As I mentioned in May, the last parable Jesus tells before going into the temple to deliver his final public sermon–and I think “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees” is best seen as a sermon, a jeremiad, rather than a rant or tantrum–is about a man who has the power to send out slaves to compel people to come in and fill up his banquet hall. My suggestion that we see this as a prophecy about Pilate might seem less fanciful if we ask, “What are all those people doing in Pilate’s courtyard anyway?”
Someone pointed out (Maybe Willis Barnstone, but I don’t find it in his commentary in any of the Gospels) that it is Passover and the Jews would have been making preparations for the feast, certainly not gathering at the Roman conquerors’ palace clamoring for their enemy to kill one of their own. Perhaps some of them were there to try and rescue their rabbi, but I suspect some were there under duress.
The idea that the parable of the wedding feast is a foreshadowing of something that wasn’t recorded in the text resonates more strongly if we look at a second parable about a wedding and how events later in the night echo that parable.
After Jesus’s sermon in the temple he gives some instructions to his disciples. First he tells them to be prepared for his return, giving a bunch of short pithy examples, then he gives three parables. The first is about a group of bridesmaids who are waiting for a night procession with the bridegroom. Five have brought oil for their lamps (olive mash, probably), five have not. The five who have oil encourage the others to go buy some oil but it’s night and everyone falls asleep, like the eleven who cannot manage to stay awake and pray while their rabbi is praying in great pain a stone’s throw away.
Both the ten bridesmaids and the eleven disciples are awakened by a procession approaching with torches, but instead of joining the procession the disciples run away. The parable ends with the five oil-less bridesmaids shut out from the feast, banging on the doors begging entrance. The night ends with Peter inside the doors, but by denying that he knows the groom he places himself outside the wedding party.
The second parable is about three slaves asked to give account of their stewardships. The events in the parable do not parallel the next part of the story, Jesus’s trial before the Sanhedrin, but two of the main tropes of the story, being asked to give an account of yourself and being condemned for the account you give, do.
While the first parable leaves us at the door, the third takes us through the door, into the throne room, where the people are not asked to give an account of their stewardship, but are told instead that the way they treated each other was their stewardship.
Similarly, the morning begins with Jesus taken into Pilate’s presence to be judged of him. Barnstone says the trial represents an “extreme redaction” of both Matthew and Mark’s original writings, partly because there’s no other record of what Pilatus and Yeshua say to each other. I think the record is faithful but incomplete, with the transcript of Jesus and Pilate’s conversation coming from the resurrected Savior.
As I suggested in #16 the record may be sketchy because the Gospels were meant as notes for reciters, who would fill in the details in recitation, as Biblica: The Bible Atlas says was the practice among reciters in times of the Hebrew bible.
Whether or not that’s the case the key to understanding Pilate’s trial is not what he says about Jesus (Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in thy name?), but what he does unto this man who called himself “least in the kingdom of heaven” when talking about his relationship to John the Baptist.
The two don’t match. Except in one place. In one place Pilate’s words about Jesus do match his actions toward Jesus, in the superscription on the cross.
And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.
I’ve always read this as Jesus refusing to answer Pilate, “Well, that’s what you say,” but it occurred to me in writing my AML paper that that is what Pilate says,
And set up over his head his accusation written, This Is Jesus the King of the Jews.
Or as John has it:
19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.
20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
21 Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
22 Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
One of the commentators in the Jewish Annotated New Testament says Jesus’s repeated admonitions not to tell people he was the Messiah may have been a warning to keep quiet so the Romans didn’t come and kill him. But like Abinadi, Jesus isn’t very good at keeping his identity secret. Pilate would have had good reason to worry about a charismatic rabbi who could repeatedly draw crowds of 5,000 multiplied by women and children, and who had just been hailed by a crowd as their king.
Also, the superscription (whose superscription is upon the coin, Jesus had asked) serves to remind the Jews that Pilate is without ruth (what is ruth? he said, turning away), and has no compunction about torturing and killing their king. I suspect Jesus’s death was a catastrophe even to people who didn’t consider themselves his followers.
There are a few other matters to consider in this digression, Pilate’s death sentence with its ritual washing his hands of the condemned, the presentation of Yeshua Bar Abba and Yeshua called ha Mashiach, (for a preview see Dennis Clark’s comment to # 16 and my reply) a midrash of the trial, and a consideration of the aesthetics of depicting this episode. Probably two posts (that means three, right?) then back to Jesus and the Pharisees.