The Parables of Jesus, Lesson 7: The Parables of The Wedding Feast and The Great Banquet


Matthew 22 and Luke 14 contain two different parables but with similar content and context.  So, we will study them together.  The setting for The Parable for the Wedding Banquet is Jesus engaging His opponents at the Temple.  This showdown ignited in Matthew 21:23, where the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees attempted to trap Jesus in a barrage of shrewd arguments and traps.  The setting for The Parable of the Great Banquet is at a Pharisee’s house on a Sabbath.  Jesus was eating with Pharisees who were observing him carefully.

Both settings contain people trying to trap Jesus, which He uses as a springboard to teach about who will be dining with God in eternity.


The Parables Begin

Read Matthew 22:1-3a and Luke 14:15-17

  • What do both of the parables describe?


  • So, as a metaphor, what does the banquet describe?


“to call those who were invited” and “come, for everything is now ready”: These phrases mention, in passing, the common practice in Jesus’ day.  The host first sends an invitation, which people RSVP back if they will attend.

After the banquet is ready, the host sends a servant to summon the guests to the meal.  The Jewish philosopher Philo (25 BC – 50 AD) wrote that “givers of a banquet… do not send out the summonses to a supper until the feast is ready” (Creation 25, 78).  Except in an emergency, if someone accepted the invitation, attendance was considered binding, for people had no way to preserve leftover food.  If someone did not to show up, he would be insulting the host.


The Invitation is Spurned

Read Luke 14:18-20

“bought a field, and I must go out and see it”: The first guest says he needs to examine a field he just bought.  Does someone examine something like a piece of farmland after he purchases it?  No, you examine before you buy, not after.  This is a weak excuse.

“I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them”: As with the field, one examines before he purchases.  This guest purchased five pairs of oxen, which could plow 100 acres, revealing he is wealthy.  His wealth makes examining his purchase even less necessary.  This is even a weaker excuse.

“I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come”: The last guest is married (sometime in the past, but we don’t know when).  He only says he cannot attend because he is married.  This is so flimsy it is laughable.  Why?  Being married, in itself, has nothing to do with attending the feast (it is a false analogy).  Now, if he is recently married, then the implication is, “Will this guest need to ‘examine’ his wife like the field and oxen owner did?”  Either way, the listeners will be rolling in laughter.  This guest does not even request to be excused, insulting the host even more.  This is the weakest excuse.

  • What progression do we see in the excuses for not being able to attend?


Though each guest has a different excuse for not attending the feast, their rationale has a common root.  We find a clue for this in Luke 14:18, in the word “alike,” which in the Greek is “from one” (apo mias).  Their excuses, then, are the symptoms, not the cause.  Something common inside each of them brings them to see little value in the banquet, which is the source of their excuses.

  • This parable is about “the kingdom of God.” Discuss what keeps people away from dining at the “kingdom of God”?


Read Matthew 22:3b-4

  • In Matthew, what does the host do for a second time, which is not in Luke’s parable?


  • What does this reveal about the “kingdom of heaven”?


Read Matthew 22:5-6

These verses move in a negative direction.  Instead of attending the feast, the first guest went to his “farm” (neutral).  The second attended to his “business” (negative implications).  The third grouping of guests seized the host’s servants and killed them (negative actions).

“business”: Greek, emporia, a singular noun.  This term is loaded with negative connotations.  Apart from this parable, the only other place emporia (singular noun) or emporos (plural noun) appear in the New Testament is in Revelation.  Revelation 18:3 describes the destruction of Satan’s earthly agents, referred to as “Babylon.”

The “merchants [emporos] of the earth have grown rich” by being in league with Babylon.  These same merchants “weep and mourn” because “no one buys their cargo anymore” (18:11).  They are not part of the “kingdom of heaven” except by being very far removed from it.

In the 11 places where the Septuagint uses the singular noun for “business” (emporia), all have negative connotations (Isaiah 23:18, twice; 45:14; Ezekiel 27:13, 15, 16, 24; 28:5, 16, 18; and Nahum 3:16).  So also for the merchants (emporoi) who conduct such business: Genesis 37:28; 1 Kings 10:15, 28; 2 Chronicles. 1:16); 1 Maccabees 3:41; 2 Maccabees 8:34; and Sirach 26:29, 37:11.

We also find the same for conducting business as a verb (emporeuomai): Genesis 34:10, 21, 42:34; 2 Chronicles 1:16, 9:14; Hosea 12:1; Ezekiel 27:13, 21; and Amos 8:6.

In the New Testament, James 4:13 condemns those “who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade (emporeuomai) and make a profit.’”  2 Peter 2:3 warns against those who “in their greed … exploit (emporeuomai) you with false words.  Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” [1]

  • Who or what then is the “one” source behind the excuses to stay away from feast representing the “kingdom of heaven”?


The Host Responds

Read Matthew 22:7

  • What then does this verse describe?


  • If this verse is prophetic for something on earth, what does it describe?


Read Luke 14:21

  • Instead of the original invitees, who now is invited?


  • Could those now invited ever reciprocate with such an invitation back to the host?


“the poor and crippled and blind and lame”: In the Old Covenant, those who were blind, lame, or crippled could not serve as priests (Leviticus 21:17-23).  This wasn’t just for practical reasons; they also pointed others to the salvation of body and soul.  In the Dead Sea scrolls, we find writings saying the “lame, blind, deaf, dumb, or those defiled in his flesh” are excluded from the messianic banquet.

  • What did the “poor and crippled and blind and lame” not have when it came to eating, which the first invitees did?


  • What are the implications of thinking, “I have all I need; I don’t need to go to eat the Feast” of the “kingdom of God”?


Read Luke 14:22-23

  • Whom does the host now invite? Why?


  • Whom did the poor, crippled, blind, and lame mentioned earlier, represent in the parable?


  • Who then are those from “highways and hedges”?


Read Matthew 22:8-10

  • How is this group in Matthew different than in Luke? (vs. 10)


Those Excluded from the Kingdom

Read Luke 14:24

  • Why will the original invitees not taste of the banquet?


“For I tell you”: Verse 23 begins, “And the master said to the servant [singular noun] …”  In vs. 24, Jesus switches, no longer telling the parable but directly speaking to those who were eating with him at the Pharisee’s house.  He says, “For I tell you,” using a plural form of you.  (If this were still part of the story, Jesus would use a singular “you” with the host speaking to his servant.)   Jesus brings the parable into the present, reminding those listening that the “meal in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15) is His banquet (see Revelation 19:9) and those who refuse Him will have no place there.

Read Matthew 22:11-12

The Old Testament used marriage to describe a picture of God and His people.  “For your Maker is your [Israel’s] husband; the Lord of the Heavenly Armies is his name, and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of the whole earth” (Isaiah 54:5).

  • What was one person not wearing?


Isaiah 61:10:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

  • What does the wedding garment represent?


Our Baptism clothes us with the righteousness for life in heaven.  The saints have washed their robes and made them white in the Lamb’s blood (Revelation 7:14).  Dressed in this glorious wedding garment, we are prepared to stand forever in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Isaiah 61:10, Matthew 22:11).


Excursus on “Friend”

“Friend”: Greek, hetairos.  Like “business,” “friend” also came with negative connotations we don’t have in English.  The listeners of the parable would know these negative connotations.  “Friend” described:

  • The “friend” (translated as “companion”) who had been the best man at Samson’s wedding, to whom he gave his wife (Judges 14:20). BAD
  • Adonijah, “friend” (translated as “on his side”) of Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah, who was executed (1 Kings 2:21-25). BAD
  • Jonadab, the “friend” of Amnon, who set up Tamar so Amnon could rape her, who was later killed for doing so (2 Samuel 13:3, 28-29). BAD
  • Hushai, David’s “friend,” who sided with Absalom to overthrow David (2 Samuel 16:15). BAD
  • Job, who called himself a “friend” (translated as “companion”) of ostriches (Job 30:29). BAD

2 Kings 4:5 (Zabud) is the only time the Septuagint uses “friend” devoid of any negative connotation.[2]

So, when Jesus says, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” He is priming the listeners to expect something catastrophic.


Read Matthew 22:13

  • What happens to the man without a wedding garment? Why?


  • What does this metaphorically describe?


Read Matthew 22:14

“many”: “The many” is a Jewish expression meaning “all” or “everyone.”  Even without the definite article (the), “many” often meant “all” or “everyone.”  For example, we see this in Psalm 109:30, in which the Septuagint translates the Hebrew rabbim with the Greek pollon, referring to “all” in the congregation.

“called … chosen”: Here, Jesus used wordplay: “All are called [kletoi], but few are chosen [ekletoi].”  Beyond the similarity of sounds is this: Yes, all are called, but few are chosen.  Those who are not chosen might mistakenly think they are, since, at first listen, they could mistake being called (kletoi) as the same as being chosen (ekkletoi).

  • Are you chosen? How do you know?


The answer depends on if you are you wearing the garments of salvation, which God clothed you with (Isaiah 61:10).  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).


Link to the next Lesson.


[1] Only in Proverbs 31:14 does the verb (“like a ship ‘merchanting’ from afar”) have positive connotations.  Why?  Because of wisdom (vs. 26), which can turn sinful, self-service into something good.

[2] The positive aspects of being a “friend” came mostly through other words.  For example, God as a “friend” of Abraham, in 2 Chronicles 20:7, was agapao (“love” as a participle, meaning “loving one”).  For David and Jonathan’s friendship, Scripture never used “friend.”  The Hebrew Masoretic Text says “David loved Jonathan as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1, not in the LXX).  The Septuagint says, “Jonathan, son of Saul, preferred David exceedingly” (1 Samuel 19:1, LXX).