Wedding at Cana - Van Ham

Jesus spoke to the Pharisees again in parables. He told them:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

Then he sent more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner. My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized the servants, mistreated them, and killed them.

The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed the murderers and burned their city.

Then he said to h is servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’

So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’

The man was speechless.

Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

What the story means to us today

God’s grace is offered to all – but it must be accepted

The conclusion to this parable is shocking. A king who cannot get his subjects to attend the wedding of his son invites everyone to the event, then kills those who refuse and chastises an attendee who is wearing the wrong type of clothes.

The man with improper wedding garments removed from wedding - Artist unknown

The parable is less alarming if we remember that parables are simply symbolism used to illustrate a lesson. Parables are not true events – and exaggeration makes the parable’s impact more powerful.

Like he king’s invitation to everyone in the streets, God’s grace is offered to all. First, God’s grace was offered to the Israelites who rejected it (sometimes violently, as seen in this parable). Then the offer was extended to the Gentiles. Some of those who accepted God’s offer believed the offer was merely a gift with nothing expected in return.

God’s love for us is unconditional, but his grace is conditioned upon our acceptance of his word and agreement to follow his will. Thus, as the parable shows us, although God’s offer is extended to everyone, not everyone will accept it. Fewer still will accept it under the right conditions.

Additional thoughts and considerations

Refusing God’s invitation

Like the king’s invitation to attend the wedding banquet, God’s invitation, the offer to accept Christ as our Savior and agreement to follow his teaching, is both an honor – and a command. Refusing God’s invitation, especially for self-centered reasons, is akin to rebellion against him.

The Wedding Feast at Cana, Paolo Veronese (1563)

The parable’s turn to violence

The parable turns unexpectedly to violence in two passages. First, the king sends his army to destroy those who refused his invitation to the wedding. Second, the guest who dressed inappropriately is physically thrown from the banquet. Both however, make more sense when considered in context and with an understanding of parables in general.

This parable presents as similar analogy as the prior parable – but with more force. To Matthew’s readers (and the Pharisees who were listening), this escalation would not have seemed out of place and would be considered an emphasis to the preceding parable.

In addition, it is helpful to remember, that this is a parable, not a true event nor suggestion about proper conduct. The intensification of events draws the listener in and drives home the importance of the lesson.

Why kill the messenger?

When the servants are sent a second time to tell the invitees that the banquet was ready, some “mistreated and killed” the messengers. This seems an odd response to someone who was simply delivering a message. Discounting that the story is only a parable and not a real-life event, we could presume the people killed the messenger so they could argue that they had not received the message from the king.

invitation to the Great Banquet - Jan Luyken Harry Kossuth

The man wearing unacceptable wedding clothes

The king’s order was for the servants to gather “anyone you find” off the streets to attend the banquet. When the king notices the poorly dressed man, he says, “How did you get in here without wedding clothes?” This implies that servants would have been guarding the doors and only allowing properly-dressed guests inside.

When questioned about his attire, the man does not answer, likely because he was embarrassed and knew what he had done. Possibly the man skirted the guards, hoping for a free meal.

The science and history behind the story

The size of the wedding guest list

In ancient Israel, and to some degree today, the size of the wedding banquet implied the degree of honor the family possessed. Thus, it was common for the family to invite as many people as possible to the wedding event.

The wedding invitation

It is believed that it was customary for the host to send a wedding invitation to invitees, who would RSVP the invitation indicating their commitment to attend. Then, when the food was ready, a second notice was sent informing the invitee that they were ready to be accepted at the event. To refuse a king’s request was a great insult. To refuse to attend after already accepting an invitation was inexcusable. This also explains why the king sought to fill the banquet with outside guests – so food would not be wasted.

Russian Orthodox Icon of the Wedding Feast and the Underdressed Guest - Artist Unknown

Bible Text

NIV

22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

22:1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 22:3 He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come. 22:4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.” ’ 22:5 But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. 22:6 The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them. 22:7 The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire. 22:8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. 22:9 So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 22:10 And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 22:11 But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 22:12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he had nothing to say. 22:13 Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’ 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

New King James Version

22 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’ 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

      1–3 22 Jesus responded by telling still more stories. “God’s kingdom,” he said, “is like a king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn’t come!

      4 “He sent out another round of servants, instructing them to tell the guests, ‘Look, everything is on the table, the prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast!’

      5–7 “They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop. The rest, with nothing better to do, beat up on the messengers and then killed them. The king was outraged and sent his soldiers to destroy those thugs and level their city.

      8–10 “Then he told his servants, ‘We have a wedding banquet all prepared but no guests. The ones I invited weren’t up to it. Go out into the busiest intersections in town and invite anyone you find to the banquet.’ The servants went out on the streets and rounded up everyone they laid eyes on, good and bad, regardless. And so the banquet was on—every place filled.

      11–13 “When the king entered and looked over the scene, he spotted a man who wasn’t properly dressed. He said to him, ‘Friend, how dare you come in here looking like that!’ The man was speechless. Then the king told his servants, ‘Get him out of here—fast. Tie him up and ship him to hell. And make sure he doesn’t get back in.’

      14 “That’s what I mean when I say, ‘Many get invited; only a few make it.’ ”

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

22 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
Advertisements