Parable of the Great Banquet

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Jan Luyken: the invitation, Bowyer Bible.
Jan Luyken: the man without a wedding garment, Bowyer Bible.

The Parable of the Great Banquet or the Wedding Feast or the Marriage of the King's Son is a parable told by Jesus in the New Testament, found in Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:15-24.

A variant of the parable also appears in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (Saying 64).[1]

It is not to be confused with a different Parable of the Wedding Feast recorded in Luke's Gospel.

Narrative[edit]

The longer version of the parable is in Matthew:

Jesus answered and spoke again in parables to them, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner. My cattle and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the marriage feast!"' But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise, and the rest grabbed his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. When the king heard that, he was angry, and sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited weren't worthy. Go therefore to the intersections of the highways, and as many as you may find, invite to the marriage feast.' Those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good. The wedding was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man who didn't have on wedding clothing, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here not wearing wedding clothing?' He was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and throw him into the outer darkness; there is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.' For many are called, but few chosen."

— Matthew 22:1-14, World English Bible

Interpretation[edit]

The eschatological image of a wedding also occurs in the parable of the Faithful Servant and the parable of the Ten Virgins. Here, it includes the extension of the original invitation (to Jews) to also include Gentiles.[2] In Luke, the invitation is extended particularly to the "poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame" (14:21), evidencing explicit concern for the "poor and the outcasts."[2]

The targets of the parable are the already religious who have no time for God; they are represented by the people who accepted an invitation, but when the food is ready, claim they are too busy to turn up.[3]

In Matthew, the parable immediately follows the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, to which it is linked.[4] This connection helps to explain the treatment of the man without wedding clothes.[4]

Augustine suggested that the wedding clothes or garment in this parable were provided by the host (but some commentators suggest this is unlikely to be the intended implication).[3] He also interpreted the garment as symbolizing charity,[5] an interpretation not widely accepted even in medieval times.[6]

Martin Luther suggested that the garment represented Christ himself.[7]

John Calvin alluded to other interpretations in commenting:

As to the wedding garment, is it faith, or is it a holy life? This is a useless controversy; for faith cannot be separated from good works, nor do good works proceed from any other source than from faith.[8]

In the Gospel of Thomas, the parable "becomes an exhortation against the affairs of business and a life of gain."[4]

Art and hymnody[edit]

The parable has been depicted by artists such as Bernardo Cavallino, Jan Luyken, and John Everett Millais.

A number of Christian hymns have been inspired by the parable, such as "All is ready" by Fanny Crosby,[9] and "All Things are Ready" by Charles H. Gabriel, which begins:

“All things are ready,” come to the feast!
Come, for the table now is spread;
Ye famishing, ye weary, come,
And thou shalt be richly fed.[10]

Music[edit]

The topic was the prescribed reading for the Second Sunday after Trinity, for which Bach composed cantatas Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, BWV 76 in 1723 and Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2 in 1724.

See also[edit]

References[edit]