Digging Deeper into Scripture: Matthew 22:1–14

Jesus teaches the parable of the wedding feast as the third in a series regarding the rejection of the message of salvation by many Jews, the identity of Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God, and outreach to the Gentiles. It is noteworthy that He teaches these three parables after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where He will eventually endure torture and suffer death on the cross. This circumstance raises the tension to a fever pitch as the chief priests and elders seek to arrest Jesus and bring an end to His ministry.

Scripture Interprets Scripture

Isaiah 25:6–9 augments Jesus’ teaching as our Lord and conveys the parable of a king who prepares a wedding feast for his son. The king prepares a sumptuous feast of oxen and fat calves (Matthew 22:4). Through the prophet, God explains how He will serve up a “feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (Isaiah 25:6). Both passages convey God’s provision of rich salvation through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, the groom of the wedding. Reflect upon Jesus and the groom in the parable as Paul relates a husband’s love to that of Christ, who gave Himself for the life of the Church, His bride, in Ephesians 5:22–33.

Where the parable and lesson from Isaiah present images of plentiful richness, Paul’s words help us to understand the true nature of God’s wedding feast. The apostle writes, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:12). Instead of food for the body, the wedding feast to which God invites us is forgiveness and eternal life. It is these blessings that sustain Paul in peace, even through want and trials.

Digging Out the Gems

In Matthew 22:3, Jesus speaks of “those who were invited” in reference to the people of Israel, including the chief priests and elders present with Jesus. The English is translated from the Greek κεκλημενους. This Greek verb is in the perfect tense, a completed action of the past. Jesus stresses that He presented the Gospel to the Israelites all the way back in Genesis, specifically to Abraham, their father. The chief priests and elders should have recognized Jesus as the Savior and supported—rather than opposed—the Messiah.

Later in the parable, the king approaches a man not wearing a wedding garment. Shortly, the king orders the servants to bind the man and cast him into the outer darkness. Interestingly, the king calls this condemned man εταιρε, or “friend.” Why would the king call such a man his friend? Judas’s actions in the Garden of Gethsemane clarify. Once Judas has identified Jesus to the soldiers with a kiss, our Lord says to him, “Friend, do what you came to do” (Matthew 26:50). There are two lessons here. First, while Jesus is grieved by Judas’s actions, His love and desire for salvation continue for the disciple. Second, in the same way, Jesus exhorts the chief priests and elders, all the while continuing to extend grace.

Law and Gospel

In the context of Jesus’ ministry in Palestine two thousand years ago, the overarching application of the Law is against the Jewish leaders who had (and did) reject Him. Jesus reached out to the people of Israel through the patriarchs, judges, and prophets. His chosen people ignored His call and turned the Gospel into salvation via obedience to the Law of Moses (in addition to many laws they created on their own). Sadly, many present-day Jews reject Jesus as well.

Yet amid Jesus’ rejection, as He teaches the parable of the wedding feast, we see rich Gospel. Although Jesus’ parables are exhortation, they are also a final call to those who would eventually seek His death. More poignantly, Christ encounters His enemies in the very place where He will suffer and die for them. Rather than run from them toward safety, He walks lovingly into the lion’s den. This Savior, who the people of Israel rejected throughout their history, now fulfills His promise to redeem.

The world continues to reject Jesus today. Although many respect and emulate Jesus’ teaching, they spurn Him as God’s Son, our divine Savior. Regrettably, although Jesus died for their sins and desperately wants them in heaven, without salvation through faith in Christ, unbelievers will seek to enter the wedding feast without the Lamb’s garment of righteousness and be cast into the outer darkness.

For our world today, in addition to Jesus’ sweet act of redemptive mercy on the cross, His Holy Spirit continues to work. He presents the Gospel to unbelievers so that they would be saved. For Christians, He convicts, forgives, and nurtures, so that we would spend eternity enjoying the King’s sumptuous feast.

Explore the richness of the Gospel through Jesus’ parables. 

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Phil Rigdon

The Rev. Dr. Philip Rigdon and his wife, Jamelyn, live in Kendallville, Indiana, with their two rabbits, Frankie and Buttons. He serves as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church and School in Kendallville. He enjoys writing, running, and playing guitar.

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