This parable is preceded by a parable about two sons - one who said he wouldn’t work and then did afterward, and one who said he would go to work and then never did. We saw that the “work” was to “believe.” This parable referred to the leader’s rejection of the message of John the Baptist and their rejection of Christ.
It is also preceded by the parable of the vineyard owner. In that parable the vineyard keepers killed the owner’s son. This was symbolic of the religious leaders rejection of Messiah. Consequently, the Kingdom would be withdrawn from Israel and given to a nation who would produce fruit. That nation is the church which is comprised of the outcasts and Gentiles.
Therefore, the context to our parable is salvation and entering the kingdom (cf. 21:31).
Since Israel is rejecting her Messiah, what will happen to those who reject? What does it take to get in the kingdom? The Jews are missing the kingdom, how does one not miss it?
The original guests refused to come because they were unwilling. In that culture, to reject the invitation of a king, was treason or a declaration of war. This is a serious offense.
The first invitation was actually not the first. An advance invitation went out telling of the coming feast. This is not pictured in the story. It is understood as part of the culture. Those who had received the advance invitation had ample time to prepare for the feast. They had no legitimate excuses. (This is symbolic of Israel having plenty of advanced warning that the Messiah was coming - i.e. the prophets). The first invitation in the story is really the one saying that dinner is served. (This is symbolic of JB and JC saying that Messiah and the kingdom are here.)
The King gave second chances to the original guests. The original guests are representative of the nation of Israel. The King represents God who extended the invitation to enter the kingdom and partake of the feast. The fact that He makes another invitation shows his patience. It also shows the graciousness of the host who took care to explain that all was ready and how great the feast would be to entice them to attend.
They refused because of apathy. They did not care. The excuses:
Having a farm or your own business is not bad. It is being preoccupied with these temporal things and forgetting about the eternal. They were guilty of materialism and apathy. Then they killed the messenger. They moved from apathy to antagonism. Mat 23:35, 2Ch 30:1-10.
Sent his armies
Destroyed the murderers
Burned the city
This is the typical war or destruction motif of the Old Testament. What is the result of rejecting the invitation? Destruction. This did in fact happen to Jerusalem in 70 AD (about 40 years later).
Those who were invited were not worthy. What makes one worthy? To Matthew, worthiness comes through reception of the invitation. A right response to the message. In the parable about the two sons, we saw that belief was what was necessary, so faith is the key to becoming worthy. Who makes you worthy? The one who graciously invited you. Worthiness is not the result of merit. It is the result of faith.
Barclay says that the wedding clothes are the good works and pure heart and life that one leads after becoming a Christian. He says it is not these that get you into heaven, but it is the respect you show God after you believe. (Barclay, Matthew, p. 270-271.) I disagree. I think the wedding clothes are not something we bring to the banquet because wedding clothes were often provided by wealthy hosts. (Gower, New Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 69) Certainly God would be considered to be the most gracious and wealthiest host. It may be that this man refused to wear the wedding clothes offered. Perhaps he thought his own clothes were good enough. What might the “clothes” symbolize? Good deeds?
2Ki 10:22 and Isa 61:10 also talk about the dress or robes provided by the host. If you showed up for a banquet and you weren’t dressed properly it showed that you came inadequately on your own provision and that you rejected the host’s provision. See Hendriksen Matthew p. 797-98. Cf. Rev 3:4,5 & 18
Isa 61:10 says, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
The king sees someone not wearing wedding clothes. In verse 12 the king calls him “Friend.” In Matthew, this is a term of distancing and condemnation. It’s like “Hey, Buddy” or “Hey, Lady.”
Notice that the man is speechless when the king confronts him. Rom 3:19 says that “every mouth will be closed” when people stand accountable before God. Perhaps that is what Jesus is referring to.
They threw him into the outer darkness. The question is where is the outer darkness?
Some teach that this is the suburbs in the millennium. Zane Hodges in his book, Grace in Eclipse, says that those who show up at the banquet all made it into heaven, but participating in the banquet is only the privilege of those who have carried out their obligations as Christians while on earth. He also thinks the wedding clothes are something believers bring with them to the banquet. He equates the King’s observation of the guests at the banquet to the Bema seat where Christ judges the Believers for their good works. The guy made it to heaven but can’t partake of the banquet because he wasn’t a good enough Christian.
Others teach that “outer darkness” is hell. Which view is correct?
What is the Outer Darkness?
Ask class to suggest arguments
IN HEAVEN (but just barely and not participating in the banquet)
For this to be true:
Being at the banquet cannot be equal to being in heaven. It must be some special event/reward for the faithful Christians.
The visit by the host must be an evaluation of Christian deeds (Bema). It is not the Son who is judging? It is the King. No other scripture teaches that any member of the Church won’t take part in the marriage feast. Perhaps this evaluation is the Great white throne judgment which purpose is to determine eternal destiny. Not eternal privilege.
Wedding clothes must equal good deeds as a Christian. Rev 19:7-8 would support this idea but that passage is dealing with the church - after the Bema. We’ve just seen that that is suspect.
“Outer darkness” must equal the “darkness outside” the banquet hall, not hell.
Context of the preceding parables is about salvation. The issue is being in or out of the kingdom, not receiving special privileges in the kingdom.
Banquet imagery always refers to the Kingdom / Heaven. Therefore, partaking of the Banquet equals being in the kingdom, and being kicked out of the banquet means kicked out of the Kingdom. The statement by the man in Luke 14:15 and the parable of the Great Banquet which Jesus told right after that was about getting into the kingdom. Therefore, this parable is about getting into the kingdom / heaven - not about attending special events in the kingdom.
The King called the man “Friend.” This is never a good term in Matthew. Therefore the man is not a friend.
Wedding clothes were often provided by wealthy hosts. (Gower, New Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 69) It may be that this man refused to wear them. He thought his own clothes (i.e. deeds) were good enough. This fits the context of the parable of the two sons. The son who said he would work and didn’t was symbolic of the Pharisees who thought they were doing enough already. Therefore, the wedding clothes provided by host symbolize the righteousness of Christ provided by God for entrance to Heaven - as opposed to our garments/merit which are not good enough to get us into heaven/banquet.
There is no darkness in Heaven. Therefore, the outer darkness = hell, not the suburbs of the kingdom.
“Weeping and gnashing of teeth” doesn’t sound like the joy we are to experience in heaven. It sounds too severe for those who are in heaven. Also, in inter-testamental literature this term “weeping and gnashing of teeth” was a common idiom for hell.
“Outer darkness” and “gnashing of teeth” only used by Matthew and it means hell in the other passages in which it is used. Matt 8:11; 13:42,50; 24:51; 25:30. For example, Matt 8:11 “And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline [at the table] with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “ In that one passage we see banqueting imagery used for participating in the kingdom and the outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth used for hell.
In Matt 13: the phrase is also used and the context is the parable of the tares, dragnet, etc. This is also a kingdom/salvation passage.
Conclusion: For this man to be saved,
the banquet has to represent something it doesn’t normally represent,
the evaluation of Christians is being done by the king (not the son as scripture teaches)
outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth have to represent something they don’t normally represent
and the wedding clothes must be our own which is against the cultural norm where the host provides them. Rev 19:8 supports this idea but that is Bema seat context.
Therefore, we can conclude that this man is not saved. And, if this man is not saved, then this parable is correctly identified as a salvation parable - about getting into the kingdom - not about works one does as a Christian.
Jesus concludes with the statement: “Many are called but few are chosen.” How do you know if you are chosen? If you believe. Therefore, acceptance of the invitation is necessary for entrance into the kingdom of God.
This parable also shows the rejection of Messiah by Israel and the turning of God to the Gentiles with the offer of the kingdom. It is the same theme as the preceding parable (cf. 21:43). Those who refuse the invitation (who do not believe) will be excluded from the kingdom.
God is gracious and patient and keeps on offering the invitation.
God has made the offer to everyone.
Do not presume on the patience of God. A time will come when it will be too late.
Do not be caught unprepared (i.e. not believing) when the feast begins.
Reasons for not believing:
Indifference - 3-5 - too busy with family, business, hobbies, etc.
Rebellion - 6 - similar to last parable. Perhaps they are becoming convicted of their sin and are rejecting the conviction.
Self-righteousness - The guest wouldn’t wear his robe. He was independent. This also fits context with the parable of the two sons.