Matthew 22. Parable of the Wedding Feast. Wow. Praise our amazing God — who saw it fit to speak in parables, so that those who desire to get their hands dirty and wrestle with understanding will find life and encouragement, and truth.
Jesus spoke this parable to the chief priests and the Pharisees. It was a stern warning against their self-righteousness. At this point, the ‘religious folk’ were already pretty ‘peeved’ at Jesus’ preaching, and were trying to figure out how to ‘lay hands on him’ (but not in a nice way).Â Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them. (Mark 4:12 / Isaiah 6:9,10)
In the parable, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a king who arranged a marriage for his son and then sent out his servants to call the people who were invited to come, but the people weren’t willing to come. He sent out other servants, saying “Tell them it’s ready! Come to the wedding.” But the people who were invited made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. When the king heard, he was really really ticked. He sent out his armies and destroyed the murderers and their city. Then he sent his servants out to the highways to invite as many as they found to the wedding. So they did gather together all whom they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was packed out for the par-tay.
Then the king came in to see the guests, and he saw a man there who didn’t have on a wedding garment. He was like, “Dude, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” And the guy was speechless. So the king said, “Handcuff him. Footcuff him. Take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus ended all this by saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
What inspired me to dig a little deeper into this was the realisation that I hadn’t the foggiest idea why that one dude got kicked out just because he wasn’t wearing the right thing. Like what if he was poor and couldn’t afford a wedding garment? Or what if he spilled something on it last week — they didn’t have oxiclean back then! Â But my friends, there is so much to more to the story than just what not to wear!
In this parable, praise God, the feast is the Gospel. It is a continual feast of good things — forgiveness and pardon from sin, favour of God, peace of conscience, hope of eternal life. The King, God, provides this eternal feast for us, through Christ, and His work on the cross. The original invited guests — the Jews — RSVP’d “B.B.R.” “Busy Being Righteous.”
This is Jesus’ indictment against the religious folk of the day — they should’ve been rejoicing that the promised One had arrived, but they were too concerned about losing their power and status to believe Him. The prophets of old were unsuccessful in their continual invitations to the Jews to believe the Gospel. John the Baptist was unsuccessful, and so was Christ himself. They told the Jews the entertainment was almost ready — the kingdom of God was at hand. The apostles and ministers of the Gospel were even sent after the Resurrection, to tell them it was come, it was quite ready; and to persuade them to accept the invitation. The natural man neither discerns, nor desires, the things of the Spirit of God.
The invited guests made light of the invitation — “perhaps the messengers are making too big a deal out of it? It’s probably not all that great.” They could feast just as well at home. Multitudes perish for indifference. It’s kind of like they’d seen invitation after invitation in their Facebook inbox and they were like, “I’d rather just chill out at mi casa.” Clicking ‘ignore’ is missing the feast of all eternity.
So the businessfolk and the farmer folks rejected the invite, (let not your work distract you from the One thing that is needful) and the others — who would’ve been religious leaders, if they weren’t tradesmen — treated the King’s servants spitefully. Like Saul of Tarsus who became Paul, many have persecuted the messengers of God. Â In speaking of the King’s armies, Jesus is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of many many Jews at the hand of the Roman armies, 40 years after his time. That happened people!
Now here’s where the story gets really good for us — the invitation is extended to the Gentiles. And unless you’ve some Jewish heritage in your back pocket, this is good news for you! The Lord has extended the invitation to all, through Christ, to enjoy the goodness of the Gospel and right relationship with God. But what of the gent who pitches up in the wrong outfit? This is a warning we should definitely listen to. You or I might be just like him.
There are many professing Christians in the Church today. But when the King comes in, (when God returns in all His glory) He is a discerner of hearts, and He will know who belongs and who doesn’t. As Matthew Henry puts it, “How durst thou claim a share in gospel benefits, when thou hadst no regard to gospel rules? […] Despised sabbaths and abused sacraments must be reckoned for, and judgement taken out upon an action of waste against all those who received the grace of God in vain.”
Jesus is teaching the fear of the Lord. This man, afterwards, could not speak. He was convicted and without excuse. It will be better in the day of judgement for those who never heard about Jesus than for those who heard and did not take heed to follow Him and obey His commands.
So what the heck was this guy trying to wear to the feast? His own righteousness. He was trying to get into the feast on his own merit, in view of his good deeds and good works. Listen to Jesus, people! Your own good works are never going to be good enough for a holy God. Fear God and obey His commands! What TO wear: the righteousness that Christ lived out, and died to give you.
Many are called, but few are chosen:
Setting aside those who made light of the invitation, as well as those who make a profession of religion, but the temper of their spirits and the tenour of their conversation are a constant contradiction to it; setting aside the profane and the hypocritical, you’ll find that few, very few, are chosen … many are called to the feast, few chosen to garment — to salvation, by sanctification of the Spirit.
The Sermon in a Nutshell: Jesus often talked about people being really surprised in the judgement day. “Jesus we were pals! You know me! You’re my buddy — it says so on my t-shirt.” “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Your mission, should you choose to accept it, and your invitation, should you choose to receive it, is to accept the gift of salvation bought for you on the cross by Jesus, and then to begin to demonstrate that you understand the significance of the gift of Jesus by loving Jesus and obeying His commands. Jesus’ invitation is the only invitation you’ll ever receive to the feast that will last for eternity. Don’t click ‘ignore this invitation‘!!!