Sunday Readings: Isaiah 25.6-10; Philippians 4.12-14,19-20; Matthew 22.1-10
“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 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 fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” – Matthew 22.2-4
The meal Jesus describes in Sunday’s parable is no ordinary dinner but the messiah’s wedding feast. The royal wedding setting is unique to Matthew’s way of telling the parable. Matthew adds other details to the parable that give the story double meaning. In this way he creates an allegory in which characters and action in the parable parallel events his own time in the A.D. 80s. The king’s fury at guests who refuse his invitation seems overkill until a reader realizes Matthew is connecting the parable with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the event that effectively ends Israel’s ancient temple-centered religion. Matthew’s interpretation shows the danger of allegory; it fixes the meaning and perpetuates an ancient conflict that led to genocide in the Holocaust.
The parable speaks more to us today without the allegory; it asks what we do with our excess and who we invite to our tables. Abundant food is one of the most fundamental blessings in our lives. The parable is very different in Luke’s telling (Luke 14.15-24). When people refuse to come to a great dinner in Luke’s version, the host invites in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.
How do you think the kingdom of heaven will be like a lavish dinner?