In this parable, the King’s son is to be married and the king is planning the wedding celebration. He had invited the obvious people, the great men of his kingdom, the people one would expect to be at such an occasion, but they had treated his invitation with contempt. They have proved unworthy of it. But the King cannot cancel the banquet. This is his son’s wedding; it must be celebrated; there must be guests to fill the banqueting hall. Where can worthy guests be found, guests who will not spurn but be glad to be there and really share the joy of the occasion with the King? Who will prove worthy to be a guest at the wedding banquet?
NOTE ON THE TEXT
PART 1: THE SPECIAL INVITED GUEST REFUSE TO COME (MATT. 22:1-3; REV. 21:2, 9)
The guest list was drawn up ahead of time, and when the time came for the feast, they were notified that it was ready. But these guests refused to come - they persistently refused to come. These special guests would be the Israelites who were expecting the Messiah; they claimed to be closely related to the King, God. But when the King prepared the banquet for his Son, they would not come. In the New Testament, Christ is often portrayed as the stumbling stone--people might have embraced an offer of the kingdom, but they had to determine what to do about Jesus?
This parable, then, portrays the expected guests as refusing the gracious invitation to attend the banquet. By refusing the offer of grace they refused a share in the banquet, and in the world to come-if they continued to refuse.
PART 2: THE SECOND INVITATION VIOLENTLY OPPOSED (MATT 22:4-8; MATT.23:37)
The King extends his gracious invitation again, although this time he made it even more appealing. He sent other messengers out to invite them again. This is so true of the way that the Lord calls people to himself, repeatedly and with all the incentives to appeal to people. In this parable the incentives are portrayed in the description of the banquet. And here there would be plenty to eat--the King said that his oxen and fattened cattle had been butchered and everything was ready for the feast. What could be more appealing?--the King himself extends the invitation, it is for a joyful time of celebration, and they would enjoy. One is amazed that the invitation needed to be repeated at all! The invitation of the King was both a great honour--and a sovereign command -one does not refuse the King.
The response to this second invitation is rather surprising, to say the least. The people paid no attention to the messengers, but went off on their own business. But others seized the messengers and mistreated them and killed them! The King was so outraged by their treatment of his messengers that he sent his army to destroy the murderers and burn their city. In this context the opposition to Jesus had grown violently; and Jesus warned His enemies of the coming judgment they would receive. So the focus of the parable, although severe, is true to history. The Hebrews had often harmed and killed the prophets that God sent to them; and they were about to do the same with Jesus. But to refuse the offer of the King and murder his messengers was the same as committing suicide. That would even have been true in their days. But in the story, this was not any king, but the King of Glory.
A survey of the Gospels as a whole is necessary to draw together the reasons for the Jews’ rejection and hatred of Jesus. Again and again Jesus called them to come and follow Him and He would give them eternal rest. Their unbelief in Him lay behind their refusal. But perhaps as the repeated appeals of Jesus made the call clearer to them--that Jesus was the divine Son of God, that they would have to submit to Him, and that they could only enter the Kingdom of Heaven through repentance of their sins and faith in His provision--they became more aware of what He was saying about Himself and therefore what He was saying about them. Their violent response in killing the messengers the LORD sent anticipated their desire to kill Jesus--they did not want to hear any more of their guilt and His grace. And so, just as Jesus explained in the last section, the kingdom would be taken from them and given to a people bearing fruit. Those who angrily refused the gracious invitation to the wedding feast would be insulting and minimizing the King, and so his wrath would fall on them.
PART 3: THE INVITATION GIVEN TO ANYONE WHO WOULD COME (MATT. 22:8-13)
The king now turned to all and sundry because the special ones who were invited refused to come. He sent his servants out into the streets to invite all that they could find, whether good or bad. The banquet hall was soon filled with people wanting to have a share in the King’s wedding feast for his Son. The call is not for the wise and the learned, certainly not for the smug and self-righteous, but for all who would come. He came into the world to seek and save that which was lost, not those who had rigorously kept the Law (or who said they did) and could claim to have the righteousness to enter the Messianic banquet. What was drawn into the hall were both good and bad people--but all in need of God’s invitation to escape the sin and bondage of this world.
The parable tells how the King arrived to see the guests who were at the wedding feast for the Son. But he found a man who was not wearing the proper wedding clothes. In our story the King wanted to know how the man got in without the proper attire, but the man was speechless, a sign of his guilt. The man did not prepare properly to act on the invitation he received. So there was an invitation to the banquet, but not all who responded to the invitation were allowed to remain. The King had the man tied and cast out into the darkness, where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The outcome of this man’s situation informs us of the true meaning of the symbolism.
The parable closes with an explanation "For" Many are "called," but few are chosen. The word "many" is not intended to be a restricted number; it is used in Isaiah 53 to speak of those for whom Christ poured out His blood. The invitation has gone out to all who care to listen, but some just refused, and some wanted to come but refused to submit to the requirements of entrance into the kingdom. So none of these will be present in the kingdom. Those Jesus refers to as "chosen" are the people who respond to the invitation to come, and respond in the proper manner so that they are prepared to enter the kingdom. Because the Bible refers to the recipients of grace as "chosen," we may conclude that it intends to say that God is not surprised by the acceptance of some and the rejection of many. In other words, sovereign grace is still at work, even though on the human level, we see how some refuse and some accept and prepare.
What was the kingdom of heaven compared to in our lesson today?
What were some of the excuses of the invited guests who refused to come?
What was the king’s verdict against them?
What was the significance of wedding garment in our lesson today and what is its significance to us today?
Explain briefly, the woeful end of any Christian without the wedding garment in heaven.