The Kingdom of Heaven is like… – Part 9

The Parable of the Marriage Feast is the next KoH parable that Matthew records. It can be found in Matthew chapter 22 verses 1-14. This parable seems similar to the previous parable because it reflects the Jew/Gentile relationship to salvation.

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” – Matthew 22:1-14

First I’ll take a look at the characters, and try to match them up with their prospective roles.
1. King – God
2. King’s Son – Jesus
3. Official Guests – Jews
4. Street Guests (both evil and good) – Gentiles

There are two interesting things in this parable that deserve mentioning. First, we see that this a wedding feast put on for the son. So we know that Jesus’ first coming was the wedding feast that God put on for him. We also learn that the Jews were unwilling to go to the wedding feast, even to the point of murder. I think this closely reflects what happened to Jesus.

God then sent his messengers to gather the Gentiles for the wedding feast. Now here is the most interesting part. One of the Gentiles who came to the feast was not properly dressed. The king throws him in the “outer darkness.” Obviously this corresponds to salvation, but what Jesus says next is very intriguing – “for many are called, but few are chosen.”

So, what does it mean to be called if not chosen? I think this is actually a misleading translation. The word used there for “called” is the same word used before for “invite.” If we understand the word as invited (and within the context it should be invited) it makes perfect sense that many are invited, but few are chosen. Or if we keep it the word as “called” we need to realize that this is not salvation, but a call to accept the free gift of salvation.

This parable, as well as some of the previous KoH parables, seems to indicate that there is a wide calling, but only the elect will be saved. Those who are not elect, obviously show up to the “feast” unprepared.

Any thoughts?

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  1. Lew, I agree with you here. God’s calling can be resisted. When discussing TULIP, I affirm TUP, but I deny LI. In regard to this parable, some five-point Calvinists say that God’s external call is resistable, but they also say that His inward, effectual call is irresistible. Thus, some of them say that this parable refers to His external call, not to his internal call.

  2. Hey BT,

    Thanks for the comment. As you probably figured, I’m not sure I buy into the whole external/internal call thing. I do believe that the elect will be saved. I guess I affirm TUP too. With the caveat that God does have the power to cause someone the inability to resist him (I).

    Thanks again,

  3. Lew,

    Beginning in Matt 21:12, Jesus cleanses the temple, curses the fig tree, then refuses to answer the Jew’s question concerning his authority. These accounts are followed by three parables: the two sons, the wicked tenants, and the wedding banquet (whic you examined here). I think all of these parables are describing the same thing: the Gentiles are going to be included in the people of God because of the disbelief and disobedience of the Jews. I’m not sure how much we can make of the “invited” and “chosen”. Perhaps it is important to Christians today. Perhaps it shows how the Jews were called, but are not chosen now… instead any with faith have now been chosen.

    I could be wrong about this. This is only a quick look at the passage in context.



  4. Alan,

    I agree this parable definitely envelopes the Gentiles being grafted into the tree. However, I think when Jesus says “For the many are called (invited), but the few are chosen.” He is talking about the Gentiles. It also seems like it might be important as well, since it looks like his conclusion to this parable.

    The reason I think this is because he does not say this until he talks about the Gentile being sent into the outer darkness.

    Are you saying that you think he means the many were invited (Jews) but the few were chosen (Gentiles)?

    Thanks for commenting,

  5. Alan,

    After I wrote my last comment (I went back to bed) and was thinking about this problem. One thing that I thought about when I was writing this post was the fact that in Jesus’ parable, the “many” seems to refer to the one guy that is cast into the outer darkness. One may be able to successfully argue that the many who are invited are both Jew and Gentile, but there are few chosen from that Group. The Jews were not chosen because of their disbelief (as you pointed out) and some of the Gentiles were not chosen because of their unpreparedness (is that word?).


  6. Lew,

    The best that I can offer as an answer is this: I dunno… maybe. As you know, parables are slippery little things that can lead to all kind of embarassment if taken too literally or too far. I haven’t studied these enough to see how Jesus was using them. I think that Jesus used his parables to illustrate a point. What point was he making in the context of this parable?


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