—A Continuation of my Previous Story with Contributions from Matthew 22:11-14—
Reclining at the table, Becher looked about him, and couldn’t keep back a silly grin; there was so much splendor and joy in this house. Guests filled the large banquet hall, all wearing their finest wedding garments. Becher had no idea where the poor and crippled and blind and lame people were, the people that the messenger had told him had been invited. The one who had opened the door to them had returned to the head of the table. He was indeed the master, for he was the king. Becher was soon told that this was the wedding feast of the king’s son. As Becher looked about, he noticed that some attendants had now entered the hall, bringing more food. They were working their way around, serving the new guests.
Becher leaned back and greeted the man next to him, “Peace, brother!”
The man smiled, but looked a bit nervous. “That’s a fine robe you have on,” the man said.
“Yes,” Becher replied. “And you’ll never believe how I came by it.” Becher’s face was only sincere now. His eyes filled with awe; it was as if he was looking past or through the man next to him. “My family and I live to the east of the city,” began Becher. “When the messenger came, the sun had just slipped behind the hills, so we set out while the first stars were beginning to shine in the east.” Becher paused and followed the other man’s gaze up the table. The servants were a little nearer now, and the smell from the good food made Becher’s belly growl with hunger. “We were about halfway to the city gates,” Becher resumed, “when we passed through an evening shower. It was odd, because I hadn’t expected rain. The rain was warm, but the wind tugged at our cloaks and shawls. Away in the distance I thought I heard some thunder. Then the rain passed, and the new moon broke out of the clouds just above the mountains. And I looked down at my clothes, to see what the rain had done to me, but instead of my old rags, I saw this wonderful garment I now wear. These are wedding clothes, I said to myself.”
Sitting with the women, Becher’s wife leaned over to the woman she had just been talking to. “I don’t know what my husband is talking about,” she said with a perplexed look on her face. Both women looked over at Becher, who was busy telling his tale to the man next to him. “He keeps saying that we passed through a gentle shower on the way to this feast,” Becher’s wife continued. “A gentle shower! It was a thunderstorm. The thunder was so loud that I thought the very rocks were going to split in two! And the lightning came all around us, and the rain came in such torrents and the wind was so strong that it felt like my clothes had been ripped off and my skin was being pulled off my bones. It wasn’t just a little rain shower that we traveled through! But just like him,” her voice softened and a faraway look entered her eyes, “when the rain passed, I found that I was dressed in this marvelous wedding garment I am wearing.” She looked down at her dress and rubbed a fold of the fabric between her fingers.
“What about you?” she said, looking up at the woman next to her. “How did you come to this wedding feast?”
The other woman delicately wiped her fingers on a cloth, and straightened the little cluster of jewels that dangled on her brow. At the door, jewels had been given to all of the guests. The light glimmered and danced all around the room. Thoughtfully the woman finished chewing a morsel of fine food. She had already been at the table when Becher and his wife had arrived.
“The messenger,” the other woman said, “came to our door, and my father answered, for my husband went to sleep with his fathers two years ago, leaving me childless. My husband had no brothers,” she added almost as an afterthought. “My father was greatly interested in the messenger’s invitation, but seeing that we are very poor, he readily confessed that we had not the proper clothes for such a feast. ‘Worry not,’ the messenger said and then proceeded on his way. And then, you’ll never believe it, but as my father turned and shut the door, the tub that we use for bathing fell over in the back room where we keep it. Wary and half afraid, I peeked into the back room, and I saw that the tub now stood upright, filled with steaming water. Seeing it as a sign, my father quickly bathed, and he came back wearing a beautiful robe. That’s him up near the head of the table, the one with the long, white beard. My father was now eager to go to the feast, but my mother was very reluctant. My brother, God help him, scoffed at my father openly, and bustled out of the house to go… oh, but that’s beside the point! My mother stood firm, saying, “I have no need of a bath, and we are not beggars that we must rely on the charity of others, even if it is the king himself!” Caught in this mayhem, I went back and stepped into the tub. It was full— a thing we never do— and very warm. Oh, that water felt good! I scrubbed and soaked and it felt like it must have been hours, but father says I took only a few minutes. When I got out, a fine robe was laying there for me also. It wasn’t there when I got in the tub, for I remember wondering what I would wear once I got out. Still my mother would not come, so we left without her. Poor mother!” The woman paused for a moment, and then said, “Before we left our home, our maid came creeping out of that back room. She had also found wedding garments waiting for her when she stepped out of the tub, so my father couldn’t help but let her come with us.” A smile flashed across the woman’s face. “She is also sitting further up the table. There, she is picking up a fig right now!”
Becher watched intently while the attendant served him piles of wonderful things he had never seen or dreamt of eating. All of a sudden, the servant stopped, and glanced over his shoulder. The music paused, and then started up again a little softer. Becher looked up, and he saw that the king had begun to walk through the hall, greeting his beaming, grateful, and amazed guests. The servant waited to finish serving him, but Becher nibbled at the food already set before him. At last the master came to greet Becher. A profound sense that he had known him for ages swept over Becher. The master threw his arms around Becher, but all he could do was whisper, “Thank you!”
The king turned to greet the man beside Becher, and Becher saw that the king’s face suddenly clouded over. Sparks of fire seemed to leap from his eyes. “Friend,” the king said to him, “how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” Becher had not noticed before then, but it was true, the man next to him had no wedding garment. He wore a dirty shirt, stained and many times mended. Dread flooded the other man’s face, and he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”