Matthew 22:1-14 - The Wedding Feast of the King's Son
Read Matthew 22:1-14
This parable is closely related to two other parables which our Lord spoke. He had spoken to the people of the two unequal sons; the one said he would do the assigned work and didn't while the other said he wouldn't do the work but did. The other parable which Jesus spoke in this same connection was about the wicked husbandmen. In fact, there are very close similarities to this latter parable in the one which is now before us. Although many believe that this parable is the same as the one spoken of in Luke 14:16-24 in view of the similarities, they are by no means the same.
The Target Is Indifference
This parable was not spoken in answer to a specific question which had been addressed to our Lord, even though verse one begins by saying, "And Jesus answered and spake again in parables." It is rather a parable which is spoken to the people to bring to light an attitude which our Savior found among the people of His day and to place that attitude in the perspective of all Scriptures. The parable is aimed at the indifference which He found among the people of God when He came to earth. They were neither hot nor cold — if they were only one of those two! If they are either hot or cold, one could reason with them. One would know where they stood! But, with their wretched indifference one can do nothing! Toward Christ the people often sought a neutral position. They did not hate Him! Why does He say that they are seeking to kill Him when that thought has not even risen in their hearts? But, they do kill Him! Of this people it can indeed be said that their ears are heavy, their eyes are shut and their hearts are fat (Isaiah 6). They believe all is well. There is no cloud in the sky, and they do not realize that all the ingredients for destruction are present! Therefore Christ speaks this parable.
The Focus is on the Guests
We must also observe that although we read of a wedding feast of a King's son, nothing is said of the bride and the son is mentioned only in passing. The attention of this parable will fall on the guests. On those who were invited and their conduct! It is, therefore, not a complete picture of the glorious wedding of the Christ and His bride, the church.
We must bear in mind that this is a parable about the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord also spoke this parable much later in His ministry than those which we treated earlier. The great Kingdom of our God is coming. The King of kings makes a great wedding feast for His Son. Rather than emphasizing the relationship to His church, He stressed the marvel of this feast to which men have been invited, which may well serve to introduce the Son as the successor of the king. It is an elaborate feast ... typically oriental.
The Abused Invitations
Long before the feast is to take place the invitations are sent out. This is done to give plenty of time for preparation and plenty of time to make other arrangements for other responsibilities invited guests may have on that day. Then, when the day has arrived, servants are sent out to call them together to the feast. This order is observed here. All things are ready. Now they must come. Surely, they will be sitting in their homes anxiously awaiting this summons to the feast! But, no, they pay no attention to this summons. They calmly go about their daily tasks as though there is no feast being given! Is there a misunderstanding? Surely, no one in his right mind will ignore the call and invitation to the special feast which a king has prepared for his son. What an honor to be invited! Many would give everything they have for such an invitation. He sends other invitations. There must be a mistake! But, these are also ignored. The people go about their daily labors as though this king does not exist! They go even farther. They treat the servants who come with an urgent invitation shamefully and even kill some of them!
Where has anything like this been seen? This king is not about to have his invitations and his servants treated in this way. He sends troops to destroy this people and to destroy the place where they live. The punishment is severe, but it is a punishment suited to the crime.
The Reality: The Jews
God had sent His prophets to Israel for thousands of years. They were the people of God. Theirs were the promises. They were to inherit the kingdom. They had the invitations in their hand. The kingdom has now come near. He sends a John the Baptist to call them. He sends the twelve messengers and the seventy. What do the invited do? They refuse the invitation! They mistreat His messengers. He sends yet others, but the result is the same. The things about which Israel had always boasted, the things which made them a peculiar people are now the things which they spurn. Israel is about to sell its birthright! The king does not allow this attitude to go unpunished. Here is a direct reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year seventy. When Jesus has said, "I leave you your house desolate," and when they see the destruction of the holy city, they will know that the greatest of all prophets has been among them. This parable is spoken to them to call to repentance. Can't they see what they are doing? Can't they see what they have been doing throughout the ages? When have they listened to those who brought them the word of God?
The king's judgement upon them is that they were not worthy. Should they perhaps never have received the invitation? Be that as it may, the feast is ready and the king is not going to be robbed of the joy which he had in mind in giving this feast for his son. If these who were summoned will not come, then go outside of the city, where there are crossroads where people gather, and tell these, both good and bad, to come. Somehow this hall will be filled! If it is not filled by those who were originally called, it will be filled by others. This king will not allow these indifferent people to restrict the feast he has prepared
It is evident that the people to whom reference is made here are the gentiles. They were not His people. They did not have the covenants nor the promises. They had not received the invitation first. Only when the invitation is spurned by the Israelites is an invitation extended to those who are outside of Israel. This caused consternation among the Jews. When the Apostles turn to the gentiles and bring the message of the gospel there, the Jews are enraged. If they do not go to the feast — they don't want anybody else to go there either! Let the king's banquet hall stand empty! Let this empty banquet hall give the message to everybody that they spurn and ignore the Word of God! They even mistreat and kill His servants! But, the king triumphs, not those who have spurned His invitation! The first invited were not worthy — let us hope that these others are! Those who had spurned the invitation had been blessed abundantly, while the others had groped about in darkness. Suddenly all is changed. Those who were not His people have now become the people of God, and those who had been His people from the earliest days are now cast out (1 Peter 2:10)! How strange are the ways of God!
The Improper Guest
Now a very strange part is added to this parable. Some even believe that another parable is found in the verses 11 to 13. This is, however, not the case. The people originally invited had not been found worthy. Also among the second group are some who should not be at this feast. Our Lord has spoken of this fact in various places. There is no such thing as a pure church here on earth, only the true and the false. The king goes into the banquet room to see how all things are progressing. He goes there to enjoy the enjoyment of those whom his servants have brought in.
Now he sees someone without a wedding garment! Our first inclination is to say: What does he expect? These people have been brought from the streets. They have not had the time nor opportunity to put on proper garments! Apparently, that does not explain things. We know that it was the custom in that time to hand out proper garments to the guests at the door. There is, therefore, no excuse for this man to be without the proper garment. He has simply refused the garment which was offered him and has entered this place of splendor in his old clothes! It is at once evident that here is an individual who, though he has come, also despises the rules and regulations of this king. He is no better than those who spurned the invitation in the first place.
This individual has no excuse to offer. Everyone can see that he does not respect the honor of this king. Servants are called immediately to bind him hand and foot and to cast him out of the banquet hall. He is cast into "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Isn't this a little strong? In the feasting hall all was light. He is now thrown into the darkness. He has been exposed. He could have been sitting at the banquet table; instead he is gnashing his teeth in shame and having the pod things taken away. Remember, it is a king's feast. It is a feast of the very rich! Although common people could not put on such a feast, very common people are sitting at the tables. Now among these one acts improperly. What a sad history!
What is the Wedding Garment?
What does Jesus mean by this wedding garment? Many views have been expressed concerning this matter. It is not a minor detail in the parable which we may overlook, but has great significance. It is so significant that its lack costs this individual a place in the kingdom of our Lord. Many fanciful explanations were given of this garment in the early years of church history. At the time of the Reformation it was commonly referred to as the robe of righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is true, as the Apostle says, that we must be clad in that robe of His righteousness. However, I believe that the simplest and best explanation is that it refers to the true faith of the believer and all that belongs to such a faith. Only those who have this true faith, who have both righteousness and holiness, have a rightful place in His kingdom.
At the conclusion, our Lord comments: "For many are called, but few chosen" He called the whole Jewish nation. He calls the whole covenant people. Many spurn His invitation. But, those who are chosen will come. He will delight in everyone who has been chosen to eternal life. These will share in the glories of His royal banquet.
Questions for Discussion:
- Who is easier to deal with regarding the issues in the church — the flaming liberal or the fence straddler? Why?
- Why was Israel not prepared to accept the invitation to this wedding feast? Why is the bride not mentioned in this parable?
- Is the sin of indifference as serious as the sin of rejection? Is there a difference between these two? Which is the more prevalent?
- Who is pictured by the man without a wedding garment?
- God sees to it that His Kingdom comes. However, it goes through various difficult times here. How would you characterize our day in the light of the parable which Jesus spoke in these verses?