The Parables of Jesus
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

The Parable of the Royal Marriage Feast

Matthew 22:1-14:

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner:  My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off — one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.  The king was enraged.  He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to this servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  Go the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’  The man was speechless.
“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Jesus was in the temple preaching and teaching in parables and the parable we just read is one of them.  If you turn to Matthew 21:45-46 you will discover who Jesus meant where it says in Matthew 22:1:

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying....

In verse 45 and 46 of the previous chapter I read:

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.  They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

It is to them Jesus spoke this parable of the wedding feast.

As we look at the parable, it is not only an important parable but it covers a vast span of time.  It begins with the Jews and it takes us right up to the end of time.  It includes all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles.  We’re going to call this parable “The Royal Marriage Feast” because that’s what it is.  If you look at your Bibles you will discover that very often, especially in the book of Revelation, the Second Coming of Christ and the establishing of His kingdom is often called or referred to as the great wedding feast.

I want to give you one example.  Turn to Revelation 19.  Keep your finger in Matthew 22 because that is what we are going to cover.  We are going to cover verses 1-14, the parable of the wedding garment but in Revelation 19:6-9 you will notice how the second coming of Christ and that great gathering of the saints is referred to as the great wedding feast of the Lamb.  Revelation 19:6-9:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  “Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  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!’”  And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

It is this that Jesus is describing in Matthew 22.  Now according to this parable, the chief concern that Christ had is brought out in terms of our human response to the wedding invitation.  As we analyze this parable, we can divide it into three parts or three stages.  The first part is verses 2-7, where Christ is dealing specifically with those chief priests, the Pharisees, and the people who were under them.

In verse 2, He says:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”

We know the son is Jesus Christ.

He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come....

Remember, the invitation had already gone long before, but it was the custom in the Eastern world and still is, especially when you have a royal wedding, that the host — the one who has the wedding feast or prepares the wedding feast — sends out his servants to remind the people that have already been invited, to come to the wedding feast.

In verse 3, we are told that he sent forth his servants to call those that were already bidden but the sad fact is that they would not come.  But the king was patient; he was longsuffering; there was still a little bit of time and so we read in verse 4:

Then he sent some more servants and said, “Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner:  My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding banquet.”

This first section deals with the Jews.  For 1,500 years God had promised the Jews that the Messiah would come and He would establish His kingdom.  In fact, that was the message Jesus preached when He came, “The kingdom of God is at hand.”  But I read in verse 5:

But they paid no attention and went off — one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.

They made light of the Messiah, they made light of the gospel, and went their own ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.  And the remnant (that is, the last generation of the Jews before the Messiah came) took his servants and treated them spitefully, and even killed them.

Then we have in verse 7 the sad story:

The king was enraged.  He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

Now, of course, we are living 2,000 years later and we know this is exactly what happened to the Jews as a nation.  Remember, it is not God who rejected them but they who rejected the Messiah.  As you know, in 70 A.D., Titus’ army destroyed Jerusalem and the people were scattered.

But the wedding was not canceled because of this, for, as we go to the second section, verses 8-10, we are told that the king said to his servants,

“The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.”

They were not worthy because of the very fact that they deliberately, persistently, and willfully said, “We don’t want your gift.  We don’t want your wedding invitation.  We don’t want to come to the feast.”  It is they themselves who made themselves unworthy by their rejection.

Now the gospel goes (verse 9) to the Gentile world:

“Go the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”

Now I want you to look at verse 10:

So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find [notice the next statement], both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Here is the king inviting every person that his servants can find on the streets, both bad and good.  Of course, the wedding hall is filled with guests, both bad and good.

Now the king doesn’t want to distinguish the two, so he prepares wedding garments for all of them.  In England, the schools — elementary and academy [high school] — have what they call school uniforms.  I know people in this country frown on it but it has some good points.  One good point is that you cannot tell the difference between the children from the rich homes and the children from the poor homes.  They all have the same uniform supplied by the school because the parents have to pay out of their school fees.  But, of course, in the government schools, it is supplied just like this wedding garment was supplied.

When we stand before God there is no distinction of where you come from.  The only thing that qualifies us is the wedding garment.  The other day I was listening to a couple of girls.  They didn’t know I was hearing them and I am not sure where they were from but apparently they were discussing a group of girls who belonged to their own self-made club.  Apparently, these girls come from the uppercrust families because they wear the latest fashions.  They are “with it” and the other girls can’t join them and these two girls were complaining about this class distinction.  Well, if they had school uniforms they would not have the problem.  When you come to the wedding feast, the only garment that is acceptable before the king is what he has supplied.

As we go on in this story we come to the third part, because this parable involves three kinds of people, three groups of people, three categories.  The first group are those who willfully, deliberately, persistently say, “We don’t want to come to the wedding feast.”  I suppose this doesn’t apply to any of us here because the fact that we are here is evidence that we have accepted the invitation.

But the other two groups had actually accepted the invitation.  They both joined the church; they both accepted the gift of the invitation to come to the wedding feast.  But there is a difference, because I read in verse 11:

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.

He accepted the invitation, but he came to the wedding feast on his own terms.

Verse 12:

“Friend,” he [the king] asked, “how did you get in here without wedding clothes?”  The man was speechless.

Why was he speechless?  Because he could not say to the king, “I came but the wedding garments were all taken up and I had none.”  He could not say that because the king had prepared wedding garments for every single guest, even the ones who refused to come.  So there was no reason for saying why he could not wear it.  The only reason was his own deliberate refusal to wear the wedding garment.

Now the question is, What is this wedding garment?  Both the Old and the New Testament make it very clear that the wedding garment is the righteousness of God fulfilled and prepared for us in Jesus Christ.  In the book Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 311, Ellen G. White describes this wedding garment:  “This robe, woven in the loom of heaven, has in it not one thread of human devising.”  It’s all of God.

Let me give you some texts, one from the Old Testament because it’s very likely Jesus had this verse in mind when He told this parable.  That is Isaiah 61:10.  Listen to what the prophet Isaiah says:

I delight greatly in the Lord [there you have the “In Christ” motif already in the Old Testament]; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

God has clothed us with the righteousness of His Son.

Turning to the book of Revelation, we have several references.  I can give you just two or three.  In Revelation 3:5 I read these words:

He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white....

Those who come must come and accept God’s gift entirely.  In Revelation 7:9 I read that a great multitude stands before the throne of God and before the Lamb.  What are they clothed with?  They are clothed with white robes:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches intheir hands.

In Revelation 19:8, they are clothed with the righteousness of Christ which has become theirs because they are wearing it:

“Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her [the bride of the Lamb] to wear.”  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

I am concerned with those who have accepted the invitation but who are not wearing the wedding garment.

Now comes the question, a question which is normally raised up, “Is this wedding garment, which we know is the righteousness of Christ, His imputed righteousness or is it His imparted righteousness?”  I would like to suggest that the moment you ask that question, you have told me that you have not understood the truth of Christ our righteousness, because you cannot separate the two; they are linked together.  You cannot divide Christ in half.  It is true they are distinct, it is true there are differences, but they are inseparable.  God doesn’t give some imputed righteousness and some imparted.  They come together in one parcel, Jesus Christ.

Let me show the distinction.  The righteousness that qualifies us for heaven is clear:  it is the imputed righteousness of Christ because in that righteousness we stand perfect.  We stand perfect in nature because we have been redeemed from that.  We stand perfect in character and we stand perfect judicially; in other words, in terms of justice we stand perfect.  As Colossians 2:10 says, we are complete in Him:

...And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

But the evidence that we are actually wearing the garment is the imparted righteousness of Christ.  Yes, it is ongoing, it is progressive, but in the judgment ... what does verse 11 refer to?  When the king comes and examines his guests, to what does that refer?

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.

It is accepted by most scholars that this refers to the judgment, to the scrutinizing of the lives of the saints.  We call it the investigative judgment.  In the investigative judgment, God is going to scrutinize and it is very important for us to realize that what will qualify us for heaven in the investigative judgment is the wedding robe.  Our works, which is, of course, the righteousness of Christ reproduced in us, is evidence that we have put on the imputed righteousness of Christ.  In other words, there has to be a visible, tangible evidence that we have put on the robes.  It is true that the imparted righteousness of Christ is not what qualifies us for heaven but it is evidence that we are wearing the righteousness of Christ imputed.

In the investigative judgment, the big question that will come is not whether you have been good or bad but are you in your Christian life reflecting what you have received?  In other words, are you wearing the wedding garment or is it simply an idea that you heard about but you are not wearing it?

Now let’s go back to a statement of which I reminded you.  When the servants go out in verse 8 onwards and invite the people, there are two groups of people who accept the invitation.  They are described in verse 10 as bad and good.  Is Christ contradicting Himself?  Turn to Matthew 19:16-17:

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied.  “There is only One who is good....”

If there is none good, how can Jesus in Matthew 22 say that both good and bad were invited?

If you read Romans 3:10, Paul, quoting from the Old Testament, makes it very clear there is none righteous, there is none good:

As it is written:  “There is no one righteous, not even one....”

So who are these good people?  Well, they are people who have confidence in their own righteousness.  The wedding robe that they want to wear is not the righteousness of Christ but their own self-righteousness and this is what the problem is.  They think they are good enough for heaven.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’”

The righteousness that qualifies us for heaven is the righteousness of Christ.  Whether it is imputed or imparted that we are talking about it is always Christ’s righteousness; it is not mine.  When I accept the invitation to the wedding feast, the only qualification that will qualify for that wedding feast is, “Am I wearing the righteousness of Christ?”

If you are among the bad group, there is no problem because the bad people are those who are poor in spirit.  They recognize that they are sinners.  They accept the wedding garment with open arms and say, “God, thank You, not only for the invitation but for covering our filthy rags by taking away our filthy rags and giving us Your wonderful white raiment.”  The trouble is for those of us who have had some success in our Christian walk.  We tend to depend on that for our qualification.

I want to turn to Philippians 3 and show you that it is very costly.  When you accept the wedding invitation that is not bad; that is not hard.  But when God says to you, “I want to take away your filthy rags and give you the garment of My Son,” that becomes hard if you have had any success in your own personal righteousness.  So in Philippians we have the story of a man who was very successful in his religious life.  His name was Saul and he describes himself before his conversion to the Philippians in Philippians 3:4-6:

...If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

He tells them, number one, “I was circumcised the eighth day.”  Number two, “I am a pedigree Jew.  I don’t have mixed blood in me.  I am a Jew of the Jews, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and — not only that — I am a Pharisee.  I have such zeal for the law that I belong to those people called the Pharisees.”  That is what they were famous for.  Then, concerning zeal for God and his mission, “I persecuted the Christian church” and he thought he was doing God a favor.  Then, “Touching the righteousness which is in the law, I am blameless.”  He had a garment that he felt was fit for the wedding feast, his own garment that he had produced.

But one day he was invited to the wedding feast and he was offered the garment of Jesus Christ.  I read in verse 7:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Have you got the formula there?  “Not I, but Christ.”  Whether it is imputed or imparted, it has to be Christ who must be seen in us.  “I counted it all loss for Christ.”  Verses 8-9:

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish [literally, “dung”], that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

He was willing to give up his beautiful suit that he had woven himself and he was willing to “count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”

Are you wearing that garment?  That’s the question. Are you wearing that garment or are you depending on some things that you have successfully done for your ticket towards heaven?  We are living at the end of this parable.  We are living in those days when the king is inspecting the guests.  He is scrutinizing each one of us and He’s looking only for one thing — not how good you are but how much of His Son He sees in you.  Christ in us, says Paul, is the hope of glory.

Jesus came because our garment is filthy rags.  Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our righteousness is filthy rags:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

In Zechariah 3:3-4 we read about Joshua, the high priest, standing before God representing the people and he was clothed in filthy rags:

Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.  The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.”

The Lord says:  “Remove those filthy rags and give him new clothes, clean clothes, which is the righteousness of Christ.”

When we accept that righteousness, it is not to cover up our filthy rags because Jesus doesn’t use His robe to cover our filthy rags.  He takes away those filthy rags and replaces it with His righteousness.  That’s why it is “Not I, but Christ.  I am crucified with Christ but I am still living.  It is not I, but Christ must live in me.”  And the greatest evidence that we can give to the world that we are wearing the wedding garment is that Christ will reflect through us.  Daily we must say, “Not I, but Christ,” because, when we stand before the king, if we do not have the wedding garment, look at what happens in Matthew 22:13:

Then the king told the attendants, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

These are people who accepted the invitation but who were not willing to go all the way and accept the garment, too.

Now I want to close with verse 14 because that verse is confusing to many:

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

If you read the statement at face value, it gives the impression that God calls a whole lot of people and then He says, “Well, I think I will choose you and I will choose you.”  The Bible, the New Testament especially, does not teach that God has chosen some to be saved and some to be lost.  That’s Calvinism; that’s not scripture.

How many people did God choose to be saved?  He loved the whole world.  The three groups that are mentioned in this parable were all chosen by God for the wedding feast.  Then what does it mean, “Many are invited, but few are chosen”?  Well, the word “chosen” is in the passive tense, so it is the people who have been called who do the choosing.  It is not God who does the choosing; it is the people who do the choosing.  God has sent the invitation to how many?  To all — Jews and Gentiles.  What was the commission that Jesus gave to the disciples?  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”  [See Matthew 28:19-20.]

What is the commission that God has given us?  What did Jesus prophesy in Matthew 24:14?

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

What does the Three Angels’ Message say?  Revelation 14:6:

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language, and people.

The angel that has the gospel in his hand is to preach it to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.  God has called all people to be saved but whether you will be in the group that will enjoy the wedding feast is whether you have chosen to accept the invitation on His condition.  His condition is that when you come to the wedding feast you are to wear the gown that He has given you.

In some weddings you have to bring your invitation card as proof that you have been invited.  I don’t know if they do it here but in parts of Europe you have to bring your invitation card.  When you come to the wedding feast that which God is looking for is His Son Jesus Christ.  Are you wearing Jesus Christ?  Have you put on Jesus Christ?  Galatians 3:27 says we who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ:

...For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Have you put on Christ?  I don’t mean put on to cover your sins because Christ was never given to cover our sins; He was given to take away sin and replace it with His righteousness.

It is my prayer that when you accept the invitation you will come, not to God with your righteousness, but with His.  You will say to God, “I come; thank you for the invitation to the wedding feast but I have also chosen to wear the garment that You have prepared for me through Your Son Jesus Christ.”  It is my prayer that each one of us will be found wearing that garment when our lives are scrutinized.  And God will say to us, “Come, inherit My kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  I want to see each one of you there.

That wedding feast is very special.  There are many wedding feasts that you have been to but most wedding feasts have punch and cake.  This one will have more than that.  It will be a permanent feast and it will be a feast that will have room for every one of us.  But if we are found without that wedding garment, we will not make it.  It is my prayer that the only thing that matters in our lives is the righteousness of Christ.  I want His righteousness both imputed and imparted.  I want the world to see only Christ in me because, even at my very best, I am filthy rags.  It is my prayer that will be your desire, too.  This is my prayer in Jesus name.  Amen.

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