The Parable of the Wedding Feast

by Mike Ratliff

13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17:13-14 ESV)

The parable of the Wedding Feast, which we find in Matthew 22:1-14 is part of Matthew’s discourse on the Kingdom of God, which has many parts. Chapters 18:1-23:39 makes up The King’s Administration part of the Kingdom of God, therefore, the parable of the Wedding Feast would definitely be within that. Jesus tells this parable as part of a set of Kingly parables after his Triumphal Entry, the cleansing of the Temple, and the cursing of the Fig Tree in Matthew 21. Matthew describes our Lord’s Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21:1-11. He describes His cleansing of the Temple in vv12-17.  In vv18-22 He curses the Fig Tree. Following that His authority is challenged by the Jewish leaders in vv23-28. In response to that, He tells them several parables. The first is the Parable of the Two Sons in vv28-32. Then He tells the Parable of the Tenants in vv33-45. I pray you see the pattern.

The preceding parables were directed towards who? The first parable of the two sons demonstrated the religious leaders’ failure to respond rightly to John the Baptist’s prophetic ministry. They may have agreed with Jesus in the conclusion of the parable, but their actions proved their hypocrisy. This is the point. It is one’s obedience to God’s message not one’s assent to it that matters. The second parable of the Tenants was given by our Lord to show that God was taking the kingdom away from Israel.

Now we come to the parable of the Wedding Feast. Please keep in mind that this is spoken in the immediate context of the first two parables. Here is the entire passage from the ESV.

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. ’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? ’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14 ESV)

The King is God. The Son is Christ. What was the result of the invitation by the King to wedding feast for the Son? Those invited would not come. Some ignored the invitation. Others seized and mistreated the servants while others were actually killed. What was the King’s response? He was angry. He sent His troops, destroyed the murderers, and burned their city. Then he had his servants invite others to the feast from all over the world until the banquet hall was filled. This illustrates the offer of the gospel freely to everyone indiscriminately (cf. Revelation 22:17).

However, in v11 there is a strange thing. The king finds a man who had no wedding garment. What is this? Remember, all are invited from everywhere so this man did not come in uninvited so what is going on here? The people were given the wedding garments by the king himself as they were brought into the feast since they were rounded up from all over the place. So, what could this mean that this man had no proper wedding garment?

It wasn’t until recently as I have seen the massive growth in apostasy throughout the visible church that  I saw what this was all about. This man’s lack of a proper garment indicates that he has purposely rejected the king’s own gracious provision. He professes to be Christian, but spurns the garment of righteousness Christ offers (cf. Isaiah 61:10) by seeking to establish a righteousness of his own (cf. Romans 10:3; Philippians 3:8, 9). Right now, in this life, many professing Christ followers are exulting in their mysticism and their new form of Christianity, their new Jesus Manifesto, but these things are not based in the righteousness Christ offers. They have rejected “in Christ alone by grace alone, through faith alone.” They see salvation in the kingdom of God which is made up of all people in the entire world. They are not here to preach the gospel, but to make the world a better place by being Christlike. That garment is not the proper wedding garment at the wedding feast because this is works righteousness or pietism.

In v13 we see the result of that and in v14 the reason.

The call spoken of in v14 is sometimes referred to as the “general call” (or the “external call”), a summons to repentance and faith that is inherent in the gospel message. This call extends to all who hear the gospel. “Many” hear it; “few” respond. Those who respond are the “chosen.” The elect. In the Pauline writings, the word call usually refers to God’s irresistible calling extended to the elect alone (Romans 8:30), known a the “effectual call” (or the “internal call”). The effectual call is the supernatural drawing of God which Jesus speaks of in John 6:44. Here, a general call is in view, and this call is the great “whosoever will” of the gospel. Here, then, is the proper balance between human responsibility and divine sovereignty: the “called” who reject the invitation do so willingly, and therefore their exclusion from the kingdom is perfectly just. The “chosen” enter the kingdom only because of the grace of God in choosing and drawing them. – Adapted from section 22:14 many are called, but few are chosen section p1166 of The MacArthur Bible Commentary

The context of this parable is Jesus telling these things prior to His crucifixion to the Jewish leaders. He was prophesying exactly what was going to happen to the nation of Israel for their rejection of Him as their Messiah. Yes, individual Jews would believe and be saved, but the nation of Israel would be no more as it was. Much of this was fulfilled in 70AD. Also, God is sovereign in election and salvation, but we must never forget the balance as John MacArthur showed us in his commentary.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “The Parable of the Wedding Feast

  1. Many are called but few are chosen – reminds me of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Mike, your commentaries really bless me. To God be the glory!


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