Summary: A parable about Israel and Israel’s response to God’s kingdom. God has sent us an invitation. Will we respond? Will we respond appropriately?
The Parables of Jesus
The Wedding Banquet
June 28, 2009
This is considered by many scholars to be an extremely difficult parable. Some see the parable of the great feast or great banquet in Luke 14 as a parallel account. While there are several similarities such as the open invitation, I believe that these are two separate parables that were probably shaped by the gospel writers for their purposes while being informed by the other parable.
Jesus most likely told many parables on more than one occasion. He also probably told similar parables or even changed parables to fit the context in which he was teaching. Therefore we find different parables with similar details and we find the same parables with different details in the various gospel accounts. In this we remember that the gospel accounts are verbatim or even objective news reports. They are stories of Jesus told by unique people who shape their telling to fit the circumstances and communities for which they are writing. Therefore inconsistencies and variances shouldn’t cause us much concern. God still reveals Himself, His purposes, and His ways through these gospel writers just as God reveals Himself through the accounts and His Spirit today.
So turn with me to Matthew 22 as we read this parable that Matthew has recorded. As you do so, listen to this little story.
Young Ben had heard more than one sermon about the importance of surrendering our lives to Christ. Ben seemed well-attuned to the heart of God; he exhibited the selfless and kind tendencies that would take some—like his mother—a lifetime of sanctification to acquire. But to the dismay of his parents, he continued to resist t the invitation to give his heart to Jesus. In his preschool English, he would explain that wasn’t ready.
One Saturday morning while everyone was gathered at the table for a breakfast of Cheerios, Ben announced that he was ready. He left the table and went upstairs. Mom and Dad followed Ben upstairs expecting to see him praying but instead found him neatly packing his Star Wars pajamas in his little Sesame Street suitcase.
“Ben, what ya doin’?”
“To go to heaven.”
Ben thought that in giving his heart to Christ, he would literally have to leave his parents and go live with Jesus in heaven, which was why he was so hesitant to surrender to God.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
"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. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
"Then he said to his servants, ’The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ’Friend,’ he asked, ’how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
"Then the king told the attendants, ’Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
"For many are invited, but few are chosen."
Here is a parable that seems especially harsh. For many of us, it offends our sensibilities. But perhaps this is because we don’t understand the original context.
This is a parable about the kingdom and Israel. The kingdom of heaven is like a king who throws a wedding banquet for his son. Those who should know the king and his son refuse to come. They were too intent on their own little worlds to acknowledge and honor the one who provides for them and keeps them safe. In fact, the servants that the king sends are mistreated and killed. Like last week, these servants are representative of the prophets.
The common practice was to send an initial invitation that seeks acceptance. This points to Israel’s acceptance as being God’s people. Then a second reminder would be given to tell them of that everything was ready and that they should fulfill their responsibility and commitment.