Commentary on Matthew 22:1-14
In our readings we have jumped from chapter 20 to chapter 22 and read another Kingdom parable not unrelated to yesterday’s about the workers in the vineyard.
Yesterday it was a question of resentment at God’s generosity to latecomers in his kingdom. Today it is rather sadness over the Jewish leaders’ refusal to accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord. The parable is a kind of potted history and is more like an allegory than a parable.
The king (God) gives a wedding banquet (the happiness of the Messianic age) for his son (Jesus the Messiah). But when he invites people (the Jews) to attend, they refuse to come and make all kinds of excuses. Others actually attack the king’s servants and messengers (the prophets and the early Christian evangelisers).
The king becomes angry and “sent his army to destroy those murderers and burn their city”. Surely a reference to the Roman army under the emperor Titus which sacked and destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. The Temple, the heart of Judaism, was also destroyed and plundered and has never since been rebuilt. Today an Islamic mosque stands on the site.
Because the invited guests will not come, the servants (the Jewish disciples of Jesus) are instructed to go out and bring in anyone they can find. “They rounded up everyone they met, bad as well as good.” All are called – both the good and sinful.
The climax of the story at first seems somewhat unfair. People have been pulled in from highways and byways and now one is condemned for not wearing a wedding garment! But the parable has in fact moved to the final judgement. In fact, Matthew may be combining what were two original parables into one.
The wedding garment clearly stands for faith and baptism combined with a lived out commitment to the Gospel, something necessary to be accepted into the eternal happiness of the Kingdom.
As Jesus says at the end, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Many were called and invited to attend the banquet. But more than that was expected of them. They had to answer the call by saying an unqualified Yes to Jesus. Being baptised and having the label ‘Christian’ or ‘Catholic’ is not enough.
We have also to live out in our lives and relationships what we claim to believe in.