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.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
There are similarities between this parable and the one in Luke 14:16-24. But there are also differences. Scholars disagree rather or not these are two different parables. Were they given at different times in two different places? Or are they the same parable related to us in different contexts? My belief is these are two different parables.
Here is a summary of the differences between Matthew and Luke.
Matthew says that a king made a marriage for his son: Luke only mentions a great supper.
Matthew mentions many servants. Luke only refers to one servant.
Matthew says there were many messengers. Luke mentions one only.
Matthew says that some of the servants were abused and slain. Luke only says they were treated with contempt.
Matthew has a man cast out because he did not have the proper clothing. Luke makes no mention of it.
The two parables are also given on different occasions.
They could be the same parable. But because of the differences, I hold these are different parables. They appear at different times and in different contexts.
Context is important to understanding any passage of scripture. The context for this parable is it is a continuation of chapter 21. Jesus was discussing with the Priests and scribes. They had challenged Jesus’ authority. Jesus established His authority. He told them it did not matter how religious they were. They had rejected God. As a result, they have no place in the Kingdom of God. Then to further insult them He said, God, preferred harlots to them. (See the commentary on Matthew 21: 23-26.) As a result of their rejection, God took the kingdom from them and gave it to others. The first part of this parable continues that theme.
The second part of this parable (v. 11–14) states receiving an invitation to God’s Kingdom does not guarantee inclusion. One must be properly clothed. (Zechariah 3:3–5; Revelation 3:18; 19:8).
Christ invites everyone who hears the gospel. And many of these may claim to be in the Kingdom. But only those clothed with Christ’s righteousness are presentable to God. Only those who God has chosen will be present at the marriage supper of the Lamb. This election does not depend on any previous status. (Matthew 8:11, 12).
There was a Spartan saying, Athenians knew what was right, but chose not to practice it. Christ condemned the Jews because they knew the Law and the Prophets. They knew what was right but chose not to practice it. They talked a good game. They could describe the beauty of the Kingdom of God. God invited them. But they rejected His grace.
Some commentators explain the marriage of the king’s son to mean, that Christ is the end of the Law, (Romans 10:4.) God was uniting the Church to Him by the bond of a spiritual marriage. I don’t disagree with that. Jesus said the King sent servants to call those who He invited. This points out a double favor God gave the Jews. First, He preferred them over all others. Second, God revealed their adoption by the prophets. He called them via the prophets to take part in the promised redemption.
The practice in the parable is customary even today. When a bride and groom plan a wedding they sit down and make a list of people to invite. They then send invitations. In this case, the king sent the invitations via servants.
The invitees ignored the first servants. They killed the second group of servants. They knew when the wedding was. The Jews knew because God revealed it in scripture. And now Christ told them again.
How did they respond? Their response was the same as those invited to the wedding. They responded with hate and cruelty.
In the parable, some went off to their farm. Others went to their business. Christ was pointing out how the Jews cared more for this world rather than the Kingdom of God. But let us not be hypocrites in our condemnation. We do the same. Very few today prefer the Kingdom of God over earthly riches.
The King destroyed those who rejected His invitation and killed His servants. God’s judgment is not limited to the Jews. We too are subject to it. All the ungodly are subject to God’s destruction. All who care more about this life to the point they have no concern about the divine will perish.
It is interesting to note the King did not reject the ones He invited. They rejected Him. God does not reject us. We reject Him.
The king would fill the wedding feast. So He filled it with commoners. He filled it with good and bad. Our goodness has nothing to do with God’s grace. The King invited the scourge of the earth.
The Jews were the elect. But they presumed on God’s grace. They assumed God would bind Himself to them regardless of their sinfulness.
They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.Deuteronomy 32:21
The King comes into the banquet hall. He looks around and notices a man inappropriately dressed. This is a warning about coming into the presence of God in filth. When we approach the table we must approach it with reverence and respect. To go before the Lord as if we come for a common meal is to disrespect the Holy Trinity. It is not small pieces of bread and a small cup of wine. It is the body and blood of Christ!
Not only that but Jesus threatens to expel those who bring reproach upon the Church. God invites all indiscriminately through the Gospel. As a result, many unholy and abominable men creep in. But when God reviews the guests He throws out the dregs to punishment, those who do not belong. So not everyone who is part of the Church will become partakers of the Kingdom of God. Only those clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
We too wear filthy rags. All we do merit us nothing. (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23-24; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 3:5). But Christ calls us on the condition of the Spirit renewing us. By the Spirit, we must remove the old man (Colossians 3:9; Ephesians 4:22,) and put on the righteousness of Christ.
How was it just to punish a beggar for not bringing a wedding garment? What would you expect? He had to beg for bread. So he had nothing else to wear. That is the point. He had nothing else to wear. Just as we have nothing else to wear. We must be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. It is not our clothing. Christ gives it to us. It is a gift. If we refuse the gift, that is on us. The question is not how he was to get wedding clothes. Whoever the Lord invites He supplies with clothing. God finds nothing in us but wretchedness, nakedness, and abominable filth. Even so, He adorns us with magnificent clothing. We must put on Christ. (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27.)
The king threw the man into outer darkness. This is a description of eternal punishment. There is no middle ground between heaven and hell.
The object of the parables is its conclusion. Few are chosen. The parable mentions only one man. But from the conclusion, we learn that out of a large number He only retains a few. Let us not flatter ourselves with claims of empty faith. Rather let each of us examine ourselves so at the final judgment He may proclaim us lawful guests.
A simple profession of faith is not proof that God will acknowledge us. He must clothe us.