ESV Matthew 22:1 And again Jesus aspoke to them in parables, saying, 2 a”The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave ba wedding feast for his son, 3 and asent his servants1 to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 aAgain he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my bdinner, cmy oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”‘ 5 But athey paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, atreated them shamefully, and bkilled them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and adestroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not aworthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and agathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there aa man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, a’Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and acast him into the outer darkness. In that place athere will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are acalled, but few are achosen.”
This is the second of two parables that go together. In the one Jesus told just before this one, he tells us of a king who went off to a far country and left his vineyard in the hands of tenants. But when the king sent his servants to collect the harvest the tenants killed them. So he sent his son, and the tenants killed him also.
But now, immediately after the son was killed in the first parable, we find the son alive and well again in the second parable and getting married. This is no ordinary king and no ordinary Son. This is a son who died and then rose again. A son who got married only after his resurrection from the dead. This is the Son of God who on account of his death and resurrection has made us, that is, the church, his bride. And the king is God, the heavenly Father who sends out invitations to the guests.
And when the king in Jesus’ parable sends out invitations for the wedding of his son, no expense has been spared, and no guests are crossed off the list. This banquet is now ready. The question is are we?
Today many people have adopted the custom of sending out “Save the Date” notices; in the parable too, the king had alerted the guests that the big event was coming. They had received their invitations and were waiting for the date to be set.
The wedding feast is ready! (vv 1–3a). The dinner has been prepared. This will be lavish. What a dinner! This is a banquet no one would want to miss. The oxen and fat calves have been slaughtered. Everything is ready. That means the wine jars were filled and the table was set with the finest of china and sterling silverware. The finest linen table cloths were put on the tables. The musicians were ready and their instruments tuned to provide the most festive entertainment. It also means the wedding garments were prepared by the most skilled tailors and seamstresses. In ancient Israel, special attire was required at a wedding, not just for the bride’s maids and groom’s men, but also for the guests. But these wedding garments were supplied by the host. You could not be admitted to the wedding without having put on the wedding garments provided by the host. Ordinary street clothes were not appropriate dress for such an important occasion.
This is a royal wedding! Not just an ordinary wedding. The son of the King; the crown prince is getting married. And his bride would one day be the queen. This was not something you could miss. What a privilege and honor to be on the guest list in the first place. People would do anything, pay any price to be on the list of invited guests.
The date had arrived so now the servants are sent out to call the invited guests to the wedding feast. All is ready! But many who are invited are not ready. They paid no attention to the call. They would not come.
So the king sends out other servants, but no one pays attention (vv 4–5). Whatever ready is, they’re not. They just went about their ordinary day-by-day business. One went off to his farm. Another went off to his business. “Too busy. Gotta work.” Sound familiar? “No time today, the kids have a soccer game.” “Guests coming over. I have to prepare dinner.”
This is a real shocker. The people who heard Jesus tell about this were beside themselves. This was unheard of. This was an outrage. This is a story that would have astonished and confused everyone in the crowd. Such things just didn’t happen. It was outside their experience; beyond their comprehension.
But here it is. All the work is done, and no one comes! (v 3). This is rude. This is arrogant. And you can sense the king’s frustration. He felt the way modern parents do when they send out wedding invitations and guests don’t show courtesy at least to RSVP! He felt more than frustration, he was angry.
Still other guests weren’t just indifferent (v 6); they seized the servants of the king and killed them! They were actually hostile to the invitation to the banquet. So, the king does what you’d expect (v 7). He sent out his army and destroyed those people and burned their city. If nothing else, we get a little sense of justice here. Our desire for vengeance is satisfied. “Good for you, King,” we shout. “They got what they deserved. That a way, king, show them who’s in charge!”
Still, he does have a wedding feast made ready, so: the invitation goes out again (vv 8–10). This time not to the guests who had been invited, but to anyone who would come. “Go to the roads and invite as many as you find.”
Now the hall is filled with guests, as many as the king’s servants could find. These people do come—and the feast is ready. And what of those who do come? Are they ready? Both good and bad were invited; both good and bad arrived. And the king does everything he can to see that all of them—good and bad—are ready.
The king has provided all that every guest needs to be ready. Food, wine, music, proper wedding garments. But as he looks over the wedding feast, he sees that not everyone is ready (vv 11–12). Amid the splendor of this royal wedding, the king notices one not dressed for the occasion. Even when addressed kindly as “Friend,” this man has no excuse, no explanation for refusing the clothing the king has offered him. “This man is not ready!” roared the king, “Cast him into the outer darkness . . . for many are called, but few are chosen” (vv 13–14).
Many are called, but this one was not ready. So, then, the question is, are you ready for the wedding feast? God is the King, and he invites everyone to the marriage feast of his Son, Jesus Christ. The Son who was killed and put to death on a cross, and then rose from the dead.
Jesus’ death on the cross has earned a seat at the feast for every person who’s ever lived. God’s Word is in earnest when it says to every soul, “Jesus has given heaven to you!” The invitation has been sent out. Every Sunday from pulpits around the world the invitation is given. The wedding feast is ready.
Some will ignore the invitation. They’re too busy. There is too much to do. Too many activities in our busy lives. Of course, daily work is not evil in itself. But, it becomes an issue when it’s chosen above the wedding feast of God’s Son. Now it becomes a sin against the First Commandment. Does that—too busy, a career to build, a living to earn, leaving only an afterthought for the Savior—describe you? Are you the invited guest who ignored the invitation? Are you the one who went about your own business because God’s business wasn’t a high enough priority to put first? Are you all too willing to accept God’s invitation on your own terms, but not on the Host’s? Do you plan to clothe yourselves in your own deeds, your own fervent prayers, your good name, of even your church attendance or offerings.
Then you too will have no excuse when asked why you didn’t instead clothe yourselves in the righteousness offered you in Jesus Christ.
But in his grace and mercy, the King extends the invitation, filling his hall with rejoicing. In Baptism, he provided you garments of righteousness you may wear into eternity, garments won for you by his Son’s death and resurrection. Yes,
Clothed in Christ’s Righteousness,
You Are Ready for the Wedding Feast!
Even in our very casual day and age, you know there are certain clothes required for certain situations. When God the Father invites you to the wedding feast at which his Son will be the Bridegroom, he supplies you with that right thing to wear, the righteousness of Jesus given at your Baptism. As we sing in one of our hymns: “Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die” (LSB 761:3). Clothed in Christ’s righteousness, you are ready for the wedding feast! Amen.