Scripture Text: Matthew 22:1-14
As we wind down our look at the Parables of Jesus, we come to a time in the year that we celebrate thanksgiving to God. It is not that we give thanks to God only during this time of the year, but we will gather with family and friends to enjoy a meal and I hope give thanks to God for all His blessings. When you have your Thanksgiving meal this week surrounded by family and friends, take the time to really count your blessings (one by one) and thank God for all of them. Sometimes it may be hard to think about what to be thankful. Sometimes we forget to thank those who have given us so much. Imagine if you invited some people to your house to enjoy this Thanksgiving meal with you, and those you invited did not come. Some may say they had other plans or they just do not have time to come. You might be disappointed. Now, imagine if you spent all that time cooking a fantastic meal for your family and friends and those you invited who actually came were not the least bit grateful. They were not thankful for the hard work you did or maybe they thought it was their right to be there. How would you feel?
That is somewhat like the situation we see in this parable. We see a king who invited some folks to his son’s wedding feast and they chose not to go. Then we see the same king invite another group of people who actually came, but one was not wearing the proper clothes. This parable is similar to the Parable of the Tenants in which the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time had repeatedly rejected God’s prophets. God had sent prophet after prophet to the nation of Israel to call His people to repentance and to fellowship with Him and they had refused. They had really rejected God and had even rejected His Son, Jesus, and had made themselves unworthy for the Kingdom of God. As a result, God had turned to new tenants, the Gentiles, to hire them to work in His vineyard. We see a similar theme in this parable where God turns to others after the Jewish leaders had rejected God’s invitation. Half of the parable (vss. 1-7) is about those who did not come to the banquet and the other half (vss. 8-14) is about those who did come.
Those Who Rejected the Wedding Invitation
In this parable, Jesus was using a familiar wedding custom of that time to teach an important lesson. At the time of a marriage engagement, an announcement was sent to the bridegroom’s friends to inform them of the forthcoming wedding. The friends were also invited to attend the wedding banquet that would follow. It was the custom at that time to give about twelve months between the engagement and the wedding itself; therefore, the invited guests had ample opportunity to schedule time and prepare themselves to attend the wedding banquet. In this parable Jesus told the story of a king, the father of the bridegroom, who reminded the friends of his son’s wedding feast:
Matthew 22:3 [He] sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.
This would have been the second invitation, since the first invitation was given at the time of the engagement. This second invitation may have announced the date for the wedding and the wedding banquet that was to follow; however, the guests would not come. The king graciously sent more servants for a third invitation to inform them that the dinner had been prepared. The servants made the banquet more attractive, telling them that those who came would dine very well with oxen and cattle that had been fattened for the banquet. Again, the ones who had been invited rejected this third offer, and some of those who had been invited seized the king’s servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. It was not like those who had been invited could not come to the wedding banquet – they would not and showed contempt for the king.
The invited guests who refused to come represent the Jewish leaders of that time, just like the tenant farmers from the Parable of the Tenants. The King is God, of course, and the Bridegroom, the King’s Son, is Jesus. The wedding guests had been invited at least three times representing God’s repeated and patient attempts to call His people back to Him through the prophets. As with the Parable of the Tenants, the Jewish people had rejected God’s invitation each time. God had sent the Old Testament prophets to the nation of Israel to call His people to repentance and back to fellowship with Him. They had rejected those offers and had rejected God Himself. God gave the Jewish people chance after chance to come to Him just as He gives us chance after chance to turn from ourselves and to turn to His Son, Jesus Christ. Is it possible that the Church, the very people Jesus died to save, has become a runaway bride?
Those Who Responded to the Wedding Invitation
Since this parable represents the spiritual truth of God calling people to Himself, is it possible that the God of the universe can be dishonored by having no one attend His Son’s wedding supper? Is it possible that no one would come to Jesus after He had left Heaven to be among man, to had died a cruel death by His own creation, to had been buried and then risen from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins, and then not have one person to come to His wedding banquet? Is it possible that Jesus’ sacrifice fails to bring anyone to His banquet? No! The king in the story was angry with those who he had graciously invited but had refused to come and had even treated his servants wickedly. Therefore, he destroyed those wicked men and burned their city. Fortunately, that was not the end of the story. The king wanted people to celebrate his son’s wedding and he sent his servants out again to invite as many people as they could find:
Matthew 22:10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
In Luke’s account of a similar parable, which is probably a different story at a different time, we see the type of people the master was interested in inviting to his banquet. He invited the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. The master filled his son’s wedding banquet with common folks that you may not typically find in a royal palace. We are the poor and crippled and blind and lame who have been invited to the Son’s wedding banquet. Because God desires for all nations to dine with Him at His table, He has invited people from all over the world. God has drawn to His Son the poor wretched sinners of this world to be saved by His magnificent grace so that they will dine with Him at His Son’s wedding feast. We are a unworthy people who by His grace have become His royal people. God must be honored and glorified in His magnificent salvation provided to His people. Hear the force of these words from our Savior:
John 6:37, 39 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out…And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
God the Father draws people to His Son and they will come to Him. They will accept His invitation and He will never cast them out. That should give great comfort to those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Those Who Do Not Wear the Wedding Garment
There is at least one troubling thing about this parable. What about the one who was invited to the wedding feast and actually come to the event, but who was wearing the wrong clothes? In the parable, we read the following:
Matthew 22:11–12 11 But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless.
This man did not know what to say. It is likely that the king sent his invitations a long time before the banquet was actually to be held. This man should have had had ample time to obtain the clothing that was expected for the event. Perhaps, he wanted to enjoy the delights of the wedding feast but did not want to prepare for it. It is possible that the custom in that day was for kings to provide suitable clothing for such feasts. The king cast that man into “outer darkness…where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” a clear reference to eternal punishment. What are we to make of this man whose only crime that we can tell was that he came to the banquet without the right clothes? Does this mean that what we wear to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb matters? In a word, yes, it does, but maybe not in the way you think. The point is that the man lacked something that was essential for being accepted at the wedding feast.
When we trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. God no longer sees our sin but rather the righteousness of His Son. If that is true, how did this man get into the wedding banquet? Was Jesus saying that some who do not have Jesus’ righteousness can attend His wedding feast? Does this mean that one does not really need to be righteous to go to heaven? No, I do not think so. It also does not mean that one who has genuinely trusted in Jesus Christ can be cast out. Keep in mind that both good and bad people were invited to come. (Matthew 22:10) This was a general invitation to all people who the king’s servants could find. This would be like Jesus sending His disciples out into the world to share the Good News and to make disciples of all nations. When they share Jesus Christ to others (not if!), some will respond to it and some will not. This is like a general call to salvation.
On the other hand, there will be people who say they trust in Jesus Christ, who say they are Christians, and who say they are worshipping amongst us, but really do not. The truth is that there are false prophets, false teachers, false disciples, ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing, lawless ones, and tares who are sowed by the Devil among God’s wheat. These people, who may for a time look like and sound like genuine believers will masquerade as true disciples of Jesus Christ and infiltrate the church of God in order to lead God’s elect astray. There will be some who come to Jesus in the final judgement claiming to be His disciples and He will say to them, “Depart from me, I do not know you.” He will send them to a place of eternal punishment.
So, are you wearing the right clothes? Are you clothed in Jesus’ righteousness? If you were to face God today, what would you say to Him? One author described that there are three responses people might have when they face God for judgement:
- They will try justify themselves by pointing to all their good works. They may say that they have done the best they could that they are not as bad as someone else. They would trust in their own “good” works to get then into Heaven.
- Another group will be speechless. They would have nothing to say before the holy God of this universe. They may think of the good things they did in this life, but they would be utterly speechless before God who demands holiness.
- A third group would say that they have no right whatsoever to enter Heaven and do not deserve to be at God’s table; but, the Son does. He purchased their garments and clothed them with it. They will point to Jesus as the reason they are there.
Which answer will you give on that day? We cannot come to God on the basis of our own good deeds. It does not work that way. It is God’s Kingdom. It is God’s Son. It is His wedding banquet. We do not get to decide the terms of His invitation. Either accept God’s gracious offer of salvation through faith in His only begotten Son, or reject His offer and face eternal damnation. To come to God on our own merits is suicidal. We must trust in Jesus’ work on the cross to claim salvation.
The conclusion of the parable is that “many are called but few are chosen.” This is the main point of the whole parable. The betrayal of Jesus made this point crystal clear—Judas Iscariot was one who was called but not chosen. He was like the false disciples, the tares among the wheat, the ravenous wolves among God’s sheep. Only those who endure to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:10–13) So, are you invited to the wedding feast of God’s Son? Maybe a more important question is, “Are you going to the wedding feast and if so are you wearing the wedding garment?” Are you trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, trusting in His righteousness? It is only based on Jesus Christ that we will enter the Kingdom of God. That is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.