A Series on Parables rebuking
Jewish Religious Leaders
1. Why is Jesus telling this parable
(Matt 22:1-14)? What is the setting and context of his
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet is the third and final parable that Jesus directs towards
the Jewish religious leaders during His last week on earth. The Jewish religious leaders had been questioning
Jesus’ authority to teach in the temple. In His first preceding parable of the Two Sons
(Matt 21:28-32), Jesus tells the Jewish religious leaders that
tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before them. In the parable of the Wicked Tenants
(Matt 21:33-45; Mark 12:1-12;
Luke 20:9-19), Jewish religious leaders learn that the kingdom
of God will be taken away from them.
2. Consult Luke 14:16-24. Is this a second account of the
Parable of the Wedding Banquet? What are the similarities and differences?
Some scholars see the similarities of
Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:16-24
as evidence that they arose from the same basic story; they believe that Jesus told the parable once, and the
gospel authors retold the same story. However there are significant differences as the following table shows:
|Story concerns a king.
||Story concerns a certain man.
|A wedding banquet for the king’s son.
||A great banquet / supper.
|Invited guests refuse and become violent.
||Invited guests make excuses.
|Invited guests are destroyed.
||Invited guests are passed by.
Another method of examining this question of whether these two accounts arose from the same basic
story is to look at the number of similar words between the two accounts as some scholars have:
Total number of Greek words in Luke 14:16-24:
A. Greek words in Luke’s account that appear in identical form as
Matthew 22:2-10: 10
B. Greek words that are common to both passages but in different lexical or grammatical form: 14
C. Greek words that are clear synonyms for corresponding words in
Matthew 22:2-10: 4
Percentage of A to total: 6.3%
Percentage of A, B and C to total: 17.6%
To put this into perspective, consider the comparisons between two parables:
From the above data, the low correlation of similar words means that of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet
(Matt 22:1-14) is probably a different parable than the one of
Luke 14:16-24, the Parable of the Great Banquet,
is part of a series of dinner table conversations at the home of a Pharisee
(Luke 14:1). In contrast,
Matthew 22 takes place in public in the temple. Most scholars
believe that Jesus does tell two different parables. However, the lesson of the two passages is similar: some who
are expected to be present in the kingdom of God will be excluded, and those excluded have only themselves to blame.
3. When reading a long passage, it may be helpful to examine the passage in parts. How would you break up
Matthew 22:1-14 into parts? What do you observe about each part?
What are your interpretations?
A. The first invitation and the people’s response
Jesus uses a simile to inform people what the kingdom of heaven is like; it is like a king who
gave a wedding feast for his son.
Jewish wedding feasts of the first century were large gatherings, and a very wealthy person
could invite the entire town or city. They often lasted seven days and guests were expected to attend the whole
celebration. Aristocratic landowners may have the luxury of time; however, attending could be a burden for peasants
and other workers who were dependent on daily wages. To be invited by the king was a great honor which no one would
refuse lest they face the terror of displeasing him.
In Jesus’ parable, the invitees were "unwilling" to come. It was not a question of prior
commitments, but that the invitees did not want to come.
In the first two parables, God was portrayed as the father in the Parable of the Two Sons and
as the landowner in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. In this final parable and sharpest rebuke of Jewish religious
authorities, the Jews would have recognized that the king symbolized God. For those who heard John the Baptist,
they may have recognized the Messianic overtures of the bridegroom and king’s son
(John 3:29) or earlier allusions by Jesus of Himself
Aside from this, there is probably no further meaning to the imagery of the marriage. Accustomed
to Old Testament motifs of marriage, Jews would have recognized the image of a marriage if the king was getting
married; the nation of Israel was recognized as the bride of God
(Ezek 16:1-63), albeit the harlot. However, this parable was about
the marriage of the king’s son which would be meaningless to the Jews.
The point of this parable was about the guests of the wedding banquet. The Jews were not the
bride, they were the guests. With the dawning of the kingdom of heaven, invitations to the banquet have gone out
and were being refused, because the Jews refused to acknowledge the Bridegroom Jesus Christ.
B. A graceful repeat of the first invitation and the people’s response
The king repeats his invitation and describes the greatness and immediacy of the banquet: all
of the king’s oxen and fattened livestock have been butchered, and everything is ready. This was just the start
of the festivities!
Not only did the invited guests ignore the king’s entreating invitation, the king’s messengers
were mistreated and killed. The invited guests disregarded the honor and command of the king’s invitation.
The behavior and violence by the invited guests portray the contempt that the nation of Israel
treated God’s grace. At the dawn of the kingdom of heaven, John the Baptist is murdered.
C. The king’s response to the murder of his slaves
The act of ignoring and murdering the royal messengers was seen as treason, which resulted in
the king’s wrath and judgment. For the relatively few messengers that were murdered, an army was sent to exact
punishment on the murderers and burned their city!
First century Jews recognized that royal emissaries represented the king, and any mistreatment
of them was despised. Herein is the first point of the parable, Jesus points out the sin of Israel and God’s
judgment of it. To the ire of Jewish religious leaders: as they follow Jesus’ parable, they agree with the king’s
judgment only to realize that Jesus is portraying them as the treasonous murderers. It is also possible that Jesus
was making Jewish religious leaders aware of His knowledge of their plans to kill Him.
D. The second invitation and the people’s response
When juxtaposed with the preceding verse of the king’s army destroying the murderers and burning
their city, the second invitation is all the more compelling. In his desire to honor his son’s wedding, the king
sends his servants out to invite everyone they could find including the evil and the good. The invitation was for
everyone who would come; the invitation was without any conditions or qualifications
Jesus makes the point that everyone is invited to His wedding banquet, because they are simply
a human being. The invitation is made without any qualification of socioeconomic position or moral state.
E. The King’s appraisal
The king notices a guest who is not appropriately attired and asks how the guest gained entrance
to the banquet. There is irony when the king calls the offender as "friend" and pronounces judgment shortly after.
The guest’s speechlessness reflects the guest’s guilt, and the king has the inappropriately dressed guest forcibly
removed and tossed into the darkness outside. The king’s invitation does not guarantee participation!
Cultural studies of the first century do not reveal evidence that wedding hosts provided wedding
garments for their guests. Instead there is evidence that the wedding garment was newly washed clothes; dirty
clothing was an insult to the host and wedding couple.
Participation in the wedding feast required the appropriate wedding garments, and there is debate
about what the wedding garments represented.
In the latter part of the prophetic book of Isaiah, Isaiah reminds Judah about their covenantal
relationship with God and speaks of preparing for the coming of the Messiah. In
Isaiah 61:10, Isaiah says, "… For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of
In the context of the wedding banquet, only the King could provide this special "garment of
salvation"; but, the guests had to put it on. The idea that human beings even had a choice was established by the
original invited guests who refused to even come (Matt 22:3),
and the man who came to the wedding feast without his "garment of salvation".
Figuratively, clothing has been associated with the Holy Spirit
(Luke 24:49) and Jesus states explicitly that the Holy Spirit is
necessary for one to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5-16).
Without the garment of salvation, there is judgment and final judgment.
It is important to note that only those who were obedient and wore the proper clothing were
called by Jesus as "chosen" (Matt 22:14). The use of this term of
election indicates God’s sovereign knowledge and control even as the original invitees refused to come or some
participants didn’t wear the appropriate wedding garments. God did not choose to save some and condemn others;
the qualification of God’s chosen was predicated on a person’s obedience to accept God’s provision of grace.
The greater meaning of the Parable of the Wedding Feast is the identification of the nation of Israel as the
original invited guests who were unwilling and murdered the prophets (King’s messengers). Now Jesus makes clear
that the invitation is going out to all.
1. Gaebelein F, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, & Luke, Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing House, (1992).
2. Walvoord JF and Zuck RB, eds., Bible Knowledge Commentary, Wheaton: Victor Books, (1985).
3. Keener CS, The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, Downers Grove: InterVarsity
4. Youngblood RF, Bruce FF and Harrison RK, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary,
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc (1995).