Matthew 22:1-14 (NRSV)
Chapter 22Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: Verse 2"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. Verse 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Verse 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, 'Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' Verse 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, Verse 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. Verse 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Verse 8Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Verse 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Verse 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. Verse 11"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, Verse 12and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Verse 13Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Verse 14For many are called, but few are chosen."
Tending to the details of biblical composition can shed light on the meaning of texts. Matthew adds this Wedding Garment parabolic material to the feast parable he receives from a sayings source, differentiating his account from those of Luke and the Gospel of Thomas. Matthew’s resulting double emphasis justifies the generous forgiveness Jesus extends to tax collectors and sinners while also warning that rejecting the banquet invitation can lead to exclusion from God’s party. Our sacred texts bear the worldly flavor of authors creatively demonstrating that God’s Word emerges from and speaks to concrete situations. Digging into that contextual world helps unleash the earthy power of the biblical story. Matthew’s parable encourages his community members engaged in missionary outreach to audiences not always open to their message and it encourages us in our outreach as well. The inspired creativity of ancient writers and contemporary interpreters alike make the Bible God’s living Word.
O God, our authoritative Maestro and Muse, the ultimate Author of creativity, open our hearts and minds to the worldly dimension of the Good Book. Enable us to appreciate how your biblical Word doesn’t drop down from the sky but receives imaginative crafting by those whose love for you prompts them to labor hard to clothe you in words that draw us to you. Amen.