The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son…
God will fill the wedding hall of Christ and His church. Although many will reject the gospel and be cast into outer darkness, every single one of God’s people will be gathered together to fellowship with the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
The parable of the royal marriage feast is the third parable Jesus spoke to the chief priests and scribes picturing their refusal to humbly bow before Him as their King. This timeless parable warns us not to disobey the summons to follow Christ.
The king hosted a great wedding feast for his son. It was to be a wonderful occasion of joy and fellowship and sharing. He wanted to celebrate his son’s wedding with those citizens who delighted in the marriage. When everything was ready, the king sent his servants to “call them that were bidden to the wedding” (). So today, God calls men to the wedding feast of His Son, Jesus Christ, through the preaching of the gospel.
It may seem as if the king was merely inviting people to the wedding celebration, as if to say, “Come join us at the feast if you like.” However, when the call comes from a king who rules over you, it is, in fact, a summons or a command. When God called Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees (cf.), that was not a mere invitation that Abraham might or might not obey depending on his mood. Abraham had a duty to obey God’s call. So it is with the call of the gospel; all who hear have a duty to heed the call. The gospel is no mere offer to be accepted or rejected at one’s whim. Rather, God commands all men everywhere to repent ( ).
Tragically, many refused to come to the marriage feast. When other servants were sent to urge them to come unto the marriage feast, they “made light of it, and went their ways” (). They would rather pursue their own interests at the farm or other business. Even worse, some “took his servants and entreated them spitefully, and slew them” (v. 6). Their responses indicated they hated the king and his son.
The parable points to the self-righteous Jews, who were summoned to the marriage feast of His Son, Jesus Christ. When called by God, the Jews had killed countless Old Testament prophets. They refused to turn from their idolatry and submit themselves to God. Even when God’s only begotten Son came to earth and called them to turn from their sin and come to the feast, they hated Jesus all the more, finally nailing Him to the cross. In His perfect plan, God used that very sin to give to His people the righteousness we need to stand in God’s presence.
Although God has made it abundantly clear that He commands us to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, most people reject the gospel call. Some reject it outright and live to themselves, pursuing all the vain pleasures and treasures of the world. Others carry their hatred to great lengths, persecuting the saints even unto death. Still others, like the Jews, remain connected to the church, but their fields, commitments, cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, are so important to them that they refuse to take up their cross and follow Christ. One way or another, for many people, following Jesus Christ is too costly.
Nevertheless, God will fill the wedding hall. Our great desire ought to be that we are included in the guest list, manifesting obedience to the gospel call. We need to repent of our sins and receive by faith the righteousness that God provides for us in Jesus Christ.
Many prominent members of the kingdom showed themselves unworthy to be included among the guests. Amazing that they would think they had more important things to do than the wedding feast of the king’s son! Such was their hatred of the king that some would even count the king’s servants worthy of death. Not surprisingly, the king destroyed these unworthy scoundrels and burned their city with fire. So too, many prominent people in the church world today show themselves unworthy to be part of the wedding feast by persecuting those who preach the gospel of sovereign, particular grace.
Despite being rejected by many, the king insisted that the marriage hall be filled. So he sent his servants to gather seemingly insignificant citizens out of the countryside. The servants “gathered all as many as they found, both bad and good” (v. 10). As far as the king was concerned, it was not an issue whether the people were considered socially worthless or whether they met a high social standard before their summons to the feast. Such is the gospel. It is used to gather those who have lived shady lives as well as those who are morally upright in society’s eyes. It is God’s means to gather poor and rich, servants and masters, Jews and Gentiles. The summons of the gospel must be proclaimed without distinction of persons. Why did some refuse to come to the wedding feast and others delight to come?
Why did some see the king’s rule as a drain on their lives, while others found their joy in the king? Why do some refuse the call of the gospel and others heed the call? The reason lies in the distinction between the external call and the internal call. Some are only called externally, so that to them the gospel is all so much nonsense. Those who lack the life of Christ in their hearts, see the duty to come to the wedding feast as an impossible and cruel burden that would draw them away from the idols of their souls. Others God calls both externally by the preaching of the gospel and internally by His Spirit. These, who have been given life from above, rejoice at the call of the gospel and the privilege of coming to the marriage feast. Although the gospel call goes out promiscuously, only those who by grace have eyes to see and ears to hear will truly heed the call.
The king in the parable rejected the prominent citizens of the kingdom. That reflects the fact that God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; the weak things to confound the mighty; and the base things of the world to confound the noble, so that no flesh should glory in His presence (cf.). God must receive all the glory.
Not only does God choose unworthy sinners to be part of the great wedding feast of His Son; He also sees to it that we are gathered: “So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all as many as they found” (—emphasis added). Through His servants, God exerts an irresistible force upon His elect that draws us to the feast. “No man can come” to the feast “except the Father…draw him” (John 6:44). “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” ( ).
When the time of the feast finally arrived and the king inspected the guests, he saw a man who attempted to join the feast with no wedding garment. Apparently, the king took care to furnish his guests with a special garment for the grand occasion. But this man thought his own garment was good enough. He might have even thought that his garment was better than those furnished by the king. What an insult to the king and to his son!
When the king saw him, he did not say, “I’m so glad you came; everyone is welcome.” Rather, he asks him, “Friend, how camest thou in thither not having a wedding garment?” (). The term ‘friend’ merely has the idea of being associated with a particular group. Evidently, this man had come to be associated with the wedding guests, but in actual fact, he did not belong. When the king confronted him, he was speechless. He could say nothing because he knew he had deliberately refused the king’s wedding garments. He deserved to be cast out of the king’s feast and separated from all fellowship with him.
The Jewish leaders imagined that entering into the wedding feast of communion with God could be based on the robes of their own righteousness. They were sorely mistaken. When God inspects us on the Judgment Day, anyone not having the pure white wedding garments of Christ’s righteousness will not be allowed in the feast. They will be cast into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called but few are chosen (v. 14). Many hear the summons of the gospel presented to them, but few have been given the spiritual ears to heed the call. How horrible will that feast day be for those without the King’s robes!
Only those “who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” will be allowed in the feast (). When we see the filthiness of our own rags, how we will delight to be clothed with Christ’s robes of righteousness and to sit with Christ Himself at the royal marriage feast! Are we looking forward to that feast?
Although our sins reach up to heaven; although we have failed to love our neighbors as ourselves (even our nearest neighbors in our own houses and in the church); although our zeal for Christ and His kingdom is not what it should be, nevertheless the King has provided white robes for us. If we are thankful for such a great privilege, we will turn from sin and bow before our King.
Having Christ’s pure linen robes, we can look forward to the marriage feast knowing that we belong at the feast!