11. Old is out; new is in, 21:1-23:39

v] The parable of the wedding feast


Matthew continues his account of Passion Week and the controversies that occur in the precincts of the temple court. The Pharisees have just asked Jesus by what authority he does these things, and who gave him this authority. Jesus engages with the religious authorities in a series of parables, sayings and debates running through to the end of chapter 22, at which point Matthew states that no one dared to ask Jesus any more questions. The two-part parable before us serves as a critique of unrepentant old Israel, but it also serves as a warning to the new Israel.


In the realization of God's righteous reign, our participation at the heavenly celebration cannot be presumed.


i] Context: See 21:23-32. The strong judgment theme found in this parable fits neatly with the questioning of Christ's authority, 21:23-27, the parable of the two sons, 21:28-32, and the parable of the wicked tenants, 21:33-46. In these passages Jesus addresses the failure of Israel's religious leaders, and by implication Israel as a whole, to respond to the grace of God evident in his ministry. This failure to produce the "fruit of the kingdom" brings with it judgment, and so Matthew uses this kingdom parable to drive home the condemnation that now stands over Israel.


ii] Structure: The Parable of the wedding feast:

Setting, v1;

A kingdom parable in two scenes, v2-13:

The invitation to the wedding feast, v2-10:

A rejected invitation, v2-7;

"Both bad and good" are invited, v8-10;

The allocation of seats, v11-13;

Saying, v14;

"many are called but few are chosen."


v] Interpretation:

The passage before us presents in two parts:


First, the Parable of the Wedding Feast. The parable presents as a single kingdom parable consisting of two scenes, ie., it is a gospel presentation in the form of a riddle proclaiming the realization of the gathering and sorting that takes place on the day of judgment. In the latter part of Jesus' ministry he proclaimed the gospel in mysterious riddles as a sign of judgment upon a people who had refused to respond to the gospel when revealed as an understandable message - "the kingdom of God / Heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel" Such parables, usually introduced by the phrase "the kingdom of heaven is like", need to be distinguished from teaching parables which primarily serve as illustrations. The gospel is both good news and bad news, so kingdom parable may announce the coming kingdom in terms of blessing, or cursing; either way it is now, cf., Dodd, Parables of the Kingdom. In the parable of the Wedding Feast we are confronted by the truth that the kingdom of heaven / God is at hand, the day of the Lord and the coming of the Son of Man is upon us, the table for the eschatological feast is now set, the invitation has gone out and the sorting is already underway. Those rejecting the invitation face destruction and those accepting are being sorted, sorted as one separates goats from sheep, or weeds from wheat. So, the scene is of the last-days gathering and sorting, a day that is even now upon us. So, now is the hour to "repent".

Although the parable before us is a kingdom parable / a gospel riddle, Matthew has chosen to use it for a particular didactic purpose within the context of the failure of law-bound Israel to receive the grace of God in Christ and thus the consequential judgment that now hangs over old Israel and its religious institutions. Matthew's didactic purpose is determined by the wider context and his use of the independent saying he has attached to this parable - God's called out people are no longer his chosen people, v14. Let the new Israel also learn this lesson - a drift from grace to law is a drift to darkness.


Pietistic moralizing has tended to dominate the interpretation of this parable. It is usually viewed as a single parable with two contrasting ideas, such that the two parts serve as a two-pronged warning:

• The need to accept the gospel's invitation. In varying degrees this is related to Israel's failure to accept Jesus, or more particularly, the failure of the religious elite, and;

• The need for those who accept the invitation to respond appropriately (obedience / discipleship, etc.).

So, "accept God's gracious invitation, least while others enter into glory you be lost. But remember that membership in the visible church does not guarantee salvation. Complete renewal (including both justification and sanctification), the putting on of Christ, is what is necessary", ie., "the mention of the robe with which the sinner must be clothed makes it clear that not only guilt must be forgiven but also the old way of life must be laid aside and the new life to the glory of God must take its place", Hendriksen. This approach is evident with the majority of commentators - note the following:

Hill: "Entry in the kingdom may be gratuitous, but the kingdom is not characterized by libertarianism."

France: The parable focuses on Israel's rejection of the gospel and therefore, the free offer of salvation to the lost, yet "though entry to God's salvation is free to all, it is not therefore without standards, or to be taken lightly."

Carson: Illustrating "the contempt with which Israel as a whole treats God's grace." Also making the point that "it does not follow that all who respond positively actually remain for the banquet."

Hagner: "the pericope contains not only the good news of an open, rather than a restricted invitation, but also the sobering reminder of the seriousness of discipleship for those who respond."

Morris: "Those who hear God's call and know his grace must not think that a call is the same as a response."

Davies and Allison: Interestingly, they move back into the dark ages and argue for an allegorical interpretation. "The royal wedding feast is the eschatological banquet (also held by most modern commentators), the dual sending of the servants is .... the sending of God's messengers. The murder of the servants represents the murder of the prophets and Jesus .. the third sending of the servants is the mission of the church." The second part of the parable "allegorically describes the last judgement, which extends to those within the church", those without the "wedding garment of the resurrection body or its garment of glory."


Second, the saying "Many are invited by few are chosen", v14. Some manuscripts add this saying to 20:16. In its original setting it is unlikely that Jesus would add an explanatory saying to a kingdom parable. Such parables announce the good / bad news of the coming kingdom prompting the only possibly response from those with eyes to see, namely, repentance and faith. So, it is likely that Matthew has added this saying of Jesus for a didactic purpose, so focusing the parable on the righteous of Israel (and as such on all who see themselves as God's righteous ones on the ground of law rather than grace). The saying is likely to derive from Jesus, but the sentiment can also be found in Jewish apocalyptic, eg., "many have been created, but few shall be saved", 2 Esdras 8:3. It is certainly not "inappropriately attached to this parable", Beare. Matthew's placement of the saying serves to apply the implicit warning found in the parable to law-bound religious Israel. It is unlikely that it promotes the idea of predestination, as if a person may respond to the divine call, but if they are not one of the chosen ones then salvation is beyond them. Nor is it likely that Matthew is promoting a form of semipelagianism; "human beings are free to choose and ... they have the possibility of proving their calling by God through their works and of working on behalf of their election", Luz. The saying does not tell us how to get a seat at the table, it just reminds us that seat-allocations cannot be presumed - a presumption foolishly made by old Israel. The seats are allocated to the repentant rather than the "righteous" (self-righteous), children of Abraham, church attenders, the ordained, .......


iii] Synoptics:

Matthew's parable of the wedding feast is similar to one in Luke, 14:15-24. Q is usually identified as the common source, but the significant differences between Matthew and Luke are more easily explained by a separate oral source. Verses 11-13 are usually regarded as a Matthean addition, but this is debatable. Just as we find these verses somewhat awkward, first century preachers would similarly be inclined to devote their sermon to the first ten verses. This would explain the existence of the shorter version in the oral tradition of the church. Some scholars argue that v11-13 evidence a separate kingdom parable stitched to v2-10, but this seems unlikely. The final verse, v14, is obviously a stitched independent saying of Jesus used by Matthew to contextualize the parable.


vi] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 22:1

The parable of the wedding feast, v1-10. i] Setting, 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.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus] spoke" - [and] having answered. Redundant attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "spoke"; "Jesus answered .... and spoke in parables." Matthew often has Jesus "answering", although Jesus hasn't actually been asked a question, so "Jesus again addressed them in parables", Moffatt.

autoiV "to them" - [jesus spoke] to them. Dative of indirect object. Specifically "the chief priests and the Pharisees", but possibly the crowd, Israel.

palin adv. "again" - Modal adverb expressing addition. Probably tying this parable to the previous two addressed to the Jewish leaders, indicating that they also were kingdom parables / gospel riddles / mysteries, so "continued to speak in parables"; "once again", CEV.

en + dat. "in [parables]" - Instrumental, expressing means; "with / by parables". Note the plural. Typically Jesus uses riddles when addressing those who have rejected the gospel, ie., God speaks in mysteries to those who will not listen to a clear word from him. So, "spoke to them again in kingdom parables."


ii] A kingdom parable in two scenes, v2-13: a) The invitation, v2-10: 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. 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 invited guests.

twn ouranwn (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of heaven" - For the genitive see 3:2. Matthew's favored title for "the kingdom of God", with "heaven" possibly used out of deference to the divine. The "kingdom" is the dynamic reign of God in and through Christ.

wJmoiwqh (oJmoiow) aor. pas. "is like" - is like. Expressing a comparison; "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to the situation where a ....."

basilei (euV ewV) dat. "a king" - [a man] a king. Dative complement of "man", the dative of direct object of the verb "to make like."

o{stiV pro. "who" - Nominative subject of the verb "to make, do." The use of an indefinite relative pronoun to express the idea of "a certain king", rather than a particular king.

gamouV (oV) "[prepared] a wedding banquet" - [made] a marriage. Accusative direct object of the verb "to make, do." In the singular "a marriage", in the plural, as here, "a wedding feast." Most commentators identify this banquet with the last-days gathering before the Ancient of Days, although the immediacy of this event should not be lost, ie., a stress on now rather than not yet.

tw/ uiJw/ (oV) dat. "for [his] son" - for [the son of him]. Dative of interest, advantage.


touV keklhmenouV (kalew) perf. pas. part. "to those who had been invited" - [and he sent out the slaves of him to call] the ones having been invited [to the wedding feast]. The participle serves as a substantive. Indicating a previous invitation, as was the custom. The invitation went out some time before and now those who have been invited are summoned to attend.

kalesai (kalew) aor. inf. "to tell them to come" - to call. The infinitive is adverbial, expressing purpose, "in order to call."

kai "but" - and. Connective, often translated here to express an adversative sense, as NIV.

elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "[they refused] to come" - [they did not want] to come. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "they did not want", or as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they did not want, namely, to come to the wedding feast. Expressing a determination of the will not to attend, "the guests refused", CEV.


allouV pro. "more [servants]" - [again he sent out] other [servants/slaves]. Probably in the sense of sending the servants out again rather than a different lot of servants, "a second time he sent out some servants."

legwn (legw) pres. part. "and said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle; "he sent ..... and said."

toiV keklhmenoiV (kalew) dat. perf. pas. part. "those who have been invited" - [tell] the ones having been invited. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object.

to ariston (on) "dinner" - [behold] the dinner [of me i have prepared]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to prepare." Originally breakfast, but latter referring to a main meal, "a feast", "my banquet is now ready", Weymouth.

ta sitista adj. "fattened cattle" - [the bulls of me and] fattened cattle. The adjective serves as a substantive, subject of a verbless clause. It could be fattened anything, even the oxen; "fatlings", Williams, "fattened beasts", Berkeley.

tequmena (quw) perf. pas. part. "have been butchered" - having been sacrificed = killed = butchered [and everything is ready, come to the wedding feast]. If read as a participle, it would be classified as adjectival, predicative; "my oxen and my fattened cattle have been slaughtered", Cassirer.


de "but" - but/and. Usually treated here as an adversative, as NIV, but primarily indicating a step in the narrative.

amelhsanteV (amelew) aor. part. "they paid no attention" - [they] having paid no attention [left]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "left / went off"; "they paid no attention and went off." Expressing negligence, indifference, having no care for. "They completely disregarded the invitation", Barclay.

men .... de "one ...., another ...." - the one [to his own field] the other [to the business of him]. An adversative comparative construction, "on the one hand ..... but on the other ...." Here introduced by the pronoun o}V giving the sense "one to his farm, another to his business", as NIV.

eiV + acc. and epi + acc. "[one] to [his field, another] to" - Both spacial here; of movement toward.

thn emporian (a) "[his] business" - Any business, but the word expresses movement, indicating that travel was involved in the business. "Store", TEV.


oiJ ... loipoi adj. "the rest" - the ones remaining. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to insult, mistreat."

krathsanteV (kratew) aor. part. "seized" - having taken hold of [the slaves of him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "insulted"; "the others seized the servants and wantonly mistreated them", Barclay.

uJbrisan (uJbrizw) aor. "mistreated" - seriously insulted [and killed them]. To treat something as absolutely worthless, "treated them disgracefully", Phillips. It is a detail like this that lends the parable to spiritualizing.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, but it may be treated as slightly adversative; "but" = "in response, [the king was enraged]." Some early texts fill out the verse with "when the king heard this he was enraged."

wrgisqh (orizw) aor. pas. "was enraged" - was angry. Probably an inceptive aorist where the beginning of the action is emphasized, "now the king became angry."

pemyaV (pempw) aor. pas. "he sent" - having sent. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "destroyed"; "sent his troops and wiped out those murderers", Barclay.

ta strateumata (a atoV) "his army" - the troops [of him]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to send." "Sent his troops", Barclay, Phillips....

autwn gen. pro. "[burned] their [city]" - [he destroyed those murderers and the city] of them [he burned]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic / local, "the city in which they lived." Some like to argue that this is an image of the destruction of Jerusalem (which destruction?). When we go down the allegory trail anything is possible!


The intended guests, having turned down the king's invitation, are now bypassed. The king sends out his servant to find other guests, "anyone you find." The wedding hall for the royal marriage is then filled with guests, v8-10.

tote adv. "then [he said]" - then [he says to the slaves of him]. A temporal adverb serving to introduce a temporal clause, while also indicating a step in the narrative.

men ..... de "..... but ...." - on the one hand [the wedding feast is ready] but on the other hand [the ones having been invited are not worthy]. An adversative comparative construction, as v5.

eJtoimoV estin "is ready" - Present tense, "is now."

oiJ ... keklhmenoi (kalew) perf. pas. part. "those I invited" - the ones having been invited. The participle serves as a substantive.

axioi "[did not] deserve [to come]" - worthy, fitting, proper. Predicate adjective. "Did not deserve the honor", REB.


oun "-" - therefore. Here inferential, drawing a logical conclusion; "Well then, go forth into the main thoroughfares", Cassirer.

epi + acc. "to" - [go] to, up to. Spacial.

twn oJdwn (oV) gen. "the street corners" - [the exit, crossing, intersection] of the way, road. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "intersection", either attributive, "the road intersection", or idiomatic / local, "the road at the intersection in town." Possibly where the roads converge in the village square and thus, where the poor would normally gather waiting for casual work, although Luz argues that the noun diexodouV is not "intersection / crossroads", but the points were a road ends or begins. He suggests out of the city, "go as far as the boarders of the kingdom."

oJsouV ean + subj. "anyone [you find]" - whoever [you find]. Introducing an indefinite relative clause, direct object of the verb "to call"; "tell everyone you meet to come to the banquet", CEV.


exelqonteV (exercomai) aor. part. "so [the servants] went out" - [those servants] having gone out [to the roadways]. The participle is adverbial, best classified as a consecutive clause expressing result, "so as a result ..."

ponhrouV te kai agaqouV "both good and bad" - [they gathered together everyone whom they found] both wicked and good. Standing in apposition to "everyone". Probably just an example of stylistic language expressing a universal request, rather than a theological statement, for say, Gentiles and Jews, unclean and clean, etc. "Tell everyone you meet to come to the banquet", CEV.

oJ gamoV "the wedding hall" - [and] the wedding. Nominative subject of the verb "to fill." Obviously something like "wedding hall / wedding banquet / wedding chamber" is intended.

eplhsqh (pimplhmi) aor. pas. "was filled" - "The wedding hall was crammed with people", Cassirer.

anakeimenwn (anakeimai) gen. pres. part. "with guests" - of the ones reclining (sitting) at table = guests. The participle serves as a substantive, so "diners / guests." The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / content, limiting "wedding [hall]", "was filled full of guests";


b) The allocation of seats, v11-13. Yet, there is a guest without the appropriate robes, and for this he finds himself cast out into outer darkness.

As already noted, the spiritualizing possibilities for this parable are endless, and at this point the sky is the limit. Origin and his ilk, tended to take the view that it's all about garments that have been cleaned for the wedding (washed with the blood of Christ?). Jeremias agrees. Other possibilities include, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, putting on right behavior, godly virtues, baptismal raiment (the rite of the church), angelic / eschatological garments, etc. Commentators tend to fall into either of two, we supply the garment, eg., good works, faithfulness ...., or God supplies the garment, eg., forgiveness, the righteousness of Christ.... As a climactic / kingdom parable the message is a simple one: the kingdom is come, judgment begun. The messiah's banquet is now underway (the guests having been summoned to attend) and the sorting has begun. When the King looks you over, how will you fare? You could find yourself shipped off to "the place of darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." In its present context, the question applies to old Israel, but theologically applies just as well to the new Israel / the Christian church / believers. Only the repentant will survive the day of sorting.

eiselqwn (eisercomai) aor. part. "when [the king] came in" - [and the king] having entered. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

qeasasqai (qeaomai) aor. inf. "to see" - The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to see."

touV anakeimenouV (anakeimai) pres. part. "the guests" - the ones reclining at table. The participle serves as a substantive.

ouk endedumenon (enduw) perf. mid. part. "not wearing" - [he saw there a man] not having been clothed. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "man"; "a man who was not wearing ..... The negation is unusual since mh is normally used with a participle. Possibly serving to emphasize the "not"; see BDF 430.1.

gamou (oV) gen. "wedding [clothes]" - of wedding [garments]. The genitive if adjectival, attributive, limiting "clothes, garments", as NIV.


autw/ dat. pro. "[he asked]" - [he says] to him. Dative of indirect object.

eJtaire (oV) voc. "friend" - friend, companion. A kindly address to a person.

pwV "how" - Interrogative; introducing a direct question.

w|de adv. "here" - [did you enter] here. Local adverb of place.

mh ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "without" - not having. The participle is adverbial, possibly modal, expressing manner, as NIV.

gamou (oV) gen. "wedding [cloths]" - [garments] of marriage. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "garments".

oJ ... efimwqh (fimow) aor. pas. "the man was speechless" - [but/and] he was muzzled. "There was nothing he could say", TH.


tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb introducing a temporal clause indicating a step in the narrative.

toiV diakonoiV (oV) dat. "[told] the servants" - [the king said] to the servants. Dative of indirect object.

dhsanteV (dew) aor. part. "bind" - having tied, bound [him feet and hands]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "throw" and therefore functioning as an imperative, as NIV. The person is bound so he can't get back into the feast. He represents all those invited, but rejected.

to skotoV to exwteron "into the darkness" - [throw him into] the outer darkness. The place of the rejected, "the darkness outside", Phillips.

twn odontwn (douV odontoV) "[gnashing] of teeth" - [there will be weeping and] chattering, grinding] of teeth. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "gnashing", usually treated as verbal, objective. Describing anger, "rage". The phrase "where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" is a descriptive for the judgment of the wicked and is repeated in Matthew a number of times, 13:42, 50, 24:51, cf. Lk.13:28. For those who stand approved in the day of judgment, there will be no more mourning or weeping, but for the sinner, there will be nothing but wailing and rage. Note the Old Testament precedence for this image, Job 16:9, Ps.34:16, 36:12, 111:10, Lam.2:16.


iii] A concluding saying of Jesus, v14. See Interpretation above.

gar "for" - Possibly causal, although more likely explanatory, or even better emphatic, "And so it is." Possibly just a stitching device and so left untranslated; "Many have been invited .....", Cassirer.

polloi .... oligoi "many .... few" - many [are called, invited, but/and] few [are chosen]. Possibly a comparison between the totality of those invited with the small number of the chosen, cf. Jeremias. Given that Aramaic lacks a comparative adjectival form, comparisons are expressed by words such as large and small and therefore the intended sense may be "that not all the called ones will be finally chosen", Morris. So, better "everyone is invited, but not everyone gets a seat."

eklektoi adj. pl. "chosen" - Predicate adjective. This term is used for "God's true people, threatened but protected through the time of trial, 24:22, 24, and in 24:31 for those summoned from all over the world to make up the new people of God", France. Yet, in the end, Christ is the chose son of God, and we share with him in this status when we respond to the invitation to share in God's free grace in Christ. So, everyone is invited, but not everyone gets to be one of God's new Israel.


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]