Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Weeping and gnashing of teeth’
“Then Jesus spoke to them again in parables.” Indeed. This particular parable – a first-
In fact, the entire parable is about misunderstanding salvation – it’s also about missing out on salvation. It works, that is, on a number of levels.
If God is the ruler, and Jesus the heir, then the parable continues the biblical theme featuring relations between YHWH and Israel in terms of spousal and wedding imagery (Hos. 2:19-
Addressing messianic believers, the story appeals to self-
The story resumes with a final invitation, this time going into the streets to draw everyone, bad and good alike, into the wedding hall for the banquet. In view at this point is the mission of the Church beyond Israel to the nations of the world. Yes, we can affirm the inclusivity of this vision – perhaps to such an extent that we downplay or deny the previous violence and anti-
But now comes the part of the parable many hearers find most disturbing: the ruler’s unreasonable treatment of the unfortunate person who, picked up from the street, is faulted – and ejected into outer “darkness” – for not having a wedding robe. How could he have had time – let alone resources – to get one? One commentator writes: “The [person] without a wedding garment represents all those who accepted the invitation but did not, within that calling, undergo the conversion of life required for entrance into the final kingdom. At the judgement – imaged by the [ruler’s] coming in to see the guests – they will be found lacking the ‘wedding garment’ of good works and suffer the exclusion described …” (Brendan Byrne, Lifting the Burden).
The commentator may have a point. The provocation here may have to do with complacency – it may serve as a challenge to complacent believers, all-
Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something funny is at work. The silent guest whom the ruler calls, creepily, “My friend”, the binding and casting out, the “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. It’s over the top. It’s a disproportionate use of force. It’s ridiculous, cartoon-
It’s possible to see that the ruler (like the golden calf) is not God at all. It’s possible to see that the guest among the street people, the one who keeps a silent dignity in the face of brutality, the one who is bound and banished, is Jesus himself. The outer “darkness” is the place of crucifixion. The weeping and gnashing of teeth is the pain and anger of those denied justice. The brutalised guest is the Christ who now, as host, invites us – again – to the banquet. Here at this table our theologies are turned inside-
Commentators point out that the language of the final verse reflects Semitic idiom, in which “many” can mean “all” and “few” can mean “not everyone”. All of us, that is, are called to share our lives with Christ and with the outcasts and those hungry for justice – the poor and abused, the threatened species, the poisoned earth and air and water – but, sadly, not all of us are willing to forego belief in vengeance and entitlement.
Judgement, conversion, salvation … these are inter-