The parable of the wedding banquet may be one of the most important parables for understanding how the kingdom of God works. This parable can seem very confusing with a bunch of moving parts. This parable also carries with it the major themes that Jesus has been discussing through his parables. What is this parable all about? What does this parable have to do with the kingdom of God? Let’s dig in to find out.
This parable only takes place in Matthew 22. You can read the parable here and then come back when you have read it.
Now that you have read the parable, it seems very strange doesn’t it? There seems to be a big deal about this wedding feast and those who are invited don’t show up, then when people are invited and welcomed in, they get thrown out? What is this parable about? We must first start with the context to figure this out.
If you read our last article in the parable series about the tenants, this parable comes directly after that one. In the parable of the tenants, the main focus was on the corruption of Israel’s leaders and those who actually believe in Jesus and follow him. This parable is alike in that manner. The focus is on Israel’s leaders and their hard hearts. In this parable, we have a king who throws a great wedding banquet for his son. In Jewish culture, the wedding feast was one of the most important aspects of the wedding. It was an honor and privilege to attend the wedding feast. The king puts on this wedding feast but those who he invited did not come, which is shameful and a disgrace to the one throwing the party. Then the king goes and destroys the city of those who did not come. However, this does not mean the banquet is cancelled. The banquet is still going to happen. So the king tells his servants to go and find anyone in the streets and invite them. Now there are strangers, good and bad, at this wedding feast. Then the king comes in and sees all these guests that accepted the invitation but sees one man not wearing the proper attire. Then the king throws him out into the darkness and then he says “for many are invited, but few are chosen”. That’s the end of the parable.
God is the king and Jesus is the son who the wedding banquet is thrown for. Those who were first invited but did not come are the leaders of Israel who did not accept Jesus. The servants are the prophets and messengers of God. Those who are in the streets are everyone who heard the message and accepted Jesus, no matter who they were at the time. The man who was thrown out, is one who accepted, but did not follow Jesus wholeheartedly (indicated by not wearing wedding clothes which is a symbol of obeying Jesus).
Again this parable is about how the kingdom was offered to Israel first, but since they did not accept Jesus, it was offered to the Gentiles. Jesus makes a very important point at the end. He says in Matthew 22:14, “For many are invited, but few are chosen”. What Jesus is saying here is that everyone is offered the invitation of the gift of eternal life and salvation through Jesus. Everyone is offered that opportunity. However, Jesus makes the point that just because it is offered, doesn’t mean you will receive it. We must believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that he did die on our behalf and we must live for him. James 2 discusses the fact that even though we believe, that alone isn’t enough. James makes the profound statement that even the demons believe, yet they are not saved. James argues that we must have works that correspond to our faith. In other words, we must be living for Jesus. This was why the man was thrown out at the end. Yes, he was offered the invitation and he accepted the invitation and he is like one who accepts the gospel message. However, he did not act like he believed. He continued on living as he always had, not transformed by the Spirit and therefore was not deserving of the banquet just as the first group of people invited did (Israel’s leaders).
We must be sure that when we accept Jesus as our Savior that we are not just thinking it’s a good idea and I have to accept it. When we believe, we are transformed and we gain access to the Holy Spirit. This will allow us to live a life that is transformed into a level of humanity that seems impossible to the world. We must live for Him, instead of for ourselves.