Parable of the Wedding Feast
Throughout the Old Testament the prophets used both marriage and festivals to illustrate God’s intimate relationship with Israel (Is. 25:6; 65:13; 61:10; 62:5; Hos. 2:19). This parable combines both. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the Bridegroom.
“And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son” (Matt. 22:1,2). The word “again” points back to the two previous parables in Matthew chapter 21: the parable of the Two Sons and the parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. The focus of this parable is the invitation to the Kingdom and the accepting and rejecting of the invitation. God is the King while Jesus is the Son. The wedding feast represents a state of salvation and intimate relationship with them. The five groups who receive the invite can be further divided into those who received and those who rejected.
Those Who Rejected the Invitation
The Rejection by the Apathetic
It is likely that two invitations went out. The first invitation was a general one informing them of the event while the second was to let those previously invited know the feast was now ready for them. “And sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come” (Matt. 22:3). Those invited just did not care about the event. Evidently, the feast or the Son and his marriage had no appeal for them. Many souls today reject the Gospel invitation because they are indifferent to the needs of their soul and have no appetite or concern for anything of a spiritual nature.
The Rejection by the Worldly Minded
The king sends out the servants to invite others, “again, he sent out other servants, saying, `Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding. But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business” (Matt. 22:4,5). The killing of the oxen and fattlings show that the feast is ready now. First, the farmer is too concerned with his need to tend his possessions to care about the feast. To make light of something is to devalue it and regulate it to a lower priority. The world is of more value than a party with the king. His rejection is based on the worldly attitude like that of the Rich Farmer in Luke 12. Second, the business man has another pursuit. It is not a wedding but more wealth. Perhaps, Jesus is referring to “The Pharisees, who were lovers money, heard all these things; and they scoffed at him” (Lk. 16:14). Jesus’ advice to this group would be “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
The Rejection By Those Who Are Openly Hostile
“And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them” (Matt. 22:6). The remnant of those who rejected the invitation were like those who murdered the prophets of old. In the New Testament it was those who stoned Stephen (Acts. 7:58) and King Herod who beheaded James (Acts 12:2). The book of Acts has the fulfillment of this predicted persecution by those who reject the Gospel (Ac. 4:3; 5:18; 8:3; 5:40; 14: 5,19; 17:5; 21:30; 23:2). The way they treated the king’s servant represented their hateful attitude toward the king. Saul by persecuting Christians was in fact persecuting Christ.
Judgment upon Those Who Reject the Invitation
“But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matt. 22:7). The city of those murderers can be no other than Jerusalem. The Romans came against Jerusalem in 70 AD and destroyed the city and its inhabitants. Jesus foretold the siege of Jerusalem by Titus and the horrors connected to it in Mt. 24:15-22. Just as the Assyrians were called “the rod of God’s anger” (Is. 10:5; 13:5; Jer. 25:9; 51:20) in dealing with the rebellious children of Israel, so were the Romans used to deal with Judah.
The king’s servants were rejected and killed. These represent “all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken” (Ac 3:24). Men like Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Stephen, the apostles, etc. In rejecting the messenger they in fact were rejecting the One who sent them.
Just as Jesus said in the parable of the Great Supper “none of men who were invited will taste my supper” (Luke 14:21,24), so the king here says to the servants, “the wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy” (Matt. 22:8). It is like what Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews at Antioch of Pisidia, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:46,47). It must be remembered that some Jews throughout the Roman Empire received the invitation, however many refused and were rejected.
Those Who Accepted the Invitation
The Acceptance by the Righteous
After the rejection of the invitation by those who were hostile to the king, he then sends out his servants again. “Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests” (Matt. 22:9,10). The Gospel was first preached to Jews at Jerusalem. Next, the Gospel spread forth to Judea. Then the invitation was received by the Samaritans and finally the Gospel invitation was extended and accepted by the first Gentile converts in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10). The reference between both “good” and “ bad” may be as arbitrary as Jews and Gentile.
The Acceptance By the Unrighteous
As if Jesus were giving a parable within a parable attention is given to one invitee who is not appropriately dressed for the wedding feast. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, `Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, `Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matt. 22:11-13). Why should those invited as a last choice be expect to have appropriate attire. Two customs might explain this. The Romans had robes called “cneatoria” to be used on these occasions. Second, the middle east there is the custom of the host providing wedding garments to guests called caftan which are white robes. God is handing out our robes of righteousness that we must put on (Rom. 6:1-18; 1 Cor. 6:19,20; Col. 2:6-12). Keep in mind this scene is not in Heaven else this parable teaches that unworthy souls will somehow find their way into Heaven.
Whatever the guest is wearing or not wearing is offensive to the king. Wearing the right clothing to a formal dinner honors the host and the occasion. Neglecting to wear it is an insult. The guest is speechless, he had nothing to say. He was muzzled and had to remain silence for there was not excuse he could honestly make.
The inappropriately garbed guest is judged unworthy of a place in the feast and is kicked out. The conditions are similar to that of those cast into hell of judgment day (Matthew 8:12; 25:30). This represents the miserable condition of the lost soul. Can a saint lose their hope of heaven? Yes they can. God will not accept casual treatment or attitude toward His Kingdom.
Many Are Called but Few Are Chosen
Jesus concludes this parable with: “for many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14). Those who are called and receive Christ, become His chosen ones. In order to be chosen by the Lord, one has to be called and accept the call. Of the twelve who were sent to see the promised land, only Caleb and Joshua were chosen. Of Gideon’s Army, all were called, but only three hundred were chosen (Jg. 7).
Cleveland’s Mayor’s wife refused to dine with the President because it would interfere with her bowling night. When the God of Heaven invites you to the marriage feast of his Son will your priorities rob you of salvation. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).
– Daniel R. Vess