The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Rabel)
This is a series of lectures given by Mr. Edward Rabel, member of the faculty of S.M.R.S.
Winter semester 1976 - 2nd. Yr. Class. Lectures given on May 21 and May 25, 1976
22:1And Jesus answered and spake again in parables unto them, saying, 22:2The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, 22:3and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the marriage feast: and they would not come.22:4Again he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them that are bidden, Behold, I have made ready my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage feast. 22:5But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise; 22:6and the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. 22:7But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 22:8Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they that were bidden were not worthy. 22:9Go ye therefore unto the partings of the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage feast.22:10And those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was filled with guests.
22:11But when the king came in to behold the guests, he saw there a man who had not on a wedding-garment: 22:12and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless. 22:13Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. 22:14For many are called, but few chosen.
Now let's go to His parable of the wedding feast and the guest without the garment, on page 164. The theme of those given the golden opportunities, the first cracks at new realizations are so often the ones who decline it, is repeated so often in Jesus' teachings. This parable is taken from Matthew 22:1-14.
Remember that there are numerous places in the Bible where special mention is made concerning garments or cloaks or coats. It begins in Genesis: "And the Lord called unto Adam and said, 'Where art thou?' And Adam said, 'I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked and hid myself.' And the Lord God said, 'Who told you thou wast naked?'" I wonder if the writer was putting us on a little bit there?
Later in Genesis we read, "Unto Adam and his wife did the Lord make coats of skin and did clothe them." We realize that all of this is deeply symbolic and really has nothing to do with wearing clothes or not wearing clothes. There are other outstanding references to types of garments; Joseph's coat of many colors, the girdle of rough skin worn by John the Baptist, then the overcomers in the book of Revelation, of whom it is written, "Them that overcometh were like clothed in white rainment." Also much is made in Revelation of "Those that have befouled their garments".
Then, of course, there is the seamless white robe of Jesus Christ; so cloaks and garments play an important part in the grand symbolism of the Bible. Probably the most common meaning of garment is current attitude. The inside of our garment is next to our body, and it would symbolize our inner attitude toward self in general. The outside of a garment is our attitude toward the external, toward life events and other persons; so our prevailing or persistent attitude is our attitude-garment, becoming the garment of the moment, the garment being worn in any given situation.
As you all know, many of us are constantly clothing ourselves with one attitude or another. We may keep the same attitude for a long time, just as we might continue wearing a certain garment for a long time; or we might change our attitude very frequently, just as one might change certain articles of attire very frequently. In sort of rare cases, there are some persons who might clothe themselves in a fixed attitude for a whole lifetime, and that is bad, because that would very much equal the wearing of the same garment for too long a time; but most normal people change attitudes according to time and place and circumstances.
Here is a very generalized illustration of the type of attitudes and garments contained in the Bible. If I am not really much interested in my inner world, and if I do not feel there is much more to life than just getting through it somehow, if I do not find spiritual ideas stimulating; if I am indifferent and subjective most of the time, then I am very vulnerable, and I am in a condition which the Bible calls naked. If my attitude toward myself, toward life is one of a very strong survival-instinct, if I am very much concerned with what I eat, what I drink, and self-protection, and if I trust only those who give me pleasure and am suspicious of most others, then this rather crude attitude toward life is symbolized in the Bible as "clothed in coats of skin". This is a primitive attitude. This self-survival instinct and libidinous drive are clothed in coats of skin.
If I have a very definite attitude that I know what is right all the time and what is wrong, and I want to see that others shall see it as I do, if, when people do not agree with me, I say they are wrong, and wrong people deserve to be treated roughly, this attitude would be stated in the Bible as John the Baptist with his girdle of rough skin, you know, a thick-skinned, rough-skinned person.
Now, in contrast to these types I have just mentioned, we have the very attractive garment of Joseph's coat of many colors. This symbolizes an imaginative, artistic, and interested attitude toward oneself and toward life and toward others. This is the great gift of the creative imagination.
Then we have, of course, the seamless white robe of Jesus Christ. This garment is exceptional. It symbolizes more than an attitude, just like white is more than a color. White is all colors transcended, so the seamless white robe of Jesus means all attitudes transcended, more than an attitude. In the case of Jesus Christ it symbolizes not an attitude but pure knowing, truth-thinking. You see, folks, thinking about truth can be attitudenizing, but truth-thinking is not attitudenizing. It is knowing. It was pure. It was seamless, meaning containing no faults.
So, all the cloaks you and I try on and take off, that is the attitudes you and I adopt and then discard are all a part of our growing-up process. It is all legitimate development, the way to spiritual understanding. When we reach that, we do not need clothes any more, change of clothes.
But we must mention the garment that is used in our parable, a wedding garment. A wedding garment is probably best understood by first explaining the meaning, again, of a wedding feast. A wedding feast stands for any occasion in our life, any type of situation in our life when we are being given an opportunity to partake of some spiritual, good, usually some new spiritual good. The fact that it is a wedding feast would be indicative of the fact that at this occasion some new good situation is being formed. In those days, especially, most marriages were first marriages; therefore, the marriage then becomes a symbol of something more pure than it might be if we were thinking about the current wedding. The wedding feast would be an occasion in your life when some kind of new good formation can be your to experience, to appropriate; the thinking and the feeling are entering into this opportunity, male and female, an opportunity to participate in some comparatively new form of spiritual good.
Now, Jesus points out in His parable that we never really know when and how we are going to be bidden to these feasts. Lady Luck might just pluck us out of the highway, or it seems that way to us. We never really know when such bidding is going to come. Such a thing can happen to us at any time, but the first group of invited guests declared the bidding to have come at an inopportune time. The inopportune time was a matter of their deciding. So they rejected it. The same thing happens to us constantly, dear friends.
A new opportunity to partake of some good or to be involved in some new kind of good for us comes, and we may say that this comes at an inopportune moment. "I do not want to be minister of Santa Monica at this time. There is a good movie In Kansas City that I must see yet." So we will reject, and our opportunity will go to somebody else; and even that second opportunity may be turned down by the recipient. But the opportunity is never really wasted. Somewhere, somehow along the way, it will be accepted, even if it has to be crammed down somebody's throat, in a sense.
Q. This is really true, even on this level. Most really successful enterprises in the U.S. have been built on ideas that have been originally rejected by someone else.
A. Right. You have all done a lot of counseling, a lot more in your career than I did when I was in your stage of training. You will notice that in your talking with a lot of counselees, very often they will back away from you.
The Lord of our being is always in process. Actually, the Lord of our being is the process of new good constantly being formulated for our acceptance, our usage, and our sharing. I left out keeping, having and holding. We receive, enjoin and share forever, and the invitation for the opportunity to partake of this good is constantly being issued to us; even when we decline these opportunities for wrong reasons, the opportunities do not stop coming.
Remember the parable when the first group of invitees declined the invitation, and it went to another group. They declined, but the invitation still went out until there was acceptance. Remember these different groups of people are symbols; therefore, they would not be symbols of different groups of people but different aggregates of attitudes in each one of us, individually. In other words, we do not get a one-shot-only invitation from the Lord of our being; because the Lord of our being's business is to constantly extend these invitations, opportunities, to us. The only thing is, the longer we delay, the lower category we place ourselves in our own awareness, in our own consciousness, you see; because the group that finally did accept were a pretty low-brow bunch. This is symbolic; that is, the longer you delay and stall and make excuses in trying to evade new opportunities, new responsibilities, new types of involvement, the lower class you designate yourself in what we now call self-image.
Your image of yourself gets lower and lower; and you can see this if you talk with people who are suffering from the effects of a very poor self-image, you will find that these persons, psychologically speaking, are loaded with regrets of things they did not do that they feel they ought to have done, opportunities that they let go by and now feel unworthy for their lack of accomplishment. This is not true, but it is one of their beliefs; so, they react to that kind of a belief as though it were true. Now, the invitation or the opportunity to partake of some form of new good for us always is being issued, but all too often we may ignore the invitation, especially at the first awareness of it, as the first group of people who declined in toto, point-blank, the whole caboodle of them. Often that is the way one will react to the first awareness of a new invitation coming, because, of course, we are uncertain about our qualifications, etc. Most of the time, however, we are uncertain about our priorities. We may either ignore the invitation or turn it down and give an excuse. What excuses do we give?
According to this parable, it usually consists of explanation to ourselves of why we are too busy and of why we should be worrying about something in the past, which does not leave us time to accept new involvements or new types of effort. I am still too busy worrying over something that has happened to take on something that has not happened. If I take on this new opportunity, I will have to take time away from my worrying; and I do not want to do that, because it is my worry. It is my habit, and I do not want to give it up yet, even though the higher part of us knows that to do this would be for our own highest good; but we still are in the habit of resisting our own highest good, because it usually involves some new kind of effort or new involvement on our part, and we are still timid, suspicious. "I am too busy analyzing my unhappiness to take a chance on some new happiness." It sounds silly, and it is silly, but it is the psychological thing we do time after time. Even so, the invitations are repeated, and we are given further opportunities to enter into acceptance of some new available good. Quite often we do accept the repeated invitation.
But now comes the question, and Jesus makes this a strong point of the conclusion of this parable. It is the question of what garment we are wearing when we decide to accept an invitation to share in some new type of spiritual good. Do we wear a wedding garment to a wedding feast, or are we in improper attire? To wear a wedding garment would mean to have the right attitude toward the good which can come into our lives and toward what accepting of that good or what involvement connected with that good will demand of us. Are we wearing the right garment for such involvement? To wear improper attire to a wedding feast simply means to have a wrong attitude toward what can happen or what is going on. To be involved in something good in potential but having a wrong attitude about it is improper attire in Bible symbolism.
So, Jesus' words indicate that if we have the right attitude toward spiritual good, then we become an honored guest at any wedding feast, and we are then able to enjoy it to the full, involve with it freely, and everything is fine; but if we maintain a wrong attitude toward spiritual good and our involvement in it, then we become separated from our opportunity to enjoy it. See, he was then cast out of the feast because of his improper attire. This is the same thing that happens to people. They, themselves, cause their own ejection from situations which could turn out to be great happiness’s for them. Then they feel alienated and deprived. This guest was "cast into outer darkness", which means a feeling of alienation, a feeling of being separated from the source of good involvement. “Then there shall be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth,” which is Jesus' very wonderful way of describing useless, unnecessary, suffering. So the sensible thing would be for us to frequently observe our inner attitude. Just as you check on your physical appearance in a mirror, so check on the attitude you are wearing within yourself.
Q. It seems that there is symbolism, too, in being "bound hand and foot", because instead of having the opportunity to make the choice, we immobilize ourselves by not doing anything.
A. That is right. We are all bound up in the belief that "this is happening to me by things outside of me". You feel that you are bound hand and foot, and of course this causes wailing and gnashing of teeth. I think really the worst factor in this, though, is that feeling, of alienation, this being cast out, cut off, of not belonging. It is a very desolate feeling, and it is hard to diagnose that, because it is so deep and subtle or perhaps insidious is a better word. So check to see if you are wearing the proper garment for the next wedding feast.
To put it in its most simple terms, a wedding garment would be an attitude, a persistent attitude of being completely willing to accept whatever spiritual good the Lord may prepare for me and the involvement needed to accept and share that.
Now, remember, when I say involvement needed, folks, I do not necessarily mean all kinds of attachments and relationships in a human way. That may be the involvement. Sometimes the involvement needed is less attachment, you see, less physical or emotional-contact-type of involvement; but when I say needed involvement, I simply mean needed but not designating what kind of involvement. The attitude also would include an attitude of always beings willing to share that good with others. Too often we are just in a mini-skirt as a wedding outfit; that is, we only go so far as to "I want to get it and enjoy it", and the hem of the skirt stops there. A true wedding want to get and enjoy", and complete the wedding garment, "and I am always willing to share that good with others, not to get and to enjoy period, mini-skirt, but go to the floor, follow through, share this good with others.
One student in U.I.C.E. objected to this, saying "What if you are not given the opportunity to share your good with others?" The answer is because you do not want the opportunity. That is why you are not given it. If you wanted it, you would be given it. People who say they have no opportunity to share themselves with others are always those who do not really want to but love to complain about not being able to. They are their own self-defeating attitude. If they would get over that and develop this happy willingness to share, they would find a wedding feast. All the situations in life would constitute a wedding feast for their enjoyment and sharing.
A person wearing a wedding garment would be, also, one who has learned not to be suspicious of life and who does not begrudge others whatever good might come to them. Now, this type of person always seems to be a happy guest of life. Life is treating him well simply because he has an attitude which makes it possible for him to be treated well by life. Life really wants to treat everybody well, but certain persons because of the attitude they are wearing in life make it almost impossible for life to treat them well. Like attracts like and like begets like in consciousness, and one of the most important determining factors in consciousness is what your persistent general attitude is, the most common attitude you are likely to be wearing at any given moment. If it is suspicion and hostility, then this reflects back to you, and you say that is the way life is treating you. So some persons are not treated well by life because they make it impossible for life to treat them well. They are too tightly wrapped up in negative attitudes. They are afraid that Spirit might even harm them. Did you know there are many people who have that fear? These unfortunate souls are like guests at a wedding feast, wearing the wrong attire; but if they can change their attitudes toward life, toward Spirit, then life will quickly change its treatment of them.
Those of you who are involved in therapeutic-type counseling will agree with me much of your counseling, much of your therapy-techniques approach to people simply is to get them to change certain attitudes first, to stop fearing things which do not mean to harm them in the first place, which were never meant to harm them. Thinking these things can or might harm them is a false attitude. It can be corrected, and then the results will be quickly felt.
Q. I find that first, in myself and others, the attitudes that need changing must be recognized. Sometimes it is very hard to have the courage to do that.
A. That is questionable. That is discussion-material, I think. It can be helpful at certain times, but it is not necessary most of the time. The reason I say that is that I find no record, whatsoever, of Jesus ever telling anyone what their sin was.
Q. I am talking about feelings.
A. Yes. Recognizing your own feelings and in a sense, knowing what they are, rather than causes of attitudes.
Nevertheless, the important job is to help the person change the beliefs which are building the attitudes, which are disqualifying himself from his own highest good; and this, of course, is a full-time job for all of us.
The observing of our inner attitudes is a very healthy, beneficial practice, what we are wearing now. You see, there is nothing harsh or critical about that. The garment your soul is wearing is very important. If you have an attitude that you expect spiritual good and that you intend to welcome it and that you will enjoy sharing it with others, we will be amazed at how life will treat us, if we do this often. It will simply live up to our expectations, it is that simple; and it usually surpasses our expectations.
Now, Jesus ends His parable with these words, "For many are called but few chosen." This leads to the questions of why so few people are enjoying the good that should and could be theirs? Not because God is unwilling but simply because, in certain ways, they disqualify themselves by wearing an attitude which constitutes a rejection of the good. You see, if you keep remembering that life is consciousness, the events and conditions of my life are products of my states of consciousness; and certainly the most potent factor in life-situation-producing-states of consciousness is persistent attitudes. The factor which Jesus designates is very often the factor which is causing the rejection of the attitude is good old-fashioned unbelief. "I don't believe I'm good enough." That is a form of unbelief. "I don't think I have earned it quite yet" is a form of unbelief.
Another form is "I don't believe she deserved the good that came to her. She did not go through three unhappy marriages the way I did. She gets it too easy." That is a type of unbelief. We must watch that. But if we are learning to avoid this sort of thing, we are fashioning a wedding garment to wear constantly. We cultivate the attitude of love, trust, warmth, and expectancy towards spiritual good; and we are learning how to accept the position of honored guest at God's wedding feast of life.
Now, of all the types of garments you have ever heard mentioned in your whole life, which would you pick out as representing the one mode of attire that is always suitable to be found in, no matter where you are? It would not be out of place in any situation, especially a wedding? The white, seamless, robe of Jesus Christ. Wearing that, wherever you go, you will be in proper attire. There would be no chance that that would be a display of bad taste or rejection; a simple white, seamless robe would make you attire-wise, suitable for any occasion. Metaphysically, it is the same thing. You have that attitude and wherever you are in life, you are in your right place as an honored guest.
Text of the original transcript at the 2nd paragraph of p.264 through the 2nd paragraph of p.269.
Transcribed by Margaret Garvin on 04-11-2014