Summary: An exegesis of the parable of the King who gave a wedding banquet for his son and people refused the invitation.
The parable at which we are looking today comes after a series of confrontations Jesus has had with the Pharisees — the religious leaders of the day. They question whether he has the right to do the things he does and by what authority he speaks. They do not want to be a part of his following, and they do not want others to follow him either. In response, Jesus tells several stories, and this is one of them. He describes the kingdom of heaven as being like a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. The story is more than a story; it is an allegory. The characters of the story represent real people. In this case, the king represents God the Father, and the son represents Jesus. The servants represent the prophets who called the people to God throughout history. And the banquet represents the marriage feast of the Lamb at the end of the age which was spoken of in the book of Revelation: “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear....’ Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”’” (Revelation 19:6-9).
The truth that the parable is relating to us is that God is going to throw a huge party at the end of the age. In fact, the preparations have already begun and drinks and hors d’oeuvres are being served. It is going to be a party in honor of his Son and his bride — all those who love and belong to him. So the first thing we notice about this parable is that: God’s invitation is a summons to joy. God’s call is an invitation to a party! There will be feasting, dancing and great joy. There will be nothing lacking at this party. The food and drink will never run out. There will be friends and loved ones there, and best of all the King and his Son will be present. Jesus’ hearers were probably shocked at this story, because those who were invited did not want to come. In the parable, people found excuses. They had other things to do. More than that, they did not want to be invited to the king’s party and became angry at those who were inviting them. Jesus’ audience could not imagine people failing to accept the invitation to a king’s banquet. The story bordered on the absurd, because no one would turn down such an invitation. The parable points to the staggering sin of indifference. Some of the people ignored the invitation. They had other things on their minds. They wanted to get caught up on their work or take a walk, and the invitation was interfering with their plans. What Jesus was doing in this parable was attacking the appalling apathy that looks at God’s gracious invitation to life and joy, and merely sighs with indifference. Not to mention the hostile reaction of those who were invited. It is an unbelievable response — a gross discourtesy!
But the call of God is always an invitation to ecstasy and life. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). He also said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). How is it then that the world looks at God’s invitation to a party like it is an invitation to a funeral? This is a King’s feast, a once-in-a-lifetime experience! How can God’s good news be thought of as bad news? Worse yet, how is it that it is treated as no news at all. The response of indifference is sickening. Remember the words of God to the church at Laodicea in the book of Revelation: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). God responds to apathy with nausea.
G. Studdert Kennedy’s famous poem seems to be written in response to this parable:
“When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged
him on a tree.
They drove great nails through hands and
feet, and made a Calvary.
They crowned him with a crown of thorns,
red were his wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days