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«Everything is Ready; Come to the Marriage Banquet»: The Parable of the Invitation to the Royal Marriage Banquet (Matt 22,1-14) in the Context of Matthew’s Gospel

Mod.: R.P. Klemens STOCK, S.J.

This study is an exegetical investigation into the meaning and function of Jesus’ Parable of the Invitation to the Royal Marriage Banquet (Matt 22,1-14) in the context of the First Gospel. Formulated as a thesis, the present study argues that the parable in Matt 22,1-14 is mainly not paraenetical or polemical but revelatory, and that by the parable, which is the most influential and powerful means used by Jesus to speak about the reign of heaven, he is making clearer the dynamism operative in the kingdom of heaven. Exploring the parable in its immediate and wider contexts of the First Gospel the dissertation demonstrates that the advent of the rule of heaven symbolised as a marriage banquet (22,2) offers everyone an opportunity to become commensals with the Son in the presence of the Father; acceptance of this offer brings everlasting joy, its rejection results in eternal punishment.

To Analyse the text using the synchronic method is helpful in discovering the meaning and function of the parable. Therefore, by undertaking a survey of the history of parable interpretation, ancient and modern, we present our methodology of parable exegesis. This enables us to consider Matt 22,1-14 as a parable, which is a conjunction of a narrative form and a metaphoric process; a performative speech-act aiming at revealing the dynamism operating in the reign of heaven, and bringing about an existential change in the hearers. As a fictional story taken from everyday life, it does not necessarily portray everyday events in every stage of the story; some elements are realistic, while others are not.

The parable in Matt 22,1-14, our study suggests, is a veiled answer to the question about Jesus’ authority raised by the Jewish officialdom (21,23). The parable discloses that God’s Fatherhood/Kingship, and Jesus’ divine Sonship form the core of the kingdom of heaven. The reign of heaven consists primarily in God’s acting (22,2); God sends, guides, empowers, and sustains His messengers, and from the Kingship of God the Father emerges the kinship of the human person. In the First Gospel special prominence is given to the ‘Son’, and a marriage banquet in the Son’s honour is especially appropriate in a Gospel narrative that implicitly presents Jesus as the bridegroom of the new nuptials (9,15; 22,1-14; 25,1-13). The Bridegroom’s presence is a sign of joy and festivity, and this refers to the joyful and festive character of the kingdom of heaven. The inbreaking of heaven’s rule takes place in Jesus’ ministry; now is the acceptable time. The invitation to the marriage banquet, therefore, is an invitation to discipleship and sonship. Furthermore, a shift from particularism to universalism is delineated in the First Gospel; God is offering salvation to all, everyone will be invited into the salvation God has prepared (22,9); tax collectors and sinners, the despised ones inherit the reign of God (21,31); the kingdom of God will be entrusted to a people who will produce its fruits (21,41.43), and Jesus’ final words in Matt (28,16-20) reiterate this universal scope of salvation. The inbreaking of the reign of heaven is such that everyone is now eligible or given a chance to receive God’s benevolence, there is no distinction between privileged ones and despised ones, and this results in a joyous fellowship of kinship among all the children of the kingdom, with Jesus the Son and with God the Father.

The reign of heaven is Jesus’ message of a new community of brotherhood, which is constituted by the sonship and kinship of the kingdom. Making use of this vision Jesus, the Bridegroom, is inviting his listeners to look beyond the present into the future and prepare themselves for the eschatological inbreaking of heaven’s sovereignty.