The Wedding Banquet Parable (Matthew 22:1-14)
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The Wedding Banquet parable is one of the most difficult parables to interpret and fully understand. In the Christian faith, we wrestle with the cognitive dissonance of grace and judgment. On one hand, we have a King who offers lavish invitation to everyone especially to those we most likely would not expect and on the other hand, there is clear judgment to those who choose not to come and those who come unprepared.
In reading Thomas Long’s commentary of Matthew, he notes that this parable has two parts. The first part can be seen as an allegory for the history of God and Israel. Each character and event serves a purpose and meaning. In this Story the King is God, the banquet is the Kingdom of God, the servants are prophets, the guests who declined are Israel and the destruction of the city is the destruction of the temple in 70AD.
As we look at the second half of the parable we do notice the extravagant grace of the King to invite everyone. Throughout the parable, the servants were sent out several times. We know that some people will reject the invitation and even hurting or killing the servants. The guests who eventually arrive at the end of the parable are labeled as both bad and good. The servants were called to invite guests regardless of their status because the king asked for everyone. The task of invitation is the continual role of the servant in God’s Kingdom. As the church today, we are called to invite people to the banquet, as expressed later in Matthew in the great commission.
This invitational task is important, but significant questions arise when we look at the guest who was rejected. This last guest is thrown out for not have a wedding robe. Our immediate reaction is that the King is harsh because how can a poor person be expected to show up to a party with a wedding robe. The wedding robe must have more significance as everything else in the story is ripe with meaning. Thomas Long points out that the wedding robe could be the new clothes we receive in Christ Jesus through Baptism as noted in Galatians 3:27. Additionally, In the Africa Bible commentary, the author notes that cultural expectation for most weddings were already known and required of a person invited to a banquet or party. Dressing well and behaving appropriately were assumed. The guest obviously did not meet expectations. For this guest, maybe it wasn’t just the robe but how he was acting. Looking at these two things in regards to the guest who was rejected it raises questions about how the others in the story interacted with the thrown out guest. It raises questions for us about how we communicate the gospel invitation to the feast as servants and how we treat others as fellow guests at the feast.
A good task for exploring scripture and particularly parables is to look at each of the roles and imagine ourselves in those roles and then ask good questions.
Take a moment to read each question and ponder the answer. Take your time. If you want you can read the parable again. Since we all guests at God’s Banquet Feast let’s start there.
Who invited you to the feast? How were you greeted? Did you know what to wear? Or how to act? Who gave you or how did you get your clothing? Who told how to act? What did the other guests say to you?
You are now the servant.
How do you invite others to the wedding feast? What did the guests need to know? What did you assume people knew about the feast? Did you not invite people for whatever reason? How did you greet the guests as they entered the feasting hall?
And lastly as the rejected guest.
Who invited you to the feast? How were you greeted by the servants? By the others guests? Did you feel out of place? Why didn’t you have your robe? Who taught you how to behave at a wedding?
The scripture does not offer concrete answers for these questions but, often in asking questions it leads us to the answers we might be seeking. It is good to ask questions of ourselves. It is good to ask questions of those we hope hear the invitation to the feast that is the church. What burdens or expectations do we or should place on our guests. What does it mean to be a guest at God’s Feast?
Lord, King of the Banquet Feast,
You call us as guests to your feast even though we may not be worthy. You call us as servants to invite others to your marvelous feast. Help us to be mindful of other guests so that they too may be worthy and join in the festivities of your love. Forgive us if we neglect to tell, show or teach of your love to others. For you desire everyone to partake and desire not one to be rejected. Amen.
 Long, Thomas G. Matthew. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997. 246.
 Ibid., p. 247.
 Adeyemo, Tokunboh. “Matthew.” In Africa Bible Commentary, 1157. Nairobi, Kenya: WordAlive Publishers ;, 2006.