Parable of The Wedding Feast

The 14th Sunday after Pentecost


Mat 22:1-14


Parable of the Wedding Feast - the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.[1]


Today is a day of great joy for us because of the baptism of Catherine.  It's also the 14th  Sunday after Pentecost and the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and also the Sunday before the Elevation of the Holy Cross.  Therefore we have three Gospel readings today which is not ordinary.  Usually we have only two or even only one. 


These readings are linked together by a thread. The reading for the Cross has that famous verse we Have heard many times:


"For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life."


Now what is this eternal life? It is described a little bit more in a veiled way in the reading for the Theotokos.  This is the typical reading that we read for the Mother of God and it's sort of a play on words because Mary, the sister of Martha was not the Theotokos, but shared the same name. 


Mary and Martha are with Jesus and there is a meal being served and Martha is cumbered about with serving but Mary sits at his feet and has chosen the better part.  And then the Gospel goes a few more verses, thirty or so:


"And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked."[2]


And Christ says, "…Yes indeed, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it."[3]


This is something else to describe eternal life because when we learn of Christ, we must live according to what we learn and then we will have blessedness.  'Blessed' can be translated 'happy'.  The word, "makari", just means happiness.  But it is the fullness of happiness only Christ can give. 


Now, He describes the happiness He wants to give in a parable about a wedding.  Think about what a wedding brings to mind. It is the union of two, to live together, and care for one-another for the rest of their days. There is great happiness, great love, great festivity, great expectations, fatlings killed, and oxen on the table. All partake of a rich and bountiful feast, because two families are so happy and the wedding of their daughter and their son.


 The marriage is an image of the salvation that God wants to give us and much more so.  It is a mystery, St.  Paul says, we can't even understand.   But marriage is used to hint at what our salvation will be at the joy of knowing our Lord.  But there are four things that people did in this parable that cast them out from the kingdom.  Some were cast out in a way that was very obvious to them and others just lived a life of purposelessness and they died.  Let us see about how these people lived and see what is the proper way to live.  It is all laid out for us in this parable.  


The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come."[4]


These people are much like those that are by the wayside.[5]  The seed is scattered over the wayside but the ground is ground down by the pounding of hooves and of feet and of wagon wheels and the seed cannot take any root at all and it is swept away by the birds and eaten by the birds and the fowls of the air.  These are the same people.   They don't care.  They will not come.  They're indifferent. They would answer the king’s servants:  'I care nothing whatsoever.' They're not going to abuse the prophets that came to bring the news of our Savior, but instead, they ignore them. 


These servants that called to the wedding feast are none other than the prophets.  And I tell you even now, the apostles today, the same servants, are calling to the wedding feast. Most people don’t listen and do not want to hear much about the Gospel, which tells us in exactitude HOW we should live, because it never really touches their soul, which is too full with worldly cares to contain anything else.


Now, He sent forth His servants to call them that were bidden.  Did you notice there were two callings there?  It's important to understand the nuances of the Scriptures.  We're called through everything, God has proclaimed through His prophets, through His apostles, through the teachings of the Church, we're called through all of these things, all of these manifestations of Divine Truth.  And we are bidden by our conscience because our conscience calls us again and again and again.  Not just being twice called nor thrice, but more than seven times seventy[6] called.  Every moment God is speaking to our conscience to call us.  So He says to His servants,



"Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise"[7]



There are the people that are choked by the cares of the world. They have some interest perhaps, in the God-man Jesus Christ, but not enough to stay away from their farms, that is, their body, or put another way, all forms of carnality. These are of course lusts of the flesh, but also all desires of experiencing the pleasures of this life, without giving a thought to the One who has made all things possible. Be careful now! Many of these types of people call themselves Orthodox Christians and even attend church! Guard yourself, O Christian, to see if you are merely a hearer of the word, or also a doer!


So then He sends more servants and a remnant of His servants are killed and indeed, the prophets were killed by the Jews.  And even today, I tell you, there have been apostles, that is, bishops, that have been killed, and deacons, and priests and confessors of all kinds that have been killed for their faith.  And they were spitefully treated and killed.  So the King sent forth His army and He uprooted these people and slew them all. 


All three kinds of these people did not inherit the kingdom, some because they didn't even care, some because they cared more for their own pleasures, their own ego, their own acquisitions, their own greed, and others were actually evil in a vicious and active way, and killed the prophets.


So the King wishes to have His feast hall filled.  So He says to His servants,


"The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage."[8]


'Go out into the highways, search out, find anyone and compel them to come in[9], compel them because of My great love for them.  I am going to show them who I Am.' And the person who listens will be compelled to follow the Gospel.  It is a compelling from within, brothers and sisters, from within our own soul. 


The man who will be saved has this compelling from within. Those who are not to be saved wear Christianity as an outward thing. They tell themselves, and even tell God, “I will get to working on this sin eventually”, or “I will start getting to church on time someday”, or “I will even begin to attend all the holy services regularly”, all the while making foolish excuses for themselves. They fool themselves saying “ I have so much trouble with this, and trouble with that, and God will understand why I cannot give the rules of piety my full attention”. You must search in your heart if you have excuses like this. Are you being compelled from within? If so, this compelling will obliterate flimsy excuses. Or is Christianity sort of an intellectual exercise to you?


So the good and the bad were brought into the kingdom.  The good and the bad were brought into the wedding hall.  But each person, according to the eastern custom, had a wedding garment put on them, clean and fresh wedding garments.  The good and the bad are baptized into the Church and all are given a wedding garment.


Now, the king comes to review his guests, and he sees a man without a garment, wearing only his regular street clothes. This man had to come in, and put on a garment, so he obviously wore it for some period of time. Then he went into some corner somewhere, behind some plant perhaps, and took off the wedding garment, discarding it, and still went back to the wedding feast to partake of all the good things the king had prepared, which are for the elect. Well, our Lord would not have that, and He went to that servant and asked him,


"Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless."[10]


This is the fourth way we lose our soul, by taking the good things God has given us and not living according to what they are, and not changing. 


It is our obligation, I tell you, to live according to who Christ is.  Knowledge of Christ does not save a man.  Acting upon knowledge of Christ saves a man.  The devil knows about Christ and hates Him and fears Him.  You must live according to what you have been taught. 


You must change.  And it is a beautiful thing to change.  It is a blessed thing to change.  It is the purpose of our life- to change and to become like Christ.  It is a privilege to do so, to put on the wedding garment, and to go into the wedding hall and to partake of all the things that we do not deserve in any way, but God gives to us because of His great love. 


So we must react to this love.  This is the meaning to this parable.  It has other meanings as well.  It certainly was an admonition to the Jews, just as the previous parable we discussed from last week was.[11]  It is the same kind of thing.  But the real inner meaning that we must understand, and that Christ was trying to put across to His hearers and to all of us is that we must live according to who God is. 


Now I know most of you, and I say with certainly, that you are not the ground by the wayside, because I know you, as my spiritual children, and I know that you have a desire to save your souls.  So you have passed that first tier.  Don't let worldly cares choke you and don't let desires of the flesh choke you.  Don't let things that are outside of God's will drag you down.  Don't exchange your wedding garment for street clothes.  Live according to who God is.  This is the desire God has for you. 


May God help you to fully realize the wedding feast and to keep your wedding garment unsullied and unspoiled.  Amen.                       




Matthew 22:1-14


And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, {2} The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, {3} And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. {4} Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. {5} But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: {6} And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. {7} But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. {8} Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. {9} Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. {10} So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. {11} And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: {12} And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. {13} Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. {14} For many are called, but few are chosen.







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[1] The following sermon was transcribed from one given Sept 8/21 1997, the 14th  Sunday after Pentecost, and also the  day of the commemoration of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and the Sunday before the Elevation of the Holy Cross.

[2] (Luke 11:27)

[3] Luke 11:28, translation corrected

[4] Mat 22:2-3

[5] Cf. Mat 13:4

[6] (Mat 18:21-22)  Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? {22} Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. The number designates an infinite amount of times.

[7] Mat 22:4-5

[8] Mat 22:8-9

[9] (Luke 14:23)  And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

[10] Mat 22:12

[11] The wicked servants in the vineyard - Matthew 21:33-42