In the parable of the Wedding Feast we are again confronted by a particular type of parable known as a kingdom parable. Most of Jesus' parables are illustrations, stories that teach a truth, whereas the kingdom parables are riddles, hidden mysteries; they proclaim the gospel in a hidden way. The kingdom parables announce that the kingdom of God is at hand, but the message is muffled, and this because the hearers have already rejected the gospel. As such, the kingdom parables are signs of God's judgment, in fact, they often proclaim judgment. The dawning of Christ's reign is good news for those who accept it, but bad news for those who don't. In the passage before us Matthew draws together two kingdom parables, the parable of the wedding feast and the parable of the wedding robe. In the parables we are reminded that the marriage of the lamb, the reign of the messiah, is at hand. The final invitations are out and the messiah is even now sorting out those who are worthy to attend. Now is the moment of decision, so if you want to attend, repent and believe.
v1. Jesus again communicates with his audience by speaking in riddles. His hearers, particularly the Jewish authorities, no longer deserve a clear word from God.
v2. The parable of the wedding feast concerns the dawning of God's reign in his messiah, and makes the point that this may be compared to the situation where a king puts on a wedding feast for his son.
v3-10. The wedding preparations now completed, the king sends word to the invited guest that the banquet is prepared. Twice the call goes out, but the guests refuse. "They completely disregarded the invitation", even treat the kings servants disgracefully. Of course, the king is enraged and sends troops to deal with the guests and then sends his servants down to the marketplace to invite everyone and anyone to the banquet. "The kingdom of God is at hand", the wedding guests have gathered for the banquet, Christ's reign has begun.
v11-13. The parable of the wedding robe goes on to describe a typical sorting-out scenario that goes with the establishment of God's reign in Christ. The "not worthy" are out in the cold, and "there was nothing he could say." The wailing and raging serves to describe the condemned, as apposed to the approved, who face no more weeping or mourning. So, how do we get approved? Repent and believe.
v14This pithy saying serves as a warning. Most translations treat it literally, but in its original Aramaic it takes a slightly different meaning. Everyone is invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb, but not everyone gets a seat at the table - not everyone gets to be one of God's new people.
Most Christians have a problem with assurance. In simple terms, we are not sure of our salvation. There is this constant fear that when the roll gets called up yonder we may not be there, or if we're there, we may not get to stay there. Will we get to hear "well done thou good and faithful servant"?
A parable like the Wedding Robe and the way it gets handled, is often the source of the problem. I have indelibly marked on my mind the sense of despair I felt as a young person facing the prospect of my wedding garment not being worthy of the heavenly celebrations. Like the apostle, my righteousness has always been filthy rags, in fact, increasingly so as I have grown older. Then, of course, my reading reinforced my fear. It probably all depends on what Christian literature we read, and in my case it has tended to be of a conservative nature. So, I took in the words of the great ones, men like F.F. Bruce, one of my heroes, who said of this parable that it was "a suitable pendant to any parable of grace, as showing that, while the door of the kingdom is open to all, personal holiness cannot be dispensed with."
My personal holiness is a rather tattered cloak indeed. So, is my end outer darkness? There were times, as a young believer, I feared that this was my end, but thankfully the mind of Christ on the issue rescued me.
In the ancient church a person's worthiness was determined by their wedding robe having been washed by the blood of Christ, and later, by pushing a sacramental view where the robe becomes a baptismal robe. There are plenty today who suggest that Jesus actually provides the robe and all we have to do is put it on. The wedding robe is his forgiveness, or his righteousness. My assurance might have been a bit stronger if I had at least absorbed one of these interpretive lines.
What is Jesus actually saying to us? By what means are we eternally approved in the sight of God? There is only one way to get into the wedding feast and not find ourselves thrown out, and that is by simply turning to Jesus and trusting him for our salvation. It is by grace that we are saved, through faith.
1. What is the particular function of a kingdom parable?
2. What message does the parable of the Wedding Feast convey?
3. On what grounds can a believer be sure of their salvation?