The Parable of the Marriage Feast
In Matthew 21, Jesus presented “The Parable of the Two Sons,” and “The Parable of the Wicked Husbandman” after certain chief priests and elders had questioned His authority (21:23). After hearing these parables, they perceived that Jesus was talking about them (21:45), and wanted to arrest Jesus but did not as they feared the people. Jesus then presented “The Parable of the Marriage Feast” which is recorded in Matthew 22:1-14. It had some important information for the people of Jesus’ day, and it also has some valuable information for us.
The parable begins with Jesus saying, “The kingdom is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.” The ASV uses the expression “marriage feast.” It is clear that the “king” represents God, while the “son” would be symbolic of Christ. Consider now the parable more closely.
The First Two Invitations
Verses 3-6 contain the first two invitations and rejections. Concerning the first invitation, verse three says that the servants were sent, “to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.” The invitation was treated in an indifferent manner by those invited so the king then issued the second invitation (v. 4). This invitation was more urgent as the king said, ” . . . Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.” The second invitation did not bring a positive reaction either. Some made light of it and went to their business pursuits while others carried their cool indifference even further. Verse six says, “. . .the remnant took his servants and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.”
The issuing of the first invitation (v. 3) is probably intended to be parallel to the ministry of Christ upon the earth. It would also seem to be inclusive of the work of John the Baptist, the apostles, and other disciples (such as the 70) during this period of time.
The second invitation and rejection may refer to the teaching about Christ and His church which was done by the apostles and other inspired teachers after the resurrection of Christ and would include the period of time up to the events described in verse seven. Verse seven speaks of the king now being angered and says, “. . . he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their cities.” This is a probable reference to the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70 A.D.
In the early days of the church, there was much persecution against the church. In Acts, we can read of the death of Stephen and of James. We can also learn about persecution and mistreatment against the early Christians as many Jews rejected Christ and His church.
The Third Invitation
The king’s next reaction was to offer a third invitation. The first group asked was not worthy. Verse nine says, “Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.” Verse 10 says, “So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.” This would refer to the acceptance of the gospel by the Gentiles. Of these, both good and bad were invited. This would not mean that misconduct would be accepted for those who entered Christ, but that God’s invitation is even offered to those who might have a bad character. Salvation is open to all who will submit to God’s will.
The final scene is revealed in verses 11-14. The king came in to see his guests. One of the guests did not have on a wedding garment. Spiritually, the man without the wedding garment would be representative of those who have responded to God’s invitation but will be unprepared on the Judgment day. In the parable, the king asked, ” . . . Friend, how comest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” The guest did not have an excuse. The king ordered him to be cast into outer darkness. All of this, no doubt pictures the final Judgment. Jesus concluded by saying, “For many are called but few are chosen.”