Matthew 22:1-14 (11 Oct 2020)

Matthew 22:1-14
Video reading:

The parable of the wedding banquet
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
‘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 slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”
‘But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, ill-treated them and killed them.  The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
‘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 corners 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.
‘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, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
‘For many are invited, but few are chosen.’

We were fortunate that for a year we lived in Cornwall in the UK for a year where I worked as an exchange teacher.  During the year Elizabeth and I received an invitation with the wording, “the Lord Chamberlain is commanded by the Queen to invite Mr and Mrs Joyce to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace”.  With it came instructions about what to wear – for me a suit and tie, for Elizabeth a summer dress, hat and gloves.
Of course, we went.  It came as an invitation but by command of the Queen.  Who are we to ignore a command from the Queen?
This parable is about an invitation from a King to the wedding banquet for his son.
How do people respond to invitations to weddings?
Normally, you would expect a response, an RSVP, at least, probably a card and message of thanks and good will.  In many cases, having been invited, perhaps you should send a present, too.
Last year we were invited to a nephew’s wedding which also indicated that “dress is formal”.  We wondered how formal is formal.  Should I wear a dinner suit or even tuxedo.  We inquired of the groom’s mother to learn that the “dress is formal” was directed to the young couple’s friends to encourage them not to turn up in T-shirt, shorts and thongs but to dress up.  Formal for them meant a collared shirt, best jeans and shoes at least.

In this parable we read that the wedding had been arranged and invitations sent.  The menu had been sorted and, already, and oxen and fat calves had been slaughtered.  It was to be quite a feast. 
Now that all was ready for the celebrations the King sent out his servants to tell the people who had been invited to turn up and enjoy the celebrations.
The response they received seems a bit extraordinary.
This was an invitation from the King.  It was for the wedding banquet of the King’s son. They had had notice sometime before when the invitation arrived. Now that the feast was ready so should they have been.  But, no.
Some responded with an “I could care less” attitude.  They were dismissive. They made light of it.  They ignored the messengers and their message and went on with the daily grind on the farm or went back to the office and go on with the usual things.  Who cares about the King, his son or a celebratory banquet?
Some responded much more forcefully and seized the messengers, mistreated and killed them.
This is just the sort of behaviour that upsets friendships and spoils relationships.
As you would expect, the King was offended. Actually, he was really upset. Really, he was enraged!
He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burned their city.

The people he had invited were clearly not worthy of the invitation in the first place.  However, there was a wedding to celebrate and a banquet all prepared so the King was determined to go ahead with the celebrations.  He just needed to find some people worth inviting.
So he sent out his slaves again, this time to roam the streets and gather in anyone they came across, both the good and the bad.  Of course, they all turned up and filled the banqueting hall.
But things were still not quite right!
The King came in to see the guests and discovered a man not wearing a wedding robe so the King had him bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It seems that this unfortunate man did not have the proper clothing whereas all the others did.  How did this come about?
It doesn’t seem likely that these good and the bad people recruited from the streets all had their wedding robes with them when they got the invitation.  Perhaps they had one at home and nipped home to get it.
Most likely, however, they were issued with an appropriate robe as they arrived, taking of their sandals, washing their feet and the ritual hand washings that the Jews all understood.  This man either did not bother to get his robe or didn’t bother to put on the one he was offered.  Either way, the King was in no mood to accept any more offenders.

Parables are for our instruction, even when the message isn’t crystal clear, so what do we think this parable teaches us?

Since it starts out telling us that the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to the Kings who features in the parable it pretty safe to say that the King in the parable represents God and that the celebration is for his son, Jesus.
Many commentators think that those invitees who dismissed the invitation or even attacked the messengers represent the people of Israel.  They see the messengers from the King to be the prophets God sent his people over many generations.  Prophet by prophet the people ignored the messages, the invitations and even the warnings the prophets of the consequences of offending God in this way.
Some of the prophets they abused, assaulted and even killed.
Now, in Jesus’ own time, their leaders, the Pharisees  and Sadducees, the priests and teachers were confronted not by mere messengers but by the King’s son himself but so severe was their rejection of the invitation he was offering them they turned on Jesus himself and had him murdered cruelly.
The King of the parable was so enraged he sent soldiers to destroy the murderers and their city as well. In AD 70, some 30 years after Jesus was murdered the Israelite city, Jerusalem was sacked and its magnificent temple broken down by Roman soldiers. 
So it seems the people of Israel could well be those pictured in the parable and they continue to ignore the invitation from God to come to the wedding celebrations of his son.
But, to be sure we are not just passing the buck it is good to sure whether the message of the parable has an application for us and our community.
How do you respond to the message of the Gospel? How does your family respond? How do your friends and others in the world respond?
The invitation to know Jesus, who offers forgiveness, acceptance and welcome to his banquet, his celebration, is made known over and over again. It’s even being repeated to you now as I speak. How do you respond?
With great joy and appreciation? God loves you so much he invites you to be at his party, to be his friend so dearly accepted that he wants you to be present at his great eternal banquet!
How do you respond?
Do you get swept up in the awe and amazement, in the magnificence of it all, in the honour of being invited?
How do you respond?  How do people respond?
Do they, do you, make light of it? Is the response more like, “ho hum” or “who cares?” and just go back to what they were doing?  Do life’s chores really appeal more than an invitation from the King of kings?
Worse still, in many places around the world God’s messengers are seized, mistreated, even killed.
Jesus delivered a warning in this parable and the warning is repeated in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.”

It’s quite likely that you and I are amongst the odds and sods like those recruited off the streets; the good and the bad who were gathered in and belong in the wedding hall to celebrate the wedding of the King’s son. That being so, read the rest of the parable and think about the poor man who was found not to be wearing his wedding robe and heed the warning.
‘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, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
‘For many are invited, but few are chosen.’

What is the wedding robe that you and I need to wear when we attend Jesus’ wedding banquet. Whatever it is it makes us fit to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven as illustrated in this parable.
The book called Revelation is all about the final victory and celebration of Jesus, the Son of God.  It uses many illustrations and among them we read how those he has saved are given a white robe. They wear robes which “they have washed and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. (Revelation 7:14)
To be eligible to attend the great banquet of the Kingdom of Heaven we need to come to Jesus in repentance, confessing our sinfulness and submitting to Jesus as our Lord and God, allowing him to take the blame and power of sin from us, shedding his own blood to take from us the penalty of death, allowing him to cover us in his righteous robe. Our wedding robe.
Let’s face it.  Experience shows us, this parable shows us, not everyone gets to heaven and the alternative is a terrible place, a place described by Jesus himself as a place of “outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Let this parable remind us of the honour of receiving an invitation from God the King to the banquet of his son Jesus. Let it refresh our gratitude and thankfulness, our sense of wonder and praise and the assurance and comfort we have that Jesus himself has equipped us and saved us to attend his celebrations.
How special you and I are to God Almighty! He has not only called us, invited us to his Heavenly banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven but has chosen us to respond in worship of the King.

Now, here’s another thought.  If the Son of God is to have a wedding banquet it raises the question, “who is the bride?”
If we think about God’s chosen people, the Israelites, we see that God expected them to remain faithful to the covenant he had with them, to be faithful to God alone. When they were not faithful to him he sent his prophets like Hosea to call them back to ­­himself, describing them as behaving like adulterers, as if there was a relationship between God and his people as illustrated by the relationship between a husband and wife.
There is an extension of this for our time.  The apostle Paul was very concerned about the gathering of Christians who were in Corinth and he wrote to them in 2 Corinthians 11:2 “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”
The picture in the Bible is that groups of Christians, that is, a church, has a relationship with Jesus so important and precious that it helps us understand what Jesus expects of the relationship between husbands and wives in marriage. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
We are not to know the date and time of the wedding between Christ and his people, the church but we do know it will happen; we have the assurance of that in Revelation 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.

Which brings me to one last question. “How ready is the church for this wedding day?” How ready are the Christians here in Bellingen for the great wedding banquet?
It would be appalling to appear before Jesus only to be found not to have been faithful to his, to have been adulterous, impure and not ready.
Both as individuals and as a church we need to continually turn to Jesus as our head, responding with thankfulness, commitment and obedience, recognising that Christ loved you and me and the church so much he gave himself up for us to make us holy, cleansing us by the washing with water through the word, and to present us to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
He has done a great work for us so we enjoy this special relationship with Jesus the King of kings and make ourselves available for his ongoing cleansing by the washing through his word, the Bible and we can confidently look forward to that great day, rejoicing before him. 
That’s what the Kingdom of Heaven is like!

Last Updated on October 6, 2020 by Ken Joyce