ILLUSTRATION OF THE MARRIAGE FEAST
As Jesus’ ministry draws to an end, he continues to use illustrations to expose the scribes and the chief priests. Hence, they want to kill him. (Luke 20:19) But Jesus is not finished exposing them. He relates another illustration:
“The Kingdom of the heavens may be likened to a king who made a marriage feast for his son. And he sent his slaves to call those invited to the marriage feast, but they were unwilling to come.” (Matthew 22:2, 3) Jesus introduces his illustration by mentioning “the Kingdom of the heavens.” Logically, then, the “king” must be Jehovah God. What of the king’s son and those invited to the marriage feast? Again, it is not difficult to identify the king’s son as Jehovah’s Son, who is there presenting the illustration, and to grasp that those invited are the ones who will be with the Son in the Kingdom of the heavens.
Who are the first ones to be invited? Well, to whom have Jesus and the apostles been preaching about the Kingdom? It has been to the Jews. (Matthew 10:6, 7; 15:24) This nation accepted the Law covenant in 1513 B.C.E., thereby coming first in line to make up “a kingdom of priests.” (Exodus 19:5-8) But when would they actually be called to “the marriage feast”? Logically, that invitation went out in 29 C.E. when Jesus began preaching about the Kingdom of the heavens.
And how did most Israelites respond to the invitation? As Jesus said, “they were unwilling to come.” The majority of the religious leaders and the people did not accept him as the Messiah and as God’s designated King.
Jesus indicates, though, that the Jews were to have another opportunity: “Again [the king] sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Look! I have prepared my dinner, my bulls and fattened animals are slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the marriage feast.”’ But unconcerned they went off, one to his own field, another to his business; but the rest, seizing his slaves, treated them insolently and killed them.” (Matthew 22:4-6) That corresponds to what would occur once the Christian congregation was established. At that time, the Jews still had the opportunity to be in the Kingdom, yet most spurned this call, even abusing ‘the king’s slaves.’—Acts 4:13-18; 7:54, 58.
With what outcome for the nation? Jesus relates: “The king grew wrathful and sent his armies and killed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22:7) The Jews experienced that in 70 C.E. when the Romans destroyed “their city,” Jerusalem.
Does their refusing the king’s call mean that no one else would be invited? Not according to Jesus’ illustration. He goes on to say: “Then [the king] said to his slaves, ‘The marriage feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Therefore, go to the roads leading out of the city, and invite anyone you find to the marriage feast.’ Accordingly, those slaves went out to the roads and gathered all they found, both wicked and good; and the room for the wedding ceremonies was filled with those dining.”—Matthew 22:8-10.
Significantly, the apostle Peter would later begin helping Gentiles—ones who were not Jews by birth or conversion—to become true Christians. In 36 C.E., Roman army officer Cornelius and his family received God’s spirit, coming in line for a place in the Kingdom of the heavens that Jesus mentioned.—Acts 10:1, 34-48.
Jesus indicates that not all who come to the feast will finally prove acceptable to “the king.” He says: “When the king came in to inspect the guests, he caught sight of a man not wearing a marriage garment. So he said to him, ‘Fellow, how did you get in here without a marriage garment?’ He was speechless. Then the king said to his servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and throw him into the darkness outside. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.’ For there are many invited, but few chosen.”—Matthew 22:11-14.
The religious leaders hearing Jesus may not understand the meaning or implications of all that he is saying. Nevertheless, they are displeased and more determined than ever to rid themselves of the one causing them such embarrassment.