The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were questioning Jesus’ authority after he had caused a ruckus in the temple. His condemnation of turning the temple into a marketplace was directed at them as they were the ones who had allowed the sellers in the temple. Thereafter, they desperately looked for opportunities to seize and even kill Jesus and the string of Parables that are found in Matthew’s gospel are in response to their schemes. The Parable of the Wedding Banquet, a variation of which is found in Luke’s account as well (Luke 14:16-24) was, Jesus letting the Jewish leaders know that He was aware of their schemes and their impending judgement if they continued on this path.

A typical Wedding Banquet

The Kingdom of Heaven

Describing the scene in the Kingdom of heaven this is narrated by the parable wherein a king prepared a great banquet for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants across the land to personally invite the guests to the banquet. However, the guests were not willing to come to the banquet and cited various excuses. So the king sent more servants and this time told them what was on the elaborate menu as well hoping this would make them come but they still didn’t pay any attention to his invite and went about their business. Some of his guests seized his servants mistreated them and even killed them.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘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.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.

Matthew 22:4-6 (NIV)

An invitation from a king would be something that the common folks would never miss out on but for some reason, the people whom this king had invited not only refused to come but killed the messenger as well. Maybe these folks did not think of themselves as commoners and thought their work is more important than attending the banquet of the king. Maybe they did not appreciate the fact that the king sent his servants to invite them and did not come himself. Even today, most people get offended by impersonal wedding invitations and refuse to attend. Or maybe they did not respect the king or even hated the king and this act of rebellion was their attempt to secede from the king’s authority. That would explain such a hostile reaction to a wedding invitation. The king did not take their rebellion stance lightly and responded with his own brutality which was far worse.

The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

Matthew 22:7 (NIV)

They ignored the invitation from the king and some even killed his servants. Jesus kept bringing up the fact that Jerusalem was not recognized for its loyalty towards God but as serial murders of any prophet who was sent to the city. Jesus was warning them to change their ways through the parable as we see the king burning the city, the same would happen to the precious city of Jerusalem years later.

The Israelites rejected God’s invitation through countless prophets who came before Jesus. They were busy building their walls and their temples that they had ignored God’s invitation. Some actually hated God and rebelled at every chance they got. The above reasons can be applied to God’s invitation for all of us to join Him and His Son in the Eternal Banquet. What is our reason for rejecting His invitation? Maybe we are too busy or don’t want to listen to His servants or maybe we just hate God and do not want to come into His fold. We want to live our life on our own terms. Regardless of our reason to refuse His call, our end will be the same as we will be thrown into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:13).

The Invitation is Now Extended to Everyone

Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’

Matthew 22:8-9

Jesus came down to extend the invitation of His Father’s banquet to everyone as Israel had rejected and rebelled against God by prostituting themselves to the pagan cultures that surrounded them. They even killed His Son on the pretense of avoiding a riot and discomfort to their captors, the Roman government. The salvation has come through the jews first but as we saw in another parable of the workers in the vineyard, it does not matter who came to the vineyard first, it matters that we were chosen to work in God’s vineyard in the first place. That he invited sinners like us into His fold.

Expectations From the Guests

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

Matthew 22:11-12

The invitation is open to all but the requirements from us remains the same since the creation of mankind. We were created in the image of God and were made with the purpose of worshipping Him. The king would have provided the clothing and everything that his guests needed to be presentable during the banquet. But still, someone chose to be callous and dishonoured the king. God has given us His own Spirit as a comforter and counsellor to tackle the problems of this life. But we ignore His help and continue to tackle the problems our own way and forget the very purpose of our existence. Just like the earlier set who rejected the invitation, the people who have half-heartedly accepted the invitation will also have the same fate.

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:14 (NIV)

Jesus died for the sins of everyone, not only His disciples or the people who came to Him or the Jewish crowds but for everyone even his accusers and people who had rejected God. He even went to the hades to proclaim the gospel. No one is predestined for anything. Neither Judas nor Peter were predestined for the opposite paths that were taken by them. It is our walks with God that dictate our path, how closely we want to walk with Him. Do we reach out to Him at the time of our troubles or do we try to solve our problems on our own? Do we have the self-awareness that we are helpless without Him and cry out for His intervention.

We cannot achieve anything on our own but what we can do is pray to God and beg for Him to make us the chosen, the elect. If we ask Him, surely He will, but the problem is we never ask and blame it on Him when things don’t go our way. The invitation is open to all but only a few really want a close and personal relationship with God. Many are indeed invited, but only a few want to know the heart of the inviter and to have a personal relationship with Him, not a superficial one.

Questions Discussed

  • Who would refuse the invitation to attend the King’s banquet?
  • What is Jesus conveying through this Parable?
  • The banquet was open to all after the initial guests had turned down the offer to join. Is the kingdom of heaven open to us because of the rejection of God’s chosen people?
  • If the King had invited the down-trodden then why is he angry when they show up without wedding clothes?
  • Why are only a few chosen?

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