Recall in this parable that there was a man who was gathered to the wedding feast and thought he belonged but didn’t because he was not dressed in wedding clothes, which we understand to represent the true heart righteousness of the saints. These garments of salvation are donned only as one is led by the Holy Spirit of God, who always leads one into holiness, for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14). Although deceived by the form of godliness with which he was clothed, because the man was not truly clothed in Christ’s righteousness he was bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness. This is the same picture as the foolish virgins in Mat 25:1-12 who although having the lamp of God’s word had no oil of His Spirit to give it light and so were likewise left in the dark and excluded from the wedding feast. We understand this outer darkness not only in terms of a sinner’s complete separation from the light of the Lord in hell following the final judgment, but also in terms of an extreme darkness of spiritual understanding that the Lord gives men over to even in this life.
We have already seen how those in the parable who refused to come to the feast were representative of the Jews in general and the religious leaders in particular to whom Jesus was addressing this parable; in what way was this man without the wedding clothes also representative of them? Think: Did they not also mistakenly suppose like the man in the parable that their own garments made them fit for the feast and they would dine at the Lord’s table in the kingdom of heaven? In what way was the Lord already consigning these to a deep spiritual darkness not only because of their refusal to come to the feast He had actually prepared for them, but because in their form of godliness they supposed that they had no need to come since they were already guaranteed a seat at the table? Is it possible that many Christians today might be like that, who refuse to come to the feast and have not donned the wedding clothes of Christ’s true righteousness but suppose that they are nonetheless saved because of their outward form of godliness? What does this help us to understand about the nature of the wedding feast and the kingdom of heaven it represents being not only something in the future but also something right now, here in the present? Cf. Luk 17:20-21.
Considering again the pretense of both the man in the parable without the wedding clothes and the religious leaders to whom Jesus was addressing the parable, for whom are we to understand that the outermost darkness of the Lord’s judgment is reserved? Cf. Mat 24:51 and note. What does this teach us about who hypocrites are really deceiving? What does this also help us to understand about the nature of that most extreme darkness being religious? Cf. 1Ki 22:19-23 and think: is not the deepest darkness in which one is the most blind also the greatest deception in which a person supposes he is already walking in the light, but because his heart is not pure God has given him over to believe what is false (2Th 2:11-12), and for that reason he cannot see the light that would truly set them free? Cf. Joh 9:39-41, Psa 18:25-26. Is it significant in this light that in every instance in which the Scripture speaks of weeping and gnashing of teeth, which is traditionally understood in regard to the worst torments and horrors of hell, that the context is always in reference to those who at one time appeared to belong? Cf. Mat 8:11-12, 13:40-42, 47-50, 24:45-51, 25:14,18,29-30, Luk 13:24-28. Again, in this light should we necessarily assume that being bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness is entirely future to this life, or is it possible that as with the religious leaders to whom Jesus was addressing the parable it may be pronounced and executed even before a person’s physical death on this earth? See Mat 23:33, Psa 81:10-12, Rom 9:22, 2Th 2:9-12.
Considering again that hypocrites who are deceived that they are guaranteed a seat at the king’s table in the kingdom of heaven are bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness, what is the significance of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that will be there? Notice that the word for weeping refers to a loud and bitter wailing; see Gen 45:2, Ezr 3:12-13. Also recall that in spite of the impenetrable darkness of their condition, Scripture portrays these as also somehow cognizant of the blessed happiness of those upon whom they looked down and supposed must be at their feet in God’s kingdom; what remorse, what “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, must be theirs whose expectations are so bitterly reversed? Cf. Luk 13:25-29, 16:23, 18:14. See also Psa 112:1-10, Lam 2:14-17, and Judas’ example in Mat 27:3-5. In what ways is such weeping and gnashing of teeth experienced by hypocrites even in this life, before the final judgment?
With what words does Jesus summarize the parable in Mat 22:14, and what is their significance in relation to the parable? See the NAS text note and observe that “called” may also be translated “invited”. Who are the “many” who are called or invited? See Mat 22:3,9, Luk 14:23; cf. 1Co 1:24, 1Ti 2:4, 4:10. Who are the “few” who are chosen, and why are there so few? In light of this sobering truth, what must be the response of those who would truly follow Christ and be received at the wedding feast? See Luk 13:23-24, 2Pe 1:10-11 and the preceding context.
Finally, recall that Matthew was written as an apologia to the Jews at the time the gospel was spreading more and more to the Gentiles. This resulted in the Jews becoming increasingly antagonistic toward the gospel so that they began rejecting it in increasing numbers. In what way would the two parables of the wedding feast and the wicked tenants have addressed the concerns many Jews were feeling at that time: that if the gospel was for the Gentiles, it couldn’t be for them? See Mat 21:41,43, 22:8-10.
1. Note, Hypocrites go by the light of the gospel itself down to utter darkness. Matthew Henry.↩
2. Of the many that are called to the wedding feast, if you set aside all those as unchosen that make light of it, and avowedly prefer other things before it; if then you set aside all that make a profession of religion, but the temper of whose spirits and the tenor of whose conversation are a constant contradiction to it; if you set aside all the profane, and all the hypocritical, you will find that they are few, very few, that are chosen; many called to the wedding feast, but few chosen to the wedding garment, that is, to salvation, by sanctification of the Spirit. This is the strait gate, and narrow way, which few find.↩