The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
“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. “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.’ “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. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.“ Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So 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, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ 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.” Matthew 22:1-14, NIV
This is about God’s invitation to join the banquet. It’s about heaven..eternal life..the Kingdom of God…and how much the Father loves the Son.
The thing Jesus first points to is the indifference of the friends and families that were invited to join the celebration. This referenced the Israelites, or Jewish people. But it could also reference us, as well. A couple of years ago one of my boys asked many friends to come to our home for his birthday party. Forty or more friends were invited. But only two came. He was heartbroken, I was angry. I “get it” when this parable describes the father’s anger.
Jesus describes the harsh reaction the guests and friends of the groom showed when they were invited—they even killed those inviting them! Friends, you refuse His invitation… you hesitate or post-pone at your own peril. Don’t turn down His invitation….and why should you? Why would anyone refuse to be a part of such a feast?
They were asked in advance to attend, and according to the actual verb used here, they did not merely refuse, but persistently refused to come. This refers to Israel, of course, but also to folks living today that have heard the invitation and still refuse to call Him Lord. They steadfastly refuse every invitation to receive the Son—-and with Him a special seat at the banquet. How foolish..
But these special friends and relatives of the king refused to come—they turned up their noses, so to speak, to the invite. So the king invited “outsiders”, and once the outsiders were invited, I expect the special ones were all the more adamant about not joining the party! But it’s interesting to note that the more some folks refuse to come to Christ, the more aggressive and violent they can also become. That’s no reason to stop inviting folks to join the Kingdom of God, but Jesus warned us that we could expect anger and hatred in response to our faithfulness to invite our neighbors and even family members to salvation and eternal glory.
In this parable, and others, the king is gracious, and keeps inviting the same ones that turned Him down. These banquets were not simply a meals, but several days of feasting and relaxation. He told them, in effect, “it’s not too late—come on and be my guest.” Today is not too late for you either.
But what did they do? They ignored the invitation, mistreated the messengers and eventually killed the ones making the invitation. The king responds by killing the folks that killed His servants and burning their city to the ground! What a waste… These folks lost their lives and nation because they would not accept a free invitation to come to an incredible festival.
Of course this was consistent of the Hebrew nation. They often killed the prophets that God sent to save them from destruction. And of course the same nation would kill the actual Son of the King one day. Jesus shared this parable right before the Jewish leaders caught Him and murdered Him—-just like their forefathers stones and killed the prophets 1000 years earlier.
So in the parable, the select ones refused to attend and the king decides to invite as many others as would come to the feast. That’s what our heavenly Father does. He is generous King who invites "whosoever will” to join that feast. Have you received the invitation yet? Have you responded?
So the father of the groom sends out even more servants that invite many, many new people that are delighted to find out that they’ve been invited! This is our job friends! We’re supposed to go out, into all the world, even after we’ve been rejected again and again, and tell all people of the earth, that the King of Kings has invited them especially to this never-ending banquet and celebration.
But note: There’s no provision made for those that did not hear of the invitation or were never invited by a servant of the King. Evidently they must hear the invitation! This is why we have missions and evangelists. It’s why we are called to make disciples of all nations, preaching and teaching them of this fabulous gift.
Notice that all people were invited by the King—the good and the bad—-all that could fit into the enormous banquet hall. He did not invite the pretty people only, or the smartest or most affluent—He invited them all—-and He invites everyone still. That’s good news isn’t it?
The focus is upon what the father was doing for his son, and what the father expected friends and family members to do in response. I was invited to a wedding by a wealthy friend a few years ago; it was a big celebration for his only daughter. He spent a fortune and sent out invitations that were quite clear: Black tie, formal. That meant “wear a tuxedo if you’re a male and a full length gown if you are female. It would have been insulting and not ignored by the father if you came dressed inappropriately. You would not have fit in and the host would have asked you to leave—-I don’t doubt it for a moment. This was the biggest day for his little girl and he was going to be sure it was special. So get a vision of that, and multiply times infinity when you consider the banquet God will be throwing for His Son in heaven one day and how He expects us to dress.
This wedding event was a serious matter. Full of joy, yes, and lots to eat and drink, etc. But the father of the groom expected the guests to be there to honor his son. So when the father finds that someone came to party shabbily dressed, he got upset with that guest. He doesn’t merely ask the man to leave, but has the man bound hand and foot, and cast into darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus described this means of judgement more thank once, in His stories. Be careful how you treat God’s invitation to grace.
People might be ready to come to the feast and to have their sins forgiven, but is something else required of those invited? Evidently so: we’re all required to wear the proper clothes. So it appears that even though everyone is invited, some will not be permitted to stay, so to speak. I went to a large wedding several years ago, again for an only daughter, but in this case it was not the guests that were improperly dressed, but an even greater embarrassment for the host. The groomsmen had spent too much time celebrating the wedding before the wedding, and by the time the guests arrived, the groomsmen, who were also ushers, were drunk. They behaved boorishly as they set the guests, snickered and made fools of themselves. Their behavior was unbecoming and ruined the entire affair. Perhaps the groom had chosen them unwisely, or perhaps they deceived him into believing that they were mature, responsible young men, but they failed, at the worst possible time, demonstrably, and to the humiliation of both the groom and the bride. Praise God, this is not going to happen at the great banquet that’s coming! They will be removed before the celebration begins.
What is true attire? Clothing ourselves with confession, repentance, submission and faith (in Jesus Christ.) Many folks then, as now, want heaven, but are not prepared to yield to Him and call Him Lord. Are you one of them? Is He Lord? He spoke of wolves entering into the flock of sheep at times——i.e. those masquerading as one thing, but being another. Are you washed in the blood of the Christ——-are you confirmed, sealed and properly dressed? Are you ready to meet the Father of the Groom?
But the last thing Jesus said in this parable is perhaps the most surprising: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” 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. Those Jesus refers to the "chosen" as the people who respond to the invitation to come, and respond in the proper manner so that they are prepared to enter the kingdom. God is sad, but not surprised by the acceptance of some and the rejection of many—He created us to make up our own minds by giving us free will.
In Jesus’ experience the invitation to the glorious banquet has been extended to the Jews first, those who had the promise of the covenant, the kingdom, and the King; but they refused. But then Jesus began to turn to the others, and as many as believed in him would enter the kingdom in the place of the others, even if the ones who believed were formerly prostitutes and sinners rather than scholars and sages.
More people will reject the invitation or fail to meet the requirement of faith in Christ than those who are chosen, that is, those who truly believe and enter the kingdom. Did you hear that? And more will reject us as well. We must carry the invitation to the world, even if the world might refuse the invitation we present, or even treat us violently.