THE PARABLE WE NEED MOST
1. I’ve noticed as I’ve prepared this that not everybody immediately arrives at the same estimation I have of the value of the parable we’re going to examine.
a. In fact, most of the books on the parables I have either don’t mention this one or just combine it with one that is similar to it.
b. I know we need all the parables, the unforgettable vehicles Jesus used to convey precious heavenly truths to limited earthly minds.
c. But this is one we especially need because it offers us a healthy and balanced view of our standing in the amazing grace of God.
2. Here is the story as Jesus told it....Matthew 22:1-14.
a. There are obviously some striking images here: a royal wedding, snubbed invitations and abused messengers, a burned city, a bright banquet hall filled with guests, a fellow improperly dressed, and the outer darkness of rejection.
b. But, woven though these scenes, there are some even more impressive spiritual lessons to bless us.
1. It is impressive that Jesus would compare the kingdom of which he wants us to be citizens to a wedding feast made by a king for his son.
a. This event was the most joy-filled celebration, the most important social occasion, in a family’s life, and to be invited to share in it was a huge honor.
i. The meaning of marriage hasn’t changed since the earliest chapters of Genesis. It is still the oldest, strongest and dearest of human relationships. The manner in which families have rejoiced over it, though, has varied with custom.
ii. Their way was to give the best marriage feast a family could provide.
(1) The day would be set, but the exact time could not be because it would have to depend upon how long it took to get everything ready.
(2) A dinner of oxen or calves just couldn’t be prepared and saved, or added to on the spur of the moment.
(3) Invitations would be sent out ahead of time and accepted or declined. Arrangements could then be made for the guests who were expected.
(4) On that big day, when everything was just right, messengers were sent out with the glad news, “Everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast!”
(5) The nature of the occasion, the work invested in it, and the anticipation of its arrival all made this a moment of unique joy.
iii. Obviously, a feast like this – especially for a king’s son – was the product of much planning, work and expense.
b. It is surely significant, then, that Jesus chose to illustrate our relationship to each other and to God in his kingdom with an occasion of such joy.
i. It’s the kind of scene the prophets looked forward to (Isa. 25:6-9).
ii. It’s a picture Jesus used several times (Matt. 8:11; Lk. 14:15f).
iii. It’s an aspect of life in his kingdom the rest of the New Testament reinforces (Rom. 14:17; Rev. 19:9).
iv. At a wedding feast there was a lifting of the spirit as the guests left their cares and worries behind and enjoyed happy fellowship and the joy of life. As someone pointed out, they did not come to the Father’s banquet as if they had “just come from the sheriff who has auctioned off their sins and now are sorry they can’t get them back again” (Thielicke, The Waiting Father, 187).
v. Eldred Echols observed, “A religious system that makes its followers fearful and unhappy is obviously not what God intended for his children. It is illogical that the God who let his only Son die to give us eternal happiness would design the resulting religion to make us miserable and insecure....it is appropriate that Jesus describes our walk with him as a joyous festival....The grace of God is not something that we work at feverishly for all our lives and hope to get on the day of judgment. It is a reality today....The church of Jesus Christ is intended to be a little bit of heaven on earth. It is an oasis from the world where we can find love and peace and incredible joy....We are at home in the palace of the King.” (Discovering the Pearl of Great Price, 175-176)
2. It is impressive that the king in this illustration wanted so badly to have people share with him in the joy of the occasion.
a. The wonder of the story is that he invited as graciously, patiently and persistently as he did.
i. He initiated the whole feast for his son and invited people out of his own graciousness. Not a single guest asked to come first, and none could claim to have earned the right to be there.
ii. He sent his servants more than once to let those who were invited know that everything was ready, enduring insult and ingratitude in the process.
iii. When those who had been invited showed themselves unworthy of the celebration, he said to his servants, “Go therefore...and invite...” Notice the similarity to the Great Commission (28:19).
iv. He didn’t stop his work until “the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
v. They were all there because of the kindness of the father who wanted everybody to share in the joy of his son.
b. The lesson of the story is driven home by the fact that the king who gives the wedding banquet is God himself.
i. He is the one who acts. He prepares a feast for us. He wants us to be his free guests. He wants us to have fellowship and peace with him, and it’s not because we deserve it. It’s because he loves. The very fact that this God should invite us to his table is in itself amazing!
ii. The Bible is the account of what God has done to prepare and provide the marriage feast for his Son.
iii. The gospel is the announcement that everything is ready and the invitation for anyone who will to come to the feast.
iv. The church is a community of guests enjoying the goodness and kindness of the Father.
v. Thielicke wrote, “The longer we are Christians the more commonplace does this unheard-of thing become...and therefore we can hardly appreciate the tremendous blessedness of that invitation...God addresses us as a friend and host. He comes to us as a royal donor, the giver of every good gift and joy.” (The Waiting Father, 183-184)
3. It is impressive to contemplate the mistakes people made in their thinking about the wedding feast.
a. People so easily make light of what is precious to the heart of God. (v. 5a)
i. This feast was obviously deeply meaningful to the king. It was for his son. It was at a wedding time. He invested a great deal of expense and effort in getting it ready. He sent once and again to call his guests.
ii. “But they paid no attention...” It’s not just that they didn’t come; it’s that what mattered so much to the king mattered not at all to them.
iii. They had no feeling at all for the father’s heart. They could ignore what he had poured so much of himself into without giving it a second thought.
b. Some refuse their commitments to God in favor of getting on with the everyday things of life. (v. 5b)
i. There wasn’t anything wrong with the one’s farm or the other’s business; the problem is that both had a prior commitment, and someone else’s heart was involved.
ii. By going off to these things, they were saying, “My place and my business mean more than my word or your celebration....I am interested mostly in myself and my own interests.”
iii. Their behavior was so unlike that of the king who had made a commitment to them and had gone out of his way to include them in his joy (v. 4).
c. The indifference a person may hold toward the invitation of the king can so easily turn into animosity. (v. 6)
i. Why do you think they treated so harshly servants who had only come with an invitation? Were their consciences stung by it? Could they not stand the presence of anyone whose presence reminded them of their debt to the king’s grace?
ii. That’s what the covenant people of God had done to his prophets. That’s what they were in the process of doing to Jesus. It still happens that some become our enemies by dealing truthfully with us (cf. Gal. 4:16).
iii. One of the mysteries of the kingdom is that you can’t long take a passive attitude toward the invitation of Christ. The attitude of tolerance which suggests that you can say no to Christ as far as you are concerned while letting other people keep their faith won’t last. “One must simply get Christ and his followers out of sight because they make it so obvious to us that we want our own life.” (Thielicke, 189)
d. Those who accept the invitation may be tempted to ignore the majesty of the occasion in which they have been graciously included. (v. 11, 12)
i. Knowing we got there free, we may conclude that the occasion itself is cheap. What an awful mistake!
ii. The king saw that one of the guests for his son’s wedding feast had not even bothered to put on a wedding garment. He wanted to know how the fellow could be there that way.
iii. The fact that the man was speechless shows his actions were inexcusable. Some think it means the king had provided proper garments, but the occasion had not even meant enough to this man for him to put it on.
iv. Barclay said this fellow had three faults: he had no sense of the fitness of things; he had no real sense of what was going on; and he had no respect. (And Jesus Said, 160-161)
v. You can see that the problem wasn’t what kind of clothes he had; it was the kind of heart he had: he was the kind of person who could let grace make him shameless instead of humble.
e. All of us must be careful lest we fail to leave room in our thinking for the wrath of God. (v. 7, 13)
i. Because his grace is amazing, it should be accepted and it must be appreciated.
ii. Regarding his costly provision for us as unnecessary, or treating the privileges he has granted us as if they were cheap and meaningless, will leave us with what we would have without his grace.
iii. The wonder of the gospel begins with the realization that the wrath of God extends to the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (cf. Rom. 1:18).
1. For one who really looks forward to the feast, part of the joy is getting ready. Someone asked, “Who ever thought it a sacrifice and a burden to change his clothes and put on festive garments in order to go to a banquet he has looked forward to for weeks?” (Thielicke, 191)
2. Maybe the answer to that question is why “many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14). It’s a matter of how many care enough about being a guest at the feast to dress properly (cf. Gal. 3:27; Rom. 13:11-14).