If you are following our church Bible reading plan this year (many of us are doing the NT plan), then, yesterday you read the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). This may be a challenge to understand, and hopefully I will lend some help as you read below.
Understanding what happens in Matthew chapter 21 will help lay the groundwork for understanding the beginning of chapter 22. This is the third parable in a row that Jesus has addressed to the religious leaders in the temple (Matthew 21:23). These Jewish spiritual leaders did not like Jesus and were looking for opportunities to discredit him. And, by this point, they were planning to arrest Jesus, but hadn't found the right opportunity (Matthew 21:46).
We won't take time to understand "parables" today. But, a part of understanding Jesus' parables themselves is understanding what they were and how he used them. A hint to begin your study of that is Matthew 13:10.
As Jesus introduced this parable, he said something that is important to understand it, "The kingdom of heaven is like..." (Matthew 22:2). Another thing for you to study on your own time is that when Matthew says, "kingdom of heaven" he is referring to what the other gospel writers call "the kingdom of God." In other words, Matthew 22:2 is saying, God's kingdom is like... and then it tells us.
So what is God's kingdom like?
God's kingdom is like a king who has invited his subjects in his kingdom to a party / celebration for his son. These subjects would be the natural recipients of the king's invitation. In a normal situation, the subjects would receive such an invitation joyfully, RSVP promptly, and make preparations to attend.
Yet, Jesus is teaching that God's kingdom is not that way. The subjects of God's kingdom treated the invitation to the party with contempt and even mistreated the messengers who delivered the invitation to the party. The king was understandably outraged. How abnormal and outrageous for his subjects to act this way. They are most unworthy subjects, and he punishes them with destruction.
The king still wants to throw a big party for his son, so he sends his servants out with invitations to people who were unlikely recipients of such an invitation. In fact, nobody would have expected THESE people to be invited. Keep in mind this is what God's kingdom is like. So in God's kingdom there have people invited to a party that nobody expected to be invited.
Jesus gives us one final description of what God's kingdom is like. At the wedding feast, the king sees someone coming into the party without the proper costume (not meeting the expected dress code). In that culture, you just didn't do that. All preparations would have been made for everyone to to have the proper clothing. In this case, this person had chosen to accept this invitation without accepting the king's provisions to participate in the party. The king had offered proper wedding garments to each person so that they could attend the party. This person had chosen to accept the invitation without accepting the king's wedding garments. Jesus is saying that in God's kingdom there are imposters. There are people in the kingdom who seek to be a part of the party, but do not belong at the party.
So what does this mean to the people Jesus was talking to?
This brings us back to understanding the context. Jesus is talking to the Jewish spiritual leaders in the temple. This is the third parable in a row he has told them explaining their rejection of him. The verse right after this third parable ends (Matthew 22:15) portrays the Pharisees (part of the spiritual leaders) trying to trap him so they can condemn him.
As you study various explanations of this parable, you will hear all sorts of applications. At the minimum, Jesus is talking to the Jewish spiritual leaders and describing them as the unworthy subjects who rejected God the Father's invitation to celebrate his son, Jesus. These spiritual leaders are the ones who, in a short while, are going to lead the Jewish people to murder Jesus on the cross. So the unworthy subjects (the ones who everyone would have expected to be invited to the party) are the Jewish people. Jesus was their Messiah that had been prophesied to come, and they rejected him.
The people who nobody expected to be invited to this party were the non-Jewish people. Nobody would have imagined that people who were treated as dogs and outsiders in this kingdom were to receive such an honored status. And such it is, as we now live in the church age, all people, every tribe and tongue, have been invited to God the Father's party for his Son Jesus. This party hasn't happened yet. It is a future day in glory together with Jesus and God the Father. In the meantime, there will be imposters who act as if they are a part of God's kingdom, but, God the Father knows that they are imposters. He will not let them into this party.
The question is always, "Well, then, who are the chosen?" None of us can know the mind of God on these matters. But, clearly, if you have received God the Father's free gift of Salvation through his son, Jesus, then you are a part of the chosen who will celebrate at this future party. If you have not received this free gift of Salvation, your status is in question. Will you receive this free gift today?