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Faith Bible Church, NY
October 9, 1994
Invitation to a Royal Feast
Turn with me to Matthew 22. We are going to look at the third parable that Jesus told to the Chief priests, Elders and Pharisees in response to their challenge of Jesus authority.
It has already become painfully clear to these hypocritical religious leaders that their attempt to bring reproach upon Jesus has sadly backfired. Instead, it is their wickedness that is being revealed before all. In the first parable concerning the two sons, they are the ones that lied to the Father and refused to do what he had requested. They were the ones that had rejected the testimony of John the Baptist and so were not entering into the Kingdom of Heaven, while at the same time those they had considered unredeemable sinners had heeded John’s call to repentance and were entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the parable of the landowner they are the wicked vine-growers who abused and killed the slaves of the landowner. (See: Results of Rejecting the Son) They are the ones that in their greed thought they could gain the inheritance by murdering his son. They were the sons of their fathers who had killed God’s prophets throughout the history of the nation, and now they were plotting and preparing to kill the Son of God. In fact, they would have arrested him right then in order to kill Him except that they were cowards and feared the multitudes of people that were present because the people held Jesus to be a prophet. They had gotten the point of the first two parables.
Now we come to this third parable. Verse 1 says, And Jesus answered and spoke to them again in parables, saying… Jesus is not answering any question they have, He is still responding to their challenge against His authority. The word, “answered” here could probably be better translated as “responded” to give us the proper sense of what is happening. Jesus continued His response to them and spoke again in parables saying…
Notice that Jesus does not pose any question to them nor does He really even invite them to listen, to “hear another parable.” Instead He simply launches into it. No longer is Jesus holding a discussion with this particular group because they have rejected His warnings. Now He is proclaiming to them the judgement coming against them and against the whole nation. This parable is not just for the ears of these religious leaders, but for all the people to hear.
A REJECTED INVITATION
The parable begins in verse 2. “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son. “
This parable concerns the “kingdom of heaven”, which is just another name for the kingdom of God. The Jews often spoke of “heaven” rather than mention God’s name for fear they might accidently break the 4th commandment and take the name of the Lord God in vain. We would do well if we took more care in what we say. You do not have to curse God to take His name in vain. You take His name in vain every time you use any of His names with out the reverence do Him.
The kingdom of God has various aspects to it, from His general rule over all creation, to His special relationship with those that believe and have entrusted themselves to Him. The aspect of the kingdom of heaven being spoken of here is in its narrower sense of the spiritual community of God’s redeemed people. Most of the Jews believed the kingdom of Heaven was only for them and a few Gentile proselytes, so the people in the Temple believed that what Jesus was saying was for them.
The message of the parable was for them as well as the religious leaders. They too needed to heed the warnings that Jesus was giving rather than being smug about the way the Chief Priests, Elders and Pharisees were being reprimanded. These religious leaders were feared, but they were not liked, so the people were generally pleased to see someone, especially someone they considered a prophet, scold them. Yet the people were really no different, and this parable would warn them too.
The first element in the parable is the setting of a king preparing a wedding feast for His son and inviting various people to attend. Even in our day we what an honor it is to be invited to a wedding and how important such an event is. It was even more important in Jewish society. Their festivities for the guests would not just be a reception after the ceremony, but would usually be a week long series of meals and celebrations. It was the highlight of all social life. The wedding of the King’s son would be of the highest importance with the various festivities being held over a period of several weeks. And the meals served would be the most fabulous possible. All of this was to represent the most wonderful party possible given by the most respected person possible for the most-honored guests possible.
Verse three tells us what happened next. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. This may seem a bit confusing in that the King sent out his slaves to call the people that had been invited until you understand that in Jewish society at the time, a guest would be invited twice to such an event. An invitation would be given, and then that would be followed up just prior to the event with a second invitation, a call to come to the event. A sort of a prestigious reminder. The ramification of that is these people who had been invited already knew about the wedding feast coming up and would have had ample time to prepare themselves to attend. Yet here we find something hardly imaginable. These guests were unwilling to come.
Now that in itself should have been enough for the king to become angry, it would have made me angry and probably you too, yet we find here that this king has an unbelievable amount of patience with these rude people that he has invited. He sends them a third invitation. Verse 4, Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘
Now how could anyone turn down such an invitation. Not only is the king and putting on quite a feast, but it would be extremely rude not to come after he has now made everything ready for us. Well, these people were rude, and some of them much more. Vs 5, But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.
Some just continued to ignore the kings invitation like it was nothing and continuing on their normal course of business. What a tragedy that anyone would be so preoccupied with their own everyday, mundane lives that they would consciously turn down the opportunity to behold the wonderful majesty and honor of attending the wedding of the king’s son. But some where far more than selfishly indifferent, they even went so far as to abuse and kill some of the king’s servants.
They should have been fearful about offending the king, instead they were so self absorbed all they could see is the offense of the king’s persistence and bothering them with another invitation. In cruel insolence they seized the king’s slaves, mistreating some and killing others. Their contempt for the kings slaves certainly demonstrates a great contempt for the king himself.
God had been unbelievably kind to the nation of Israel. Over and over He sent His prophets to proclaim to them God’s mercy and willingness to forgive and bring blessing upon those who would turn back to Him. Even the image of an invitation to a feast with God was embedded in their culture since several of the sacrifices were to be eaten by the family of the person who offered it. And yet, over and over the prophets of God were ignored, beaten and even murdered.
A REVENGEFUL KING
This king has amazingly showed the amount of patience he has shown, but now his patience comes to an end and he will take his vengeance on these wicked people. Verse 7, But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.
God is long-suffering, but there comes a time when He puts an end to His patience and brings about judgement. That came about for the nation of Israel in 70 A.D. when Roman General Titus, son of the Emperor conquered Jerusalem, slaughtered over a million Jews that had sought refuge there, and then burned the city. Historian Flavius Josephus who witnessed the destruction of the city described it as follows:
That building [the Temple], however, God long ago had sentenced to the flames; but now in the revolution of the time periods the fateful day had arrived, the tenth of the month Lous, the very day on which previously it had been burned by the king of Babylon… One of the soldiers, neither awaiting orders nor filled with horror of so dread an undertaking, but moved by some supernatural impulse, snatched a brand from the blazing timber and, hoisted up by one of his fellow soldiers, flung the fiery missile through a golden window… When the flame arose, a scream, a poignant as the tragedy, went up from the Jews… now that the object which before they had guarded so closely was going to ruin… While the sanctuary was burning,… neither pity for age nor respect for rank was shown; on the contrary, children and old people, laity and priests alike were massacred… The emperor ordered the entire city and sanctuary to be razzed to the ground, except only the highest towers, Phasael, Hippicus, and Miriamne, and that part of the wall that enclosed the city on the west.
Jesus warned them about what God would do because of their continual rejection of His invitation and their abuse and murdering of His prophets. In 70 A.D. God brought that destruction to Jerusalem through the Roman Army under Titus. Yet God is still gracious, for we find that even though the one He originally invited ignored the invitation, God has now extended that invitation to all.
AN INVITATION TO ALL
Verse 8-10, Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.” And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
The invitation was turned down by those first requested to come. They had proved themselves unworthy of the honor bestowed upon them, so now the invitation went goes out to all regardless of who they were. The evil and the good came. Those who had fairly moral lives and those that did not. And these people came and filled the hall.
Is this not the Great Commission given to the church by Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”? Or as Mark puts it, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” No longer was the message directed at Israel, but now to the whole world, and regardless of the current state of the individual.
Both the “good” and the “evil” here are unworthy of coming to the King’s table, they can only come because of the King’s generosity to invite them. And so it is with salvation. No one gets in because they are worthy of it, because they qualify. You only get in because God is gracious and merciful. The Scriptures make this clear in many places.
While people may be “good” in relative comparison to each other, no one is “good” enough in God’s eyes. “There is none righteous, no even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” (Romans 3, Psalm 14). And as for the evil, 1 Cor. 6:9,10 makes it very clear that none of them can make it to heaven on their own. “Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” But God’s grace is shown verse 11, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God.”
What enables a person to enter into the kingdom of God today is the same as it was back then. Personal faith in God’s grace and mercy to provide the price Himself. Just as God provided the lamb of sacrifice for Abraham, He has provided the sacrifice for sin for all in Christ Jesus. The dinner guests were seated because of King provided the invitation and paid the price for the meal. We can only enter into God’s banquet hall in heaven if we come the same way. He pays the price and gives us an invitation. And He has done both. Have you accepted the invitation?
God is indiscriminate about who He invites, but lest anyone think that God is indifferent to what His guests will be like when they arrive, Jesus concludes the parable with an important point about a rejected guest.
A REJECTED GUEST
“But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Having an invitation is not enough. You have to respond to the invitation by coming, and you have to be properly attired if you want to attend this wedding feast. There is no doubt in my mind that the slaves of the king found some among the general population that also ignored the king’s invitation. If the first guests rejected the invitation, there will be some among the general population that will too. Certainly we see in the universal invitation of the gospel that most do not respond to the invitation. Just like the first guest in the parable, most people are too busy with their own things to pay attention to God.
Many are wrapped up in their own little mundane lives, going to work to earn money so that they can spend money, so that they can live, so that they can go to work to earn money, so that they can spend money, so that they can live, so that they can go to work to earn money, so that they can spend money, so that they can live so that…, mundane! Their lives are wrapped up in what is around them and they never see the eternal perspective. Others are too busy trying to earn God’s favor to ever accept His gift of grace. Why should they receive what costs them nothing if they can earn it and keep their self righteous pride too? The only problem for them is that you can not earn it. Most people reject the God’s invitation to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Others have balked at the ending of this parable saying that God is not fair to require wedding clothes from someone picked up off the street. Others say this sounds too much like works righteousness because you have to get clothed before you can come. Both objections are answered by simply understanding that while kings often required their subjects to be dressed in a certain way if they were to see him, the king himself provided the attire! God is not unfair, He is perfectly just and when He require from man that which man can not produce himself, God provides it for man.
The king in this parable was more than generous to his guests. He not only invited them, but he provided for their attire as well so that they would be properly dressed for the wedding. He did not expect them to have proper wedding clothes, and God does not expect us to come to Him clothed in righteousness. Even if we tried, Isaiah has already told us that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags in His presence” (Isa 64:6). This man was silent before the king because there was no excuse that he could give. A wedding garment was available to him, but he refused it. How else can it be explained that all the other guests had on the proper wedding clothes and this man did not and could give no excuse? Now he is being held to account for himself.
Since the man would did not take advantage of what the king had provided for him, he was bound hand and foot and thrown out of the wedding hall. He could not come back in. And there he lay in the darkness weeping and gnashing his teeth while the rest of the guest enjoyed the festivities in the lighted hall.
A LESSON FOR US
There is a lesson here for us for there is a wedding feast coming that God would be more than pleased to have you attend. It is the marriage supper of the lamb of God. We are told about it in Rev. 19:7.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb.'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
If you want to be there you have to be invited, but we already know that the invitation has been sent out to all. That is the gospel call. But you not only have to be invited, you also have to respond to the invitation. And that response requires humility, repentance from your sin, and coming to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. It requires believing in Him and placing your faith in Him alone, “for no man comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ” (John 14:6). And if you don’t want to get thrown out, you have to have on the proper attire. And there is only one attire acceptable, perfect righteousness. Something you can not produce for yourself. You only get it one way, it is given to you by God as He imputes to you the righteousness of Jesus (Phil. 3:9; Rom 3:22). Notice that even the bride of the Lamb is given her garment.
If you try to come to God in any other way, your end will be the same as the man in the parable. You will be cast out into outer darkness where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth over the tragedy of the consequences of such foolishness.
“Many are called, few are chosen.” The perfect balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s will. God has given a universal call to repentance in the gospel, but only a few are willing to accept the invitation and be among the chosen. Most people do not really want God, and many that say they do only want Him on their own terms. Only those who will accept His sovereign, gracious provision in Jesus Christ will be saved and enter God’s kingdom. Those who remain outside the kingdom do so because of their rejection of God’s gracious plan of redemption.
I am looking forward to that banquet. It is a great thing to look forward to. I hope you will be there with me to enjoy what the angel said would be a great blessing!
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