21. Parable of the Wedding Banquet
(Parable of the Wedding Feast)

(Matthew 22:2-14)

Jesus tells the parable of the wedding banquet, also called the parable of the wedding feast, in order to further describe the kingdom of God in light of two parables he has just told.

Context of the Parable

In context, the religious leaders have just questioned Jesus about his authority, to which Jesus responds with a question and then tells them these parables:

Parable of the Two Sons

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

The religious leaders realize Jesus is talking about them in his parables (they are the disobedient son and wicked tenants).

Jesus then tells them this parable of the wedding banquet, in order to describe the kingdom of heaven in relation to what he has just said in these two previous parables.

Summary of the Parable

Jesus begins the parable of the wedding banquet by saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son." (Matthew 22:2)

The king sends out servants to get everyone who has been invited to the wedding banquet.

However, all these invited guests essentially say they are too busy with other matters, and some even kill the servants sent to get them.

The king is outraged, of course, and he sends soldiers to kill the people who murdered his servants and to burn down their city.

The king then says to more of his servants, "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.

Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet." (Matthew 22:8-9)

These servants then go ahead and gather everyone who will come, both good and bad, and the wedding hall is filled with guests.

However, the king sees a man who doesn't have a wedding robe on.

He says, "'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he (the man) was speechless.

Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:12-14)

Background Information for the Parable

First of all, it is important to note that, although this parable of the wedding banquet is somewhat similar to the Parable of the Great Dinner in Luke 14:16-24, it is different enough to be considered a separate parable.

Meaning of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Parable of the Wedding Feast)

In this parable of the wedding banquet, most of the meanings are decently obvious, in light of the history between God and Israel.

The wedding banquet, and the invitation to it, definitely represents God's invitation to a covenant with him.

A wedding is a good comparison to make because it is also the initiation of a covenant between the two getting married.

The king, of course, is God.

The servants sent out to invite the guests are God's prophets, and the guests who were too busy to come are many of the Israelites.

The destruction of the murderers, and their city, most likely is a prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem that was to come in 70 A.D. by the Romans.

Those who are invited from the streets are literally anyone who will accept the invitation to God's covenant.

However, it is around this point where it can become a little difficult to understand the parable.

The king sees a man who is in the wedding hall, but he doesn't have on a wedding robe.

Due to the fact that these people were invited off the streets, it would be unrealistic to expect them to have a wedding robe, which means the robes must have been provided by the king (and it is reasonable that a king could provide many wedding guests with robes).

Therefore, if this man had refused to wear a wedding robe, and had come to the wedding hall of a 'royal wedding' without proper attire, it would be an insult.

The king's outrage is understandable, and this person may represent someone who pretends to accept the invitation to God's covenant, but then refuses the invitation with their actions.

The king then concludes by saying, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14)

This statement may seem confusing at first, but a quick look at similar statements made by Jesus will shed light on this verse.

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus says, "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Essentially, the invitation for salvation is open to everyone, but only those who accept by repenting and doing the will of God will be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Many are called by God ("for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:28)), but only those who respond, heed, and obey his calling will be chosen, and thus few are chosen since few will "get it" and obey.

This truth can be seen in this parable of the wedding banquet when we see the one guest who was at the wedding hall without a wedding robe.

Although it appeared like he had accepted the invitation, he had refused to wear a wedding robe.

And so Jesus says, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14)

The original guests who didn't accept the invitation 'were called but not chosen,' and the one guest who came to the wedding hall was invited but he didn't accept a robe and was also not chosen.

Only the wedding guests who accepted the invitation fully by coming and wearing a wedding robe were chosen, because they obeyed.

Additional Evidence Supporting the Message of this Parable

Also, in Luke, Jesus says, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I tell you?" (Luke 6:46)

This verse highlights the idea of 'allegiance' and 'belief' being shown through actions.

If someone is really your lord, you will certainly obey their every word.

Disobeying your 'lord' would be an act of treason by showing with your actions that he is not truly your lord.

In addition, Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

Overall, the truth being communicated through all these verses is that:

We show whether or not 'we love Jesus' by what we do.

We show whether or not 'Jesus is our Lord' by what we do.

We show whether or not 'we accept God's invitation to salvation' by what we do.

If we obey him, we are accepting his invitation to salvation. After all, repentance is a complete change in actions and thoughts.

Thus a repentance from sin means a discontinuation of sinning. If such a person continues to sin, then there has not been a complete change in action and thoughts, which means no repentance.

Otherwise, why would Jesus say:

"For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:14)

Understanding God's Gift of Salvation

God offers us this free gift of salvation, and we accept his gift by repenting, seeking forgiveness, and living righteously as our response, which shows our acceptance of the gift as well as our thankfulness.

Jesus taught repentance before he died on the cross, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near," (Matthew 4:17), and he taught repentance after he had risen from the dead, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20)

According to Jesus, there will be some who even think they are saved, but who didn't really "get it" and thus respond to God's gift by not sinning.

"On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'" (Matthew 7:22-23)

Whether or not we "get it" is up to us to decide, because we can choose to pursue more understanding, which will bring change, and it is through our actions that we show what our decision is.

Additional Sources

There are several other parables, in addition to this parable of the wedding banquet, that also communicate this idea that it is our actions that show what we believe and whether or not we accept God's gift, which are:

Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders

Parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant

Parable of the Two Sons

Parable of the Sheep and Goats

Go to previous parable: 20. Two Sons

Go to next parable: 22. Ten Bridesmaids (Virgins)

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