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The Parables of Jesus Part 17
Matthew 22:1-14, Acts 13:46 - We must come to God dressed in His righteousness.
“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.” ’ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he *said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
“But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.””
Matthew 22:1-14 NASB1995
This parable, known as the Wedding Feast, is similar in many respects to the Great Banquet parable found in Luke 14:16-24, which I previously explored. But there are quite a few differences, too, so it is usually treated as a unique parable in Matthew. Once again, Jesus is talking to the religious leaders and others in the temple. According to John MacArthur, this parable was told on the Wednesday of Holy Week.
I seem to recall struggling a bit with my analysis of the similar parable in Luke. This one is no different. A king has prepared a wedding feast for his son, but those who were invited refuse to come, using fairly lame excuses (apparently that was unacceptable behavior in the Jewish culture of that day). In fact, some of the invitees mistreat the slaves (messengers) and slay some of them, echoing back to the previous parable where the landowner’s servants are slain (prophets). The enraged king sends his army and destroys their city, which could be a prophecy about the downfall of Jerusalem. The king sends more servants into the streets to find people to attend the wedding feast, good and evil, and the wedding hall is filled. The gift of salvation through Jesus is available to all, if they repent and believe.
The first invitees are the religious leaders of the Jewish people. They have known for centuries that God would send a Messiah, but they completely misunderstand His purposes and are against Him almost unanimously from the beginning of His ministry. Throughout their history they have ignored or even killed God’s prophets and are stubbornly set on ensuring legalistic minutiae are obeyed by the people while ignoring their needs and refusing to see the signs and wonders right in front of them. They want “normality” to continue and the invitation requires them to pay attention, be humble and set aside their self-righteousness. So after their rejection, the invitation from the king (God) goes to others to come to the wedding feast. This is echoed in Acts 13:46:
“Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.”
Acts 13:46 NASB1995
The story of the man who was not dressed in wedding clothes who is cast into the outer darkness, even though the king had his servants gather everyone they found in the streets, is particularly perplexing. I found this artwork in the public domain that shows the consequences of this man’s actions. I consulted a couple of different commentators to help my understanding (again, the Precept Austin references are less complete for the later chapters of Matthew). Here is the opinion of David Guzik in Enduring Word about these verses:
A man there who did not have on a wedding garment: The man without a robe was conspicuous by his difference. He came inappropriately dressed and the king noticed.
There is debate among commentators as to if it was customary for a king or nobleman to offer his guests a garment to wear at such an occasion. There seems to have been some tradition of this among the Greeks, but no evidence of the practice in the days of Jesus.
“He came because he was invited, but he came only in appearance. The banquet was intended to honor the King’s Son, but this man meant nothing of the kind; he was willing to eat the good things set before him, but in his heart there was no love either for the King or his well-beloved Son.” (Charles Spurgeon)
He was speechless: “He was muzzled or haltered up, that is, he held his peace, as though he had had a bridle or a halter in his mouth. This is the import of the Greek word here used.” (John Trapp)
Cast him into outer darkness: The man who did as he pleased at the wedding feast, instead of honoring the king and conforming to his expectations, suffered a terrible fate.
“He had, by his action, if not in words, said, ‘I am a free man, and will do as I like.’ So the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him.’ Pinion him; let him never be free again. He had made too free with holy things; he had actively insulted the King.” (Charles Spurgeon)
This parable demonstrates that those indifferent to the gospel, those antagonistic against the gospel, and those unchanged by the gospel share the same fate. None of them enjoyed the king’s feast.
For many are called, but few are chosen: This statement of Jesus, in this context, touches on the great working together of the choices of man and the choosing of God. Why did they not come to the wedding party? Because they refused the invitation. Why did they not come to the wedding party? Because they were called, but not chosen.
Another perspective is offered by Gotquestions.org:
The matter of the wedding garment is instructive. It would be a gross insult to the king to refuse to wear the garment provided to the guests. The man who was caught wearing his old clothing learned what an offense it was as he was removed from the celebration.
This was Jesus’ way of teaching the inadequacy of self-righteousness. From the very beginning, God has provided a “covering” for our sin. To insist on covering ourselves is to be clad in “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame, but they found their fig leaves to be woefully scant. God took away their handmade clothes and replaced them with skins of (sacrificed) animals (Genesis 3:7, 21). In the book of Revelation, we see those in heaven wearing “white robes” (Revelation 7:9), and we learn that the whiteness of the robes is due to their being washed in the blood of the Lamb (verse 14). We trust in God’s righteousness, not our own (Philippians 3:9).
Just as the king provided wedding garments for his guests, God provides salvation for mankind. Our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and unless we have it, we will miss the wedding feast. When the religions of the world are stripped down to their basic tenets, we either find man working his way toward God, or we find the cross of Christ. The cross is the only way to salvation (John 14:6).
For his crime against the king, the improperly attired guest is thrown out into the darkness. For their crimes against God, there will be many who will be consigned to “outer darkness”—existence without God for eternity. Christ concludes the parable with the sad fact that “many are invited, but few are chosen.” In other words, many people hear the call of God, but only a few heed it.
Fascinating! I gleaned a couple of things from these commentaries: First, those who are indifferent to the Gospel, antagonistic to the Gospel or unchanged by the Gospel will not be part of the Great Feast and will be consigned to the outer darkness. Second, the lack of the proper wedding garment can be seen as a symbol of our own self-righteousness, thinking that we are on a path to God, but we need His righteousness and the only path is through the cross or we will miss the feast.
Not sure I fully understand it yet, but those two perspectives are helpful.
My next devotional examines the parable of the ten virgins, found in Matthew 25:1-13.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Thank You for inviting me to the Great Wedding Feast. Please help me dress appropriately, clad in Your righteousness and focused on my salvation through Your sacrifice on the cross. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
Gotquestions.org was accessed on 10/15/2023 to retrieve commentary on this parable.