The Parable of the Wedding Feast

The parable of the wedding feast is a parable about universalism.
Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God is open to everyone, not only Jews.
This parable is told using the familiar setting of a wedding feast,
however there are a few surprising events included.

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

Matthew 22:1. And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:

2. “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son. 3. “and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4. “Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” 

5. “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6. “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7. “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9. ‘Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’

10. “So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12. “So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.

13. “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14. s“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar? (Mark 12:13–17Luke 20:20–26 ) 15. Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. “Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” '

18. But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19.“Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21. They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

22. When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

23. The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 24. saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 25. “Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26. “Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27. “Last of all the woman died also. 28. “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” 31. “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,

‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. And they could not answer Him regarding these things. So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “

When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him;> “and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.

The Parable of the Great Supper

Luke 14:15. Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, “and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’

“But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’

19. “And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’

20.“Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ “So that servant came and reported these things to his master.

Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ “And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’

23. "Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

24. ‘For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ 

” Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them,

26. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

28. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29. “lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, “saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

“Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 3

2. “Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. “

So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? 3

5. “It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Matthew 22 1-14 Meaning

Turn with me in your Bible to Matthew 22.

In our last message on this parable of the wedding feast, we discovered that Jesus spoke this parable in the context of hostility. The chief priests and Pharisees were seeking to kill Jesus. He had entered Jerusalem for the Passover and was teaching the people and was pointing out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. And instead of repenting, they resisted God and tried to kill his Son.

And that gets us to this parable that I’d like us to read in its entirety once more.

So, let’s read Matthew 22, 1 to 14.


Now, as we saw last time, the question posed for each of us to answer in this parable is, How Will You Respond to God’s Invitation to His Kingdom? He is inviting you to be a part of his kingdom. How have you responded to that invitation?

Well, we saw last time the example of the Jews – especially of the Pharisees and scribes – and God’s invitation to them.

We saw the wedding feast prepared by the king for his son. We saw the folks whose invitation was assumed – and they represented the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

We saw their being invited and their shocking refusal of that invitation. We saw the persistence of the king’s invitation to them and their persistent refusal of the invitation – some being ambivalent about it and some being antagonistic and even homicidal.

And we ended last time considering the destruction of those who had been invited. So, the Jews had been invited to the kingdom, but they for the most part refused the invitation. That’s basically what we saw in verses 1 through 7.

22.8-9 Inviting Everyone

But now things change in verse 8 to the end of the parable. Because in verse 8, we see the invitation – not offered only to the Jews – but we see the invitation going out to everyone.

8 Then {saith he to/he said to/he told} his {servants/slaves}, 

The {wedding/banquet/wedding banquet} is ready, 

but {they which were/those who were/the ones who had been/those I} {bidden/invited} {were not worthy/did not deserve to come}.

9 {Go ye therefore/Go therefore/So go/Therefore, go/Go} {into the highways,/to the main highways/into the main streets/to where the roads exit the city/to the street corners} 

and {as many as ye shall find,/everyone you find/anyone you find} {bid/invite} to the {marriage/wedding feast/wedding banquet/banquet}.

The Parable

So, the refusal of those who were initially invited does not change the reality that there is still a wedding feast to conduct. The king will have his wedding feast for his son – and if those who were originally invited didn’t want to come, then he’ll just open the invitation to everyone!

The Jews

From the context of the New Testament we see this kind of activity begin with the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Many of the Jews had rejected and crucified their Messiah. They had in that sense rejected the invitation to God’s kingdom. So, Jesus rises from the dead and in Matthew 28 he told his followers – who were exclusively Jewish – to go and to make disciples of all nations – all nations! Not just to the Jews to whom the invitation to God’s kingdom had originally been given. That’s where we see in real life the invitation being given to everyone in the world – not just God’s people the Jews.

Then we have the story in the book of Acts about Cornelius the Centurion – a Gentile – who receives the Gospel. And from that event the Jewish church in Jerusalem recognized that God had granted the Gentiles an invitation to his kingdom.

Later on in the book of Acts, we see Paul the Apostle telling some unbelieving Jews in Pisidian Antioch that due to their rejection of God’s invitation to his kingdom, he was going to turn to the Gentiles and minister to them and invite them to God’s kingdom. Paul did the same thing in Corinth and in Rome. When the Jews reject God’s invitation to his kingdom, he turns to the Gentiles and invites them.

God had changed his approach from inviting – for the most part – only Jews to his kingdom – to now inviting everyone – Jew and Gentile!


And that’s where we come in. Because of the rejection of the unbelieving Jews so long ago, the Gospel invitation went out to the Gentiles – and most everyone who is hearing this message falls into that ethnic category.

I am not a Jew. I am a Gentile. And, whereas I have no right to demand to be invited to God’s kingdom, yet I have been invited. And so have you.

And it’s not because you’re more righteous by yourself than any Jew or that you are in some other way better than they are. It’s simply because they have rejected God’s invitation. But you have simply received it!

22.10a Effort of the Servants

Well, as we’ve seen in this parable, the king gives his servants new orders – go out and find anyone to come to this wedding feast for my son! And so, they do in verse 10.

10 {So those/Those/And those/So the} {servants/slaves} went out {into the highways,/into the streets/on the roads} and {gathered together/gathered} {all as many as/all/everyone/all the people} they {found/could find}, both {bad/evil} and good: 

And isn’t this a humbling reality? Let me ask you – where did God’s servants find you? Where were you when God – through one of his servants – invited you to his kingdom?

I was at a political party’s booth at the Wisconsin State Fair proclaiming what I felt to be the truth concerning that party’s ideas and platform. I was a lost 20 year old entangled in all the things a lost 20 year old does.

But another way to describe to you where I was back in August of 2002 is that I was on the “highways” of life. Wouldn’t you classify where you were when God invited you to his kingdom as in “the highways?” Just “out there” somewhere? Wandering.

What were you doing out in those highways? 

No doubt, some of us were upstanding moralistic people. Maybe you were the “good” that the servants found.

But equally as doubtless, most of us were in that other category. We were the “bad” or the “evil.” We were up to no good. We were rebelling against the King.

Picture with me the possibility in this parable that these servants find someone who was rebellious toward the king. And as the kings’ servants are approaching him maybe he’s thinking, “Oh no! They’re coming to execute me! What am I going to do?” 

But when the servants come, they don’t execute – they invite.

You deserved execution. Instead you were given a gracious invitation.

And by the way, this isn’t the main thrust of this parable, but who are the king’s servants now? These servants that the king commission to go out and invite into his kingdom – who are these people? Can you look around and see any of his servants? 

You are his servants. And you have some inviting to do, don’t you? You’ve gone from being the invited to being the inviters – with the hope that some whom you invite will invite yet more who will invite others and so on.

I’m not talking about simply inviting people to our worship services – though there’s nothing wrong with doing that. I’m talking about inviting people to God’s kingdom – to receive his Son Jesus Christ by faith. To repent of their sins and trust in God’s son. That’s what we need to be about.

22.10b Result of the Servants’ Effort

Well, we saw the efforts of the king’s servants in the beginning of verse 10. Now at the end of verse 10 we see the result of the servants’ effort.

{and the/The} {wedding/wedding hall/wedding banquet} was {furnished/filled} with {guests/dinner guests}.

The king’s banquet is filled with those who were not originally called or invited – but now they have been invited and so there they are – so many of them.

And this really corresponds to our present reality. There are many, many folks who have – from external appearances – accepted God’s invitation to his kingdom.

According to a survey conducted by Pew research in 2015, Christianity is the largest religion in the world. That study conducted just four years ago indicates that there were 2.3 billion people in the world who consider themselves Christians. That was 31.2% of the world’s population. 

In contrast, 1.8 billion are Muslim – which is the second-highest populated religion in the world. What that means in contrast is that there are a half-a-billion more Christians than Muslims in this world – 500 million more Christians than Muslims.

Another interesting contrast is that people who call themselves Jews are only 0.01 billion strong or 10 million. So, there are 2.29 billion more people who calls themselves Christians than there are Jews in this world.

The point is that God has sent his servants out now for the past two thousand years to proclaim his kingdom and invite both Jews and Gentiles to that kingdom. And as you can tell from the data, his kingdom seems to be filled with those who have responded to the invitation.

22.11 Inspection of the King

But the shocking reality that confronts us is that not everyone who has externally responded to God’s invitation to his kingdom is really in actuality going to be accepted by the King. Because we see in the last four verses of this parable that not all who are called – or invited – to God’s kingdom are actually chosen or accepted by the King.

So, we start these last four verses of the parable in verse 11 with the inspection of the king.

11  {And/But} when the king came in to {see/look over/view} the {guests/dinner guests/wedding guests}, he {saw there/saw/noticed} a man {which/there who} {had/was} not {on a/dressed in/wearing/dressed for} {wedding garment/wedding clothes/a wedding}:

Now, apparently, wedding clothes would have simply been clean clothing. This man is one of the many who were invited to the wedding feast for the king’s son. He’s sitting there with all of the other invited guests. But he doesn’t have the proper attire.

And the troubling reality is that there are – in churches across the world – people who come and they listen and they sing and they give. But they’re not clothed… in Christ’s righteousness. They have on – in God’s eyes – their own filthy rags of their own self-righteousness.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:8-9, “…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:”

And the Apostle John sees in his vision in the book of Revelation this righteousness of Christ pictured as a white robe or as white and clean fine linen.

John speaks in Revelation 7:14 of those who, “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Your robes were filthy – but it took blood to clean them. And while no one in this world would use blood to clean clothing, in this case the blood of Jesus is the most powerful cleaning agent ever known to heaven or to men.

Then Revelation 19:7-9 speaks of the wedding feast of the Lamb and the clothing that his bride is wearing: 

KJV Revelation 19:7-9 …the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

So, all of God’s true people have this righteousness that comes through faith in Christ and not by your own merit or effort. And this righteousness is pictured as clothing – a wedding garment in this parable.

But as we see in this parable, there is this one guest who doesn’t have this wedding clothing on. Why?

He’s been invited. He’s accepted the invitation. But he’s not wearing wedding clothing. Why?

22.12a Question of the King

That’s what the king wants to know in verse 12.

12 {And he/So he/He} {saith/asked} {unto him/to him/him}, 

Friend, how {camest thou/did you come/did you get} in {hither/here} {not having a/without} wedding {garment/clothes}? 

Because you need wedding clothes to get into a wedding feast. Even in our super-relaxed culture, there is certain clothing that indicates that you are going to a wedding or other special event. But this guy came in without that kind of clothing.

The king has a fair question. And one that should be answerable. 

The inappropriately-dressed guest could perhaps point to a lack of money. But surely if that were the case – that this man is impoverished, and therefore unable to buy wedding clothes – the gracious king who so patiently invited all sorts of guests and was willing to provide them with all sorts of excellent and costly food could surely provide the necessary attire for this man. In fact, some say that at these weddings the host would actually provide these wedding garments to each guest.

Well, maybe the man somehow was unaccustomed to the marital practices of the area and didn’t know the requirement of the correct clothing. But if that were the case, you could assume again that the king could make some provision for this man.

22.12b Refusal of the Guest to Respond 

But what we see in this parable is actually that the man offers no defense at all. He gives no reason for his refusal to be dressed in the proper clothing for this event at the end of verse 12.

{And he was speechless/And the man was speechless/But he had nothing to say}.

Now, it’s not that this man was bewildered and uncomfortable and embarrassed – and that’s why he didn’t speak. No – this man just had nothing to say.

It’s not that he was squirming in his seat and feeling guilty. He probably looked back at the king with an absolutely blank stare.

And this man in the parable represents any and all who have seemed to accept God’s invitation to his kingdom. They live among the people of God who are themselves entering this kingdom. But they themselves do not have Christ’s righteousness. They are still dressed in their own filthy rags of self-righteousness and sin.

And if that’s the case for you here today – and you persist in your refusal to repent and receive Jesus Christ – then you will be speechless at the judgement. You will have nothing to say.

22.13 Expulsion of the Guest

And that really is a terrifying position to find yourself in. Because there is indeed judgement coming for all who are apart from Christ, as the parable points to in verse 13.

13 Then said the king to the {servants/attendants}, 

{Bind/Tie up} him hand and foot, and {take him away, and cast him/throw him} {into outer darkness/outside, into the darkness}; 

{there/in that place there/where there} {shall/will} be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Now, it’s interesting to note whom the king is commanding in this verse. Five times so far in this parable, we’ve seen the king communicate with (or command) his slaves – his douloi. But this group that he addresses to do his bidding in this verse is different. Now, the king commands his servants – his diakonoi.

Because the slaves/douloi are kind of a picture of people like us – from the man whose full-time job it is to preach God’s word to the Christian who has been saved for a few weeks – we are commanded to go and preach the Gospel. We’re the slaves/douloi in this passage.

But we are not the servants/diakonoi. We are not commanded to cast people outside into the darkness. That role is reserved for the angels. And they’ll do this work at God the Father’s command at the judgement.

Now, just like this unprepared and unconcerned wedding guest in this parable, so too will be all who leave this world unprepared to meet their judge.

The guest in this parable – who had received the invitation to the kingdom but was not clothed appropriately – is thrown outside into the darkness. And all who reject God’s forgiveness through Christ – who are dressed in their own unrighteous rags rather than Christ’s righteousness – will be cast away from God’s presence into eternal darkness. They’ll be bound in the sense that they will never be able to escape their fate.

And for these people who have rejected Christ’s righteousness it will be truly hell – emotionally and physically. That’s what Jesus means when he speaks of weeping and gnashing of teeth – with weeping showing the intensity of the emotional suffering and with gnashing of teeth showing the intensity of the physical suffering in that place of torment prepared for the devil and his angels and where his children will finally join him.

22.14 Summary

Well, why does this happen this way? How is it that so many are invited to God’s kingdom but so few actually enter it eternally? Jesus explains that puzzling reality in the last verse of this parable – verse 14.

14 For many are {called/invited}, but few are chosen.

What does this mean? Well, consider what we’ve experienced in this parable.

Many were called or invited in this parable, weren’t they? You had the folks whose invitation was assumed, and they represent the Jews who were the first to be invited to God’s kingdom. You have the good and the bad whom the slaves could find in the highways. They represent the Gentiles that God is now inviting into his kingdom. And the wedding banquet ended up being filled with guests. Truly, many have been – and are being even now – called.

But who are the chosen in this parable? Are they the Jews? No – at least not by-and-large. For the most part the Jews are not chosen – though as Paul the Apostle would point out – he was! So, the Jews in this parable are not chosen – especially the ones who were being antagonistic toward Jesus.

What about the Gentiles? Are they chosen? Well, a number of them are. But then there’s this one who looks like he’s been chosen. But what key indicator let’s everyone know that he’s not chosen? He’s not clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

So, are you called or invited to Christ’s kingdom? Of course you are. The very fact that you are hearing the words of Christ from this passage in Scripture assures you that you have been invited to God’s kingdom. You are one of the many who are called.

But are you chosen? Are you – here’s a controversial term but a biblical one and it’s the one behind this word in verse 14 – are you elect?

Well, how would you know? Here’s the key – are you clothed in Christ’s righteousness? 

Have you trusted that Jesus has died for every single one of your awful sins? For your sins – not just the sins of mankind – not just the sins of the world – but has he died for your sins? Are you confident in that – in him? Can anything shake your confidence in the fact that Jesus Christ bore your personal sins in his body on the tree? 

If you are confident of this and relying on Jesus’ sacrifice for the forgiveness of all your sins – I have good news for you. You are chosen. You are in the group of the few who are elect. 

And you didn’t do a thing to earn this. It’s Christ’s righteousness that clothes you. You would be shamefully naked on your own. But as the song says, 

Jesus, thy blood and righteousness 
my beauty are, my glorious dress.

I trust that most of us hearing this message are elect. But no one should be so naïve as to think everyone here is.

Is there anyone who is still clothed in your own filthy fowl garments? Are you still in your sin? Are you seeking to establish your own righteousness and rejecting Christ’s righteousness? 

Maybe you are a good person. People like you. But inwardly you think that you’ll be alright in the end because you are a decent, kindhearted, warm human being. You work hard. You try your best. And in the end, God will accept you.

That is what you’ll be thinking… until the moment you enter hell. You’re wearing the wrong clothing! Everyone else might miss that fact – that you’re not in the proper attire. The other invitees to the wedding feast might miss it. The people who invite you to the feast might miss it. But the king certainly will not. He will see that you are dressed in your own righteousness – and that will not be good enough for entrance into his kingdom.

You better change your clothes. Abandon your own way and your own righteousness – and put on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

We’re all called. Only a few are chosen. Demonstrate that you are chosen by trusting Jesus Christ today.


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 April 16, 2023.