Weeping and grinding of teeth. Many are called but few are chosen.
This is certainly a strange parable (or is it two parables?) of Jesus. It is told, like the two other parables that we have heard the last two weeks, not to the disciples or followers of Jesus, but to the Jewish religious leaders of Jerusalem during the final week of the life and public ministry of Jesus.
Image of the banquet matches the rich and evocative first reading from Isaiah 25 with its invitation to joy. Isaiah captures the universal purpose of Israel as a blessing for all the nations.
At the time, invitations to great banquets like the wedding for a King’s son were sent out when the event is first announced, but without the specifics of a date and time provided. This allowed for the preparations to be made and guests who were further afield time to travel. Once everything was ready, then servants were dispatched to make the final summons. The Jews long ago were invited to be God’s chosen people. Yet, when God’s son arrived they refused the invitation. We can be so busy making a living that we fail to make a life. This was especially the case by the time that Matthew composed his Gospel, and he can reflect back on significant moments like the destruction of Jerusalem (70 CE) as a sign of destruction against those who attempt a military solution – see Matthew 22:7. God’s invitation is pure grace. It is grace that invites them in at the crossroads and grace that gathers them into the banquet hall.
The Rabbis told various parables as well about weddings. One is of a King inviting people to a wedding, telling them to wash and prepare themselves. Another told of the King giving to every person a royal robe. Those who were wise kept the royal wedding robes safe and clean; others wore them out and got them all dirty. The door is open to all; yet grace is both a gift and a responsibility. We can’t go on living the life we had before we met Jesus. He never left a person the way that he found them – he healed them, forgave them, loved them into a new life. To encounter Jesus does require us to put on the gift of Jesus and the life of Jesus as we approach him in worship. We are not being faithful to him if we just turn out without opening our hearts to the worship and grace that he has prepared for us.
Sunday 28, Year A. Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:12-14;19-20; Matthew 22:1-14.