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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Gospel Analysis: Excuses to Avoid a Wedding

Pentecost 21A     Matthew 22:1-14  (Luke 14:15-24)

Pastor Edward F. Markquart
Grace Lutheran Church
Des Moines, Washington 98198

The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.

Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 192.



  • After the cleansing of the temple, there are several consecutive stories against the religious leadership. (SYNOPSIS OF THE GOSPELS, Aland, pp. 237-253))

      The religious leadership consisted of the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests,    scribes and others in authority.

  • Jesus curses the fig tree.
  • The chief priests and scribes seek to destroy him.
  • The fig tree is withered (symbolic of the Pharisees)
  • Jesus teaches in the temple with authority and challenges the Pharisees.
  • Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants (Pharisees) who killed the servants (prophets) and also the Son (Jesus) of the owner. Jesus teaches that “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you (Pharisees) and given to people who produce the fruit of it (the tax collectors and prostitutes).” When the Pharisees heard these two parables (the two sons and the wicked tenants), they tried to arrest Jesus.
  • Jesus tells the parable of the Marriage Feast where people offered flimsy excuses not to come.
  • The Pharisees seek to entangle him in a debate about not paying taxes.
  • The Sadducees try to entangle him in a debate about the resurrection. 
  • A lawyer of the Pharisees try to entangle him in a debate about the great commandment.
  • The Pharisees seek to entangle him in a debate about the Messiah and his origins.
  • Jesus teaches his disciples about the phoniness of the Pharisees (Matthew 23).
  • Jesus’ laments over Jerusalem. 
  • We remember that Sessions 18-20 in the course LIFE OF CHRIST were also teachings against the Pharisees who represented the leadership of the temple.
  • We remember that these religious leaders:

-Loved their religious traditions more than God and neighbor.

-Loved their interpretations of the Old Testament more than God and neighbor.

-Loved their money more than God and neighbor.

            -Loved their political power more than God and neighbor.

            -Loved their religious power more than God and neighbor.           

           - Talked a good line but did not live it.

            -Were the epitome of hypocrisy.

            -Were blind to God, God’s love, God’s Word, God’s truth, and God’s Son.

  • Each individual section needs to be read as part of the whole section. The teachings in this section are persistently against the religious leadership e.g.
    the Pharisees perceived that Jesus told this parable against them.

We recall the parable/teaching of The Fig Tree. For Jesus, the barren fig tree was leafy but had no fruit. The barren fig tree symbolized the Jewish religious leadership of Jesus’ day. These religious leaders talked a good religious talk and used all the right “buzz words” and clichés but did not put their words into actions in their daily lives. The fig tree symbolized the Pharisees who appeared healthy and leafy (like a fig tree) but produced no fruit of love.

Today, this fig tree symbolizes any Christian life which talks the talk but does not walk the walk. The apparently healthy fig tree without fruit symbolizes an apparently healthy Christian life that does not produce actions and behaviors that God wants from us. 

The tree looks healthy but it is not. A religious life looks healthy but it is not. A Christian can use all the right buzz words, read the Bible, attend church and do all the churchy things but lives a lie and does not demonstrate the love of Christ in daily actions.

216. THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT SUPPER     Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24

It seems wise to read/print Luke’s version of the gospel lesson for Pentecost 21 and then preach on Luke’s version of this story.

We will study Luke’s version of this parable. Luke’s version of the story makes more sense to us than Mathew’s version. When we read Matthew’s version, some of Matthew’s comments clash with our cultural sensitivities today. For example, see Mathew 22:7 which says. “The king was angry and sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”  Those concepts don’t sit well with our cultural sensitivities today. Similarly, see Matthew 22:11-13 which says, “The king saw a man who had no wedding garment and asked, ‘How did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ The king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness. There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” Those words don’t make sense to us in our modern cultural context. These words and concepts seem to appeal to first century Jews with their particular idioms of expression.

Simply put, the flow and contents of this story in Luke appeals more to our modern minds today than Mathew’s version.

When we see both Matthew and Luke in parallel columns but there are no words from the Gospel of Mark, we sense that both Matthew and Luke were copying from a common, earlier resource which we call Q. If both Matthew and Luke’s version of this parable are from Q, I find Luke’s version more sensitive to our modern cultural sensitivities than Matthew’s.

In Matthew’s version of the parable, we hear one of Matthew’s favorite phrases, “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is an Aramaic phrase but it reveals a theological attitude towards punishment. Six of the seven verses which use the phrase, “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” come from the Gospel of Matthew. The seventh is from the Gospel of Luke.

It is prudent to hear the way the Gospel of Matthew uses the words, “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” a concept which is part of the parable of the Great Supper according to Matthew. Please read slowly and carefully.

Matthew 8:12

12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 

(from New International Version)

Matthew 13:42

42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (from New International Version)

Matthew 13:50

50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

(from New International Version)

Matthew 22:13

13 "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

(from New International Version)

Matthew 24:51

51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Rather violent, I think, “cutting him into pieces.”)

(from New International Version)

Matthew 25:30

30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' (from New International Version)

Luke 13:28

28 "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. (from New International Version)

We also recall from an earlier lesson in THE LIFE OF CHRIST, Lesson 10, The Sermon on the Mount (2), we studied in detail the concept of “hell/Hades” in the four gospels. We recall that there are thirteen references to “hell/Hades” in the New Testament and six of these references to “hell/Hades” are found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Let’s do some simple arithmetic. Six of the seven references to “weeping and gnashing of teeth” are from the Gospel of Matthew. Seven of the thirteen references to “hell/Hades” are in Matthew. If you add them together, thirteen of the twenty references to “hell/Hades” are from Matthew. We know that other Biblical authors do not use the concept of hell. That is, the Gospel of John talks about darkness and the Apostle Paul speaks of judgment. Neither one of them speaks about hell.  John’s darkness is equivalent to Matthew’s hell, just as John’s life is equivalent to Matthew’s kingdom of heaven.

In the parable for today, Matthew has those who rejected the invitation to be “thrown into outer darkness where they will weep and gnash their teeth.” Luke has those who rejected the invitation shall “not taste” my banquet.  In the Gospel of Luke, there are consequences for rejecting the invitation, but those consequences are not expressed in such harsh language as is in the Gospel of Matthew.

It seems wise to read/print Luke’s version of the gospel lesson for Pentecost 21 and then preach on Luke’s version of this story.

-When one of those who sat at table with him heard this. A Pharisee at the table just heard Jesus’ previous parable and teachings about inviting the “poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” to a banquet. “You will be blessed because they cannot repay you.” 

If a preacher uses Luke’s version of The Great Supper, it is wise to study Luke’s previous parable about an invitation to a marriage feast. (Luke 14:7-14)

-He/a Pharisee said to him, ‘Blessed is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God.” It seems that this Pharisee did not grasp what Jesus was saying in his remarks about inviting the poor, the maimed, the blind and the lame to a banquet. Instead of talking about the poorest people of Jewish society, the Pharisee offered a positive and innocuous statement that it would be pleasant to eat bread in the kingdom of God when it comes.

-But he/Jesus said to him. Circle the word, “But.” The word, “but,” implies a conflict or a disagreement or a different understanding than the Pharisee. 

-A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. Jesus begins another parable directed towards his host and the other lawyers and Pharisees who were in the room “at table” with him. All of them were eating together. This was a “teachable moment.”

A banquet was a common and familiar event in the people’s lives. Jesus always used common and familiar events and situations for his parables.

-When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for all is now ready.’

-But they all alike began to make excuses such as: People always have excuses why they don’t have time for God and the ways of God.People are always making excuses why they do not have time to pray, why they don’t want to be part of the church, why they do not want to help make the world a better place. People have thousand and one excuses, and the excuses are so old. At the same time, Jesus’ illustrations of excuses are so contemporary. The excuses that we use today seem identical to the ones that Jesus gave.

-I have a field and I must go out and see it. “I got myself a business. I got myself a house. I got a cabin. I am busy taking care of my property. Business is business and a person first must take care of business. There is no time for God when there is work to be done.”

-I bought five yoke of oxen and I must go to examine them. “I just bought a new car, a new truck, some new computers for my office. I have work to do. Oxen take maintenance; cars take maintenance; computers take maintenance and upgrading all the time.”

-I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come. “I just got married and there is no time for God in these first years of marriage that are so intense and demanding. New wife. New in-laws. New kids. New house. New dog. New cat.”

-So the servant came and reported this to the master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant. The Lord God gets angry with all the “legitimate” excuses that people have not to come and be part of his banquet.

-Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame. Circle these words: “poor, maimed, blind, lame.” This is the core of the parable. These are the exact same words from the previous parable. Jesus wants the Pharisees to know that full-blown sinners will be at God’s banquet.

Jesus’ friends were poor, maimed, blind, lame, lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and other so called “sinners.”

In today’s world, we often do not find “the poor, maimed, blind and lame” as being members of most middle class congregations. Such people are not our friends and we don’t invite people we don’t know. Congregations become reflections of differing economic classes.

-“Sir, what you have commanded has been done, and still there is room.”

-The master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” God wants his house filled, not with people who don’t want to be there, but with people who do. The word, “compel” is a strong word. We, the servants of God, are to compel the “poor, maimed, blind and lame” the homeless, the hurting to come to God’s banquet feast. We are to go to these people and “beg them” to be part of God’s banquet.

-For I tell you/Pharisees, “None of those who were invited shall taste my banquet.” Who is the “you” in the above sentence? The Pharisees? The people sitting around the table feasting with Jesus? It seems as if Jesus is saying that the self-righteous Pharisees who love money and ignore the poor and needy, will not be part of the Final Feast. They are equivalent to the “older brother” in the parable of the Prodigal Son and the rich man in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. You also have the feeling that they were the rich fool in the parable about building bigger and better barns.


Please read the sermon for Pentecost 21A, EXCUSES TO AVOID A WEDDING.

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