Weddings and marriage have marked human existence from creation; in fact, Genesis 1 records the first wedding ceremony of Adam and Eve. And weddings have always been time of celebration. This makes Jesus’ use of a wedding feast for a parable to indict the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders all the more interesting. Matthew 22:1-14 records the Parable of the Wedding Feast. I recently preached this passage and wanted to share a few nuggets that I gleaned from the passage as I prepared for the sermon.
All who come to God’s Feast must come in a worthy manner. This parable is ultimately about entering the kingdom of heaven. For the wedding feast in this parable seems to pointing in some sense to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb found in Revelation 19. This parable is demonstrating eschatological realities.
While there are many indicators of this, the largest indicator is that in both passages garments are given which must be worn. In Matthew 22:11-12, a man is thrown out of the feast for not wearing a wedding garment. In Revelation 19:7-9, the Bride is given a garment of fine linen to clothe herself, which is “the righteous deeds of the saints.” The connection here is obvious; one must be properly clothed in order to partake of God’s Feast. While I am not sure that we can say that the wedding garment in Matthew 22 is Christ’s imputed righteousness, we can say that we must be given something in order to be properly attired for God’s Feast. We cannot show up in our filthy rags; Christ must adorn us.
We come to God’s Feast in a garment covered with Christ’s blood. The blood Christ shed that procures our forgiveness and imputes to us his righteousness. For it is not enough just to be forgiven, but we must also be made righteous. And this is only done through the sacrifice and blood of our Lord.
Our job is to invite; the Holy Spirit brings them to the Feast. In the parable, after the king’s servants have been killed and the king has razed the rebels city to the ground, the king sends a new group of servants to invite everyone, “both bad and good,” to the feast.
This is such an important aspect of the parable: worthiness. For you see the king’s initial guests were not worthy because they rejected his invitation. Yet, even the bad who attend the feast are more worthy than those who do not. Jesus here seems to be making a statement about the social standing of the Pharisees in comparison to their worthiness. Who would have been considered the most worthy by Jewish society: the religious leaders. They had wealth, political clout, as well being closest to God. They would have been the ones who garnered an invitation to the king’s wedding in the parable; according to societal standards, they would have been most worthy. Yet, Jesus, through the parable, declares them unworthy. And in this parable we have a hint of two groups that Jesus declares more worthy than the religious leaders: the poor and the Gentiles.
The bad folks whom the servants invite in the parable were the dregs of society. The word could have been translated “wicked” or “evil”. Yet they receive an invitation to the feast. They do not have to reform themselves; they do not have to clean up their act. They only have to go to the feast. It also seems that the Gentiles might have been in Matthew’s eye here as well. They, along with the poor, would have been looked down upon. They would have been seen as inferior. Yet, the servants invite them.
In the parable, all the servants have to do is invite them. This is what we must do as well. We must invite people to attend God’s Feast; we must tell them about what Christ has done for them and how they can be reconcile with God. We must faithfully extend that invitation to them. Yet, we must also know that we cannot make them accept the invitation. The human heart is wicked and deceitful; the only thing that can overcome the human heart is the Holy Spirit. He turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He does the saving; we do the inviting.
So as we extend our invitation to others to join God’s kingdom, we must be ever prayerful and ask the Holy Spirit to invade the hearts of those with whom we are sharing our testimonies of God’s grace and mercy.