I have had many great teachers over the years and have benefited tremendously from their knowledge and expertise. However, I have found none better than Jesus. His ability to teach deep spiritual truths to ordinary people like me is unparalleled. The Lord’s simple, easy to understand stories and illustrations, have opened my eyes to things I simply didn’t see before. I hope that you are experiencing this same type of glorious illumination!
Today we will cover the 19th parable in our current sermon series titled “The Parables of Jesus”. It is recorded in both Matthew and Luke, but the occasions and renditions of the story are notably different between these 2 accounts. As with some of His other parables, it appears that Jesus shared this story more than once during His travels and altered the details as appropriate each time. Because of the variation, this parable is routinely called either “The Parable of the Great Banquet” or “The Parable of the Wedding Feast” depending upon which version is read.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem and has stopped to dine at the home of a Pharisee on the Sabbath day. While He is there, He heals a man who is afflicted with dropsy. Dropsy is a serious condition in which the body retains fluids resulting in significant and uncomfortable swelling. After healing and dismissing the man, Jesus tells a few parables to those at the dinner including “The Parable of the Great Banquet”.
In Matthew's gospel, Jesus is preaching in the temple during the final week of His life. Immediately after telling “The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen” which we studied last week He follows with “The Parable of the Wedding Feast”. On this occasion, His recitation of the story is slightly longer, depicts a wedding specifically, and includes some additional elements not found in Luke. Despite the disparity, this is in essence the same story in both places.
There are a couple of reasons why I think it’s better to identify today’s story as “The Parable of the Great Banquet”. First, there is another parable also called “The Parable of the Wedding Feast” that we’ll discuss in an upcoming sermon. Rather than being confused by 2 stories with the same title, let’s use different names. Second, while a wedding feast is always a type of banquet not all all types banquets are wedding feasts. In other words, “The Parable of the Great Banquet” is an appropriate title for both versions of the story.
Today’s story is the last of the Covenant Parables. It’s major emphasis is again on the transition from Israel to the Church as the secondary party of God’s covenant. Let’s begin...
I. UNWILLING GUESTS - Matthew 22:1-6; Luke 14:16-21a
This story begins with a man (or king) who is planning to hold a large banquet (or a wedding feast for his son). In preparation for the event, he sends out numerous invitations to those wishes to attend. As the day of the dinner approaches, the nobleman sends out his slaves to determine how many of those invited are actually planning to come. To his great dismay, all of them offer excuses saying that their not coming. In some extreme cases, those who’d been invited even mistreat and kill the nobleman’s slaves.
In this parable, the nobleman or king represents God. The slaves represent God’s faithful followers and messengers. These are the true believers, such as the prophets, who carry the LORD’s invitation of salvation. Those who have been invited represent Israel as a whole, God’s chosen people to whom He’d initially revealed Himself. This portion of the story figuratively illustrates Israel’s widespread rejection of the gospel and their general refusal to accept the LORD’s gracious invitation to Heaven.
II. UNDESIRABLE GUESTS - Matthew 22:7-10; Luke 14:21b-24
Upon hearing that none of his original invitees are coming, the nobleman becomes angry - particularly with those who’d murdered his slaves. In response the man sends his armies to destroy them. Furthermore, he labels these ingrates as unworthy and sends his remaining slaves out into the highways to invite others. This time the invitation is open to all who hear it including those who are generally considered by society to be undesirable, whether they are bad or good. Before long, the wedding hall is full of guests!
The recipients of the nobleman’s second invitation are the Gentiles. After the Jews rejected Jesus and His message, God formally extended the gospel to the Gentiles. We see this change played out vividly in the book of Acts as we read about the spread of the early church from Jerusalem and Judea into Samaria, Africa, Asia Minor, Europe, and beyond. The Church does not exclude those Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah, but it certainly includes Christians of all other nationalities worldwide.
It is important to realize that God offered salvation to Gentiles in the Old Testament as well. The story of Jonah is perhaps the premiere example, though not the only one. God spared the entire city of Nineveh - all Gentiles - after they heard Jonah’s warning and repented of their sinfulness. God has always sought the salvation of Gentiles. Under the terms of the Old Covenant the Jews were called to carry this message to Gentiles. By and large, they didn’t do this but rather looked down upon Gentiles with disdain and contempt.
III. UNWELCOME GUESTS - Matthew 22:11-14
This final portion of the story is told in Matthew’s gospel but not in Luke’s. It goes as follows…
The wedding hall is now full of people, so the king comes to inspect his guests. Among the crowd he notices a man not wearing the required wedding garment. The king confronts this man and he is left speechless. The king instructs his servants to bind the improperly dressed man and to throw him out. He is not welcome at the wedding feast.
To understand this part of the parable, it is important to know that special wedding garments were often provided to guests during Jewish marriage banquets. Choosing not to wear them would be considered extremely disrespectful and highly inappropriate. Apparently, the man in this parable thought his own clothing was acceptable so he did not put on the garments he’d been given. Though he had been invited to attend, the man was not permitted to stay because he was improperly dressed.
God has made an appeal through Christ to all people urging them to repent and be saved. No one is excluded from this universal invitation. However, there is only one way to receive acceptance from the king. We must be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. If we attempt to enter Heaven dressed in our own self-righteousness, we will not be permitted in. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ is the only way.
In Matthew’s recording of this parable Jesus concludes by saying, “Many are called but few are chosen.” His story clearly explains that both Jews and Gentiles have heard the calling of God. An untold multitude of people over the centuries have heard the LORD’s invitation to salvation. Unfortunately most have rejected it outright and others have responded to it inappropriately. Of the many who’ve been called, only a smaller few have rightly received it and been accepted or chosen by God.
By rejecting Jesus, the Jews effectively declined God’s invitation. As such, the Gentiles became the primary recipients of the gospel message. Under the Old Covenant of the law, God’s people (Israel) consisted of mostly Jews with a few Gentiles. Under the New Covenant of grace, God’s people (the Church) are mostly Gentiles with a few Jews. Either way, the righteousness of Christ is the only covering by which anyone is or ever has been saved!