Updated: Feb 3
Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again 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.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
This is the Gospel reading from the Episcopal Lectionary for Year A, Proper 23, the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. This will next be read aloud by a priest in church on Sunday, October 15, 2017. This is the parable of the Wedding Banquet and is important because it speaks of all who are invited to serve the Lord, but treat that invitation with ridicule and scorn.
This parable immediately follows the parable of the tenants, which was the Gospel reading for the prior Sunday. Because it begins a new chapter, one can say a day in Jesus’ “inspection” has passed and a new day has begun. This would be why Matthew began by writing, “Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables.”
Still, the Greek word “apokritheis” was written and not factored into the translation above. That word states that Jesus “answered” the people, or “took up conversation” with them. The implication is that some question asked or something said that needed clarification. This means Jesus did not simply begin speaking in a parable, as a parable is an answer created to make someone think about its symbolism.
This parable begins with the statement that is the overview. Everything hangs from Jesus beginning by stating, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.” Thus, the question being answered or the clarification needed is relative to the kingdom of heaven.
The parable could then be addressing the question, “How do we gain the assurance of Heaven?” A similar question was posed to Jesus at a prior time to his return to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. That time a young, wealthy Pharisee asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16-22) Jesus answered quite clearly then: Law, Give, Follow. Now, it is answered symbolically.
When Jesus said the comparison was “to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son,” the focus given by all Christians today is on “his son.” This (of course) is Jesus. Still, to think that Jesus is telling a parable about about himself is over-simplifying this message.
Over-simplification is part of what I call “Big Brain Syndrome.” We think we know a thing or two today, so we are smarter than those rubes who were standing around Jesus then. We slap Jesus on the back and say, “Tell them Jesus, we know you’re talking about you as his son.” However, the sad reality is most people do not have a clue about the real meaning of this parable; but because people today know how to operate a smart phone, they think that makes them become Jesus-like.
Sure, the “king” is God and “his son” is Jesus; but the operative word that needs to be grasped here is “wedding.”
When we read, “[The king] sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come,” “his slaves” are those who serve the LORD. Those who would not come are those who think they are better than slaves and equal to a king.
In the symbolism of this parable, the “slaves” are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob [aka Israel], who served God and attended to His needs. There are quite a few over a long period of time: The Israelites were freed by Moses, who was one of “his slaves”; All the Judges (like Gideon, Deborah, Samson, Eli, et al) were the king’s slaves; all the leaders of the people (like Joshua, Samuel, David, et al) were the slaves of God; and all the temple prophets (like Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, et al) were “his slaves.” That is the meaning of those who were sent out “to call” the invited.
Some of the slaves of God.
The “invited” are all the children of Israel, which includes Jews (who were then surrounding Jesus) and Christians (now, who are reading about this parable).
What flies over everyone’s head is how the invitation was not to have a bunch of party-goers come to the king’s palace for free food, with plenty of wine available for getting drunk. The invitation has to be seen symbolically as quite important, meaning the invitation was to marry his son. Better yet, it was to marry God and become his son, which would make that person be reborn as Jesus Christ.
Either way, the books of the Holy Bible (then called the Torah and the scrolls) are the record of “slaves” inviting those following the trail of the One God, who all believed they were promised land AND Heaven. The problem was the invitations (then, as an allusion to those standing within earshot of Jesus) only went to Jewish men of position and power.
That is why those who were invited got angry and upset, so that “they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.” Keep in mind this was a parable told well before “women’s lib,” so all the invited were adult Jewish males – menfolk who owned property and wares (things). Now, it applies to anyone (both sexes, Judeo-Christian) who own stuff and control people.
Even in these modern times, when human beings love to call 0 and 1 equal [we’re all numbers], and when the concept of marriage has been rolled in the mud for so long it is barely recognizable and hardly desirable, those who still hold marriage in high regard do so by standards that are considered “old fashioned.”
By this, I mean the man asks a woman to marry him. The man give something of value to the woman (an engagement ring, usually). The woman takes the man’s name in marriage.
To some, perhaps, marriage pleasantly leads to dreams of the husband going off to work and earning a living. He buys the wife a house. The wife then stays home, to cook, clean, and raise babies (the intent of a honeymoon).
Admittedly, fewer and fewer people grow up with this ideal in mind, especially now that some primary schools and kindergartens are teaching gender identity is what you want to be, not what you are. Go figure.
No wonder marriage is seeming more and more like dinosaur bones and relics (“Mortal can these dried bones live?”)
Because of this innate social concept of marriage and submission being a matter of the heart and not one of brawn, females have long been much more inclined to look forward to marriage, as well as believe in religion, God, prayer, and all the things “church ladies” do. Nuns are such devoted believers they marry Christ. Faith, therefore, is a matter of the heart.
Men [gruff, gruff], on the other hand, tend to stay away from all this faith stuff, as much as possible. They usually pray only when they are about to lose money gambling on sports teams. Most men will go along with the pretense of faith, “as long as it keeps the wife happy.” Men also like children … God’s blessings … but still men like the sex part about making babies too (an outward sign of inward grace?).
Women are from Venus, men are from Mars?
Because of that male-dominated-world mentality, when a man is invited to marry the “son” of “the king,” … well forget that! Men have property to purchase and wares to sell, because they have families to provide for … thank you very much for understanding that!
How ’bout dem Bears?
Well, the application of this parable is “one size fits all.” Men and women – equally – are invited to marry God and become Jesus Christ, by receipt of God’s Holy Spirit. Accepting the invitation means gladly saying, “I do!” That does not mean, “I comply.” It means, “I love you God.”
When Jesus said the king announced, “I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet,” this is the ceremonial sacrifices for all those planned marriages. The “oxen” and “fat calves” are those egos that overestimate their virility and net worth. They are egos fattened by the blessings of God, so those who took the engagement rings of wealth are His beasts of burden … His chosen ones. Once those animals are sacrificed, “everything is ready” to join with the Christ Mind and become “his son” (for the umpteenth time … regardless of one’s human gender).
When we read, “they made light of it and went away, … (and) seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them,” this is how every Jew of Jesus’ Jerusalem and every Christian today, any who will admit “I am no Saint,” they reject this plan of God. God’s plan is for lost human beings to be found, through the light of Christ. But, lost human beings have so much fun being lost, they think self is more important than holy selflessness.
They hear all those slaves of the king giving the same invitations in the holy texts (differently), but they only laugh at it as nonsense, or they mistreat it by writing it off as being a long time ago – no longer applicable in this complex world. Some even kill those writers through the scientific methods of agnosticism and atheism (where they attempt to kill the spirit of anyone reading an invitation and thinking, “Hmmmm. Maybe I’ll go.”)
This kind of response to God’s wedding invitation did not go over well with God. We read, “The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.” Can you recall how the divided kingdoms, Israel and Judah, were overrun and destroyed? Scattered people who had their Promised Land repossessed by God, for failure to accept His invitation to be married to God as “his son.”
This same fate applied to the Second Temple businessmen, and it applies to the exponentially growing number of “Christian” churches that are preaching (through the absence of a “How to be a Saint” message), “Don’t be married to God.” Those are seen as murderers of wide-scale Apostlehood, as the bad shepherds holding flocks of sheep in centers designed for wool profiteering.
When we then read, “He said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet,” those unworthy were the Pharisees (and other Temple-related well-to-dos). That then factors to modern times as Christians who make a living selling Christianity on TV or in mega-churches [including the Vatican].
This makes “the main streets” be the mainstream of humanity that flows in torrents around the world. The invitation is for anyone who picks up a Holy Bible and reads a slave pronouncing an invitation to be married to God and become “his son” (regardless of human gender). If that person says, “Yes! I want that!”, then, “You’re engaged to marry God!”
To then read, “[The slaves] found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests,” the “good and bad” actually states “the wicked, evil, malicious, slothful” (“ponērous”) and “the intrinsically good, good in nature, good whether or not it can be seen, and believers” (“agathous”). That means there are those found by the “slaves” who were like those who Jesus said were closer to salvation (tax collectors and prostitutes) than the Pharisees (Popes, televangelists, authors of bestselling Christian novels, et al). The “bad” were those sinners who wanted to not be bad, and the “good” were those who fought hard to find support and encouragement to keep up the good fight.
None of those were led to marry God by anyone other than the king’s slaves.
Written by God’s slaves.
When we read “guests” filled the banquet hall, this is misleading, as weddings are typically many more guests than marriage participants. The Greek word written is “anakeimenōn,” which means “recliners” or those “seated” at the dinner table. Because we are told, “[the king] noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,” the implication is all those “seated” were properly dressed for their marriage. Now, here was this guy who strolled in wearing his street clothes, or perhaps he was looking like a wolf, uncovered?
When Jesus said the king (God) asked this man, politely, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” the implication is the man had proclaimed to be a “friend” of God and “his son.” However, to be wedded to God, to become “his son” through marriage, to be ceremoniously sacrificed of ego means to be more than simply a “friend.” The Greek word here is “Hetaire,” which means, “a companion (normally an impostor), posing to be a comrade but in reality only has his own interests in mind.”
This is actually a statement of what a true Church consists of. Paul wrote, “There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12) The same can be said of this wedding banquet, where many types of people had submitted themselves to God, to be married through His Christ. All would become “one body” through marriage, as all would become one with God and Christ.
Anyone who is not a true Saint or Apostle, not having talents of the Holy Spirit, is just a “pal,” who “has his or her own interests in mind.” When one’s own interest is a “Big Brain” and not the Christ Mind, then that person is spotted by God the king and questioned. God does not call those “Friend.” He calls them “Impostor!” and asks, “What are you doing with my chosen people?”
Jesus said the response to that questioning by God was, “And [the uninvited guest] was speechless.” That impostor, who didn’t even dress like he was going to get married to “his son,” had nothing to say. When saying the truth, “Just here for the food and wine,” would have been a good start to a conversation; the reality is he was “speechless” for symbolic reason.
Here, “speechless” means the man’s tongue had not been lit “like a violent rush of wind,” which gave him “a tongue of fire.” His being speechless meant he was unable to answer, because he could not begin speaking in holy language, as would be given from the Spirit within. This is confirmed when one sees how the Greek word translated as “speechless” is “ephimōthē,” which implies “muzzled” or “put to silence.” Thus, only those who were rightfully present at the wedding banquet could speak, but they could only speak what the Holy Spirit allowed.
The moral of this parable is then stated by Jesus as being, “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.” Clearly, the easy summary says, “Ignore the invitations found in the Holy Bible and go to Hell.” However, it is not that simple.
To be bound “hand and foot” is less about the acts of the Lord’s “servants” or “attendants” (those rightfully present at the wedding banquet), but that which binds is self-inflicted. The man was bound by his own actions. He was bound by the path he had taken and those whom he had walked upon to get there (“feet”). Additionally, he was bound by what he had taken from others and kept for himself, instead of giving freely (“hands”).
It was those self-binding actions that cast himself “into the outer darkness,” away from the light of Christ. In darkness souls suffer, because they are reborn time and time again into fleshy bodies that feel the pains of a sinful world. In the world of flesh “there will [always] be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Lamentations will always be for the pains of that which was lost; and the gnashing of teeth comes from eternally biting on the backs of others, causing a karmic debt that makes one’s own back always be bitten.
The “outer darkness” is the opposite of an inner light. To be cast there is to deny the Mind of Christ. The outer darkness is all the answers a Big Brain becomes speechless to know. The inner light comes from a heart in love with God.
This moral then makes it easier to read the last verse, which states: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” It can lead to confusion, since the man who ended up being cast out can seem to have answered a call. Why, then, wasn’t he chosen? Doesn’t God love everyone?
The man has to be understood as being there under false pretenses. It is like someone going to a church because he thinks he will be more promotable at work that way. The man was not there to be committed to God and Christ on a permanent (24/7/365.25) basis. He was called, but he rejected the true call.
When we read “few are chosen,” certainly God only allows those who love Him deeply from their hearts to marry Him and become One with the Trinity – be a Saint. But, the deeper meaning is (sadly) how few will choose to sacrifice their egos and submit totally to God’s Will. All are called to do that, because the “slaves” took the invitations to those who were not born of a special race and/or religion. No one goes to the kingdom of God simply by birth, with no special requirements of any kind.
One has to earn that. And, when they say you can’t take it with you, it means more than material things. No Big Brains allowed either. The young, rich ruler who Jesus told how to be assured of eternal reward was to get rid of that brain that thinks having more than others makes that point. Then, when Jesus said, “Follow me,” that meant accept God’s invitation to be married, so he would be the next Jesus … Christ … God’s Son.
If only the males of the world could see themselves as called to a wedding banquet to be the bride of God … to become “his son” through marriage … then the world would have a chance of being a better place. However, the world makes men surround themselves with that defender mentality; and it is hard for both sexes to sacrifice ego and trust in the LORD.
We all know there is only one Son of God, who is Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God. Marriage to God brings about the rebirth of Jesus Christ in the one wearing the wedding gown, reclining before God in subservience. This is quintessentially the meaning of being Christian. Listen to what the “slaves” are saying.