Title: Parables Bible Study 7: The Marriage Feast of the King's Son
Subject: The Kingdom of Heaven
Age: 13+ years
- Matthew 13:22:1-14
- Luke 14.16-24, which is similar but is often labeled as a different parable
Handout for note taking: Bible Study Worksheet
Begin the bible study with a prayer. Read the passage, and then allow time for quiet reflection. Share the following notes on the parable.
The Parable of the Marriage Feast of the King's Son brings up two ideas of the Kingdom. When we pray the Lord's Prayer and say, "Thy Kingdom come," we are praying for the Kingdom of God as the reign of God in the age to come. This is when the Kingdom is complete and totally manifest.
The statement by Jesus and John the Baptist, "the Kingdom of heaven is at hand," means that this is the way that leads to the realization of the Kingdom in people's hearts. "The Kingdom of God is within you," Luke 17.21. How can we make this world real, now?
"His way was fully exposed in the Sermon on the Mount; this prolonged discourse is the textbook, so to speak, of the behavior, attitudes, and values that must characterize those who would begin their membership or citizenship in the kingdom here and now."
Can we understand the reality of the Kingdom now? The parables are Jesus' way of illustrating what a life lived within the Kingdom is like, and more to the point, what type of life leads towards entrance into it.
We can view this parable in an allegorical interpretation.
Allegory is "The veiled presentation, in a figurative story, of a meaning metaphorically implied but not expressly stated. Allegory is prolonged metaphor, in which typically a series of actions are symbolic of other actions, as in Bunyan's ‘Pilgrim's Progress.'"
Metaphor is "A figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another by way of suggesting a likeness or analogy between them (the ship plows the sea)."
Allegory is a patristic tool. For example, the burning bush is an allegory for the Virgin Mary, and the Arc of the Covenant is an allegory for the Virgin Mary's womb.
In this parable the Fathers see an allegorical representation of all of salvation history:
- The marriage represents the Incarnation. The Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, weds His divine Nature to human nature.
- The marriage is also the union between Christ and His Bride, the Church. Two biblical references include John 3:29, where Jesus is the Bridegroom, and Ephesians 5:22-33.
- The marriage also is allegory for the union of Christ with human souls. We ourselves are to understand baptism and Chrismation as that process which brings us into union with Christ, a union that finds its final completion in the age to come.
- The invited guests represent the people/nation who received the path of salvation as revealed by the prophets. In other words, God worked from Abraham on down the descendants, revealing and pointing the way towards the Messiah, The Christ. Preparing His people to receive Him, Who was and is the culmination of their entire history.
- The first servants sent to tell and invite to the marriage represent the prophets.
- "The other servants" are the apostles. The other still went first "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" Matthew 10.5-6. Their rejection led to the destruction of the Temple and the call of the Gentiles. Of course such an allegorical interpretation must not lead towards anti-Jewish sentiment or action.
Notice the description of the Kingdom in terms of a wedding feast; a banquet. It is the Eucharistic assembly. The Church has always connected this parable with the very real but mystical banquet of the Eucharist.
"To which all who follow Christ and are members of His Church are invited or, better to say, obliged to attend. If we are honest, we have little difficulty in seeing ourselves in the people who ‘made light of it and went their ways.'"
Likewise we find or even make excuses to avoid the banquet of the Lord, and this making of excuses goes beyond the actions of those in the parable! Common excuses include sports, leisure, rest, work, business, even disbelief. Here we must be careful to examine our feelings towards the Eucharist. Why don't we participate? It could be from habit, teaching, lack of preparation. The Eucharist is an expectation, a commandment, and even a requirement for the people of God. And yet we place equal if not greater value on many things, relegating the Eucharist to a lower place.
So let us examine the text itself. Read now from this partial list of texts from the New Testament about the Eucharist:
- Matthew 26:26-30
- Mark 14:22-26
- Luke 22:15-20
- Luke 24:13-35
- John 6:51-71
- Acts 2:42
- Acts 10:41
- 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
- 1 Corinthians 11:17-30
There are additional problems when facing the Eucharist. We refuse it outright for any number of reasons, or we accept or ignore this invitation dependant upon our mood, standard, etc. We serve God and mammon/the world; this we can not do. Still under this line of thought that connects the wedding banquet with the Eucharistic assembly we have to consider, versus 11-14. The Lord has commanded that "as many as you find, invite to the wedding" verse 9, and in verse 10 this command is followed. All are brought in, both the "bad and the good", verse 10.
In verse 11 a particular guest is singled out. This seems odd since the invitation is not without condition. The problem, as it were, was namely proper attire, which has been interpreted as preparation. Those invited had to clean up and dress for the occasion. The wedding garment symbolizes true repentance and righteousness.
"Great is the punishment for those who have been idle, indifferent, lazy. For even as those who showed insolence and gave injury by not coming, so also dost thou by thus reclining with a life corrupted. For the meaning of filthy garments is this: to depart hence having an unclean life. For this he was muzzled. See thou how, although the fact was so manifest, He does not punish until the one who has sinned reckoned himself forced out? For by having nothing to declare in opposition, he condemns himself, and so he is being taken away to the unspeakable torments."
(PG 58:681, 682, cols 650, 651)
With the above quote in mind, the wedding garment therefore represents the opposite condition; sincere preparation, real and honest preparation when considering the awesome reality of what the invitation entails: a change of heart; and love, on this last we have the greatest witness of the Fathers. Love is essential to and for our participation in Christ's banquet of reconciliation. First book of Timothy 1:5, "Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith," he speaks of a sacrificial love that is of a pure heart.
At this time, read the parable once more and allow time for quiet reflection. If there is time, you may have a discussion about this parable.
End the bible study with a prayer.
 Based upon the writing of Archbishop Dimitry in, "Parables" pp. 40-44
 Ibid, p. 41
 Orthodox Study Bible, notes, p. 60
 Ibid, p. 43
 Ibid, p. 44
Prepared by Fr. Evan Armatas
Click the link to return to the Parables Bible Study page or continue to the next Parables Bible Study session: The Ten Virgins