The parable of the wedding feast found in Matthew 22:1-14 is a fascinating parable.
Jesus tells this story as a direct challenge to the religious leaders of his day and it also holds a powerful reminder for us today. It’s a parable that we shouldn’t ignore.
In this blog post we are going to dive into what Jesus said and how it applies to our life. Let’s start by looking at what lead up to Jesus telling the parable of the wedding feast.
The Context Of The Parable Of The Wedding Feast
It’s important when we read the Bible to not ignore the context in which the passages were written. It gives us a better understanding of what the Bible is communicating.
In the chapter prior to this parable we see Jesus just rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. People are going crazy. Maybe you know the story; they are waving palm branchings and shouting “Hosanna!”
But he isn’t done yet; after this Matthew records that he went into the temple, overturned tables, and drove out the money collectors. He’s creating quite the stir and the religious are not happy.
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.
The chief priests who are certainly not happy to see Jesus again lay a trap so they can get him arrested. Jesus, knowing what they are doing, tells three stories.
The first story Jesus tells (The Parable Of The Two Sons) centers around Israel’s leaders. The second story (The Parable Of The Wicked Farmers) exposes the leaders lack of responsibility to their people.
This leads us to the Parable of the Wedding Feast, the broadest of the three. A story that is a direct stab at the Pharisees, the religious leaders.
It’s important that we understand who this story is directed at, and the context in which it would have been received. This would have been a TENSE moment.
You can read the full parable here: Matthew 22:1-14
The Parable Of The Wedding Feast Explained
The parable of the wedding feast starts off with a wedding. The king’s son is getting married and preparations for the party of a lifetime are underway. (Matthew 22:1-2)
Now, a party isn’t a party unless there’s party goers. So the king sends out his servants to all the invited people telling them the party is about to start. But here’s where the problem starts. The guests refuse to come. And it’s about to get worse. (Matthew 22:3)
The king isn’t about to give up. He sends more servants out, this time detailing how incredible the party will be. (Matthew 22:4)
By repeating his invitation the king is showing his grace and compassion towards those who had initially refused.
Things start escalating quickly. As the servants are off telling the guests about this party some ignored, the invited are simply too busy. But others are angry and mistreat and kill the servants.
The king is furious. After all he was offering the opportunity of a lifetime to come to this party. And how did the guests repay this offer? They killed his servants. So he sends out his army to destroy the murderous villages. (Matthew 22:5-7)
Now the king is in a little bit of a pickle. He has an incredible party but no guests. The solution? Everyone is invited. The servants go back out inviting everyone, even the bad people, the street people, are welcome. (Matthew 22:8-10)
The parable of the wedding feast 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 stands out from the others and was kicked out. (Matthew 22:11-13)
Jesus ends the parable with these words: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14
The message was clear to the religious there that day. Many of them had rejected the invitation. They were not worthy to attend this party because they had rejected God’s gracious offer through faith in his son. All were invited, but many have chosen to reject the invitation.
God has opened the invitation up to the entire world. Jews and Gentiles. Good and evil people alike. All are welcome to enter in the party, all can have salvation through faith. All that is needed is to accept the invitation.
The parable of the wedding feast 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. It’s a story directed at the nation of Israel, particular its leaders.
They were invited to a wedding party. Not just any party, but the greatest party of ALL time. They should have been excited, ecstatic. But instead they tore up the invitations, murdered the messengers, and went back to their lives. Jesus is illustrating how they’ve reacted to the good news. This is how offensive their rejection was in the eyes of God.
Those who reject the invitation are cast out. One interesting detail that Jesus highlights is that there will be 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 lifetime. 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.
Tom Constable sums up the parable this way: “God would judge Israel’s leaders because they had rejected Jesus, their Messiah. He would postpone the kingdom and allow anyone to enter it, not just the Jews as many of the Jews thought. The prophets had predicted that Gentiles would participate in the kingdom; this was not new revelation. However the Jews, because of national pride, had come to believe that being a Jew was all the qualification one needed to enter the kingdom. Jesus taught them that receiving God’s gracious invitation and preparing oneself by trusting in Him was the essential requirement for participation.”
Applying Matthew 22:1-14 To Our Life
So what about us today, how does it apply to our lives?
The parable of the wedding feast is a reminder and a challenge for us just as it was for the religious leaders who heard it first.
You are invited. God has invited you. He’s made it possible for you to go to the party. To enter into salvation. Just as the king provided a wedding garment for the guests God has provided you salvation.
Some will reject the invitation. They will refuse to go in. That’s their choice. God has given us free will to choose to follow him or not. They aren’t rejected by God, rather they’ve rejected God.
Others will try to enter salvation while maintaining a facade of righteousness. They think they can, or need to, earn their salvation. They are counting on their own self-righteousness to get them in. But they will be found out and removed.
The point is those who enter will do so by the grace of God, not their own works. The religious in Jesus’ day thought they deserved salvation based on their lineage. They refused to admit their faults and sin.
The same is often true today. Many refuse to accept God’s grace because they refuse to admit they need it. Those who enter the party, who get salvation, are those who look to God to provide. All are invited, but some will reject the invitation.
It’s up to you to choose your response. Will you accept the invitation God has given you?
Closing Thoughts On The Parable Of The Wedding Feast
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 manners, 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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