This is the third of the three parables that Jesus delivers to the Jewish religious elite in the scene that began in 21:23…
In this parable, unlike the previous two, Jesus begins with ”The Kingdom of heaven is like…” This time, He will put His parabolic meaning into the context of the Kingdom of heaven, which has been His general theme ever since He began His public ministry some three years earlier. In the parable, God is the King, Jesus, although He has been mentioned as king many times in Matthew’s narrative, is the son of the king, and the banquet is the messianic banquet we have seen earlier in Matthew’s account (cf. 8:11; 25:1 ff.). The king (God) wishes to honor his son (Jesus) and has arranged this banquet. Invitations have been sent out. Everything is ready, and the king sends his servants to let the invitees know that it is time to come to the banquet hall of the king… and they refuse.
By refusing, they have given a gross insult to the king, for they have refused to join him in honoring his son. Surprisingly, the king sends his messengers again, but the invitees are too busy with their own affairs; some even attack the messengers; the king is not amused, and demonstrates his wrath.
The king then tells his servants to invite people off the street to attend, and soon the hall is full of guests. When the king enters the room, he notices a man who is not appropriately dressed for a wedding banquet and asks him the reason; the man says nothing, and the king has him tossed out of the hall, to a dark place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” has serious apocalyptic significance, for it denotes the judgment of God upon a person or a people.
In the final verse, Jesus sums up what has happened when He says: ““For many are invited, but few are chosen.” The hall was full of people, but those who were first invited refused to attend; they were invited, but since they didn’t show up to honor the son, they weren’t chosen. The second group of invitees showed up, but one of them didn’t take his invitation very seriously, and was thrown out; he was also invited, but his lack of caring about that invitation resulted in his also not being chosen.
You might ask, “Chosen for what?”
The answer is a simple one: Chosen to remain in the presence of the king.
This parable demonstrates the messianic mission of Jesus in that when Israel, represented by their leaders, refused to honor Him, they rejected not only Jesus, but His Father as well; surely this sounds familiar to you for Jesus said this several times. Israel was the very first to be invited into God’s presence, but they were too busy, too hardened of heart to show up; some even attacked His messengers. The invitation then went out to the Gentiles, and many took advantage of the invitation, but even then there are those (of us) who really don’t take the whole thing very seriously, and who will come to judgment in the end.
This might be a point for reflection for all of us…
I really doubt that the Jewish leaders who heard this really comprehended the scope of what Jesus was telling them here, for as we have already seen, their eyes had been blinded by their stubborn hardness of heart; they were now doing Satan’s bidding, whether they understood it or not. From here on, their secret plotting will consume them…