Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Choice...The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Oh my goodness, these kingdom parables wear me out! That’s part of the point though; Jesus wanted us to take time to consider them – meditate on them – before applying them in our lives. When it comes to parables, a quick, flippant interpretation usually misses the intricacy and depth of Jesus’ intended message.

Matthew 13 records seven parables regarding the kingdom of heaven; I wrote about each one in my newest book, “Everything We Need: God's Path to Know Him Better.” However, space in the book didn’t permit me to include five more kingdom parables that Matthew scattered throughout the remaining chapters of his gospel. So, I’m currently working through them in a more condensed format here on the Grow Barefoot blog. We’ve already covered “Forgiveness…The Unmerciful Servant” and “Grace…The Workers in the Vineyard.” Now we’re ready for the parable of the wedding banquet found in Matthew 22:1-14.

The Wedding Banquet

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son” (Matthew 22:2).

If you’ve been following along in this series, you probably already know that parables are physical stories used by Jesus to illustrate spiritual truths. As such, each physical element within the story represents a certain aspect of the spiritual lesson. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we discern the correlations and then assess the overall lesson of the story in order to understand the parables.

Almost all of the kingdom parables begin with a man performing an action – each time the referenced man represents God the Father. In this parable, Jesus calls Him the King; seems appropriate. The King prepared a wedding banquet for his son so it’s pretty easy to figure out that the son represents Jesus, the only Son of God.

The King sent His servants to announce to the invitees that the banquet was ready. Guzik quotes William Barclay as he explains that the ancient custom was to invite guests to a significant event, such as a wedding, but to not include the date or time of the event. Then, when all of the preparations were complete, the host would announce that the time for the event had come.

Who are the servants and guests?

The servants appear in many of Jesus’ parables; they refer to the Old Testament prophets. We probably see this symbolism most easily in the parable just previous to this one, the parable of the tenants in Matthew 21:33-46. The prophets served God by proclaiming His truth to the people – whether they wanted to hear it or not.

The invitees are the Jewish people. The Old Testament is full of stories of God calling to His people through the prophets. Repeatedly, they rejected Him. The previous parable of the tenants – which refers to God as a landowner – reveals that God even sent His Son to the people but they killed Him. Here in this parable, though, the Son is alive and celebrating His marriage to His bride. Since the invitees ignored both of the King’s calls, the King became enraged, had the people destroyed, and burned their city. Similar to some of the kingdom parables in Matthew 13, this parable includes some future prophecy hidden in its details. This is the first such detail as the Roman leader Titus – the army used by God to bring about His plan – burned the city of Jerusalem, including the Holy Temple.

After the burning of the city – so sometime after 70 AD – God sent out His servants once again. Or, should I say, will send out His servants once again.

Who are the new guests?

Let me begin by saying who they’re not; the new guests aren’t the church. Some people think the church replaced the Jewish believers because they rejected Jesus. I don’t agree with this. God still has the same plan for the Jews that He’s had since the beginning. He also has always had a plan for the church, even during the days of the Old Testament before the church came to be. God doesn’t change His covenants.

This parable doesn’t mention an important participant in this marriage banquet…the bride. What’s a wedding without a bride? Maybe it omits her because Scripture hasn’t really revealed her yet; maybe it leaves her out because this time it’s not all about her. But I’m sure she was there! Or, will be there. Future tense. The church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-33); that’s a second reason the new guests can’t be the church.

Revelation 19:7-9 confirms that a group is invited to the wedding supper of Christ other than His bride. “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’’” Notice all three mentions; the Lamb (Jesus), the bride (church), and the invitees (believers from outside the church era).

So who are these last minute invitees? We’ve already determined the invitees are the Jewish people from outside the time of the church; I don’t see any reason to change that here. However, this must be a future group of Jewish people since the King invites them after the burning of the city. Also, according to Kelley, the King has already chosen the bride. As it turns out, Daniel prophesied a still future specific seven-year period for the Jewish people. Sometimes referred to as Daniel’s 70th week, it will serve to bring righteousness to the people, fulfill all prophecy, and some other key criteria. During the seven years, many Jewish people will recognize Jesus was their prophesied Messiah. Those future believers are our last minute guests.

What about the man with the wrong clothes?

New clothing symbolizes salvation throughout the pages of Scripture. We are helpless to clothe ourselves on our own, leaving us painfully aware of our nakedness. (Remember Adam and Eve?) Yet God provides a covering of righteousness for us, “he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

Salvation came for the people of the Old Testament because of faith in God and His promised redemptive work through His Son. The same will hold true during this future seven-year period. The man in the parable was invited but he still didn’t put his faith in God. Sadly, hell awaits him.

The Overall Point

“For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The invitation goes out to all; only a few come. It’s all a matter of choice.

Click here for a free, downloadable study on more parables of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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