This week we studied the parable of the wedding banquet from Matthew 22:1-14. This parable is very similar to Luke 14’s parable of the great supper. But there are some significant differences as well which means they were probably two separate parables told at different times in Jesus’ ministry. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
“There was a certain king who arranged a marriage feast for his son” (vs. 2). In Luke’s version of this parable it was a “certain man” who gave a “great supper.” But in Matthew, it’s a king throwing a wedding banquet. Matthew wants us to realize that no one in their right mind would refuse such an exciting invitation! The wedding banquet, after all, was one of the most joyous occasions in Jewish life! The lavish feasting and celebrating went on for days. Such an invitation from a king was not just an immense honor – it was a command. “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.” (vs. 5) Unlike Luke, Matthew doesn’t spend anytime detailing the excuses of the invitees. He wants us to see that there is absolutely no excuse worth refusing such an honor and command to attend the King’s banquet. These invited guests are exercising nothing less than full-out rebellion against their King and the King’s Son! “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” (vs. 6-7). You see, unlike the somewhat milder version of this parable in Luke, Matthew’s point is that “sitting on the fence” over this invitation or “declining with regrets” is absolutely not an option! You’re either for the King and you attend the banquet or you are rebelling against the King!
But the wedding party is still on, right? So the King told his servants: “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding” (vs 8-9). I like Matthew’s irony here: The guests who were originally invited (who would have been noblemen and “aristocrats”) were not worthy enough – so, instead, go out and invite the riff-raff on the streets and the gangs in the alleys! “Worthiness,” then, has nothing to do with position or rank, but it has everything to do with willingness to accept the invitation – which is good news for you and me, by the way!
But our parable isn’t quite over yet… “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless” (vs. 11-12). It’s not that the man couldn’t afford to dress up fancy enough for such an important occasion. It’s not that he didn’t have time to go home and change (after all, he was invited off the streets). You see, in Jesus’ culture, the host of the wedding actually provided special wedding garments to the guests at the door! That’s why the guest is speechless in response. There’s absolutely no excuse we can make up for him. He had simply decided that he did not need the provided wedding garment. He thought that what he was wearing would be good enough. (Perhaps he even thought his looked better?) Isaiah 64:6 calls our attempts at righteousness “filthy, dung-ridden rags.” But Christ wants to take our filthy rag robes and homemade fig leaf aprons and replace them with HIS spotless robe of perfect righteousness! (See Rev. 7:9, 14.)
Jesus’ punch line in verse 14 can leave us a little unsettled sometimes: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” It makes us ask questions like, “What do I have to do to be in those chosen few?” “If so many of the guests were not worthy to attend, what hope is there for me?” But the answer to these questions is in the parable itself. Partaking in the wedding feast is only contingent on accepting the invitation and accepting the provided wedding garment! The moment we think we think that we don’t need to change out of our filthy rags of sin, or when we think that our own virtuous works will be good enough to get us through the door, we’re missing the boat! Many are called, but few accept.