Weddings are awesome, but sometimes full of tension and surprises. To plan a wedding is one of the more complex projects I have been involved with. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being involved with my girls in their wedding plans and taking part in the work, creating memories that will remain with them forever.
This parable speaks of a King throwing a wedding, having completed all the preparations, and offering a celebration to His people.
But something goes wrong. Terribly wrong. Let’s read the passage and consider the message.
2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”‘ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
This parable is directed to “them”, referring to the audience in the previous parable. See Parable Surprises Wicked Servants
When did the Lord give this parable?
This parable was delivered to the nation and people of Israel as Jesus was preparing to establish the eternal kingdom through His death.
Where did the Lord teach the parable?
It appears this parable was provided in the temple, as it continues from previous parables.
Why did the Lord give this message?
The previous parable was given as a warning of the rejection of the Son by the Jewish leadership and the plea for individuals to flee the sinking ship and to “fall on the stone”
This parable introduces the Lord as the King’s Son, and the central figure in the wedding prophecies throughout the Old Testament. Rejection of the invite and the resulting judgement on the nation is again spoken of, and yet the hope of an expansion of the wedding is offered. In the end, He warns of fakers, those who don’t have the wedding garment that was provided.
What was the message for the original audience?
There are a number of messages the Lord provided to the audience that day. Lets peruse the parable and find each.
As I mentioned above, Jesus introduces Himself as the Kings Son, and in saying this, He is declaring to His enemies the very truth that will lead to His death. That He is the King, and no other!
The second truth expressed may be found in verses 3 – 6, where Jesus speaks of the invite to the “bidden”, those who had been called to the wedding feast, as simply not coming. Again, just prior to the beginning of the feast the King sent forth servants again to invite the “bidden” to come to a feast already prepared, ready for a celebration Those “bidden” made light of the invitation, ignoring the invitation and continued on with their daily drudgery of farms and business. But this time, a portion of those who paid no attention to the invitation, went beyond simply ignoring the invitation, and continued into aggression upon those servants inviting them. To the death. Let’s get this straight – a portion of the invited, those “bidden” to the wedding celebration, slew the servants of the King. This group hearkens back to our previous parable.
The third truth may be found in verses 7-9, and speaks of the overflowing grace of the King. Note that although judgement must be meted out to those murderers, the King’s ongoing attitude was not of bitterness and anger, but to find some way to lavish His grace upon a people, no matter their standing. The servants went out and gathered “all whom they found, both bad and good”. The wedding hall was filled with guests! I can’t help but to see this as referring to the gospel call after the Lord’s rejection, beating, crucifixion and resurrection. Not only from those within the nation doomed to destruction, but to all those that the servants could gather.
In the final section Jesus focusses in on one lone individual. A man who had been invited. A man without a wedding garment. Although the passage does not state where the wedding garments came from, it is my understanding that the garments were provided by the host, that is, by the King Himself. The garments were basic robes that all attendees wore that would hide rank or status in life, thereby removing barriers to freely enjoy each others company.
When the King saw a man who was not wearing the provided garment, He questioned him.
Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?
You see, this man was blatantly expressing his rejection of the Kings provision by not wearing the garment. He may have been too proud to cover up his own status in life, his own garment may have been such that it exalted his own status in life over other attendees. At the very least, he rejected the Kings offer, and did not want to identify with the other wedding guests This may have been his motive and his path to doom, of his being cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
He was rejected from the wedding feast and cast into the outer darkness. But what is the outer darkness, that has this weeping and gnashing of teeth?
The term “outer darkness” is found three times in the Word, each time in the gospel of Matthew. (Darkness, of course is found many more times, but I am simply looking for clues on the specific term “outer darkness”.)
12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Mat 8:12 ESV
13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – Mat 22:13 ESV
30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – Mat 25:30 ESV
“Weeping and gnashing of teeth” (not including the phrase “outer darkness” as in the verses above) may be found an additional three times in Matthew and once in Luke.
42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. … 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Mat 13:42, 50 ESV
51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Mat 24:51 ESV
28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. – Luke 13:28 ESV
I find it interesting that the term weeping and gnashing of teeth is so specific. Let’s take a moment to look at these terms to see if the New Testament can shed some light onto our understanding.
When I read this parable initially, I associated pain with the weeping. But is that the intended meaning of the term, or is it the image we have imported, including the associated pain we have been taught of. When I am in pain, I may cry in the midst of the pain, and this may be synonymous with weeping, but is this the intended meaning here?
The term “weeping” is the greek work klauthmos and is used only in the above verses, and the two following passages.
“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Mat 2:18 ESV
And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, – Act 20:37 ESV
These verses are instructive since they provide a background and reason for the experience of weeping. For Rachel it was the death of her children. Much sorrow and sadness. For the elders in Ephesus, again, it was sorrow and sadness of not seeing the beloved apostle Paul again that caused the weeping. As we can see from the two available passages above, the term “weeping” is associated with sadness or sorrow. The root word for “klauthmos” is “klaiō” (G2799) and has many more verses that would support this general conclusion. I will leave it to the reader for further study if of interest.
The term “gnashing” is a translation of the Greek word brygmos (G1030), from the root word brychō, (G1031)
Brygmos is only found in the seven verses provided above, and are descriptive of some emotion that I associate with pain and suffering. I refer to Matthew 13:42, 50, where the passage speaks of a fiery furnace. The associated pain of fire must be where I am linking this gnashing of teeth with suffering.
42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. … 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Matthew 13:42, 50 ESV
But I am still looking for a bit more definition. After all, Matthew 13:42,50 may be referring to multiple emotions and not necessarily linking the pain of the fire with the gnashing of teeth. There may be more going on, i.e. the suffering of fire AND an emotion associated with the gnashing of teeth. After all, we have found that weeping is generally associated with sadness, and may be experienced at the same time as suffering pain.
So in my research, I found one time where the root word for gnashing appears in the New Testament, and to be honest, it is quite surprizing.
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. – Act 7:54 ESV
Stephen is giving his defense to the high priest and Sanhedrin, and with his defense, his audience “ground/gnashed their teeth” Why you ask? Were they suffering eternal pain and torment. No – They were enraged! Furious! Stephens defense condemned the Jewish leadership and they had had enough. Three verses later, Luke records the leadership…
cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him.
These guys were blind with rage! Murderous rage. The gnashing of teeth is associated with rage, anger, fury!
In conclusion, was Jesus describing the outer darkness as a place of sadness and sorrow, combined with anger and rage? You be the judge.
Now before some may claim I am trying to remove pain, suffering and torment from hell, (the “outer darkess”?), please rest assured that this little study is focused on the emotions described in this parable, and is not intending to limit the emotions or experiences that await those who may suffer in Gehenna.
What is the message for us today?
Two messages come to mind for me, and hopefully for you.
Heed the Invite
First, don’t ignore the invitation! Ignoring the invitation is rejecting the invitation. I speak to those who know not the Lord. If you have not sought out His grace and found Him – Seek Him. He has provided the invitation, but no response from you, no desire to accept this invite is a repitition of those who “went on their way” in the parable. No good results come from that! Therefore
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; Isaiah 55:6
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
I also speak to those know the Lord. Seek the Lord. Do not ignore your part of the relationship with the Lord of glory. Don’t ignore Him and drift off to destruction.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrew 2:1
We must remember that He is a God who rewards those who seek Him. There is danger to avoid and rewards to be gained in seeking Him. To knowing Him.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrew 11:6
Understand the Alternative
The alternative to seeking the Lord, to accepting the invite, is to reject the invite from the King.
Now I want you to know that I have two daughters, and we have sent out invitations for thier weddings to many friends and relatives. Some ignored the invitation, and that saddened us, but we didn’t go to thier town and burn it down.
You see, I am not a King.
I am just a poor ol’ fella that wanted to celebrate my little girl’s “happy day” and share it with others. I had no authority over those I invited. If they didn’t respond and come to the celebration, it was, at most, simply a social embarrassment for our family. At the least, we fully understood and accepted the guests declining the invitation as something they could not comply with.
But again, I am not a King.
Not so with Jesus. Jesus is declaring His authority over all those “bidden” to the wedding and clearly stating that ignoring the invite is an affront on his Kingdom. This does not bode well for those who ignore his grace.
The result of rejection, specifically in this parable is destruction, sorrow and rage. Other passages describe the suffering due to the rejection of the King in many other ways, but for this parable, this passage expanded my view of the consequences of rejection. When I considered the afterlife of those who reject the King, sorrow and rage did not come to my mind.
Have you considered the multiple results of the rejection of the One?
Choose life and not death. Choose the King!
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.