With Friends Like Matthew’s…

I’ve always been a bit leery of the use of the word “friend” in the 22nd chapter of Matthew. That’s the parable about the king who throws a wedding banquet for his son. The invited people refuse the invitation and kill the messenger, so the king kills them and burns their cities. But because he still wants guests, he sends his servants out to collect riff-raff, and they come in droves. Then on the day of the banquet, in walks this guy who’s not dressed for the party. The king says “Friend – what are you doing here dressed like that?”

Everyone likes a friendly fellow. Who here doesn’t like hanging out with friendly people? At first glance, I’d say the king is just being friendly. After all, he invited a bunch of friends, and when they didn’t come, he invited a bunch of strangers. Sounds like a friendly guy to me, right?

So why was the “friend” speechless in his response?(v12) People aren’t normally stunned speechless when they’re around friendly people, are they? Did the “friend” see that the king was upset at his attire?

And why does the King not bother waiting for a response from the “friend” before commanding his servants to tie up the “friend” and “throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”?(v13) Now that’s definitely NOT friendly. Nor is it how I would want to be treated by my friends. Come to think of it, none of my friendly friends ever went and killed people or burned down their cities on account of a rejected invitation or a killed messenger.

So .. why did the king call him “friend”?

Did the king ever really intend to be friendly to him once this miss-dressed guy stepped foot into the banquet? (Could the guy say ‘Woah! Hang on – Laundry day!! Lemme run to the bathroom real quick. I’ll be back in a quick sec!!”) Considering the king’s history with people who snubbed his invitation, I get the distinct impression that he did not have any intention of letting the guy in. (The very next verse confirms this conclusion, btw.)

Is now a good time to point out that the “king” in this parable is God?

Loving Friends

Someone the other day mentioned the lovingkindness of Jesus, and how He called Judas “Friend” even when Judas was betraying Him. I looked it up. Sure enough, it’s there. But then I noticed it was only in Matthew’s Gospel that we see Jesus calling Judas “friend” (Matt 26:50). The other Gospels have Judas and Jesus saying slightly different things.


I decided to look through Matthew to see how else the word “friend” might be used.

Ok – Call me crazy, but there seems to be a pattern here. It seems Matthew uses the word only in association with questionable people, lowlifes, jealous bums and neer-do-wells. Check it out for yourself: Here is the complete list of all the instances of “friend” in the Gospel of Matthew (ESV, HCSB, NIV, KJV):

[+] The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! ’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matt 11:19)

[+] “He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business? Are you jealous because I’m generous? ’” (Matt 20:13-15)

[+] So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matt 22:12-13)

[+] [To Judas] “Friend,” Jesus asked him, “why have you come? ” Then they came up, took hold of Jesus, and arrested Him. (Matt 26:50)

Matthew doesn’t use the word “friend” anywhere else. I thought that was pretty interesting.

The Other Friends

Someone asked me about the Greek usage of the word. I don’t know Greek, but I thought I’d take a look at how the word “friend” is used in the NT Greek as a whole. Here’s a quick summary:

There are 3 basic words translated as “friend” in the HCSB. Matthew uses 2 different words, and his second usage is not used anywhere else in the NT.

“friend (G5384)of tax collectors…”

G5384 φίλος philos (fee’-los) adj.
1. (properly) dear, i.e. a friend
2. (actively) fond, i.e. friendly
3. (as a noun) an associate, neighbor, etc.
KJV: friend

“friend (G2083), didn’t you agree to a darius?” and
“friend (G2083), how did you get in here w/o wedding clothes?” and
“friend (G2083), why have you come [to betray Me]?”

G2083 ἑταίρος hetairos (het-ai’-ros) n.
1. a comrade
[from etes (a clansman)]
KJV: fellow, friend

Mark never uses the word “friend”.

In the Gospel of Luke and in Acts, Luke almost exclusively uses the former (G5384), never the latter. In a couple of places, he uses 2 other words that are translated (in the HCSB) as “friend”.

John also only uses the former, never the latter.

Paul, James, Peter, I, II, III John and Jude almost exclusively use a different word.

G27 ἀγαπητός agapetos (ag-ap-ay-tos’) adj.
1. beloved
[from G25]
KJV: (dearly, well) beloved, dear
Root(s): G25

So it looks like Matthew is the only one using G2083.

But what that means, I have no clue.

Apparently all my English translations (ASV, BBE, ESV, HCSB, ISV, KJV, NASB, NKJV, NET, NIV, WEB) think it means “friend”.

But considering the context, Matthew’s “friend” may not be what Westerners think of as “friend”.

Food for thought.

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