But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:11-14 ESV)
Weddings are a very special occasion in the lives of those getting married. For couples, the wedding is the most important day of their lives, and they want to share in that joy with friends and family as they begin their lives together. Not surprisingly, the Bible uses the imagery of marriage to represent the bond between Christ and the Church, and at the end of this age when Christ returns and calls the Church to be with him in the eternal state, the Bible uses the imagery of a wedding feast to depict that joyous day when the Kingdom of God has come in its fullness (Revelation 19:6-10).
Jesus also used the imagery of a wedding feast in this parable (Matthew 22:1-14), but his purpose in doing so was quite different. The setting for this parable is passion week. Jesus has just entered Jerusalem for the final week of his life. He has already predicted three times that he would die at the hands of the Jews and the Romans. He enters Jerusalem to resounding choruses of “Hosanna!” as crowds give him a greeting fit for a king. After his triumphal entry, he begins his final confrontations with the Jewish leaders. He cleanses the temple, a sign against the false religion of Pharisaical Judaism. He curses the fig tree, a sign of the unfruitfulness of the Jewish leaders. Finally, the Jewish leaders begin to challenge his authority to do these things. That’s when Jesus begins to tell them a number of parables, all with the theme of judgment against the Jews rejection of him as their rightful King and Messiah.