who respond to the call of the Baptist to conversion. (cf. 21:32)
Apart from this, there are echoes of banquet-sayings uttered by the Lord regarding the replacement of those normally invited by others as in Mt. 8:11-13.
But then, there is a second part to the parable...
During the party itself, the king arrived to meet the guests. He saw one who was not in the proper wedding garb. Jewish culture demands that everyone come in the proper attire for a banquet. Since banquets last for some days, anyone invited can come at one's leisure in the proper garb. The man had no excuse for coming without the proper clothing. When asked by the king about his clothing, he shut his mouth (that is what phimotheti means; other translations settle for "he had nothing to say"). And that was in the culture of the times very rude. So the king orders that the man be thrown out of the party.
Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." (v. 13)
One might as well ask: "Is the punishment proportionate to the offense? Did the man deserve to be bound hand and foot and thrown out into the darkness?" If it were just a story, perhaps we can say it was too much. The problem is, it is not just a story. The parable has all the elements of a judgment scenario: the wedding banquet, the implied wedding, the war on the wicked, the white garment for the wedding, the outer darkness. The last quoted phrase itself occurs in other parts of Matthew in the context of judgment:
Mt. 8:11-12: I tell you many will come from east and west and sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
Mt. 13:41-42: The Son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
Mt. 24:50-51: The Master of that (faithless) servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
Mt. 25:40: Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
Given these facts, therefore, what does the white garment point to? The answer I think is hinted at that part of the New Testament where the elements of this parable -- wedding feast, war, white garment -- can be found one other time: Revelation 19:1-21:8. In this section we find the clean white robe as representing "the righteous deeds of the saints" (Rev. 19:8).