At Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus told the Parable of the Wedding Feast. He taught, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king, who held a wedding feast for his son.” First, it should be noted that I agree with the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery that “‘Matthew’s favored term “kingdom of heaven” (literally “heavens”) is synonymous with “kingdom of God.’” In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus told the very similar Parable of the Dinner in response to a man who had said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15).
In the IVP Bible Background Commentary, Professor Craig Keener explained that Matthew’s phrase, “‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who held a wedding feast [Matt. 22:2]’… does not mean that the kingdom is compared only to the [king].” Rabbis often told parables which made comparisons between one thing and another. “In these parables the phrase [the Kingdom of God] meant that the subject was being explained by the whole analogy that followed, not just by the next word [“king”]…. Thus, the kingdom here is compared not with the [“king”] alone, but with the entire situation Jesus goes on to describe.”
As the story goes, the King sent some of his servants to call upon those who had been invited to the wedding feast, but as the celebration approached, the invitees decided that they did not want to go (Matt. 22:3). During this time, a king’s wedding feast for his son would be a large and expensive production. The wedding feast might last for as many as seven days, and the king would expect his guests to stay for the entire celebration. Typically, those invited had “insider status.” Coming to the celebration was an expression of loyalty and fidelity to the king, his son, and his kingdom. Coming to the wedding was a significant commitment of time, but as Professor Keener explained, “the invited guests may have been aristocratic landowners anyway, who had the leisure for such activities.” As further explained by Keener, customarily, the invited guests would have already confirmed plans to attend the wedding, but now were backing out. “[T]o refuse in concert after having agreed to come would be no accident, but a deliberately treasonous insult.” At the very least, the invited guests were special invitees, who had “insider status,” and they were expected to be supporters of the king’s reign and kingdom. An invitation to attend was an honor, implying “power, trust, and insider status.” The refusal to come to the wedding feast was an act of rebellion.
As important background information, it should also be noted that faithful Jews anticipated a great eschatological banquet and victory celebration with Yahweh after His ultimate victory over and defeat of evil. Isaiah 25:6 states, “The Lord of the armies will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.” To refuse to celebrate and have fellowship with Yahweh regarding His ultimate victory was indicative of an evil and a rebellious heart.
Back in our story, the king then sent more servants to announce that everything was ready, and that it was time to “come to the wedding feast” (Matt. 22:4). However, the invited guests ignored the servants (Matt. 22:5). They each went their separate way. Some went to their farms; others went to their businesses (Matt. 22:5). In his parallel Parable of the Dinner, Luke added more details about their excuses. One purchased a field and wanted to go look at it (Luke 14:8). Another bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to go try them out (Luke 14:9). Another took a woman as his wife (Luke 14:10). Finally, Matthew added that some of the invited guests even mistreated and killed the king’s servants and messengers (Matt. 22:6). As explained by Keener, to mistreat the king’s messengers was an open attack on the king and treasonous.
In the Parable, the king was incensed, and he sent his army to destroy the rebels and their city. (Matt. 22:7). He set their city on fire. Of course, this was symbolic for the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans. Like the invited wedding guests in the Parable, the First Century Israelites, who often declared that Yahweh was their God and King, were the ultimate insiders, who should have welcomed the Son and joined in the celebration. Their rejection of the Prophets, Apostles, and even the Son of God was an act of open rebellion.
In response to the rejection of his invitation, the king in the Parable told his servants that those with true “insider status” who rejected the king’s invitation were not worthy (Matt. 22:8). Nevertheless, the banquet was ready, and the king told his servants to go out onto the roads and invite anyone and everyone to the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:9). He said, “[I]nvite whomever you find there to the wedding feast” (Matt. 22:9). Now, the invitation was extended to all, whether good or bad, and the wedding banquet was filled with dinner guests (Matt.22:10). This was symbolic of God’s invitation to the Gentile world to come join the celebration in the Kingdom of God.
Later, when the king came to the wedding feast, he noticed that one of the wedding guests was not wearing proper wedding clothes (Matt. 22:11). Keener explained that even commoners knew that it was improper and disrespectful to attend a wedding feast without proper clothing. I would add that putting on special, clean garments can be symbolic of one putting on the spiritual life. At Romans 13:14, the Apostle Paul wrote, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” We are not born with a spiritual life; we must put it on. At Revelation 3: 5-6, we read as follows:
The one who overcomes will be clothed the same way, in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My father and before His angels. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Then the king said, “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” (Matt. 22:12). The man was speechless, and then the king commanded his servants, “Tie his hands and feet, and throw him into the outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place” (Matt. 22:13). The “outer darkness” and the “place of weeping and gnashing of teeth” are symbolic for a place of judgment that is separated from God’s special blessing and fellowship. There are consequences for rebellion against the King. Those consequences start in this life and will have ramifications in our next life.
Jesus ended the Parable of the Wedding Feast by saying, “For many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). The Greek word kletos means “called or invited to a banquet.” The Greek word eklektos means “picked out or chosen.” In the context of the Parable of the Wedding Feast, those with “insider status” (First Century Israelites) were invited to a great wedding celebration for the King’s Son. However, great numbers of those with “insider status” rejected the King’s invitation. This was an act of rebellion and disrespect to the King and His Son. Those with “insider status” did not embrace the values of the Kingdom. Of their own free will, they chose to pursue their own personal interests and desires. Some mistreated the emissaries and messengers of the King. Ultimately, they killed the King’s Son. The King gave them 40 years to repent, but they continued to mistreat and disrespect the messengers of the King. Ultimately, the King came and destroyed their city, and they were separated from the fantastic blessings of the King and Kingdom Living.
If we seek to apply the Parable of Wedding Feast to modern day Christians, in my opinion, it would be applied as follows: Now, Christians are the ones with “insider status,” and we have been invited to the Wedding Celebration inside the Kingdom of God, but most want to pursue their own interests, rather than God’s will. Of their own free will, they reject fellowship with God and the fantastic blessings inside the Kingdom of God. There will be significant consequences. If we reject God’s will for us to enter into the Kingdom of God, the wrath of God will impact our lives in this life and the next. The “Chosen” are the those who put on the Spiritual Life and learn to, more and more, walk by the Spirit wherein the Word is a light to their feet. The Chosen enter into Kingdom Living. The reader might recall the story of Mary (the sister of Martha) sitting at the feet of Jesus, focusing on His every Word (Luke 10:41-42). Jesus said, “[B]ut only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). Ultimately, the Chosen must also choose.
The featured image on this page is titled “Sermon on the Mount” by Carl Henrich Bloch. Available on public domain. Courtesy of www.carlbloch.org.
 “Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, et al, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
 Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Second Ed. InterVarsity Press, 2014, p. 80
 Keener, p. 80.
 Keener, p. 100.
 “Banquet.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, et al, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
 Keener, p. 100.
 Keener, p. 100.
 Keener, p. 100.
 Keener, p. 101.
 “G2822 – klētos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 28 Feb, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g2822/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G1588 – eklektos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 28 Feb, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1588/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.