In today’s gospel reading, we have heard the parable “of the called and chosen.” The seemingly simple story contains many mysteries. Why do those invited to the feast kill the messengers sent to them? Why is a person who comes to a wedding, not in formal clothes, tied hand, and foot, and thrown into the street? The marriage feast, according to the parable, is arranged for the sake of the beloved Son, in whom Jesus Christ is quickly recognized. But here It does not seem to play a major role. The actors on the stage are God and those who are invited to the love supper for the sake of His Son.
If the Evangelist Luke arranges a large dinner with a nameless person (Luke 14: 16), about whose material wealth and position in society nothing is said, then the Evangelist Matthew arranges the feast with the king (see Matthew 22: 2). He is the ruler and chief judge of his own state (see MT. 18: 23).
The focus of the parable “about the invited” is the attitude of the subjects to the king’s son, for whose wedding a celebration is arranged (MT. 22: 2; cf. 9: 15 and 25: 1). Those invited were most likely high-ranking dignitaries. The king sends his servants to them twice. For the first time, the” invited ” (κλητοί) refuse the invitation without any explanation.
For the second time, the king sends other servants to assure him that he is not inviting him to a trial, but to a marriage feast, for which expensive viands have been prepared, symbolized by fattened calves. Those invited defiantly ignore the invitation. When they go to the field or trade, they give a sign that their daily work is more interesting than the Royal feast. Moreover, some of those invited are rioting, because by insulting and killing the king’s ambassadors, they are exposing their civil disobedience.
- A similar story is found in Josephus ‘ Jewish Antiquities, according to which king Hezekiah opened a previously closed temple in Jerusalem, cleansed it of its idols, and sent out an invitation to the Israelites to come to the feast of unleavened bread (Antiquities 13: 2). According to Flavius, the king advised them to take part in solemn service, not to submit to his authority, but to return them to the worship of the true God. The Israelites scoffed at the messengers as if they were mad. And when the prophets came to them and predicted the calamities that might happen if they did not come to their senses and return to the way of true worship, then the Israelites seized and killed the prophets (cf. MT.23: 37).
The history of the ancient world shows that the burning of a particular city was common in the course of conquests. But in the parable we are considering today, we are not talking about some random or fictional city. The narrator of the parable alludes to a single city, which will soon be destroyed. While referring to the various categories of “invited”, the Apostle Matthew speaks of the city in the singular. It is unlikely that he remembers the burning of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC (see 4 Kings 25: 9; 2 Par. 36: 19; var. 1: 2). The words “burned the city” (ἐμπιπράναι; MT. 22: 7) alludes to the conquest of the city by the Romans in 70 ad.
The king’s hand is heavy but fair. Usually, subjects bring gifts to the king to honor his grace. According to the parable, on the contrary, the king greatly honors his subjects by sending his ambassadors to them. By punishing those who were invited, he could have curtailed the Banquet, but he does not want to waste the benefits he has prepared. Therefore, he sends his servants along various roads, so that outside the walls of the city they will direct all travelers who come and go in the direction of the king’s Palace.
Despite the fact that the Apostle Matthew quotes the parables of Jesus Christ about how wheat is separated from tares, and good fish from bad (see MT. 13: 36-43, 48-49), here, in the story of those invited to a Banquet, in the hall of the king’s solemn ceremonies, everyone who met at the crossroads, people “good and evil” (MT. 22: 10: cf. MT.9: 9-13).
At the same time, it seems that the king does not gather a crowd of people in the Palace because he needs to praise the slaves. He is not a king who collects taxes for his own benefit. This king wants to give his subjects a piece of the goods that he possesses in abundance. He can live without people. God can “raise up children to Abraham out of stones” (Matthew 3: 9), but He does not want his house filled with yesterday’s stones. He wants “many to come from the East and West” and recline on the same bed with Abraham (cf. MT 8: 11).
He is not a king who collects taxes for his own benefit. This king wants to give his subjects a piece of the goods that he possesses in abundance.
It would seem that we can put an end to this: the king walks along the rows, happy to be able to personally greet and treat everyone. But then a strange thing happens. The epilogue of the parable is not like a fairy tale with a happy ending. Upon careful reading, the idea creeps in that the whole story was told for this purpose. “A man who is not clothed in the wedding garment” is bound and thrown out (MT 22: 11).
Before us is a scene of dialogue between the king and a feasting stranger. The king is perplexed: “How did you get in here?” (V. 12) — which means that the person entered the wards in some non-standard way, possibly bypassing the required identity check at the entrance.
The words “not in the wedding garment” are quoted twice in the parable (V. 11-12). It is unlikely that the crowd of travelers gathered at the crossroads was dressed in formal clothes. But everyone understood that it was only possible to go to the wedding feast of the king’s son with a proper appearance. Therefore, most likely, they had the opportunity to clean themselves up. Only this one, “not in wedding clothes,” ignored the solemnity of the meeting. Considering his defiant appearance, the king still gently addressed him as a friend (τταῖρε; V. 13), but in response, he heard silence. No apologies, no explanations, no promises to improve. Only one defiant silence. Not long before the wedding, a whole city of rioters was destroyed, did this not bring the impudent man who came to the wedding feast to reason?
They had a chance to clean themselves up. Only this one, “not in wedding clothes,” ignored the solemnity of the meeting.
The king does not kill him but binds him hand and foot so that he can no longer enter the Palace and Mar the joy of the people gathered for the wedding feast. As in the story of the ten virgins, we see that the wedding takes place at night (MT 25: 14-30). Wise virgins are awake, they have a supply of oil, they are always ready to go out to meet the bridegroom in wedding clothes. The unintelligent remain outside, in the street, where their teeth chatter with the cold and weep for the lost happiness of being at the wedding feast.
The parable of the invited began with a reference to the Kingdom of heaven and ended with an example of how the “sons of the Kingdom” are “cast out into outer darkness” (Matthew 8: 12). The emphasis on the words “many” (πολλοί) invited, and “few” (ὀλίγοι) chosen (MT 22: 14) is alarming: “narrow is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life [eternal]” (MT 7: 14).
According to the context of the gospel of Matthew, the “chosen” (oκκλεκτοί) are not a privileged stratum of individuals who have special gifts or powers. It — all whom the Lord wished to gather with the voice of the Archangel “from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24: 22, 24, 31).
He calls us all to “come” and “taste” of His goodness (see Psalm 33: 9), but this does not mean that when we come to His house we can set our own rules of conduct. The rejection of the invited and the person who is not in wedding clothes shows that we can not book our places in the Kingdom of heaven, we can not guarantee to get to Paradise. But we can win His favor if we study the commandments of God and live according to his rules of eternal life.
As stated in the Psalms of David, ” the Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; he hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all those who love Him, but he will destroy all the wicked.
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His Holy name forever and ever” (PSA. 144: 18-20).