Theme: Reactions to God’s Invitation
This week we learn about the indifferent, even arrogant way men and women respond to God
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
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.
This parable occurs a second time and in a slightly different form in the second account. The fuller form is in Matthew, but it also occurs in Luke 14:15-24, which contains elaboration on the excuses of those who refused the king’s invitation.
The story begins with a certain king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son and sent servants to those who had been invited to tell them that the feast was now ready and that they should come. But they refused to come. Their refusal was a great insult, of course. It dishonored the son, the king, and even the servants who carried the king’s message. But the king was patient at first. He sent other servants to repeat the invitation: Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet (v.4). Again they refused. But now those who had been invited did not merely reject the invitation. They also mistreated the messengers and killed some of them. So the king sent an army to destroy the murderers and burn their city (vv. 1-7). After that he invited others.
The thing that makes the parable so easy to understand is that nearly every part is discussed in plain terms elsewhere. The king is God, sitting on the throne of the universe. The son is his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The messengers are the prophets and early preachers of the gospel. The banquet is the marriage supper of the Lamb. Those to whom the gospel was first preached were Jews, and those who eventually came to the banquet were Gentiles. John 1:11-12 says, He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
On one level at least these parables deal with the refusal of Israel to receive Jesus when he came to his own people first. That was a major puzzle during the lifetime of the Lord, as well as afterward. So it is not strange to find a number of parables dealing with it either directly or alluding to it indirectly. The character of the older son in the parable of the prodigal represents Israel (as well as those Gentiles who possess the same spirit of resentment. So do the workers in the vineyard who were hired early but were paid the same as those who came late. So does the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18). Those stories explore the thinking of those who supposed they had worked long and faithfully for God, unlike others, and who were resentful when the grace of God was shown to those they considered unworthy.
What does each character in the parable of the wedding banquet represent?
Who in the parable of the vineyard are comparable to the invited guests that did not come to the banquet in this parable?
Compare Matthews account of this parable with that of Luke in Luke 14:15-24.
Have you ever felt resentment for others who seem unworthy of God’s blessings, yet receive them?