The Parable of the Wedding Feast

An Extemporaneous Sermon by James P. Cooper

The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. (MAT 22:2,3)

  1. It is not very unusual for us to be invited to a wedding these days.

    1. The wedding itself is usually followed by some kind of celebration, and, for the guest, the whole thing is over and done with in a few hours.

    2. Things were different in ancient times.

      1. Without all the holidays and vacations that we enjoy, the wedding feast was pretty much the most fun they could have.

      2. Since most people traveled on foot, if the wedding was in a village more than a few miles away, it would mean staying overnight.

      3. These two considerations resulted in the tradition that existed in the Lord’s time that a wedding feast featured eating and drinking to excess, and a good one could last as long as a week.

      4. It was against the backdrop of this tradition that the Lord told the parable of the wedding feast.

  2. King = Jehovah

    1. King’s son = The Messiah

    2. God invites the Jews to heaven.

      1. He prepared oxen and fatted cattle

        1. Purification and regeneration of the external man.

      2. They preferred to attend to their businesses and farms.

        1. Things of self and the world.

      3. They mocked and killed the kings servants when they were sent out to call them and remind them of their invitation.

        1. The servants are the prophets, who, as everywhere else in the Word represent the Word itself.

        2. The killing of the servants is therefore destruction of the truths of the Word; a prophecy of the crucifixion.

      4. Because of their response, he sends out armies to destroy them.

        1. This represents the judgment on the Jewish Church.

        2. It is a consummation, a summing up, a closing of the books after the last opportunity is past, the last test failed.

    3. When the Jewish Church refuses to come, only then does He send out His invitation to the gentiles to come and join Him in a new church.

      1. The wedding hall is filled with guests, which is a picture of the rapid and enthusiastic growth of the early Christian Church.

      2. It would be a lovely story if it ended right here – but it doesn’t.

  3. The man without a wedding garment.

    1. At first it seems odd

      1. The common people were invited to the wedding from the streets, but only this one man was thrown out.

      2. What made the obvious difference? What is it that we miss in the telling of the story that the people hearing the parable would have picked up?

        1. None of the people had “wedding garments” in the sense that we think of them — a tuxedo or a special gown.

        2. But they did have the tradition of the Mosaic law of ritual washing before important events.

          1. And Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” JOS 3:5

          2. To “sanctify” simply meant for them to wash themselves and their clothes.

            1. It was certainly symbolic of spiritual washing, of course, but the point here is that there was a long standing tradition that even if you had only one garment to your name, you took it off and washed it and yourself before presenting yourself before the Lord.

        3. The thing that marked this particular man is that he had not prepared himself before coming to the wedding.

          1. Walking down the road, the king’s messenger invites him to the wedding. Instead of going home, or to an inn, or even to a well to wash and prepare himself, he just arrives at the feast still covered with the dirt acquired on his journey.

          2. Even today, with our more casual ways, we don’t spend Saturday working in the garden, and then go straight to a wedding without first cleaning up. We can all imagine the kind of reception we would get if we did.

        4. The rude guest was immediately cast out of the wedding, because the spiritual state of hypocrisy and deceit which this represents cannot endure the sphere of heaven for long.

          1. There are some persons who during their bodily life have been imbued with the deceit of being able to feign themselves angels of light; and in the other life, when in this hypocritical state, they are also able to insinuate themselves into the nearest heavenly societies. But they do not remain there long, for the moment they perceive the sphere of mutual love there, they are seized with fear and horror, and cast themselves down (and it then appears in the world of spirits as if they had been cast down), some toward the lake, some toward Gehenna, and some into some other hell. (AC 2132)

  4. God invitation to heaven is universal.

    1. The Lord continually invites every man to come to Him; for He says: — The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man, a king, who made a marriage for his son, and sent his servants to call them that were bidden; and finally, he said, Go ye therefore into the partings of the ways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage (Mat. xxii. 1-9). Who does not know that the invitation or call is universal, and also the grace of reception? Man obtains life by going to the Lord because the Lord is Life itself, not only the life of faith but also the life of charity. (TCR 358)

    2. The Man without the wedding garment.

      1. This may weigh heavily on us because we don’t want to be like him.

      2. We want to be able to stay in heaven.

        1. By “garments” in the Word are signified truths which clothe good, and in the opposite sense, falsities which clothe evil; for man is either his own good or his own evil, the truths or falsities thence proceeding are his “garments.” All angels and spirits appear clothed according to the truths of their good, or according to the falsities of their evil. (AR 166)

        2. The “wedding garment” is the Divine truth from the Word.

      3. You can’t just “come as you are.”

        1. You have to wash yourself

          1. OT — Thou Shalt Not — with a Holy fear of harming the Lord and His Word.

          2. NT — to have an awareness of the morality behind the rules.

          3. HD — to have an awareness of the rationality behind the morality, to be able to address the gray areas of home, family, marriage, and business.

        2. You have to wash and patch and prepare your garments.

          1. Learn new truths

          2. Make adjustments when you find that what you thought was true before may not be true after all.

          3. Admit that you have been fooling yourself about some things, and take steps to correct the problem.

      4. These things are difficult to do while we yet live in this world

  5. But we must hold to the vision of angels, clothed in light, for it is the Lord’s will, and the very purpose of the creation of the universe, that we will someday be one of them. Amen.

1st Lesson: Isa 62:1-5

For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns. {2} The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name. {3} You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God. {4} You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the LORD delights in you, And your land shall be married. {5} For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you. Amen.

2nd Lesson: Mat 22:1-14

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.” Amen.

3rd Lesson:

Apocalypse Revealed 812

812. Verse 7. Let us rejoice and exult, and give the glory to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, signifies joy of soul and heart, and thence the glorification of the Lord, that henceforth there may be a full marriage of Him with the church.

It may be evident almost without explanation, that when the Lord’s Human is acknowledged to be Divine, there is effected a full marriage of the Lord and the church; for it is known in the Reformed Christian world, that the church is a church from the marriage of the Lord with her; for the Lord is called the Lord of the vineyard, and the church is the vineyard; and the Lord is also called the Bridegroom and Husband, and the church is called the Bride and Wife.

That there is then the full marriage of the Lord and the church, when His Human is acknowledged to be Divine, is manifest; for then God the Father and He are acknowledged to be one, as the soul and the body. When this is acknowledged, the Father is not approached for the sake of the Son; but then the Lord Himself is approached, and God the Father through Him; because the Father is in Him, as the soul is in the body, as was said.

Before the Lord’s Human is acknowledged to be Divine, there is indeed a marriage of the Lord with the church; but only with those who approach the Lord, and think of His Divine, and not at all whether His Human is Divine or not. The simple in faith and in heart do this; but rarely the learned and erudite. Moreover also there cannot be given three husbands to one wife, nor three souls to one body: and therefore, unless one God is acknowledged, in whom is the Trinity, and that that God is the Lord, there is no marriage. Amen.