Matthew 22:1-14 :: The Parable of the Great Feast
Story Setting & Culture
- 33 AD in Jerusalem, which is under the oppression of the Roman Empire
- Jerusalem is buzzing with Jewish travelers from all over the Mediterranean region coming into the city to celebrate the Passover
- Jesus has recently entered the city of Jerusalem, during Passover week, being hailed as Messiah and the Savior King. The Jews are hoping Jesus is the king that will restore Israel to the glory days of David and Solomon and end Roman oppression.
- Jesus has been confronted with great opposition from the Pharisees, Sadducees and Jewish religious leaders who are jealous with Jesus’ growing popularity and angry at his lifestyle, which involved performing miracles, teaching with authority, and eating and drinking with sinners. The religious leaders are especially upset with Jesus’ condemning parables.
- A parable or illustration about a wedding feast would have been well understood by his Jewish listeners. Jesus uses a parable that resonated with his hearers, which is important for us to share the Story of God in a contextual language of our community.
Matthew 22:1-14 “Jesus also told them other parables. He said, 2 “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. 3 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!
4 “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ 5 But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6 Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.
7 “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. 8 And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. 9 Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ 10 So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. 13 Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
- Jesus has spoken about the Kingdom of Heaven numerous times in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven is not merely Heaven in the life that follows our current time on earth nor is it simply a place.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule and reign of King Jesus here on earth and in heaven now. The Kingdom of Heaven (God) cannot be separate from the person of Jesus Christ nor the body of Christ (The Church). Therefore, Jesus is using today’s parable as an illustration of God’s Kingdom.
Understanding Ancient Jewish Weddings
- Although most of us have been a guest or participated in a wedding, Ancient Jewish weddings were very different from today.
- Our weddings focus mainly on the bride and include special attention to:
- The Bride’s dress
- The wedding party
- A brief ceremony
- A longer 4-6 hour celebration with family and friends (usually involves food, drinks, dancing, music).
- Ancient Jewish weddings and customs were very different. First, the wedding itself was more a transaction than it was two people who had fallen in love and chosen to be married.
- Marriages were usually arranged within very close circles by the Fathers of two similar families.
- In ancient culture the Father of the groom purchased (a dowry) his son’s bride. This meant the Father of the groom was making some kind of exchange (usually monetary, livestock, goods, etc.) and compensating the bride’s father for his loss of an able bodied woman to care for his household.
- To celebrate the marriage the Groom’s Father would hold a wedding feast, which would last from a couple of days up to a whole week! This was a great expense and an honor to be invited to such an occasion.
- The son and daughter would not start their own household right away, but instead the new daughter (bride) would come to live in the Groom’s Father’s home with her new husband.
The Parable of the Great Feast
- We are first introduced to a king who is throwing a wedding feast for his son. Royalty was not only well respected, but feared in ancient times. Therefore, when a king sent out an invitation for a feast it was a high honor and joy to attend such a prestigious celebration.
- The feast is for his son’s betrothal, which also means the son is the heir to his father’s kingdom.
- As Jesus begins this parable we can rightly assume the King is God the Father and the son is Jesus and this is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb spoken about by the Apostle John in Revelation 19.
- Verse 3 indicates there has already been a previous invitation sent out to those invited. Therefore, people should have cleared their schedules and made plans for such a special occasion. We learn that when the feast is ready the king sends out servants to tell those who were already invited that everything is ready! ALL refused to come.
- We are introduced to two new groups of people. The servants of the king are possibly God’s prophets from the Old Testament, but more likely the apostles and disciples of Jesus. The second group of people are all those who have been invited but refuse to come. (Jews)
- We are reminded of God’s gracious invitation of the Gospel. He does not force the Gospel upon people nor does he try to trick them into coming. Salvation is a genuine invitation where those who are invited are honored and loved.
Luke 14:18-20 - But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
- All of these excuses are very similar to the excuses many people give about why they refuse a relationship with Christ. The mundane matters of life have made us too busy to receive the invitation of the king. It’s not that they could not come, but that they would not come.
- The king sends more servants, which means another invitation is sent to the Jews and this time they insult them and kill them. (John the Baptist, Stephen, Apostles)
- The King’s fury and action of his army destroying the murderers and burning their town is most likely the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.
- Since the first group of people refused the invitation of God’s gracious banquet the King invites a new group of people. Everyone is now invited the good and the bad alike. We know the Gospel has gone out to all the world (Gentiles/non-Jews) regardless of nationality, ethnicity, sex or position. God invites the people who seemingly don’t belong or perhaps are the lowly of the world. (Luke 14:21 – the poor, crippled, blind and lame)
- This is an extraordinary invitation from the king, and notice the banquet hall is now filled with people. First, God’s grace and mercy are the only things that allow this second group of people to attend the banquet. The second group of people have accepted the invitation and are rejoicing over their attendance to such a blessed event.
- This party would have been a much more lively bunch based on their joy and thankfulness for being invited. Are we joyful and thankful for God’s invitation and preparing such a great feast for us?
- At a great banquet of this kind there are a few differences from our major parties we may attend today.
- Those who came to the banquet would have been greeted by having their feet washed and the appropriate wedding garments given to them from the king’s provision. The king was responsible for providing everything for his guests and other than receiving the invitation there was nothing the guests needed to bring.
Revelation 19:7-10 - Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:
“Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. 8 She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
- In God’s Kingdom we are not able to bring good enough clothes for the wedding feast of the Lamb. If we go back to Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned they attempted to make what for themselves? Clothes made of leaves. We know their attempt to cover their shame was inadequate because who provided them clothes before they left the Garden of Eden? God made them clothes from animal skins as a temporary covering for their sin and shame (Genesis 3:7,21).
- We are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21 - For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
- Remember we talked about ancient weddings being more of a transaction where the bride was purchased? We as the Church are the bride of Christ. We were purchased by the king with the life of His own Son who is our husband. There is no excuse to show up without the proper clothing because it has been made available to us.
- The man’s speechless demeanor reveals his inability to have an excuse and the harsh treatment of this man is representative of judgment for those who try to come to the banquet under their own good works. There is a final judgment where eternal punishment is the absence of God’s grace and goodness.
- What is the “call” Matthew refers to at the end of the parable? The called are those who hear the Gospel. All persons are called to repent of their sins and to turn to God in faith through His Son Jesus Christ.
- The Chosen are those who respond to the Gospel or to use Pauline language are referred to as the ‘elect.’
- There are some very important and hotly debated theological topics involved in Romans 8-10 about predestination, election, human responsibility (free will) and God’s sovereignty which I encourage you to explore and ask questions about on your own. However, here is what I believe is important for today:
- Those who reject God’s invitation do so willingly and their exclusion from God’s Kingdom is just.
- Those who receive God’s invitation do so only by God’s grace and their entrance to God’s Kingdom is through the righteousness of Christ alone.