Summary: The balance between royal invitation, and choice.
A MARRIAGE FEAST FOR A ROYAL SON
Following the failure of the chief priests and Pharisees to lay malicious hands on Jesus (Matthew 21:45-46), Jesus “answered and spoke to them again by parables” (Matthew 22:1). He spoke of the kingdom of heaven being “like unto a king, who made a marriage feast for his son” (Matthew 22:2). When the king first announced the wedding his invited guests refused to come (Matthew 22:3). So, according to custom, he sent out a second bidding (Matthew 22:4).
Can you imagine what a privilege it would be to be invited to a royal wedding? However, it is not only an invitation, but also a command. What a disgrace it would be to turn down the offer!
Yet there are people who hear the call of Jesus, and still refuse to come to Him. Any excuse will do: they “make light” (Matthew 22:5) of the gospel, thus insulting both the host and the groom. This is high treason of the worst kind in the kingdom of heaven.
# The one who is (literally) ‘apathetic’ to the Son shall not see life, but has the wrath of God abiding on him (John 3:36). And if he does not have a relationship with the Son, he does not have a relationship with the Father (1 John 2:23).
Such people prefer their own way to the King’s way; their own livestock to the feast that the King is providing; their earthly business to that which pertains to their never-dying souls (Matthew 22:5). There are also those in every age who have gone beyond mere refusal to actually persecuting the King’s messengers (Matthew 22:6): maligning and killing the prophets and apostles of old, and the missionaries and preachers of the Christian era.
Now Jesus speaks explicitly in terms which ‘the chief priests and elders of the people’ (Matthew 21:23) had already suggested (cf. Matthew 21:41). “When the king heard of their wicked deeds…” (Matthew 22:7) - surely what is mentioned here anticipated the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. This is the disgrace which the religious leaders brought upon their beloved city.
There still remained the need to furnish the marriage feast of the Son with guests. Those first invited proved themselves unworthy by their absence (Matthew 22:8). So now the word went out to others, in the highways and other places (Matthew 22:9), all and sundry, both good and bad (Matthew 22:10).
Yet this is not the end of the matter. There now appears to be ‘both good and bad’ in the kingdom of heaven. There is a bit of sifting which must yet be done, sorting wheat from chaff, sheep from goats, good fish from bad fish.
The King Himself comes in to see the guests (Matthew 22:11). High honour this! Yet there is one there who is inappropriately attired - representative of all who appear to belong, yet do not.
Play actors and hypocrites may fool men, and may fool churches too - but at the last their true colours will be exposed. “He saw a man which had not on a wedding garment” (Matthew 22:11). A man, in Scripture parlance who had not been clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10; Philippians 3:9), thinking that his own ‘filthy rags’ would suffice (Isaiah 64:6).
“Friend,” pronounced the King (Matthew 22:12). This appellation occurs three times in Matthew’s Gospel, each with an ominous ring to it.
# First, it addresses a representative of the discontented labourers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:13). Next, here, it addresses one who refused to wear the wedding garments provided by the King. Finally it addresses one who would betray Jesus with a kiss (Matthew 26:50).
The slight came on account of certain would-be guests of the King refusing to wear the garments provided. Wilful men would force their way into heaven rather than drop their act, admit their hypocrisy, and bend their knee to Christ. Yet bend it they will, when they are left speechless in His presence (Matthew 22:12), and they are sent to join those others in the ‘outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:13; cf. Matthew 8:12).