The parable of the wedding banquet conjures up warm fuzzy memories from childhood – one of my favorite Junior Choir songs. My mom had the whole book of Christian pop songs by the Medical Mission Sisters, which included one about ‘The Wedding Banquet’, and she would play the piano while I sang along…. Only trouble is, I believed that the lyrics reflected the story in the bible. So imagine my horror when I first read this in Matthew! This is a perfect example of how each subsequent gospel writer ‘cleaned’ up the stories and made Jesus appear kinder, more refined, more divine, etc. The lyrics to the song are based on Luke’s version of the parable – which conveniently will no longer include the events of v 11-13. It’ll be obvious when we get there, and I’ll link it then.
After this parable, the rest of the chapter – ‘render unto Caesar’; the 7 brothers, the greatest commandment; and whose son is the Messiah? – are not significantly changed from the way they are told in Mark 12. The only thing that strikes me is the number of times Jesus quotes or refers to scripture – 5 times in just these last 4 stories.
Jesus’ lecture about religious leaders being hypocrites, which at the end of Mark 12 was only 3 verses long, becomes 36 verses in Matthew 23. (The whole chapter, in fact, except for a little lament at the end that sounds like something Jeremiah could have penned.) I’d say Matthew wanted to hammer the point home. So what does Jesus say? That the elders don’t practice what they teach; that they make onerous demands but never lift a finger to help; that everything they do is for show…. Some things never change, do they? But how about this? Don’t call anyone ‘Father’, or ‘Teacher’, for you have only one father (god) and one teacher (Jesus). (v 9-10) Really? Does anyone pay attention to that advice? And then begins what can only be called a rant, about the hypocrisy of style over substance, and the ridiculousness of focusing on outward appearances and nit-picky rules. There are certainly some truisms in this tirade. The whole thing is worth a read.