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§ 255. Parable of the Marriage Feast of the King’s Son. (Matt., xxii., 1-14.)

Matthew assigns to this period several parables in which Christ illustrated the course of developement of the kingdom of God. Some of them are allied to those mentioned by us before in following Luke’s account. But their affinity does not justify us in concluding, with some modern writers, that they were originally one and the same, and that the variations in their form are due to their more or less faithful transmission. We hope to be able to show, as we have done in other cases, that the allied parables are alike original, and were alike uttered by Christ himself.

370

We take up first the parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son (Matt., xxii.). The kingdom of God is here represented under the figure of a marriage feast given by the King (God) to his Son (Christ). The guests invited are the members of the old Theocratic nation. When the banquet is prepared (i. e., when the kingdom of God is to be established upon earth), the king sends his servants out at different times to call in the guests that were before bidden. Some follow their business without the least regard to the invitation; corresponding to those men who are wholly devoted to earthly things, and indifferent to the Divine. Others, going still further, seize, abuse, and finally kill the servants; representing men decidedly hostile to the Gospel, and persecutors of its preachers. It is not strange that Christ does not in this, as in another parable, add another point of gradation, by sending out the son to be maltreated also; it would not harmonize with the plan of the parable for the king’s son, in whose honour the feast was given, to go about like a servant and invite his guests. Moreover, the parable refers to Christ’s agents, not to himself; as he speaks of a time when he shall no more be present on the earth.

When the king learns what has passed, he sends his armies, seizes the murderers, and burns their city; corresponding to the prophecy of the judgment over the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem. As the city is destroyed, new guests cannot be invited from thence; the king sends his servants out into the highways, frequented by many travellers, with orders to invite every body to the wedding; a prophetic intimation, obviously, that, after the destruction of Jerusalem and of the old Theocratic nation, the doors of the kingdom would be thrown wide open, and all the heathen nations be invited to come in. The servants, in execution of the command, bring in all whom they meet, both good and bad.

A second prominent feature of the parable now appears: the sifting of the guests. Those who have a just sense of the honour done them by the invitation, and come in a wedding-garment, represent such as fit themselves for membership of the kingdom of God by proper dispositions of heart; while those who come in the garb in which the invitation happens to find them correspond to such as accept the calls of the Gospel without any change of heart. Christ himself gives prominence to this feature of the parable in the words, “Many are called, but few are chosen;” distinguishing the great mass of outward professors who obey the external call from the few who are “chosen,” because their hearts are right.687687   Many interpreters think the case should be conceived thus: The caftan, or wedding-dress, was offered to the guests, according to Oriental custom, by the king himself, and their disrespect was shown in refusing to accept it at his hands; thus representing justification by faith as the offered gift of Divine grace. This conception would help us to explain how the guests taken upon the road might have secured the wedding-garment, had they chosen to do so; nor is it a sufficient objection to it to say that such a usage cannot be proved to have prevailed in ancient times; for the similarity of modern to ancient customs in the East is so great, that we can infer from such as exist now, or at late periods, that like ones prevailed in the earliest ages. But if a thought so important to the whole parable had been intended, Christ would not have failed to express it definitely; he would have expressly reprimanded the delinquent guests with, “The garment was offered as a gift, and ye would not accept it; so much the greater your guilt.” In short, if this conception be the right one, we must infer either that the parable has not been faithfully transmitted, or that the usage referred to was so general in the East that no particular reference to it was necessary. At all events, the mode by which the wedding-dress could be obtained was not important to Christ’s purpose; and the absence of any allusion to it does not justify Strauss’s conclusion that there is a foreign trait in the parable that it is composed of several heterogeneous parts.

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This parable is certainly similar to that in Luke, xiv., 16-21, before treated of;688688   Cf. p. 254. but the new and different features which it presents indicate that it was uttered at a different period. In Luke’s parable the hostility of the invited guests is not so decided; they offer excuses for not coming. The contrast, in fact, is limited to the Jewish nation; the poor and despised Jewish people being opposed to the Pharisees. And as no general Jewish enmity is alluded to, so the destruction of Jerusalem is pot mentioned at all, and the calling of the heathen only by the way.


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