Half the parable (Matthew 22:1-7) is about those who despised the king and would not come to the banquet. But there is a second half (vv. 8-14), which tells of those who did come. The king said, “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find (v.9). In Luke that is elaborated to show how these persons were drawn from the lower ranks of life. Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame… Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full (Luke 14:21-23).

Today we continue our discussion of the parable of the wedding banquet. We are looking first at the responses of those who were invited. Some who are invited to the gospel banquet do not openly express their hatred of the one who gives it, but they make excuses. The first said that he had just bought a field, and had to inspect it. The second said that he had just bought five yoke of oxen and was on his way to try them out. The third had perhaps the most perplexing excuse: “I just got married, so I can't come” (Luke 14:18-20).

The unique element in the parable of the wedding banquet is the willful refusal of those who were invited. It was not that they could not come; rather they would not. The reason for their refusal is not spelled out, but it is suggested by the way the servants were treated. They seized the servants, mistreated them and killed them (v.6). If the invited guests felt that way toward the servants, they obviously felt that way toward the king who had sent them and would have seized, mistreated, and killed him if they could have done it. In other words, they would not come because they actually despised the king and were hostile to him.

From time to time in my studies of Matthew's gospel I have noted that a particular parable is difficult to interpret and have mentioned several ways the details of the story could be taken. That problem does not exist with the parables in Matthew 21 and 22: the parable of the two sons, the parable of the wicked tenant farmers and the parable of the wedding banquet. On the contrary, they are all too clear - above all, the parable of the banquet! It speaks of God's gracious invitation in the gospel and of the indifferent and even arrogant way men and women respond to it. It also refers to hell as the end of those who presume to enter God's presence without the wedding garment of Christ's righteousness.

At the point at which the king welcomes his replacement guests, the parable seems to be over. But it is not, and I am glad, because the Lord goes on to give a much-needed warning in the account of the man who came to the feast without a wedding garment. I say it is needed because there is sometimes a kind of inverse pride found in the disadvantaged that imagines that, because they are not rich or famous or powerful but poor and unknown and weak, therefore, they deserve the king’s bounty and can come before him in their own character and on the basis of their own “good” works. Jesus exposed that error by showing how the man who came to the feast without a garment was immediately confronted by the king and then thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 13).