Today’s text: Matthew 22:1-46
As the transition between chapters 21 and 22 takes place, a day has passed, and Jesus is back in the temple teaching about His identity and mission. His audience consisted of all types, but we can be sure that the chief priests and Pharisees were present and listening closely.
Chapter 22 begins with a third consecutive parable, known as the parable of the “Wedding Feast.” It’s a pretty straight-forward statement of Jesus to these religious leaders. The main idea is that those who have been originally invited, but who have resisted God (these “chosen Jews” who reject the true spirit of the Law), will be usurped by those “in the streets” (v. 10) who will be gathered to God’s table. The idea of a wedding feast was a clear indicator to them of the consummation (the end times, final judgment, etc.). Jesus is showing them that He is bringing in the Isaiah 56 kingdom, where those who are welcomed by the Father are those who obey, not simply those with the pedigree.
After the parable, the rest of the chapters consists of 3 questions from the religious leaders, all meant to trap Jesus in some way, and a final question by Jesus. The final question by Jesus ends this chapter with a great summary statement that really shows what the chapter is all about: “No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” In the end, these religious leaders were caught by the exact trap they tried to set for Jesus. It’s tough to out-theologize the Word incarnate.
Time and space don’t permit me to go into huge detail on each chapter this week, but I’ll seek to bring out a point or two as we go. A section that has always intrigued me in chapter 22 is verses 11-14. The first part of this parable is pretty obvious, Jesus is telling the religious leaders that He has come as Messiah to inaugurate the Isaiah 56 ministry that He alluded to the first day in the temple. But who is this random guy who is “not wearing a wedding robe” who gets tossed into outer darkness? Does this have something to do with a special dress code we should all know about? If avoiding “outer darkness” is about wearing a certain type of pants, you can count me in! I’m sure you’ll follow suit (pun intended). What is this actually talking about? I found some interesting stuff on this.
It was not an uncommon custom in a wedding feast like this for the king to provide wedding garments to all who attended. Especially in light of this array of guests, the poor would not be clothed in rags, and the rich would not be given the opportunity to boast in their superiority–everyone would be equally dressed in wedding garments. Now as the king is moving through the feast, he notices someone who has come into the gathering and spurned the wearing of a wedding robe. Why? The lesson here is that apparently this man felt his own clothes sufficient for this feast. He came in, looked around, and felt that his own sufficiency made him deserving of this feast, so he neglected to put on a wedding robe. The king’s actions may seem harsh, but this man’s obvious arrogance and self-sufficiency fly in the face of this gracious and inviting king. So the man is thrown out. Again, within Matthew we hear echoes of the prophet Isaiah, “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (64:6). Indeed, “many are called but few chosen.” There is the strong tension of both divine sovereignty and human responsibility in this verse, similar to what we see many places in Scripture. Many have been called, but only those who surrender show themselves to be among the chosen. Self-sufficiency, arrogance, and entitlement have no place at the feast of the King.