Matthew 22

Matthew 22:  Parable of the Wedding Banquet

The first verse of this chapter tells us this is a continuation of Jesus’ conversation and confrontation with the Chief Priests and the elders.

“ And Jesus answered them and spake unto them again by parables and said,…” Matthew 22:1, KJV.

This parable represents the gospel offer and how it is received or not received. The Gospel is represented in this parable as the preparations a King is making for his son’s marriage.  This is a great illustration as Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is the bride. The Gospel is thus illustrated rightly as a marriage covenant between Christ and believers.

The custom in the day of Jesus was for a bridegroom to enter into a contract with his bride-to-be.  A price was paid for the bride.  At this point they are considered married legally even though the marriage has not yet been consummated.  The bridegroom returned home to prepare a place for he and his bride to live as well as the father of the bridegroom would begin making preparations for the wedding banquet. When all was in place and met the father’s requirements- the bridegroom would go to get his bride and the celebration would follow.  In the time of Jesus, a wedding banquet could last a week. It was a major event. In his first miracle recorded in John 2, Jesus is at a wedding where to the dismay of the master of the banquet, they ran out of wine early in the celebration.  Apparently they were not sufficiently prepared and Jesus’ mother ask him to intervene. We read  of the miracle of turning water into wine, thereby preventing the embarrassment for the wedding party for their insufficient preparations.

Has not our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus come and paid a price for us and entered into a marriage covenant with us.  He has gone now to prepare a place for us – that where he is – we will be also.  The Father will tell him when all is ready and he can go get his bride.   We realize our Heavenly Father is not only the Constant Gardener of His Vineyard; He is also the Wedding Planner. He takes great delight in the marriage of His Only Begotten Son, the One in whom He is well pleased.

The King then sends his servants to those who have been invited to the banquet to tell them to come- but they refused to come.’  ( KJV – “ they would not come.)  I want you to notice is does not say – they could not come, but they would not come.  Remember this is Tuesday of the very week, Jesus will go to Calvary. He is days- hours away from the cross. This statement is a summary of what he had seen, heard and experienced from Israel’s religious leaders. They would not come.

When it is the King Himself who makes the wedding feasts and sends the invitation-and it is refused by the ones invited- they have insulted both the King and His Son.

But notice the long suffering and patience of our Heavenly Father, the Great King of Kings: “ Again, he sent forth servants saying- ‘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.’  “

By now most of us have attended weddings and wedding banquets- receptions. Here are some observations:  the food is rich and free- but it costs the one who is providing it a lot.  Quite often we speculate as to how much the celebration has costs.  Here we are reading about a Royal Wedding and a Royal feast- no expense has been spared- it is filling, rich and beyond compare.

What is on the menu- well it is a hearty banquet- steaks for everyone. The menu has been carefully planned and executed at great expense. But look at the menu carefully and you will see just what this feast is spiritually.  It is a feast of reconciliation, forgiveness of all sins, eternal life, blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, joint heirs with Jesus, God the Son, our Bridegroom, heaven on earth and then heaven in heaven when we leave this earth. Promises that will be kept by the One who is faithful- who has pledged his everlasting love for us and promised never to leave us or desert us. Oh what manner of love- the Father has lavished on us as we observe this celebration He has planned.

Now let us remember who Jesus is talking to – the Chief Priest and elders, the religious leaders. This is a second invitation. Prophets from the Old Testament had come with invitations, in fact John the Baptist is the last Old Testament prophet who shows up in the New Testament to announce  the long-looked for event was drawing near- the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Time now is running out to RSVP the invitation.

If the Gospel message is the invitation- Jesus had made sure the Jews had received the invitation first- for they were privileged having been chosen by God out of all the nations of  the earth to attend the wedding of the King’s son.  Jesus and his disciples always took the message to the Jews first.  Paul always went to the Jews first whenever he entered a town or city,then to the Gentiles. Jesus instructed his disciples to be witnesses first in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria , and to the ends of the earth. ( Acts 1)

At Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews : “ We had to speak the Word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” ( Acts 13: 46)  And the next verses tells us when the Gentiles heard the Gospel – ‘ they were glad and honored the Word of God and all who believed were appointed for eternal life. ‘

In this parable Jesus tells his audience that those who received the invitation-‘ made light of it—paid no attention to it’  We could apply this response to what is happening today.  People make light of the Gospel message of a God who would become flesh and die for the sins of the people. What do they pay attention to?  To those things more important to them.    The KJV says: “ they went their ways.”  Their ways- not God’s way.  “ One to his farm, another to his merchandise.”

Here is the decision:  do I want to go to the King’s dinner or tend to my own business? Carnal men love carnal things and make light of spiritual matters and pay no attention to them.

Verse 6 tells us ‘ the remnant took his servants and mistreated them and killed them.’ Jesus had spoken with great sorrow and tears about Jerusalem and how often he had wanted to gather her as a mother hen does her chicks- but she would not.

Those people in that day were indifferent to the incarnation of Emmanuel. Men like Saul of Tarsus was fanatical about destroying them.  Alas, today we have legions of Saul’s among us who would strike out against Christ and His followers as well as legions who are completely indifferent to spiritual matters or profess the neutrality of agnosticism.  Believe what you want to believe they tell us – but do not try to get me to believe it or change my life. Go away I am not interested in your way- I am going my way.   For there is a way that seems right to man- but it leads to death. It is the broad way, with the wide gate- and many enter into it- shunning the narrow way as just that – a way that is too narrow , too confining and does not allow one freedom to live as they want to live.  So today- everyone does right in their own eyes.

Now Jesus speaks to his audience as to what is going to happen to them and is even happening to them at that time.  Verse7:  “ But when the King heard thereof, he was wroth ( enraged) and sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.” The king in this parable is the Almighty God and  He has reached the limit of his long suffering and patience. He sends forth his armies. What armies?  The armies of angels? No the Roman army. Just as God used Assyria and Babylon and their armies to punish His rebellious people in olden times, God will use the Roman army to destroy  these rebellious people and burn their city and destroy their temple, where His glory had long departed. This would occur in 70 AD.  Here is prophecy that will take place with accuracy and within decades of their rejection of Jesus.

The divine retribution that God caused to fall upon Jerusalem should be a dire warning to us in these days as more and more people across our nation make light of the Gospel and pay no attention to the Word of God.

The parable continues as Jesus tells what the King does next:  : “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners ( into the highways) and invite to the banquet as many as you find.” The Great Commission is in view here- when Jesus before His Ascension would tell us- ‘ Go ye therefore  and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I  have commanded you and, lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. ( Matthew 28)

The parable clearly portrays what is taking place- by the rejection of the Jews – salvation comes to the Gentiles.  Can you imagine in this parable the surprise of these people who found themselves as honored guests at the King’s Son’s wedding. It says the hall was filled with guests. Guests who were probably ( in my imagination) not refined and unaccustomed to such fine food, and elegant surroundings. They did not know which fork to use and guess what the King did not mind at all—he was enjoying visiting with this loud, boisterous group who were amazed at the grace that had brought them into such a relationship. In the meanwhile, the Pharisees stood outside the event, sullen, prideful and stiff-necked like the elder brother of the prodigal who refused to come into the celebration his father had invited him to join.

The guests are described as both good and bad.  Now we know scripturally, none of us are good, no not one of us. Let us look at this description in two ways. First , according to what this parable symbolizes we are looking at the church, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ. The great mystery of life and the question most often asked is about why is there good and bad or evil in life. In the parable of the tares,( and we will soon see a ‘tare’ dealt with by the King), we see the mystery of good and evil allowed to co-exist here on earth by God. In the parable in Matthew 13, we know a man sowed good seed in  his field , and during the  night in cover of darkness an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. His servants ask-‘ do you want us to go and pull up the tares?’ And we are somewhat surprised at the answer- No, because while you are pulling up the tares you may root up the wheat with them. Let them both grow together until harvest.’ Why does God allow evil, bad to co-exist with good here on earth in our lives?  Why doesn’t He weed it out? He gave us the answer- we just do not like it. Jesus tells us the only reason he does not weed out evil, bad things is it would harm the wheat. It is allowed to co-exist for a reason- we grow in this soil. Good and evil not only travel on parallel paths, they quite often meet and become a part of our life. Joseph’s story in Genesis is given so much time to develop , almost 1/3rd of the book of Genesis is about his story. Clearly Joseph saw what God had done in that 20+ year span that carried him from a pit to the pinnacle of power in Egypt.  He was able to say to his brothers what you meant for evil- sowing tares in my life- God intended for good.  “ And we know that God causes ALL THINGS to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Paul says we are know this for a certainty. How do we know it- when we experience the collision of these two opposites that have traveled on parallel paths meet in a crisis in our lives.  The phrase- ‘those who are called according to His purpose’ describes and defines those of us who love God. Things do not work out for good on their own, God works out things for good. He oversees our life and is active in it day by day. He is not surprised by the tares, the bad things in our life and He allows them to co-exist for in and through these we grow, in fact to uproot them is to do harm to our growth. Mostly that is what we want, isn’t it?  God uproot this bad thing in our life. We can see no reason for it and can do nothing about it. It is possible this is actually profitable for our lives? Jacob had to wrestle with the Angel of the Lord all night for a blessing and it came in the morning. Joseph thought it could not get any worse- but it did. Job lost everything on what appears to be a wager between God and the devil. Yet in each case- all of these situations were resolved and they were blessed in the end with more than in the beginning. God knows what things to add to my life and subtract. It is easy to praise Him when all is good- but difficult when you are wrestling through the night- holding on to Him for dear life and it seems morning will never come.  But it does and so does He.

What is also implied here by the ‘ good and the bad’ is what I think we should have at every gathering of the church. We seem today- to only want the good to gather with us, not the bad. When we look around in our churches today- we see faces like ours, dressed  like us- living a life like ours. A good life.  In fact- we do not even want to tell others about the bad in our lives- because they might look down on us.  Yet the good and the bad are what the King gathered at his banquet. The Gospel message is universal, all inclusive- invite anyone you find. But are we looking for anyone- or someone like us.  Are we looking at the street corners or do we not look there?

Remember what Jesus said  in John 10?  He said he had sheep that were not of that fold.

Now we have an encounter take place between the King and a party-crasher, a tare.  “ But when the King came in to see the guests he noticed a man who was not wearing wedding clothes.” Robes were provided for the guests  by the king. Surely this is a picture of us who having trusted the Lord Jesus as Savior have been clothed in His Righteousness.  In fact, in Revelation we are described as wearing white robes.  Not only are these robes of righteousness- they are robes of gladness.  Here is an intruder- a tare among the wheat. It is an insult to the king and his son. It is a defiance of pride. A pride that says I am worthy to enter here on my own accomplishments and goodness.  This one claims he has good works, is moral and will present his argument to a Holy God on judgment day.

However in this encounter we see what will be the response. When the king questions the man as to how he got in without the wedding clothes- notice the ‘ man was speechless.’ He may have talked glibly before and given you reasons why you cannot accept the Word of God as inerrant and infallible. He says it is a good book with valuable lessons of morality. He may come to church on a regular basis-but his heart is not changed. He wants a God of his own making and understanding- and this is no god at all. On this day-judgment day- his mouth will be shut like the lions in the den with Daniel. Here was the ‘ tare’ who was collected at the harvest and tied in a bundle and burned.


Notice the message of the Gospel is all- inclusive- but there is only one way you get in- through the Son. By grace through faith and that not of yourselves it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. The Gospel- which here is represented in this parable is a gift of God. An expensive gift that we cannot earn, never afford for it costs God the life of his son. The banquet is a gift. A royal banquet a royal gift- for guess what- we are now royalty. Clothed in the finest, whitest robe imaginable, a gift of great costs. We have a mansion personally prepared for us by the Bridegroom- it is a gift; the forgiveness of all our sins; eternal life, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit- gifts that are in such abundance and extravagance we can visualize the table set before us with mounds of wedding gifts for this life and eternity to be enjoyed and used.

None are excluded except those who exclude themselves.  ‘ This is the verdict- light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’ ( john 3:19)  The word instead implies choice. The went their own way. They were invited- but the excluded themselves- they paid no attention- ‘ they made light of it, the invitation.  Many today make light of the Gospel message, the Bible as the Word of God and pay no attention to it.

When the Word of God is no longer the source of truth and absolute authority for a people, they will go their own way and do what is right in their own eyes.

This was true in the day of Jesus and it is true today.

Now we come to this last verse of this chapter:   “ For many are invited( called), but few are chosen.”

Many are called or invited- there is no limit here. The Gospel is not restricted.  “It( the Gospel)  is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. ( Romans 1)

Why do some hear the Gospel and not respond? Hebrews 4 explains this:  “ For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.”

Where does this faith come from? “ For by grace are you saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a GIFT OF GOD, not of works lest any man should boast.” ( Ephesian2: 8,9)

A gift must be received- and these did not receive the gift- they did not care to come to the king’s banquet- they went their own ways.

There is a veil over their hearts placed there by the deceiver-but when they turn to the Lord – He will remove it. ( 2 Cor. 3)

John 3- Jesus says’ this is the verdict ( a legal term based on evidence presented) Light has come into the world but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’

It is the mystery of grace, faith, good and evil.  But the Bible is clear- the message of the Gospel is all inclusive and universal and man is without excuse. The called include those who reject the King’s invitation as well as those who accept the invitation.

“ ….few are chosen.”  Few respond to the invitation. All you have to do to confirm that is observe what happens Sunday after Sunday during the invitation at the end of the service and  only  a few respond.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14