Summer Parables: The Wedding Feast

August 1, 2010 Series: Summer Parables 2010

Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 22:1–22:14

The Wedding Feast (Matthew 22.1-14)

August 1, 2010

Sam Ford

 

Jesus as Storyteller

Today’s parable is found in Matthew 22.1-14 – The Parable of the Wedding Feast.  The famous pastor Charles Spurgeon preached on portions of this parable seven times in his career.  And every time, he expressed gratitude to a God who cared enough to LOWER HIMSELF to our finite minds to teach us about His infinite mysteries with simple stories.  Everyone loves a good story; to hear stories, read stories, watch stories, write stories, and tell stories.  We often talk about the different chapters in “our story” that have shaped and defined who we are, and dream about the stories yet to come.  And, by God’s grace, one day we learn that we are part of a much larger story, God’s story of redemption that began in a garden many years ago.  It makes sense that Jesus, the hero in GOD’S STORY, would himself be a storyteller.

 

But Jesus’ stories are not for entertainment, though they can bring us joy.  They are not told to thrill us, though but can fill us with a fear.  They are simple stories that reveal deep truths to those who God has chosen. And though simply told, they are not always simply understood.  When Jesus was on earth, he privately revealed the meaning of his stories to the disciples.  Today, for those who put their faith in Christ, these same stories teach us secrets that those who do not believe will not perceive.  Jesus said that it is the Holy Spirit alone, who helps us to understand what the parables mean AND also accept the truth it teaches.  

 

Be warned, the parables can be disturbing.  The parables challenge us because Jesus, THE TEACHER, declares some hard truths that are difficult.  And it seems we can easily accept parables about Christian living and Christian wisdom, but when Jesus starts throwing down stories about salvation and judgment—we’re troubled because they are so definitive.  These kinds of parables are descriptive of the way things are (what we do), not prescriptive of the way things can go (what we should do).  While conversations might take place about some of the specific details in these stories, the hard truths are obvious.  And as the stories come from the mind and lips of the Lord himself, there is NO ARGUING, and there is NO DOUBT we will respond.  By God’s grace, we will respond with either softened hearts of worship filled with joy and gratitude OR hardened hearts of rebellion filled with anger and hostility. 

 

The Context of the Parable 

It is important to not remove the parable out of the historical context in which they are told.  The Parable of the Wedding feast is a parable about salvation.  Jesus teaches this parable during the last week of this life in the city of Jerusalem.  In Matthew 21, Jesus entersJerusalem astride a small donkey to the praises of the people.  He then proceeds to cleanse the temple.  Throughout the final week of his life, his authority is publicly challenged by religious leaders who privately plan his murder.   And it is during this last week the he confronts the Jews with their ultimate rejection of Him that he teaches many parables. 

 

Prior to the parable we’re studying today, Jesus tells two other parables that are related in Matthew 21.  He BEGINS with the story of two brothers. Both are instructed to go work in their father’s vineyard.  As the story goes…one initially says he will NOT go but then changes his mind and obeys.  The other son initially says he will obey, but does NOT go.  Jesus asks which one actually does the will of the Father?  

 

Jesus’ SECOND parable in chapter 21 is the parable of the wicked tenants. A master of a house plants a vineyard and leases it to tenants to work while he is in another country.  When the season for fruit draws near, he sends his servants to get his fruit from the harvest. The tenants kill the slaves. The landowner sends more slaves, who are also killed.   As a last resort, the landowner sends his son, and the tenants beat and kill him as well. Jesus asks the priests and elders listening, what will the landowner do?

 

The Pharisees are blind fools, but they are not deaf idiots.  Matthew 21.45 says, When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.  Jesus then tells this third parable, in the same spirit, to completely make his point:   READ MATTHEW 22.1-14

 

V. 1-3  A Feast for the Son and an Invitation

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and SENT HIS SERVANTS to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.  

 

A Feast for the Son

Jesus compares the kingdomof Godwith a king who gives a feast for his son.  This is not just any feast for friends; it is a wedding feast celebrating the marriage of his Son.  And this is no every-day wedding; it is a wedding for a prince—it is a ROYAL FEAST.  As the parable is told to reveal what the Kingdomof Godis like, it makes sense to view God the Father as the King.  We see then, that THE FATHER’S greatest goal is to bring honor to His Son. The son, just as any prince of the King, does not NEED honor to give him something that he doesn’t already possess.  But on this day, he is honored as THE BRIDEGROOM entering into a covenant relationship with His bride.  It is THE GOSPEL FEAST.  The feast is not given to honor the bride, or the marriage, but for the Son who is worthy: by nature of who is he is, how he has lived, and what he has done.  There is NOTHING and NO ONE more worthy of praise and adoration. 

 

Israel’s Invitation & Refusal

The King then makes a general call to all those who were already invited.  It was protocol to send a reminder the day before the feast—so this is more like a 2nd invitation.  Knowing the context, Jesus is addressing the first of many invitations to Israel to walk in the ways of the Lord.  God began by calling men like Abraham, Issac, and Jacob and then he spoke through the Old Testament prophets like Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, calling Israel to REPENT of their idolatry and to HONOR the one true God.  The King’s invitation is not a “common” invitation—it is a royal one.  The honor of being invited by the King and the terror of refusing such an honor would have motivated any sober-minded citizen to attend.  A royal INVITATION is a royal COMMAND, just at God’s refusing God’s invitation isn’t optional.  In Jesus’ story, they are unwilling to come. 

 

V. 4-6 Refusing a King’s 3rd Invitation

Regardless, the preparations continue.  The King’s, and by comparison, the Father’s patience and slowness to anger is stunning. Consider that the King has the right, and even the expectation, to pour out his wrath on those who have disobeyed a command—utterly and swiftly.  He doesn’t.  This is the patience and mercy of God he shows to all sinners.  By grace, not obligation, in love, even though he could appear “soft”(or UNJUST), he sends a second (really third) invitation to same people:  4Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared MY dinner, MY oxen and MY fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’  Some time before Jesus began his ministry, a man named John the Baptist walked out of the woods and started preaching to the Jews.  His message was simple, “Repent the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”…he may of well has said, the wedding feast is today!  On the day of the feast, as it is scheduled to begin, the King sends his final invitation detailing THE GREAT FEAST—COME to honor my son, this union, my crown. 

 

The response of those invited is important here.  It shows the inherent problem with any church or movement that believes that people refuse Jesus primarily because of METHODS.  The problem is NOT in the form of the invitation, not in the timing of the invitation, and not in the person offering the invitation—the problem is in the HEART of the invitee.  5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.  We are so quick to excuse and to make excuses for not responding to the commands of the King.  And the moment we accept that it is understandable, excusable, or reasonable to disobey here—is the same moment we, or anyone declares themselves MASTER OF YOUR DOMAIN and their kingdom more important than God’s.  That is what these people did.  Some were simply indifferent, others actively hated the King by killing his servants but BOTH  indifference and hostility are the same in their rejection of the King.   They are both engaging in rebellion against the king who is, of course, God. They are not neutral. They're not victims when the slaughter comes. They're not innocent people who have been perpetrated against with a horrible crime. They are unwilling. They are sinful. They are opposed to the God to whom they owe their allegiance. 

 

V. 7 The King’s Final Response

And while God is not obligated to invite anyone, HE IS OBLIGATED to respond to rebellion, to exercise his authority and to protect His Just Name.  When speaking to Moses, God describes himself in Exodus 34.6-7 as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, forgiving, but who will by NO MEANS clear the guilty.  The King responds to indifference and hostility in the same manner:  7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

 

It should cause us to fear knowing that there is a limit to God’s patience, love, and lavish provision.  Refusing to attend the wedding, refusing to obey God’s command, is more than just a simple choice to do something else.  It is an offensive act of disrespect—a declaration that the Son is not worthy to honor; that the wedding is not approved; that the King is my enemy.  THE GOSPEL INVITATION IS ONE THAT CANNOT BE TURNED DOWN WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES.  The slaughter of the people who refuse the invitation, that this is not a random and arbitrary act by God, it is an act of justice, because they have rebelled against Him.  Within a Jewish context, Jesus most likely refers to the burning ofJerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the murder of an estimated one millions Jews in AD. 70. 

 

Verses 8-10 Those who attend

BUT, the refusal of those originally invited, Israel, does not mean the wedding doesn’t happen. THE KING WILL HONOR HIS SONThe Father’s plans will come to pass.  There will be a wedding.  There will be a feast.  The groom will be honored.  And the feast will not be less, rather, the refusal of those who rejected the King will in turn HONOR Him all the more—revealing the wedding to be even more amazing, more joy-filled, more famous, and more appreciated by those undeserving who do attend:  8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 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.

 

Went out into the Roads

Though there were Jews who accepted Jesus, as a people, they rejected Him.  John 1.11-12 says, Jesus  came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. But through the rejection of this one people and one nation, the invitation went out to all peoples from all nations.  In the parable, the King sends his servants to the main roads and invites both BAD and GOOD until the hall was filled with guestsGood and bad here refers to human standards.  In other words, there will be people deemed WORTHY by God that men in their evil judgments would not deem worthy.  God will invite all kinds of sinners and all kinds of sinners will attend the feast in honor of the King’s Son.  And all of them will remove their earthly trappings, whether they are robes or rags, and put on the wedding garment furnished by the King.  Everyone’s brokenness will be covered, everyone will sit equally at the King’s table, everyone will be beautiful, and everyone will be filled in every sense of the word—not because you were found deserving, but because you were found by the King. 

 

Verses 11-14 A MAN OUT OF PLACE

Now the close of this parable is perhaps the most disturbing part for anyone who claims they are a Christian, remembering that Jesus is describing how things are. The most important aspect of Jesus’ parables is not usually in the beginning, but in the end.  It is often the last word or action that carries the greatest punch. 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. 13 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.’

 

No wedding garment

The King walks in and surveys all the guests.  His eyes are drawn to one man who has no wedding garment.  He did not accept the wedding clothes offered to everyone who attends the feastHe believed his own garment was good enough. This individual represents the self-righteous sinner who believes that there is such thing as a “good person”, a “good Christian”, or anyone worthy to enter the Kingdom because of something they have done OR haven’t done.  And while it might be tempting to believe that we can tell the difference—only the King can.

 

The man was speechless

And the King asks the man:  HOW DID YOU GET IN HERE without wedding clothews?  That is the question all of us must answer at the judgment seat, WHY RIGHT DO YOU HAVE COME INTO MY HEAVEN?  There are many answers people will give, all variations of I AM A GOOD PERSON which are variations of THE KING OWES ME.  There are many answers, but there is only one is acceptable.  Most, the majority of men and women who live on this planet will stand before the throne of the King like this man—SPEECHLESS.  They will be silenced by their guilt and held accountable by God. 

 

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.  What right do I have?  NONE.  That is why you must enter the Kingdomof Godhaving put on Christ.  We do not need a reformation of behavior, a better suit of clothes to make us appear godly.  We require a transformation of the heart, an entirely new life.  Putting on Christ means our old self DIES with Jesus—has there been a death?  And as our sin is buried with Jesus, we are raised with Him in his resurrection, to new life.  THERE IS A CHANGE.  We are no longer indifferent or hostile toward the things of God.  His commandments feel like invitations that we are honored to obey—has there been that kind of resurrection in your life

 

Conclusion:  Few DO NOT CHOSE, but FEW are CHOSEN. 

If you have put your faith, hope, meaning, and salvation in anything else, you are not obeying God’s command.  If you do not obey God’s commands, you do not love God.  If you do not love God, you are not a Christian.  If not, you’re not a Christian you will not be at the feast. You will forever be separated from an amazing eternity long celebration. 

 

And the scary part is, according to Jesus, I can PLEAD with everyone, through describing the promised lavish feast OR through warning of the King’s wrath—and most won’t listen.  Jesus ends the story saying: 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Be careful when reading this verse—these are Jesus words.  The verse does not read, many are called and only A FEW CHOOSE.   It says that many are called, but FEW ARE CHOSEN.  You are not chosen because you respond to the invitation.  You respond, because you are chosen.  God’s gospel invitation goes out to the world, because he loves the world, and those who are chosen respond to the invitation.  

 

None of us naturally want to honor the King.  We all dishonor God differently.  For some that is indifference towards the things of God, for others it is active hostility toward God, and still for others it is religion instead of God.  And we will not honor the King until, by His grace, he reaches down to open our eyes, our hearts, and our mouths to worship Him.  And as he causes us to honor Him, in a beautiful irony, we are honored as the bride alongside His Son. 

 

BENEDICTION  2Corinthians 5.16-21

More in Summer Parables 2010

September 5, 2010

Summer Parables: The Rich Fool

August 22, 2010

Summer Parables: Unforgiving Servant

August 15, 2010

Summer Parables: The Good Samaritan