Matthew 22:1-14 Part 4


The historical moment had arrived when the greatest event of history was about to take place – Messiah would assume His Kingdom!  In the parable, the King sent out servant/prophets to call the “called ones” to the event.  For centuries God had sent His prophets to call Israel and its leadership to repentance and to anticipate the coming of Messiah.  But again and again the prophets were ignored and mistreated and murdered.  So the king sent out troops and destroyed the murderers and burned their city (as prophesied in Isaiah one).  So the reality of the Kingdom that is included within the historical moment in the parable extends all the way to 70AD.  And now, as we begin verse eight of the parable, the king issues new orders.

And remember, Jesus is still speaking (in parabolic language) to the elders and priests of Israel – three days before His crucifixion.  And also remember that He has with Him a large crowd of the “dregs of society” (as the Jerusalem leaders called them) – the remnant kept by God (also prophesied in Isaiah chapter one) – the ones who had been blind, deaf, sick, demon-possessed, destitute, broken; prostitutes and tax collectors!  Jesus and His disciples had gone all over Israel for two years to find them and let them know that Messiah was here!

This is evident from a similar parable concerning the great supper, in Luke chapter fourteen.  The servant went out to call those who had been called, but they would not come.  So he was sent back out to find “the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind,” as the King James translation puts it!  All over the Scriptures this is a description of the chosen remnant of Israel – the few – ones who had been so seriously affected by the disobedience and hypocrisy of Israel’s leadership and society.  (As I’ve said on a number of occasions, a society in rebellion and spiritual decline is weak, and sick, and destitute.)

Therefore those who would interpret this parable as “the rejection of the Jews and the call to the Gentiles” are missing the parable altogether!  Remember the context and the situation:  the elders and priests of Israel have confronted Jesus in the temple, and with Him are the witnesses of seven hundred and fifty years of hypocrisy!  This crowd following Jesus is the “refuse” of this society, the ones so affected!  They represent the ones who God has kept for Himself; and He has miraculously reversed the effects of Israel’s depravity among them, and they followed Him.  Even the prostitutes and tax collectors have recognized Him and sorrowed and repented and followed Him – all witnesses against the hypocrite leaders who would not sorrow and turn.  That’s the context!

This parable, except in remote application, has nothing to do with the future spread of the Gospel to Gentile nations.  Rather it has to do with the immediate condition of this nation – the historical moment of God’s elect gathered for the greatest event in history; and a reprobate nation which either ignored it or was intent on stopping the festive celebration (even to the point of violence and murder)!

As you can see from verse eight, Jesus’ words are a direct affront to the elders and priests of Israel!  The parable has the king satisfied now that the murderers are destroyed and their city burned; and now he tells his servants that “the wedding feast is ready, but the ones who were called were not worthy.”

It is self-evident, and I’m sure the elders knew it, that the “called ones” refers to the special status of Israel as having been set apart by God.  And when the king in the parable says to his servants that these “called ones” weren’t worthy to be at the festive celebration, then any doubt about who was being referred to had to be completely erased!

The king has had them destroyed and burned their city because they weren’t “worthy”!  This is a direct threat to these elders and priests, because, in their minds, they were the “worthy” ones!  They were the “called” ones; they were the ones who lingered on the busy corners and prayed in public to receive the admiration of the people; they were the ones who made a “show” of the tithe in public and took the seats of honor in public places; they were the ones who were the “doctors” of the law and interpreted the statutes of God for the people; they were the ones who made a spectacle of washing utensils for outward cleansing!

You see, they were the ones who considered themselves “worthy”.  But these same ones had “doctored” the Law of God for their own benefits and made the covenant illegible; these are the abhorrent and self-indulgent ones who allowed themselves to divorce and remarry by manipulating the words of the Law; these are the ones who legally stripped the widows and orphans of their lands and inheritances; these are the ones who set up the concessions in the temple courtyard to sell sacrificial birds over and over again; these are the ones who made agreements with pagan nations for protection; these are the ones who had led the nation into harlotry against God and even killed His prophets!  These are the ones who claimed the roles of teachers and leaders, but who took the society to a point of advanced decay and demon possession.  And they would not sorrow and turn – even when they saw the prostitutes and tax collectors and the sick and the blind and the destitute following Jesus by the thousands into the temple!

Within the parable, the king pronounced them all unworthy!  And he had them destroyed.  They didn’t anticipate the great event with joy and expectation; and they wouldn’t come when they were summoned.  Some ignored it; some hated it!

The word “worthy” isn’t used all that much in Scripture, but it is the same word that Paul uses in First Corinthians eleven when he writes to them of the Lord’s Table.  Verse twenty-seven reads this way:


“Wherefore whoever shall eat this bread and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”


It’s not the time for an explanation of that text, but unworthiness doesn’t lie in the lack of some personal merit.  (That’s what we normally consider “worthy” to mean – of quality and merit.)

But I’m sure that Paul had this parable in mind when he wrote this to the Church – that in some way their approach to the Table was similar to the ones in this parable!  The king called the people “unworthy” because they ignored the summons (not submitting humbly to the king’s command), or they arrogantly mistreated the prophet/servants (that’s the word “hubris”, remember); and they did not anticipate the great event with joy!

In Paul’s letter there is evidently an arrogant use of the Table; they did not heed the words of Christ and His apostles; and they did not, with joy, anticipate feeding on the body of Christ!

So Paul brings the reprobate nature of the Jewish leaders and society (represented in the parable) forward to the instruction of the Corinthian Church in their celebration of the Lord’s Table – warning them of their dire condition should they not come to the Table in humble submission and anticipation!  And that’s what is meant by the word “worthy”.

One more thing about verse eight and we’ll go on.  Again we see Jesus use the imperfect third person plural here.  “The ones who were called were not worthy.”  The imperfect reflects continual action in the past.  So the call to Israel was not an “invitation” by the king to come, but the entire nation had always been in a state of being called!  Its very constitution and existence as the special, called-out ones of God is evidence of that.  And, in addition, God did send His prophets to warn them to repent and expect the fullness of His Word in the coming Messiah.

The King continues his instruction in verse nine as he sends out servants.  This time he tells them to “be going” (present imperative) to the outlets from the roads….”  In other words, leave Israel’s’ leadership and society and culture (who are unworthy).  Be going to other stations and venues, and call whomever you find there to the wedding festivities!

This is an obvious reference to those who have been so affected by the decay to which this nation had been brought!  They are the ones about whom the elders and priests speak in such derisive terms – they are the “refuse” of Israel’s society.  There are some who God has kept for Himself; and they are the witnesses to Israel’s sin!  Their condition – spiritually, physically, in every way – confirmed and attested to and documented (in real terms) the results of disobedience and rebellion against God!

The king says (verse nine), go find them and call them to the wedding festivities.  The reality of the Kingdom is that Jesus sent the disciples out, all over Israel and beyond, to find the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And they did find them.  And Jesus healed them and reversed the ravages of Israel’s harlotry and demon possession.  And they followed Him – some all the way to the temple here!

After the king gave them their instruction (verse ten), “these servants did gather all who they did find, both evil and good; and the wedding feast was filled with those reclining at table.”  Several things here… the first being that Jesus said “these servants”.  There is indicated a change in the servants.  (A change from the prophets to the disciples of Christ.)  And that’s supported in verse thirteen by a change in the word for servants.  We’ll see that in a minute.

Second, Jesus said that these servants did gather all who they did find (the disciples were sent out by Christ to find the lost sheep), both evil and good….”  This is the kind of passage that’s used by non-obedient people to include themselves in the category of “Christian”, isn’t it?  “The Lord loves us all, regardless of who we are and what we do!”  “Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, so don’t you be intolerant about our lifestyle!”

But the reality of the Kingdom that is indicated in the parabolic language is that the lost sheep of Israel belonged to God.  Whether they were sick and broken and destitute people living law-abiding lives, or whether they were prostitutes and tax collectors living openly decadent lives; when Jesus and His disciples found them, they repented and followed Him!  He was their ransom on the cross!

So the parabolic language concerning bringing them in, both evil and good, has a specific reality in the Kingdom!  And the reality is that they all turned and followed Jesus.  He was Messiah!  And the greatest event in history – the great wedding feast – was filled with those reclining at table.

“Reclining at table” sounds a little unusual to us today, because we sit at a table to eat.  But a feast in Jesus’ day was a little different.  There were no tables which held the food and the settings up high.  If at all, there was only slight elevation.  And the celebrants go into a reclining position, resting an elbow on a garment or pillow or something; and they ate and drank like that.  The feasting would last a long time, with talk and stories and laugher – and maybe some entertainment.  You didn’t eat dinner in order to go and do something else; the feast was what you did.

In verses eleven and twelve, in the parable the king looks in on all those whom his servants had found for the celebration.  And as Jesus says, “he saw there a man having not been arrayed with a wedding garment.  And he speaks to that man, and says, “Fellow (this is a direct, impersonal address which, here, is called the vocative mood in Greek), fellow, how is it that you came in here having no wedding garment?”  And he was made speechless.

Now, there are two Kingdom realities (interpretations) here, both of which are logical – but different!  And both of them fit pretty well.  I favor the first one, but I’ll mention the second as well.  In the parable the king sees one of the guests at the wedding feast as being undressed!  The normal wedding attire was not being worn – had not been arrayed.

Apparently the Kingdom reality is that there are non-elect people who show up for the “feast” – the great event of Messiah – but they have no honor for the event!  They’re not in the Kingdom; they don’t know the King; they have no respect for the feast and the Honoree; and they aren’t anticipating that anything much will come of it!  He’s there for the feast and the frivolity – or whatever else you might imagine from someone attending a celebration.

Anyway, he’s undressed!  Whether it’s the white robes of virginity; or the breastplate of righteousness; or the priestly robes of a Kingdom priest; or whatever other Biblical analogy you wish to apply here concerning being “dressed” for the event, go ahead.  This man’s not dressed!  And the king’s mad!  The king’s dishonored!

The other logical explanation here is that Jesus is adding this portion to the parable in order to spotlight the attendance of the reprobate Judas Iscariot at the feast.

But, like I said, I favor the first explanation.  And the thinking is that there’s not much reason for Jesus to be prophesying to these elders and priests about Judas Iscariot – except that he’s one of them; and he will take their money later on.  Anyway I still like the first interpretation.

At the end of verse twelve Jesus says in the parable that when the king spoke to this undressed fellow, he was made speechless.  It should be noted here that Judas, when pointed out by Jesus to be the reprobate of the group, said nothing – at least nothing is recoded.  But he went out and betrayed Jesus for money.

But the more logical Kingdom explanation for the speechlessness of the undressed man is the fact that when our electing God speaks in condemnation, there is nothing man can say.  He’s guilty!  A reprobate in the presence of God’s elect is still an undressed reprobate – not “clothed upon” with Christ.  And nothing he can say or do can merit God’s electing love and mercy!  He is legally and justifiably guilty, and he deserves no less than full punishment for sin.

In verse thirteen the king gives his servants instruction with regard to this man.  And please be aware of the fact that there is a different word used here for “servants”.  (I mentioned that earlier.)  The word Jesus now uses is “diaconas” rather than “doulos” which was used heretofore in the parable.  I think that’s because the servants (the second group – being the disciples) are now waiting on tables to feed those who had come to the feast – which is what deacon/servants are supposed to do.

But the new instructions are to “shackle him and cast him out into outer darkness.  There shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth.”  For there are many called ones but few chosen ones.

Previously I preached the fourth sermon in a series on Matthew eight, verses one through seventeen.  Jesus had a crowd following Him, as He does in our text, and He said to them:


“Amen I say to you, from not even one have I found so much faith in Israel.  For I say to you that many from the East and West shall come and shall be caused to recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of the Heavens; but the sons of the Kingdom shall be expelled into external (outer) darkness.  There shall be the weeping and the gnashing (grating) of the teeth.”


This parable this morning is almost identical in language to that chapter eight passage!

Except that it was a Gentile, Roman soldier who had demonstrated the faith (rather than an official of Israel)!  The sons of the kingdom, i.e. the seminal offspring of Abraham, did not faith in Him at all!  The implications of that being that the faith of Abraham had been stripped from the Jews and given to Gentiles!

Except for the remnant kept by God, the Jews had apostatized through disobedience and rebellion; and the prophetic Word of every prophet sent from God was fulfilled when the Gentile centurion faithed in the Person of Christ and in every Word which proceeded from His mouth!

But then Jesus goes a step further to strip every vestige of hope from the Jews.  First He tells His followers that many people from all over the world would come; and that they would recline at table (just like in our parable) with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom!  Gentile inclusion in the Covenant!  They, then, would be Abraham’s descendants rather than these Jews!

And what happens when the Gentiles become direct descendants of Abraham?  The Jews are cut off from their inheritance and their heritage and all of the covenantal benefits!  Where does that leave them?  In darkness!  Nowhere!  It leaves them in nothingness!  What does Jesus say here in the parable?  “In outer darkness.”

And due to Christ the King cutting them off, what shall be their state?  Weeping!  No inheritance.  No light.  No Kingdom.  No benefits.  No identification with Messiah.  No ransom.  No salvation!  Weeping.

And gnashing of the teeth.  Anger.  Terrible enmity toward Christ the King.  And toward His people and His Kingdom.

A few of the Jews were chosen and kept by God (as said to Elijah).  They were all called, all Israel, but few of them were chosen – in order to fulfill the promise of God to them.  They would not be completely cut off, nor completely destroyed.  A few – a remnant – were chosen.  And they were here in the temple with Jesus.

As a result of these weighty parables of judgment and condemnation upon Israel, the elders began, in earnest, their conspiracy to kill Jesus.  We’ll see their plot next Lord’s Day.

But… leaving the specific context for the last minute or two, let me just say that men and women and children are still the same as they’ve always been.  We’re all born after our father Adam. 

Another thing that’s the same… the “call” goes out to sorrow, and repent (turn) and follow Jesus.  And it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich, or poor; sick or well; great, or insignificant; thief, or law-abiding; hypocrite, or guileless; prostitute, or chaste; profligate, or honorable.  All are called to turn in sorrow and repentance, and follow Jesus Christ.  Some will apathetically turn away and pay little attention to that call!  Others will turn against it in anger – and even violence.

But many respond to the call in sorrow and repentance… and join in an eternal chorus of thanksgiving and joy and celebration – following the King of Kings in obedient submission.