The Parable of the Wedding Feast (and what it means)

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Jesus is fascinating. If you aren’t fascinated with him there’s a good chance you aren’t reading the Bible close enough. So what I thought I’d do is write a few articles looking at a few of the parables that Jesus told. I doubt I’ll get to all the parables, but check back for a few more articles in the coming months.

Parable is just a fancy word for a story. But the way Jesus used these stories is BRILLIANT. There’s always a twist that his audience didn’t see coming.

Let’s start off with the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

The Parable

If you haven’t read The Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, go read it. Seriously click the link, spend 2 minutes reading it, then come back and finish this article. I promise it will still be here.

Here’s the 60 second version of the parable. There’s a wedding. A huge wedding. It’s the party of a lifetime thrown by a king. A party isn’t a party without people so the king sends out his servants to the invited people. The problem is the refuse. Not only do they refuse, but they do so disrespectfully and violently. So much so that one of the servants ends up dead.

Now in a little bit of a pickle, because a party isn’t a party without people, the king decides that everyone is invited. The servants go back out inviting everyone, even the bad people. The street people are welcome. Who ever wants to come is invited.

Jesus’ story ends on an interesting note. Someone that initially declines the invitation realizes his mistake and sneaks in. But he is not wearing the right clothes and is quickly kicked out. “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Before you get into what this all means. Let’s look at the context.

The Context

In the chapter prior to this parable we see Jesus just rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and created a huge stir. People were going crazy. But he wasn’t done yet; he went into the temple, overturned tables, and drove out the money collectors. He cursed a fig tree, told a story, and generally pissed off the Pharisees. Who at the end of all of this went off looking for ways to arrest Jesus.

This is where it gets interesting. The next day Jesus makes his way back to the temple. The same one where just the previous day he caused mass chaos in, he now decides to go back top. Things are going to get good! The chief priests are not happy and immediately challenge him and try to trap him. As if often does, this leads Jesus to tell a few stories.

This leads us to the Parable of the Wedding Feast. A story that is a direct stab at the Pharisees, which takes some cojones!

We have to understand who Jesus is talking to before we can understand what Jesus means.

If you still haven’t read the passage, go read it now: Matthew 22:1-14.

For on reading in context: How to Read the Bible (better)

What It Means

We get so hung up on certain parts of passages that we often miss the bigger picture that is being painted. This parable is a picture of the nation of Israel. Israel is invited to a wedding party. They decline. So the king, God, extends the invitation to everyone else. Anyone that wants to go is invited.

This is a direct stab at Israel, particularly the religious of the day. That’s who Jesus is talking to. It’s not a blanket statement of the whole of creation. Rather it is precisely directed at the nation of Israel, God’s people. They were invited to a wedding party. Not just any party but the greatest party of ALL time. What did they do? They tore up the invitations, murdered the messengers, and went back to their lives. This is a picture of the actions of the nation of Israel. This is how offensive their actions were in the eyes of God.

Does this parable apply to those outside the nation of Israel? That’s a great question. Within the context of this story that Jesus told the emphasis is on those that claimed to be God’s people. Certainly, for those today claiming to follow Jesus we should make sure we aren’t making the same mistakes that the nation of Israel made. However the point of this parable is not that those far from God are cast into hell, as many use this passage to say. Rather the point is that everyone is given the opportunity to join the party.

One interesting detail that Jesus highlights is that they were weeping. Many use this as proof that they are being tortured in hell. Jesus is alluding to those that decline will be cast into hell. But that’s not what this passage is about.

Why are they weeping? Because they are in physical pain and torture? I don’t think so… They are weeping because they were kicked out of the party of a life time. Is that unfair on their part? No! Remember they are the ones that tore up the invitations and murdered the messengers. They were invited in and they declined, and not with a polite no thank you. Instead they intentionally decided not to go. Willingly saying no to the invitation.

Jesus ends with a picture of a man thrown out of the party. The king approaches him and asks where his wedding clothes are. When given the opportunity to repent and ask to join the party, he still remains speechless. He cannot admit to his wrong. He’s cast out not because he’s unworthy to be at the party, everyone is unworthy that is there. He’s cast out because he refused to enter worthily. That’s the picture of the nation of Israel. That’s what Jesus is getting at. The nation of Israel cannot admit their faults and refused to enter the party worthily.

The Point

The parable is a slap in the face, a wake up call, to the Pharisees. They thought they were shoo-ins, that they were on the in crowd. But Jesus makes it clear, everyone is invited. But you still gotta have manors, you gotta clean yourself up. They thought their lineage guaranteed them a spot. But Jesus points towards their heart.

What Jesus does with this parable is brilliant and bold. He holds no punches and shows the Pharisees exactly where they stand. Of course this story isn’t just for them, there’s implications for us today too. The biggest of which is we are invited to the king’s wedding feast. We don’t have to do anything to get an invitation other than accept it. But we still gotta look the part. Of course we aren’t talking about clothing here. Jesus is pointing at our hearts. Are we hypocrites like the Pharisees who looked good on the outside but were a mess on the inside? Or do we allow the king, Jesus, to clean us up and transform us from the inside?


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