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Come to the Wedding Banquet

Date: Aug. 28, 2016

Author: Michael Mark

Matthew 22:1-14

Key Verse: Matthew 22:4

“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.’”

How many of you get excited when you receive an invitation to a wedding?  Why are weddings such joyful times?  It is because it is a celebration of two people joining together in love, and becoming one.  It is a beginning of a new life, and because of that, people are happy.  Part of the great celebration is feasting and getting together to share in that joy.  Today’s passage is a parable describing the kingdom of heaven with a wedding banquet.  There will be a time that the kingdom of heaven will kick off with something like a wedding feast.  God has sent you an invitation, and this invitation will be to attend one of the greatest wedding feasts of all time – how will you respond?

Last week we saw a confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem in the temple courts.  This event took place around 3-4 days before he would be killed.  Jesus spoke to the religious leaders in 2 parables, showing them how they are supposed to respond when God is among them, and how they failed to give God worship, glory, honor and their obedience.  In this setting, Jesus now continues to teach them about the kingdom of heaven in this third parable we will look at today.

Look at v.1-2 “Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.’” The king is God the Father.  The son is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Here we see that Jesus again identifies himself as the Son of God, as he has been doing more often now in this final week of his life.  The king is preparing a wedding banquet for his son.  This is no ordinary wedding: this is a royal wedding.  Just to give you an idea of the difference between an ordinary wedding and a royal one, here are some statistics.  The average wedding in the US costs around $26,000, and can average from 70 to 200 people.  Now let’s look at a royal wedding, and perhaps one of the most well known royal weddings is that of Prince William and Kate, which took place in April 2011.  The cost of the wedding was around $26 million US, the cost of security was $24 million US, and flowers were $600,000 US.  More than 1 million people lined up on the streets along less than one mile between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, with tens of millions of people watching it live on TV.  There were 1900 people in the ceremony, 600 for the luncheon, and 300 for the dinner celebration.   This kind of wedding is much more complex and expensive to prepare, but see who is preparing it:  The Father.  See how much the Father loves his Son – to be so actively involved in preparing the perfect wedding for him, and sparing no expense.  It’s not only the servants preparing the wedding, but the father, and king himself is preparing this wedding.

How many of you have heard of or experienced what is was like to prepare a wedding?  Whether you enjoy it or not, it is a lot of work.  You have to secure a place for the wedding and reception, you have to make a list of guests, make invitations, find an officiant, photographer, a DJ, pick out a menu, decide on the details, make seating arrangements and name cards, and plan the order of the wedding ceremony and reception.  All of it for one big day, but when it all comes together, what a wonderful and joyful time it is!  It is a celebration of the beginning of a new life with two people.  So what is this preparation and wedding that Jesus is talking about?  In the preparation, God is preparing a figurative bride for his Son, which is the church.  The church is made up of the people of God.  All humanity was separated from God because of sin, but God would prepare a sacrifice in order to purify a people to be united with his Son.  God is also preparing a place for this great celebration in heaven.  The wedding feast is the time of celebration when Jesus Christ returns from heaven to take his people to be with him forever.  The book of Revelation also speaks about this heavenly wedding banquet that will take place in the future.

Sometimes before the official invitation for a wedding arrives guests will receive a “save the date” notice.  In the Jewish culture it was the same way.  There might not have been a set date for the wedding, but usually invitations will go out giving people a heads up to prepare for a wedding, and then a second invitation will go out on the day of the wedding for the people to come.  The parable continues in verse 3 with the initial invitation: “He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.”  Amazing!  Look at their response – they refused to come.  This was an invitation to a royal wedding.  You can bet that there will be the finest foods, entertainment and atmosphere, but these people blew it off, they were indifferent.  They did not care, so they were not willing to go.

In this parable the servants that God sent are John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and the apostles.  The invitation was the gospel invitation for salvation, and all of them had the same message: Repent, and believe in Jesus Christ.  This is the way to salvation, and eternal life.  Many people rejected this message.  In John 6, many disciples left Jesus when he said that he is the bread of life.  Isaiah 30:15-16 gives us some additional insight as to why people reject him, which says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee!  You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’  Therefore your pursuers will be swift!”  The people of Israel will have nothing of repentance.  They would rather flee than find salvation in repentance.  Hosea talks about Israel as well, in Hos 11:1,2,7, he writes, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  But the more they were called, the more they went away from me…My people are determined to turn from me.  Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.”  What a strange phenomenon this is: the more God calls his people, the more they went away, they were determined to turn from God!  Does this sound familiar to you?  Do you know people like that?  Romans 10:21 says, “But concerning Israel [Isaiah writes], ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’”  God holds his hand out to an obstinate people all day long.  Going back to Isaiah, he reveals the true heart of God.  He writes in Isa 30:18, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him!”  The Lord longs to be gracious to you.

Even after the initial rejection of the save the date invitation, the king now sends out the official invitation.  Can we all please read v.4, our key verse, “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.’”  The preparation is complete, and the time has come to attend the banquet.  Dinner is prepared, and it is quite a lavish meal, with the finest of meats.  I’m not a fan of ox, but whenever we go to dinner with my mom’s family, they always order an ox tail casserole.  I don’t even like to take a bite, but my family loves it.  But thankfully, cattle is also prepared.  That’s beef.  This past week Mary cooked a beefy, juicy one pound T-bone steak.  We don’t have steak every day, but it was on sale at Costco for $6 a pound.  But man was it good!  Every bite!  Verse 4 says everything is ready.  Tables are set, the space has been prepared, everything is ready – so the invitation goes out, “Come!”  “Come to the wedding banquet!”  From here we can see the immense patience and forbearance of God.  The people he invited have already refused and rejected him, but still he sends more servants to invite them, and he says, “Come, everything is ready!”

Look at how the people respond in v.5-6, “But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”  In verse 5 again we see more indifference, with more detail.  This was the day of the wedding – it was time to go!  The king had prepared hard for this, making sure that everything would be perfect, and he saved seats for them.  Again this wasn’t an invitation to an ordinary wedding, but this was an invitation to a royal wedding.  How privileged would you be to receive a wedding invitation to Prince William and Kate’s wedding, and get to sit at a table with them in the same room on their big day?  If you got that invitation in the mail, what would you do?  What did these people do?  They paid no attention, and went back to their business.  On the day of the  prince’s wedding, they went back to work.  Unbelievable!  But they had no interest in their king, they were more interested with their worldly preoccupations.  They had a preference for their own possessions, their property, their trading, their enjoyments, their goals and their desires.  Paul describes people like this in Eph 4:18-19, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed,” and in Eph 2:1-3, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects deserving of wrath.”  Because our natures are sinful, we are by nature objects deserving of wrath – and the more we follow our sinful natures, the more this becomes apparent.

Verse 6 is a good example of this.  Those invited couldn’t just say no, they took the servants, mistreated them and even killed some of them.  What did the king do wrong?  In fact the king was even more gracious this time – but these people were in open rebellion against the king.  They hated the king, and they hated the king without reason.  They were interested in themselves so much so that they even wanted to hurt the king.  In verses 5 & 6, Jesus was referring to the Jewish leaders in this parable.  When the gospel was preached to them, they rejected God’s servants.  John the Baptist was beheaded.  History tells us that 11 out of the 12 disciples were martyred, and the one who was not was still persecuted and exiled.  Their rebellion against God reached the degree that they killed the Son of God.  The patience of the king wore out and in v.7, “The king was enraged.  He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”  God is a God of justice, and he carried out his wrath on those deserving of his wrath.  This would be a foreshadowing of the destruction of Jerusalem around 40 years later by the Roman army.

The wedding banquet would not be ruined, and it will still go on, but a different group of people will also be invited.  Look at v.8-10: “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  So go to the street corner and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”  The servants were told to go to the street corners and invite anyone they could find.  The invitation of God goes out to any one regardless of nationality, gender, skill or position.  The street corners are cross sections of roads where travelers meet.  The invitation extended now to all the world, and included the Gentiles.  The Gentiles are non-Jewish people, basically they are everybody else who were not invited at first.  The first invitation was limited only to the Jews, as they were the original chosen people of God.  They were given the first priority.  But when they made themselves unworthy, the invitation went out to the rest of the world.  The door was not closed though for the Jews, not all of them were unworthy, but now the invitation included all people of all nations.

The servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find: the bad as well as the good.  Isn’t that interesting?  The bad and the good were both invited to the wedding.  This is a picture of God’s grace.  Your past cannot prevent you from coming to the great banquet.  Whatever your situation may be, the king wants to invite you to the banquet.  God wants to invite sinners into the kingdom of heaven.  Some people might think, “Oh, I’m too sinful to join the church,” or, “God could never forgive me,” but God understands, and he knows.  He invites you anyway, because he has come up with a way to take care of your sin so you can join in the celebration.  The king didn’t ask anyone for money or anything they own to come to the banquet.  They could come for free, and he would provide everything, even the clothes.

Most weddings have a dress code.  It is because they are very special events in a person’s life.  They are very important events, so people don’t dress in their everyday clothes, they come in their formal wear.  Most people’s weddings are like this, so how much more formal must a royal wedding be.  I’d like to show a picture of a wedding invitation to Prince William and Kate’s wedding.  The invitation says: “The Lord Chamberlain (which is a title for the senior officer of the Royal Household) is commanded by The Queen to invite ______ in the Marriage of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales, K.G. with Miss Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on Friday, 29th April, 2011 at 11.00 a.m.  The bottom corner of the invitation says, “Dress Uniform, Morning Coat or Lounge Suit.”  They specify the dress code!  Either you wear a royal uniform, if you are a member of a royal family, a morning coat, which is like a suit coat with a long cut tail and a single button, or a lounge suit, which is just another word for suit.  No T-shirts, jeans or pajamas.  That seems to be becoming more popular these days – going out in pajamas.  Imagine visiting London, and then being pulled off the street by The Lord Chamberlain, and invited to the Prince’s wedding!  Where would you get your morning coat?  Where would you buy a fancy suit or a beautiful dress fit for a royal wedding?!  No worries, the king understands, you’re from out of town, so out of his kindness and generosity, he will not just lend you a proper suit or dress, but he will give it to you free.  From here, see the immeasurable riches of the grace of God, who has made provision for everything pertaining to your salivation.

The king has paid for your food, for your seat, and given you a $5,000 suit so you can be a part of this great celebration where everyone is dressed to impress.  What do you do?  I hope most of you would put on that suit (or really nice dress).  But what if you decided, nah, I think I’ll go in my pajamas, it’s much more comfortable?  In the parable, the king found at least one such person.  Look at v.11-13, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’  The man was speechless.  Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”  Now you might think, isn’t that a little bit extreme?  Couldn’t the king just ask him to leave?  Of course, this is just a parable, there’s a lot we don’t know.  What if this guy would put up some resistance?  What if this guy was one of the bad guys roaming around free in the kingdom?  You have probably also seen when some people are fired, or if some people are causing a disturbance, how are they removed?  Usually someone will call “security,” and they will be escorted out, sometimes even being taken by the arms.

Why is it so important to dress properly for a wedding?  It is because it shows respect and honor for the host.  It is even more important to show honor at a royal event.  To not dress properly shows a disregard for the host and the significance of the event.  In a quote from Spurgeon, one of my favorite preachers, he said, “[This man] came because he was invited, but he came only in appearance.  The banquet was intended to honor the King’s Son, but this man meant nothing of the kind; he was willing to eat the good things set before him, but in his heart there was no love either for the King or his well-beloved Son.”  What a shame it is to go to a wedding you’re invited to, eat all of their food, but all the while in your heart you think, “Man, I really hate that guy getting married.”  This person may be someone who calls himself a Christian, and might even go to church, but in his heart there is no real love for God or Jesus Christ.  Let us not judge one another, but look into our own hearts.  This is what all of us are: unworthy to attend the banquet of eternal life!  We are all sinners, born dead in sin, with no real love for God.  We are all naked and ashamed.  Like the Israelites we would flee and are determined to run away when God calls.

But remember verse 10 – the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.  If we are honest, we would identify with those that are bad.  Why did Jesus include the bad in this story?  It is to show that he will transform the bad to good.  Rom 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Would you give your life to save your enemy?  You might not, but Jesus did that for you.  He gave his life for you, though you were by nature an enemy of Christ.  How wide, how long, how high and how deep is the love of God!  God had prepared a sacrifice for you, his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, so that you can come to the banquet of eternal life.  Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience to God, absolutely flawless.  He then gave us his perfect life when he died on the cross.  He took the death we deserved, and gave us the life he deserved.  All of his perfect works have been credited to your account, like suddenly the king wired a billion dollars to your bank account.  And all of your evil deeds have been credited to Jesus, who died along with your sins.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  In Jesus alone, your sins are washed clean.  In Jesus you are given a magnificent robe of righteousness, white as snow, so that now you can attend the great heavenly banquet.

The king in this parable has provided the wedding garments.  We do not have a righteousness of our own.  None of our clothes are fit for the royal wedding banquet, but the king’s clothes are just right.  So what do these wedding clothes look like?  What are the wedding clothes?  The wedding clothes are Jesus Christ himself, and good works.  We clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ, and at the same time we clothe ourselves with good works.  We don’t earn the clothes by our good works, but the clothes give us good works to do.  That means when we are clothed in the royal wedding clothes, we must no longer continue in sin.  Let me explain these two clothes.  We must clothe ourselves with both.  Rom 13:13-14 says, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.  Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”  To clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ means to not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. 

Very closely related – we also clothe ourselves with good works.  Eph 4:22-24 says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Good works can include being holy to the Lord.  We have a new self in Christ Jesus, and according to Eph 2:10, “… we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us in advance to do.”  Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives to this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”  God’s people are eager to do what is good.  Finally, the apostle John gives us testimony from his vision, in Rev 19:7-8, “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.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)”  The clothes that God will give us are fine linen, clean and bright.  This is what we will wear at the heavenly banquet.  Without it, we will be cast out into darkness, like the man who was found without wedding clothes.

Jesus concludes the parable in v.14, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”  This sums up the whole parable, from the invitation of the first group of people, to the invitation of the second group – many are invited, but few are chosen.  In fact, the whole world has received the invitation of the gospel.  According to Titus 2:11, “… the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” - but most of the people who hear the gospel invitation are not interested, and some persecute the church.   But out of those who believe in Christ, not one will be rejected.  All who believe in Christ will be chosen to attend the banquet.  All who believe in Christ will take part in salvation and eternal life.  Here again is the gospel invitation to attend the wedding banquet of the Lord: Repent of your sins and repent of your unbelief. Believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive peace with God, and a hope in an eternal inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you.  When Christ comes again and finds you in his robes of righteousness, he will take you to his royal banquet.  Come to the wedding banquet!  Rev 19:9 says, “Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!  And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’”  And more than being invited, in Christ, you will be chosen.  I’ll close with a verse from 1 Pet 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

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