This morning we are continuing our summer study of the Parables of Jesus. During the last two weeks we have studied a trilogy of parables from Luke 15—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. This week we will focus our study on the great wedding feast of Matthew 22:1-14, but this parable is actually part of another trilogy of parables. To understand the context of our lesson this morning we have to go back to the beginning of Matthew 21 to set the scene.
At the beginning of Matthew 21 we learn that it is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. After His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple and drove the money changers out of the temple. After He drove the money changers out of the temple for their detestable practices, Jesus healed the blind and the lame (Matthew 21:14). The chief priests and teachers of the law saw what Jesus was doing and Matthew tells us, “they were indignant.”
Jesus left the temple area and went with His disciples outside of the city until the next morning. When the sun began to come up the next morning Jesus made His way back to the city. As He approached the temple courts the chief priests and the elders came to Him. They asked Jesus,
23 …”By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23 NIV)
Jesus had had His fill of the religious leaders of His day. Instead of answering their questions He asked them a question. Jesus said, “If you answer My question then I will give you an answer.” Jesus’ question was,
25John’s baptism– where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘From men’– we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. (Matthew 21:25-27 NIV)
They had no desire to answer Jesus’ question honestly. They merely wanted to protect themselves, protect their theology, and protect their power so they said, “We don’t know.” After the chief priests and elders gave Jesus their answer, Jesus began to tell stories—He told three parables to make His point to the religious leaders. Each of the three stories were aimed at them, the chief priest and elders, but the story also went beyond those who were in charge, it was aimed at those religious people who frequented the temple, paid their temple tithes, and carried out their religious charades, but their heart was as cold as stone towards the things of God.
The first story Jesus told, the parable of the two sons, is found in Matthew 21:28-32. In the story there is a father who tells one of his sons to go and work in the field. The son says, “No, I don’t think I will do it,” but then later on he changes his mind and does what his dad says. The father goes to his second son and tells him the same thing. The good, compliant son says, “Yes sir. I will go and do exactly what you say,” but then he never goes and does the work. Jesus asked the religious leaders, “Which one of the two sons did what his father wanted?” The religious leaders said, “The first.” Then we read,
31 …Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21:31-32 NIV)
As soon as Jesus spoke these words He told them another parable, the parable of the tenants. In this parable there was a man who planted a vineyard and then rented it out to some farmers. The man went his own way until the time of harvest came. The owner sent his servants to collect his share of the harvest. The tenants attacked the owner’s servants: they beat one, killed another, and stoned the third servant of the owner. The owner was persistent so he sent even more servants to get his share of the harvest, but the tenants treated them the same way. The owner of the vineyard was not going to give up so he sent his son and thought to himself, “Surely they will respect my son.” Do you think that is what they did? Not on your life. Jesus says,
38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. (Matthew 21:38-39 NIV)
Jesus tells the religious leaders that the owner of the vineyard will come and deal with the wretched tenants himself. Once he disposes of them he will rent his vineyard to other farmers who will give him his share of the crops. Then Jesus says,
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:43 NIV)
Can you imagine the looks that came across the faces of the religious leaders? Don’t you know their clerical collars got awful tight when they heard Jesus’ stories and felt the long finger of God jabbing into their chest? In Matthew 21:45-46 we can read how the religious leaders responded to Jesus’ stories.
45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet. (Matthew 21:45-46 NIV)
Now, if Jesus were a modern-day preacher and He saw the response of the congregation going south, He would have decided to change His message. After all, He really shouldn’t ruffle the feathers of His leaders should He? There was a budget to maintain, they might decide to fire him, or they could start rumors about Him. I’m so glad that Jesus wasn’t like many modern-day preachers! He told them a third story, the parable of the great wedding feast. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Matthew 22:1-14.
1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2″The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4″Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5″But they paid no attention and went off– one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8″Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11″But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12′Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13″Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14″For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14 NIV)
In our Scripture for today, the last of the three parables Jesus told, aimed at the religious leaders, we hear about a king who threw a great wedding feast for his son. We need to understand how wedding celebrations took place in the ancient Near East because we are use to going to a wedding and then attending the reception all in the same day. This is very different than the weddings that took place long ago in Israel. The wedding ceremony and wedding feast were the highlight of social life for the Jews and the wedding feast was a series of meals and parties that lasted an entire week.
In Jesus’ story we are told that the person throwing the wedding feast was a king, not a common citizen, this would make the celebration even more elaborate and festive. It would also elevate the honor of receiving an invitation to attend the royal wedding and all of the festivities that would take place around it at the royal palace.
Invitations to the royal wedding would have gone out long before the actual date of the wedding. There would have been talk all over town initiated by those who got the invitation. I can hear the conversation still. Two women were walking out of the market when one said, “Did you get an invitation?” “An invitation to what?” “Well, to the wedding?” “What wedding?” “What wedding?” She would say with a look of utter disbelief on her face, and then she would try to hide her shock by saying, “Oh, never mind. It’s no big deal.” Her friend would say, “You can’t do me this way. What wedding are you talking about?” “Well, it’s really no big deal, but I’ve been invited to the wedding at the palace, for the king’s son. I’m sure your invitation is in the mail.” It would have been a huge deal to be invited to the royal wedding, at the royal palace, with all of the royal food and drink, and all of the people feeling larger than life as the royal paparazzi snapped their pictures for the social page of the paper’s Sunday edition.
I know the kind of celebration Jesus had in mind when He told the story and you do too. Don’t you remember our study of the book of Revelation where we read in Revelation 19:7-9?
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9 NIV)
I can’t wait until the day comes for the wedding feast of the Lamb! How about you? The thought of getting an invitation to the kind of royal feast that Jesus described in Matthew 22 would make folks drool and those who didn’t get an invitation would be green with envy. I hope you are getting an idea of just how elaborate and festive this wedding feast would have been because this is the key to understanding the rest of Jesus’ story.
In verses 3-8 of Jesus’ story we read that the king sent his servants to remind those who had been invited that the time had come for the great banquet. The big day planned out by the king had been a long time in coming and now all of the preparations had been made and the day had arrived. Were the people dressed and anxiously waiting at the door for word from the palace? Nope. We read that they “refused to come.” The word that Jesus used here let’s us know that they had not forgotten or lost track of time, but they willfully refused to come. The Greek word, “ethelo” means, “to will, have in mind, intend, to be resolved or determined.” This word lets us know that the people had set their minds not to go to the party, they refused to honor the king on his big day. The same word is used in Matthew 23:37 where Jesus looked over Jerusalem and was grieved over what had taken place during His ministry. Jesus said,
37″O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37 NIV)
The same word is used in John 5:39-40 when Jesus was speaking to the Jews who had been doing everything in their power to bring Him down. Jesus said,
39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40 NIV)
I want to show you one more occurrence of the word so that you can understand about the incredible power of our will, the freedom that God has given us to use the mind He has given us to make choices in life. In John 7:16-17 Jesus said,
16Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 17If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:16-17 NIV)
If you choose to do God’s will, if you set your heart and your mind to studying God’s Word, allow the Spirit to guide and empower you as you follow what God is teaching you, then you will know that Jesus’ teaching comes from God. Faith, and the exercise of faith, is not some esoteric, ethereal, nebulous philosophy, but it is putting into practice what God’s Word says.
Those who were invited refused to come. The king had honored them by inviting them to the royal celebration, but they said, “No!” This was not the only response of those who were invited. In verse 4 we read that the king sent more of his servants to let the people know that the food was on the table: all of the best food in the kingdom had been prepared and it was ready for them to enjoy. Verse 5 tells us that “they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.” The Greek word that is used here, “amelesantes” comes from the Greek word, “ameleo” which means, “to be careless or to neglect.” The same word is used by Paul when he tells Timothy,
14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (1Timothy 4:14 NIV)
In the book of Hebrews we are urged to pay careful attention to God’s Word, to the message of salvation, so that we don’t drift away. In Hebrews 2:3 we see the consequence of neglect—this is the same word that is used by Jesus in Matthew 22:5.
1We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. (Hebrews 2:1-3 NIV)
The second group of folks who rejected the king’s invitation just didn’t care. They paid no attention to the king’s servants who were reminding them of the great celebration about to take place. They had other things on their mind. They had business matters to tend to, deals to turn, and money to make. If they were at the king’s banquet there would be others out there getting ahead of them in the marketplace.
There was a third response to the king’s invitation—there were those who were hostile towards the king’s servants and killed the messengers. The king finally had had enough. He quit pleading with those who had been invited and he sent his troops in to kill those who were wicked and then they destroyed their city. Many Bible commentators believe that this portion of Jesus’ story is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
In the next portion of Jesus’ story He tells the leaders that the king didn’t cancel his celebration, but he found other guests to come and enjoy the festivities. Jesus said,
8″Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:8-10 NIV)
The king ordered his servants to go everywhere and bring them in. Invite everyone. Not the high society, noble, or notable among the king’s subjects, but everyone that had not received an invitation to come. Those who were never invited in the first place were now given an invitation. This reminds me of a prophecy from Hosea that Paul quoted in Romans 9:25-26. Paul said,
25As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” 26and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9:25-26 NIV)
There is a similar story told by Jesus in Luke 14 in which we get an idea of the kind of people who filled the king’s palace for the great feast. In the parable found in Luke 14 we read where the man told his servants,
21 …’Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ (Luke 14:21 NIV)
Those who were not desired at the most notable gatherings around town were given an opportunity to share in the greatest celebration in the land. Those who were somebody, those who always received invitations to attend the best get-togethers, but were unimpressed by the king’s invitation, they were not worthy to share in the king’s joy. What a sad commentary of how our priorities can get out of whack! This is such a sad, but powerful commentary on our own day.
For so many people today, going to Bible study, attending church, or the Sweet Hour of Prayer is merely a waste of time. In this country we have so many opportunities to share in the celebration of our King, but we refuse. The things of God are a waste of time and we don’t want to waste our time.
There is another group who sometimes frequent the Lord’s house, but if a better opportunity comes along then they are off to do something more fun or more beneficial for themselves. They won’t honor the King with their presence if something more pressing pops up on their calendar. They’ve got business to take care, there are chores to be done around the house, and they are busy. Oh, they are so busy that you just wouldn’t believe it. If you listened to them talk you would think that they were living on only 20 hours a day instead of 24. They are too busy for spiritual matters because they’ve got real world things to worry about. Do you know any of those folks? Could this description fit any of us?
There is another group that is addressed in Jesus’ parable. In Matthew 22:11-12 we read,
11″But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12′Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. (Matthew 22:11-12 NIV)
I’m sure some of you are thinking that it isn’t really fair for the king to be so hard on this man for not wearing the proper clothing since he came in off the street, but you need to know that it was common in Jesus’ day for those who gave the wedding feast to provide wedding garments for the guests to wear. The wedding garment was an outer item of clothing that you would wear over your clothes. They didn’t cost those invited any thing, as they were provided by the person hosting the feast. All they had to do was wear the clothing, but this man refused to wear it. When he was asked how he got in without his wedding clothes he was speechless. He couldn’t say a word because he had no excuse. It had been provided for him, but he would not wear it. He did what he wanted to do and wore his own clothes. John MacArthur writes in his commentary on this passage.
Since Cain’s first attempt to please God by offering his self-appointed sacrifice, men have been trying to come to the Lord on their own terms. They may fellowship with believers, join the church, become active in the leadership, give generously to its support, and speak of devotion to God. Like the tares among the wheat, they freely coexist for a while with God’s people. But in the day of judgment their falsehood will become obvious and their removal certain. Some will dare to say to God “on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then [Christ] will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23). The proper wedding garment of a true believer is God-imputed righteousness, without which no one can enter or live in the kingdom. Unless a person’s righteousness exceeds the hypocritical self-righteousness that typified the scribes and Pharisees, he “shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The only acceptable wedding garment is the genuine “sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). (John MacArthur, MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23. Moody Press: Chicago, IL. 1988)
My friends, we don’t come to the king’s celebration on our own terms. If we are to join in on the great wedding feast of our king, the wedding feast of the Lamb, then we must be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, that which is provided by the King. You may put together a great resume of all of your accomplishments, you may provide a balance sheet that would make Bill Gates jealous, you may impress people, but you will fail, miserably fail to impress the King.
The fact that so many today want to come to God on their terms, with their own righteousness, is one of the sad realities of our day. We want to do what we can to make sure that we are good enough, but God is not looking for good people, He is looking for godly people, clothed in the righteous garments of His Son. If you don’t believe me then listen to what Jesus said,
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)
The man who came to the wedding on his own terms, not clothed in the proper wedding attire that had been provided by the king was bound and tossed into the darkness where Jesus says there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then the last phrase of the parable goes like this: 14″For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14 NIV) What does this phrase mean? Many Bible teachers have had many things to say about this important verse of Scripture, but in my opinion John MacArthur nails it for us. He writes,
That phrase reflects the scriptural balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s will. The invitations to the wedding feast went out to many, representative of everyone to whom the gospel message is sent. But few of those who heard the call were willing to accept it and thereby be among the chosen. The gospel invitation is sent to everyone, because it is not the Father’s will that a single person be excluded from His kingdom and perish in the outer darkness of hell (2 Pet. 3:9). But not everyone wants God, and many who claim to want Him do not want Him on His terms. Those who are saved enter God’s kingdom because of their willing acceptance of His sovereign, gracious provision. Those who are lost are excluded from the kingdom because of their willing rejection of that same sovereign grace. (John MacArthur, MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23. Moody Press: Chicago, IL. 1988)
I love that phrase, “The Scriptural balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s will.” God is sovereign. In His sovereignty He has invited you this very morning to the wedding feast of the Lamb that will take place one glorious day. He is also inviting you this very morning to come to the festival of God’s people that is going on right now. There is new life in Christ! There is abundant life in Christ! There is eternal life in Christ! There is meaning and purpose in this life, right now, but it is only experienced in Christ. Why won’t you come? Why won’t you come? Why do I stand up here week after week and share with you from God’s glorious Word and then give you an invitation to receive the life that God has prepared for you only to watch you stand immovable, unshakable, unfazed, in your present condition? Are you one of those who thinks that the things of God are useless, a waste of your time? Could you be one of those who are neglectful? You will frequent the house of God when you have time, you might come to Bible study when you don’t have anything else more important to do, but to make honoring the King with your presence the most important thing in your life—well, that’s just not reasonable is it? Are you one of those who has looked around you and decided that you aren’t such a bad person, that God must be convinced that you are good enough just as you are? You are sorely mistaken my friend. The King has your wedding garment ready this very morning, but you have to make up your mind to turn from your ways so that you might turn to the King. Why won’t you come? Will you come to the King this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
August 12, 2007