The Royal Wedding Feast
Ordinary 28 Year A
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Matthew 22: 1 — 14
The setting for this parable continues to be in the Temple Courtyard. This is the third parable our Lord tells His circle of followers with the senior officials still present after they had rudely interrupted His teaching session and tried to discredit Him. Despite their apparent rejection of His teaching, Jesus continues to step up the intensity of His comments in a desperate attempt to help them move from an attitude of superior self-righteousness. They are proving the ultimate challenge. They had already made an attempt to arrest Jesus after the previous parable (Matthew 21: 46). However, they did not pursue it when they found the crowd so attentive and supportive of our Lord. Unperturbed, Jesus presses on while they are still present.
What follows is a rather complicated parable which combines some features of an allegory. In other words, there is, typical of a parable, a core central teaching; but there is also an intention of our Lord, to ascribe certain details of the story to certain people and customs. In actual fact, our reading contains a second parable (verses 11 — 13) deliberately tacked on to the end of the previous one by our Lord Himself. Together, the two parables form the continuous unfolding of a powerful message which is addressed to us just as assuredly it was put to our Lord’s first hearers.
We will look at the teaching given by Jesus, in three very unequal parts.
Verses 1 — 10 First Parable — An Open Invitation To A Wedding
Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a
wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to
the feast, but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited:
“Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened
cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm,
another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed
The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those
murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who
were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast
whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they
found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.
Let us review what took place in this first parable.
First Preparation for the banquet (Verses 2 — 4)
• Our Lord’s audience were very well aware of the Jewish use of
the image of a magnificent banquet symbolising the fulfilment
• To His listeners the image was one of sumptuous living which
could last one or two weeks — or even longer. For such an
occasion, a long time of preparation was needed.
• Everything everyone could possibly need was provided, and
this, in itself, symbolised life in the heavenly abode.
• The parable gives the impression that the King has authority
over a vast realm and is mighty indeed. He thus represents
• In order to call everyone, God sent his servants over a long
period to boldly proclaim His message of the coming of the
Messiah who would fulfil and bring to completion, the whole
of God’s Plan of Salvation. He sent Moses and the prophets, and
especially John the Baptist, the last and greatest prophet of the
old dispensation. Despite their obedience to God, and the very
clear directions they conveyed on God’s behalf, these were
• In His lovingkindness God did not give up but sent more
servants, the Apostles, to repeat the invitation to share His
presence, His gifts and hospitality.
• The banquet was of lavish proportions and so was of special
• Although it was not fully understood at the time of telling,
even by all the Apostles, the banquet represented the marriage
between the Son and all those given to him: thus between Christ
and His people, the Church, beginning here on earth, and reaching
completion in an era yet to dawn.
(See Revelation 21: 2; 2 Corinthians 11: 2; and Isaiah 54: 5 etc.)
• Sadly, despite the lavish treatment, the invited guests didn’t just
fail to turn up, they openly refused to be part of the wedding.
Secondly: Repeated invitations were ignored — (Verses 5 — 8)
• Some continued to ignore the King’s personal invitation
preferring instead to attend to other chosen priorities.
• Some went further. They persecuted those tasked by the
King to seek them out and ensure they did not miss enjoying
his open hospitality and family company.
• After tolerating this situation for a very long time, the King
finally took decisive action and gave permission for troops to
destroy all who had been disloyal or ungrateful.
• The King declared that the time had come for his plans to be
actioned — but those who were meant to participate had proved
to be unworthy. They had been warned and warned again — but
they had become complacent, preoccupied with their own
pursuits, and really didn’t care about what they had had
entrusted to them.
• The early Church came to see that the Prophets had been God’s
faithful message bearers — but had been ignored or treated
badly by those who had been given special places of honour.
• It was only after constant and consistent refusal to comply
with God’s Will that those betraying Him were finally permitted
to be destroyed.
Thirdly: A new invitation is sent out beyond the original people — (Verses 9 — 10)
• The new message-bearers are not to pick and choose — they
are to deliver the personal invitation of the King to
They may be Jews — they may be Gentiles: the invitation was
to be delivered equally to all.
• The banquet-function was to be no less lavish — in fact, it was
to be more so!
• The occasion, therefore, was to demonstrate the personal,
warm and wonderfully nurturing hospitality of the King’s own
home and family. All were to be welcomed equally: as royal
guests — no less! They were to have the best of everything as
they shared the King’s own home and presence!
• It is vital to note at this stage, how wide the King demanded
his invitation should extend. No conditions were laid down.
If they heard the invitation and came, they were welcomed
beyond their wildest imagination. They were invited, not to
subscribe to a doctrinal dissertation; but to accept the
personal invitation of a King who wanted to show them his
hospitality and to share in his celebration.
Verses 11 — 13 Second Parable — Remaining Prepared at the Wedding
Our Lord continued to build the understanding that everyone that comes to the banquet must avoid permitting other priorities to start competing with their time and interest. It is a different parable but used by Jesus to make sure the new guests in His Father’s House do not suffer the same fate as those who had been invited before them. The two parables thus form a continuous lesson.
But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man
there not dressed in a wedding garment.
He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here
without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be
wailing and grinding of teeth.’
• The parable continues to talk of a great King. Jesus, adeptly,
speaks for the king.
• The opening verse uses language which, in the original, meant
that the King came in, not just to meet His personal guests, but
also to inspect them.
• Whilst the parable appears to focus on the wearing of a wedding
garment, it is actually concerned with the attitude of the guests,
and their internal dispositions, at having been accepted into the
King’s family dwelling.
• Thus, this parable calls for due preparation of those who accept
God’s invitation to share His company, His family, His home,
His hospitality, His lavish treatment, His treasures. And, having
made the necessary changes to their lives, to maintain this level
of respect and gratitude.
• Thus the “wedding garment” is no “throw-over” to provide a
quick tidy-up — a facade of being “righteous” or filled with
grace. Rather, it is our Lord’s symbol for conversion and
• The harshness which He sometimes reflects in His
explanations is to match the horror He has of His followers
failing to appreciate the unique relationship given to all who
accept His invitation. We should read and meditate often on
John chapters 14 — 17, to remember what this relationship
brings us. They receive from Him, in His Father’s Household
everything He has received. They must live accordingly. Let
us be reminded about that by Rabbi St. Paul, the Apostle:
“….. you should know how to behave in the household of God,
which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and
foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3: 15
• Those who respond to His call experience the beginning of
His Kingdom in this world. His teaching, however, points
them towards its perfect fulfilment at the end of time when
He will return in glory. Until then, we are to persevere in
maintaining our spiritual preparedness. His warning in verse 13
is plain speaking! The only way to avoid slipping back is to keep
focussed on His Glorious Return — and continue daily in
Listen to Him;
Obey His Word, (i.e. observe all He commands);
Live in and for Him.
A Final Word From the Messiah — (Verse 14)
Our Lord caps the telling of the two parables with a single “capping stone” which actually belongs to both — The words are His — the earlier image of the “King” has served its purpose and now Jesus makes the final proclamation:
“Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
• Although this is not a word study, it is worth noting that
both verbs, in the passive form, show God as carrying out
the action. Thus some commentaries tend towards giving the
impression that, “God invites many people (into His Kingdom)
but chooses only a few of them.” We can see how open to
abuse that interpretation would be.
• We have here an example of how our Lord’s teaching should
always be examined alongside the whole presentation of His
doctrine and especially the core to which we keep returning
to our Reflections. It is the Lord who is calling all who would
listen to Him and respond with an open heart. This is pure gift
on His part. Those who respond are led to learn His teaching
with a willingness to observe all He has taught, i.e. to obey.
This would equip them to live a life even now, in this world,
which shared in His risen, Spirit-filled existence.
• Those who persevere in cherishing this great gift of faith in
Him, and try to choose the good and holy; those who honour
the privilege of being invited to belong to His Father’s
Household — they are therefore sanctified as “chosen”.
• Sadly, but in fact, not all who initially join the ranks of His
followers persevere. That is always their decision. Our Lord’s
closing remark is not a cold judgmental statement, but an
observation that even He must accept; and it is tinged with
sorrow — many are being called — few are choosing to follow
— and even fewer are choosing to persevere to the end. Thus
His parable is a warning to the Church.
• It would be nice to have a fairy-tale ending in which
“everyone lived happily ever after”. However what is related
in the cluster of the three parables of Matthew 20 to 22 is not
just about the historic past. The principles Jesus has been
“hammering home” are still active and in operation and continue
to apply. The warning is severe because the consequences of
failure are very serious. John Meier states it quite bluntly:
“The Church, like Israel, is subject to judgment; and, if the
Church is not vigilant, it can be rejected just as Israel was.”
John Meier, in his book, “Matthew,” closes the commentary on this passage by saying:
“Matthew has developed a simple parable about a meal into an
allegory of the whole of salvation history, from the initial
invitation to the Jews to the final judgement of Christians.”
The parable has massive proportions, and whilst simple in
structure, is not easy for us to grasp. It is for meditating on.
Some of Jesus’ critical listeners, on the occasion this was
taught, did meditate on it, and later took up his invitation to
“the greatest feast.” Others “went away to work out between
them how to trap him in what he said” (verse 15).
This is a frightening story, and it is meant to be. But then, we have a natural tendency to fasten our attention on those who reject the approaches of Jesus. As always, there is the danger we can end up thinking, “Thank goodness I’m not like that!”: while all the time we can be just as impervious to the call of Jesus for us to teach and obey everything he has taught.
The natural tendency we have to judge success by quantitative results such as the number of people won over, is, in the Christian faith, an unfortunate contamination from our materialistic, consumeristic society. We are not doing very well in keeping ourselves free from such atheistic influences. If the mission of Jesus were judged in this way, his outreach was a pitiful failure. However, his success was not to be assessed by the number of converts he made, or the number of rabbinic arguments he won. Rather, he kept himself constantly aligned to carrying out his Father’s Divine Will, regardless of apparent failure. Nothing deterred Him from this, and we must follow His example. The question before us is, how? The answer is by keeping our focus on Jesus.
The real centre of our attention in this and the previous two parables of the two brothers and the tenants should be the loving outreach of Jesus, calling us into God’s Family. He is the model of God’s outreach to all of humanity. Here we see him desperately straining to reach the hearts of those who remain either opposed to him, or indifferent, in that they have other priorities.
The lesson for Christians is that in focussing on our Lord’s earnestness and perseverance, we will remain His humble servants and passionate disciples who want to achieve only God’s plan and not our own. His message is that unless we get the vision right, we will get the mission wrong.
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The Royal Wedding Feast
Ordinary 28 Year A St. Matthew 22: 1 to 14
1. As members of the Household of God, we are privileged to know, love
2. Our “Householder” expects us to produce the required fruit. Fruit is
3. Jesus could have dealt with the corrupt authorities of His time by a bit
“The Church, like Israel, is subject to judgment; and, if the
Let us pray for one another to keep up our practice of studying, prayer and meditating
Matthew 22: 1 — 14
Ordinary 28 Year A
1 1 Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying,
2 “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a
3 3 He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to
4 A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited:
5 Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm,
6 The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed
7 4 The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those
8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who
9 Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast
10 The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they
11 6 But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man
12 He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here
13 7 Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
14 Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
1 [1-14] This parable is from Q; see ⇒ Luke 14:15-24. It has been given many allegorical traits by Matthew, e.g., the burning of the city of the guests who refused the invitation (⇒ Matthew 22:7), which corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. It has similarities with the preceding parable of the tenants: the sending of two groups of servants (⇒ Matthew 22:3, 4), the murder of the servants (⇒ Matthew 22:6) the punishment of the murderers (⇒ Matthew 22:7), and the entrance of a new group into a privileged situation of which the others had proved themselves unworthy (⇒ Matthew 22:8-10). The parable ends with a section that is peculiar to Matthew (⇒ Matthew 22:11-14), which some take as a distinct parable. Matthew presents the kingdom in its double aspect, already present and something that can be entered here and now (⇒ Matthew 22:1-10), and something that will be possessed only by those present members who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment (⇒ Matthew 22:11-14). The parable is not only a statement of God’s judgment on Israel but a warning to Matthew’s church.
2  Wedding feast: the Old Testament’s portrayal of final salvation under the image of a banquet (⇒ Isaiah 25:6) is taken up also in ⇒ Matthew 8:11; cf ⇒ Luke 13:15.
3 [3-4] Servants . . . other servants: probably Christian missionaries in both instances; cf ⇒ Matthew 23:34.
4  See the note on ⇒ Matthew 22:1-14.
5  Bad and good alike: cf ⇒ Matthew 13:47.
6  A wedding garment: the repentance, change of heart and mind, that is the condition for entrance into the kingdom (⇒ Matthew 3:2; ⇒ 4:17) must be continued in a life of good deeds (⇒ Matthew 7:21-23).
7  Wailing and grinding of teeth: the Christian who lacks the wedding garment of good deeds will suffer the same fate as those Jews who have rejected Jesus; see the note on ⇒ Matthew 8:11-12.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,