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Sermon Message


"The Great Wedding Invitation"

Matthew 22:1-14
Theme: In Jesus' parable of the 'wedding feast', we see the serious nature of God the Father's invitation to enter into the blessings of the kingdom of His Son.

(Delivered Sunday, May 4, 2008 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

We continue our look today at the three parables our Lord Jesus spoke to the chief priests and Pharisees who opposed Him in the temple, just a few days before He was nailed to the cross. And in particular, we look at the last of those three parables.

In a sense, this last parable is the most remarkable of all three. Matthew's Gospel was written to the Jewish people to prove to them that Jesus is the long-awaited King that God had promised them. And in this parable, we find the whole message of Matthew's Gospel in summary form.

Matthew writes;

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:1-14).

* * * * * * * * * *

I think that, of all the social and cultural events people can attend, a wedding is the happiest and most joyful. And it's an honor to be extended an invited to such an important event. It's something to be taken very seriously; because the invitation is a way of expressing that you are important to the one who invited you, and that they desire you to be a part of the happiest day of their lives.

In biblical times, as today, an invitation to a wedding was something to be taken seriously. And the wedding feast in Jesus' parable was to be taken even more seriously by those who had been invited to it; because it was arranged for the son of a king. To be invited to such a feast was a very great honor indeed!

Jesus was using this picture to teach a lesson to the chief priests and Pharisees in the temple who were rejecting Him. He said that it is a picture of "the kingdom of heaven"--that kingdom which His Father has given Him, and which He came to receive to Himself. The 'king' in Jesus' parable is symbolic of His heavenly Father, and Jesus Himself is the 'bridegroom son'. And the wedding feast was a way of illustrating the entry into the full blessings of His glorious kingdom rule. The 'invited guests' are His covenant people--the Jews and the Jewish leaders of that generation. And it is meant to illustrate how He came and presented Himself to them as the Messiah; and how they rejected Him. And the people who were found along the highways, and who were brought into the wedding feast in the place of those rejected guests, are meant to illustrate the Gentiles that God has now mercifully turned to.

In telling this parable, Jesus was further illustrating to those hard-hearted, unbelieving Jewish leaders what He had just told them at the conclusion of the last parable; when He said,

“Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder" (Matthew 21:42-44).

* * * * * * * * * *

We live today in the age in which God the Father has taken the kingdom blessings away from the Jews as a specific people group, and has offered those blessings to all people who will believe in His Son--whether Jew or Gentile.

I hasten to add, though, that God has only taken these blessings from the Jewish people temporarily. The Bible teaches that "blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25-26). God will still keep all the promises He made to the Jewish people as a nation; because "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). The Bible teaches that the Jewish people will one day look on Him whom they pierced; and will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son (Zech. 12:10).

What a great day that will be! But for now, and over the past two-thousand years, the invitation to the wedding feast has been withdrawn from the Jews as a specific people, and has been extended to all—whomever they may be—who will receive it.

The whole Gospel of Matthew is about that invitation—the invitation to enjoy the full blessings of the kingdom reign of Jesus Christ. And in this parable, we see the nature of that invitation. It's an invitation that is to be treated seriously; and this parable shows us how reverently and obediently we should receive it today.

* * * * * * * * * *

Notice, first of all, how it teaches us about . . .


Jesus said that a certain king prepared a "marriage" or "wedding feast" for his son.

In those days, even a wedding feast within an ordinary family would have been a very great event--with many days spent feasting and celebrating. But this was the wedding of the king's son; and it would have been a particularly significant event. The news about it would have reverberated throughout the land over which that king held dominion; because the king was calling all people to honor and celebrate a very happy and joyful event--the union of his beloved son with his bride.

I can't help but see in this the love of the heavenly Father for His precious Son Jesus. The Bible tells us that those redeemed people to whom the Son of God is eternally united are those people whom the Father had given Him. "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world," Jesus once prayed to His Father; "They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word" (John 17:6; see also v. 9). It's the Son's immeasurable delight redeem those that the Father had given Him, and to share His glory with them eternally (v. 24) as His beloved “Bride”.

And because the Father loves the Son, He delights in celebrating the Son's eternal union with those He gave Him. The Son's great joy is to be forever united with those of us who have trusted in Him and have been redeemed by His blood. The prospect of that union is why He willingly went to the cross for us in the first place. And the Father's great joy will be to celebrate the union of His Son Jesus Christ with the church—His blood-bought Bride.

* * * * * * * * * *

And so, as Jesus tells us in His parable, the exciting day finally came. The king sent his servants out to call those who were invited to to the wedding feast.

There was an order of events in such an invitation. First, the word went out to those that the king would have at his son's wedding; so they could plan to be ready on the great day of the feast. And then, on the feast day—when the oxen and the cattle were slain, and all things were made ready—then the king sent his servants out to invite the guests to come.

And here's were we see . . .


Jesus tells us that the first announcement had been made. People knew that the wedding day was coming. But then, when that day came, and the servants were sent out to bring in the guests, the invited guests were unwilling to come.

You need to know that this would have been a great insult to the king! It would have, in fact, been an act of rebellion against him and against the honor of his son! But the king was patient. He sent out his servants a third time; this time urging them, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."

But during this third invitation—and it was an act of great longsuffering on the part of the king to issue a third invitation—the people didn't simply express an unwillingness to come. This time, they actually went so far as to 'make light' of the invitation. They 'paid no attention' to it. Some 'made light' of it passively—preferred instead to attend to things they thought were more important; to work on their farm, or to the money they could make from money their businesses. Others 'made light' of it actively—actually seizing the servants, mistreating them, and killing them.

* * * * * * * * * *

And I wonder if you can see in this the great patience of our heavenly Father toward those to whom the Lord Jesus was sent as King. The Jewish nation had been given promises in the Scriptures and from the prophets, who told them again and again that their King was coming. The announcement had already been sent out to them. There was a four-hundred-year period of silence between the last promise of the Old Testament era and the time when the King finally came. But they had all been alerted. And yet, at the time when He was born into the world—though wise men from other nations came to welcome and worship Him—the Jewish nation itself didn't even seem to notice.

Then, when our Lord reached full age, a second invitation was given. God sent a mighty herald to announce coming of the King in the person of John the Baptist. He preached in the wilderness of the Jordan to the Jewish people; and made it clear to everyone who could hear him that Jesus was the Christ—calling the people to repent of their sins and prepare the way for Him. But again, they didn't listen. The Jewish monarch of that day had John beheaded; and the Jewish religious leaders refused to repent at his message.

And even after the Lord Jesus clearly demonstrated who He is by raising from the dead, God still extended mercy to the Jewish people. Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus made it clear to His apostles that they were to preach His Gospel first in Jerusalem, and then in all Judea and Samaria; and only afterwards, into the remotest parts of the world (Acts 1:8). As even the great apostle Paul—the apostle to the Gentiles—himself once said, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is "for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). But the religious leaders of the people sought to silence the preaching of the apostles. They even put the disciple Stephen to death; and began to persecute the followers of Jesus so they had to flee to other regions.

The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ had invited His covenant people to receive their King, and to enter into the full blessings of His kingdom reign. But His invitation had been met with indifference, and then with scorn, and then finally with violence. And yet, He patiently continued to issue the invitation—"Come! Everything is made ready! Come to the wedding feast!"

What a horrible thing—to harden one's heart against the greatest invitation ever given! But what a patient God it is that gives the invitation again, and again, and again!

* * * * * * * * * *

In the Book of Proverbs, it gives this warning: "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1). And so, after repeated invitations had been disregarded and rejected, and after those whom the king had sent were mistreated and killed, Jesus next tells us of . . .


When news reached the king that his invitation had been repeatedly disregarded, and his appointed servants mistreated and killed, and his son despised and dishonored, he became furious. I like the old King James way of putting it—that "he was wroth". As Proverbs 20:2 says, "The wrath of a king is like the roaring of a lion; Whoever provokes him to anger sins against his own life."

This time, the king didn't send another invitation team. He sent armies. They destroyed those who had killed his servants; and then, they set the city on fire! This all must have happened with shocking swiftness; because the wedding feast would apparently still go on as scheduled. In my minds eye, I can imagine that, from the feasting place, an ominous cloud of smoke could be seen in the distance.

I have to say—with all reverence—that this parable should be rated "R" for violence.

* * * * * * * * * *

And here again I see a dreadfully sobering truth about our heavenly Father. To scorn the gracious offer to attend the joyous wedding feast of the king's son was to rebel against the king himself. And similarly, to scorn the offer to receive God's Son as King is to scorn God Himself. As Jesus said, "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him" (John 5:23b). And there comes a time when the Father's patience is exhausted toward those who persist in disregarding His Son and scorning His rights as King. And sadly, the day came—within forty years of our Lord speaking these words—when the Roman armies came and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. "Not one stone" of the temple, as Jesus had warned, would be left upon another, "that shall not be thrown down" (Matthew 24:2).

And let this be a lesson about the Father to us today as well. He is patient toward those who are hardened against Him. He will allow time for repentance and belief; and will graciously offer repeated appeals. He is not willing that any perish, as the Scriptures say; but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9a). But even so, there does come a time when the offers regretfully cease, and the outpouring of His just wrath begins.

If this would be true even of His covenant people back then, how can we think that it would be less true today in this dark time of unbelief in which we live?

* * * * * * * * * *

So, the king poured out his wrath on those who rejected his invitation. What a dreadful thing it must have been to have experienced it.

But here's where we next see . . .


Notice that the wedding feast had not been canceled. It would go on as scheduled—even though those who had been invited had shown themselves unworthy of the great privilege of attending. The king graciously sent his servants out onto the highways and into the outer reaches to find as many people as they could, and invite them to come to his son's wedding feast and fill his son's banquet table.

And so they did. Jesus tells us that they gathered together all whom they found—both bad and good. There were no qualifications. Whoever they may be, wherever they were; if they were found at all, they were gathered in. And when it was over, the banquet hall was filled with happy guests—people who perhaps were beggars, or common laborers, or sinners, or even foreigners from far outside the king's realm—people who never would have expected that they would be so privileged as to sit at the wedding feast of the son of a king; and yet, there they were!

* * * * * * * * * *

And here, again, I see the greatness of the grace of our heavenly Father. Listen as I read to you from God's word concerning the status we now have in Christ. The apostle Paul writes,

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcised by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 3:11-22).

This, you see, is a very special wedding feast. Those who were brought in—unworthy as they seemed—arrive as special guests to the wedding feast; only to discover that they are the Bride! What a gracious God our Father is!

* * * * * * * * * *

And that brings us to a very serious closing note. The offer to come to the wedding feast was open to all who would receive it. But it wasn't without condition.

Here's where we see, finally . . .


Jesus tells us that, as the king entered into the banquet hall, and observed all the guests, his eyes fell on a man who was not wearing a wedding garment.

When a great king would put on a feast, he would not only provide the invitation and all the food, but he would also provide the necessary garments to wear at the feast. Not long ago, my wife and I were guests at a wonderful resort. All who were staying at this particular resort were required to wear a wrist-band that identified them as legitimate guests. No one could stay at the resort without a wrist-band. And I suspect that the “wedding garments” in our Lord's parable served a similar purpose.

It may have been that, because many of these people were drawn from common walks of life, their clothing was dirty or ragged; and the wearing of a wedding garment was an even more important addition to the dignity of the feast. This man had no such garment on. All that he wore were the filthy rags of his own provision. And when the king saw him, he said, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?”

It's fascinating to me that the man in Jesus' parable was “speechless”. It would have been a great opportunity—if he had wished—to say, “Oh; please tell me how I may get a wedding garment, so I can legitimately enjoy your gracious offer to attend the feast of your son!” But he didn't. He said nothing. He presumed to enjoy the benefits of the feast while, at the same time, refusing to be adorned with the garment the king provided. And as a result, the king ordered that he not be merely shown to the door. Rather, he was bound hand and foot and thrown into outer darkness; where, as Jesus says, “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

* * * * * * * * * *

This is a warning. We must not think that we can enter into the blessings of Jesus' kingdom reign apart from being adorned—by faith—with Christ's own righteousness. When the Bible speaks of that great future day of the wedding feast of Christ, it says, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). But it also says that “His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (v. 8).

You make yourself ready by turning from sin and trusting in the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone to make you favorable in God's sight. You become clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” as Paul says, “and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

Paul wrote of how he himself had ceased to trust in his own righteousness before God; so that . . .

what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 4:7-11).

The only garment that the Father will accept on any of His guests at His Son's wedding feast is that of His Son's own righteousness. Anything less than that will result in being thrown out into outer darkness.

How important it is, then, to be sure you are clothed—by faith—in the righteousness of Christ alone!

* * * * * * * * * *

Jesus closes by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” And you may say, “How then do I know for sure that I'm among the chosen?”

The answer is simple. It's all a matter of how you have responded to the call. Have you responded to the call by placing your faith in God's Son? Have you heard the message of His sacrifice for you on the cross; and have you placed your trust in His sacrifice as payment for your sins? Do you, by faith, count on His righteousness alone to make you favorable in God's sight? And in response, are you progressively turning from sin and following Him in loving obedience?

If so, you are among those who He not only called, but also chosen. You have a place awaiting you at the table of the joyous wedding feast of God's Son!

And what a place at the table it is! Because behold; you are the Bride!

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