New Testament Study:

Matthew 22:1-14

Text Box: Home
Text Box: Next Article
Text Box: Table of Contents
Text Box: Back Issues
Text Box: Complete Index
Text Box: Mailing List    Request
Text Box: Previous Article
Text Box:

To contact us: 

ssper@scripturestudies.com

Parable of the Wedding Banquet

 

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5“But they paid no attention and went off— one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.

13“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

    

Jesus had been confronting the chief priests and Pharisees with parables that describe people who fail to do God’s will.  The chief priests and Pharisees were so offended by the parables that they “looked for a way to arrest Him” (Matt. 21:46). 

This did not stop Jesus, who continued with His parables:  “Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:  ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come’” (vss. 1–3).  Here we see the Gospel invitation compared to invitations given out to a prince’s wedding banquet.  The invitations had been sent out, and it was time for the banquet, but those who had received invitations “refused to come”.  This parable is again directed at the chief priests and Pharisees, and speaks about the actions of their people, the children of Israel.  They had been given the invitation to be God’s chosen people, and the coming of their Messiah to earth should have been their “wedding banquet”.  But, by and large, they ignored the invitation and “refused to come”

The king in the parable, showing great patience and grace, continued to extend the invitation to those who had rejected it, telling them of the great preparations made for the banquet:  “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner:  My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding banquet’” (vs. 4).  An invitation by a king should never be rejected, and so the king was going far beyond normal protocol in continuing to extend the invitation.  “A royal invitation is a command that is disobeyed at the refuser’s peril” [Spurgeon, 308].  The king had all rights to punish those who rejected his invitation.  But in his grace, he continued to extend the invitation, even to the point of practically begging the invitees to accept it.

And what was the reaction of the invitees:  “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them” (vss. 5–6).  Some of the invitees were indifferent to the invitation, too busy with the things of the world to heed it.  The invitation was “counted of less importance than the worldly affairs in which their hearts were engrossed” [Spurgeon, 309].  Others received the invitation with violence, and “seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”  This speaks of the reaction of the children of Israel to the prophets sent by God.  God’s prophets were, at best, largely ignored, and at worst, “mistreated and killed”.  This would all culminate in the mistreatment and killing of no-less-than God’s Son.

Though this parable seems to speak specifically about the reaction of the children of Israel to the coming of Jesus, it also echoes various responses to the preaching of the Gospel message today.  Day in and day out, all over the world, the Gospel invitation is extended by servants of God (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to lost souls.  While some respond positively to the Gospel message, many more reject the invitation.  Some treat it with indifference, too concerned with the things of this world, and they go off, “one to his field, another to his business.”  Others respond to the Gospel invitation with hostility, sometimes with violence.  Sadly, they do not realize that the preaching of the Gospel is a supreme act of love.

Back to the parable, the reaction of the king to the indifference that his invitation found should not be surprising to anyone:  “The king was enraged.  He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city” (vs. 7).  This was fulfilled against the children of Israel when, in 69 AD, the Romans besieged Jerusalem, and destroyed the city and many of its inhabitants.  Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived through the destruction of Jerusalem, realized that God was the “author of the destruction” [Josephus, Wars, 5:1:3 (19)].  Ironically, many of the captured Jews were crucified by the Romans:  “So the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies” [Josephus, Wars, 5:11:1 (451)].

Jesus continues with the parable:  “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests” (vss. 89).  The rejection of the Messiah by the children of Israel opened up the “wedding banquet” to everyone.  There is no limit to those who are “invited”.  The Gospel message is to go everywhere, to be shouted on the “street corners”.  It is to be heard by both “good and bad”

However, those who are invited must come to the banquet worthy as guests of the king:  “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’  The man was speechless.  Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are invited, but few are chosen” (vss. 11–14).  Though “both good and bad” were invited, the guests, when attending the prince’s wedding banquet, must appear at the banquet worthy as guests.  They cannot appear at the banquet in their work clothes or street rags.  And for the Gospel “banquet”, how would one prepare?  We are told elsewhere:  “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31); “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).  Those who believe in the Lord Jesus are clothed in His righteousness, and worthy of the King’s banquet.  They will be able to say, with Isaiah, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10). 

In the end, the number of those clothed in righteousness, worthy of the king’s banquet, will be smaller than one might expect.  As Jesus said:  “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (vs. 14).  The invitation has been shouted from the street corners.  The Gospel message has gone out to all nations of the world.  Indeed, “many are invited”.  And yet, relatively few respond to the invitation, “…but few are chosen.”  Jesus purposely used the word “chosen”, lest we forget that God is sovereign in the matter.  Though, from our point of view, we must respond to the Gospel message, and we ourselves must “believe in the Lord Jesus” and “confess with our mouths that ‘Jesus is Lord’”, yet God is sovereign in this decision.  This is a difficult concept for our small minds to fully grasp.  How can we be accountable for our response to the Gospel, and at the same time, God be sovereign over the decisions that are made?  Perhaps, we will understand this fully after we go to dwell with our Lord in the mansion He has prepared for us. 

It is best for us as humans, I think, to consider the matter from the human point of view, that is, we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.  When we hear the Gospel message, when we feel the Holy Spirit tugging at our hearts, we must choose to respond, and turn our lives over to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Then we can look forward to the wedding banquet, not of a mere earthly prince, but of the Lamb of God, Lord of All (see Rev. 21:2).  At that banquet, we will not be mere guests, but we, the Church, will be the bride of Christ.  What a glorious day that will be!