The expected celebrants reject and are therefore rejected. The unsuspecting marginals are in the seats of honor.
The story Jesus tells in Matthew 22 is delightful to a crowd of ordinary people, depressing to the elite.
But Jesus has one more turn in the story, a man tossed out.
When the king shows up for the party, he goes to the one man without a tux, the guest who was glaringly different. “How did you get in without wedding clothes?” the king asked.
If this were a commercial or a movie or a sitcom, the man would have spun mockery out of the silence. We are used to characters who go against the norms, who speak truth to pompous power. In our version of this story, it would have been the man pointing to the king saying, “you have no clothes.”
We aren’t writing the story. Jesus is dead serious.
To be at a wedding feast is to dress like you care. To accept the abundance of the king is to accept the simple expression of sartorial submission. Some writers suggest that kings would have provided wedding clothes for all the guests, making the rejection of such clothing an affront to the gift of the king.
This man didn’t have the clothes. And this man had no excuse, no defense.
The king called the bouncers, the man was tied and tossed out.
And that’s the end of the story. Almost everyone listening thought it made complete sense, was cheering for the people from the street who made it to the party. Then Jesus says “Many are invited, few are chosen.” And the Pharisees walk out looking for a new way to trap him.
Jesus draws lines for the party. They aren’t where we would. In this story, however, they make sense.