You Are Invited

You Are Invited

The parables Jesus continues to use for teaching during his last week on earth are not for the faint of heart for they present us with truths that at times are difficult but are always important. And those who ignore their message do so at their own peril for as is the case this morning,[1] many parables teach us about God’s kingdom, or the kingdom of heaven, and about how we can enter in. Few subjects could be more important than this.

So as we turn to Chapter 22 in Matthew, the audience continues to be the religious leaders who have questioned Jesus’ authority. Now initially we’re presented with a joyous image for Jesus began by telling these leaders in verse 2 how “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” What a beautiful image! The kingdom of heaven is likened to a feast being put on by a king for his son in honor of his son’s marriage. Who doesn’t like a celebration? Who wouldn’t enjoy a banquet? Who wouldn’t be honored by such an invitation from a king? Who wouldn’t appreciate the joy a father might feel in giving a wedding banquet in honor of his son’s marriage? Who wouldn’t want to be present at such an illustrious occasion?

Alas, those who were invited, that’s who! For we’re told in verse 3 that the king “sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused….” These are the days long before the postal service was in place. Our common practice of “RSVP” didn’t begin until the early 19th century. So instead of the pony express, the king sent out his servants to gather those who had been invited. Yet they refused to come.

Not easily defeated, verse 4, the king “sent some more servants” to provide the invited with further details not only about what was being served at the banquet but also to let them know that it was ready now: “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.’” No expense had been spared—this was a banquet being put on by a king for his son. The best oxen and fattened cattle had been butchered and prepared. The table was all set. The only thing lacking was the guests. Nonetheless, beginning in verse 5 we read, “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.” Those who had been invited couldn’t be bothered to come celebrate the wedding of the king’s son. They had better things to do. They were too busy with other matters. But, what is worse, verse 6, “The rest [who were invited] seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.” Both last week and this we continue to be presented with a picture of violent, godless people who want nothing to do with God or with those who bear witness and seek to point others to him. There’s almost a sense of déjà vu here for just as in last week’s parable we saw wicked tenants beat and even kill the servants of the landowner so here we see those who have been invited to a king’s feast similarly seizing, mistreating, and killing his servants. And as the landowner from last week was enraged at the wretched behavior of the wretches who did these things, so too is the king from this week’s parable for, verse 7, “He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”

However having dealt with these violent and ungrateful intended guests, the king still had a problem, namely, verse 8: “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.” So if the invited aren’t worthy of having been invited as indicated by both their indifference towards the invitation and violence against the king’s servants; if they aren’t able to appreciate the enormous honor of being invited to a feast being put on by a king for his son’s wedding, then what is the king to do? He’ll find other guests. So we see that he told his servants to “go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find” (v. 9). Hence, 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.” And with this, the banquet for the king’s son was able to proceed as planned.

So let’s consider the meaning of Jesus’ parable up to this point. It’s evident that the king represents God and the son for whom he has prepared a wedding banquet represents Jesus.

And if ever we despair about how few believe in God today; how few believe in his Son, Jesus, God’s Christ; how few want to hear us tell them about their Creator and Redeemer, a parable such as this reminds us how prevalent disbelief in God has been since the time of humanity’s Fall. Busy-ness, indifference, and hostility towards God and his people isn’t something new, but has ever been the norm. Yet even so, despite humanity’s ingratitude and antipathy, our gracious and longsuffering King continues to send out an invitation to a magnificent wedding banquet he has prepared for his Son that those who hear might receive his Son and so enter into his heavenly kingdom.

Now as was true last week, those who were initially invited, God’s people of Israel, the religious leaders Jesus was addressing, couldn’t be bothered to attend. Though Israel was a people God had created for himself from one man, Abraham; though Israel was even designated as God’s bride[2]—indicating the intimacy God desires between himself and his people—and was therefore the rightful heir of this extravagant banquet and feast, she nonetheless refused to come. Throughout the Old Testament, God regularly used his servants, the prophets to remind Israel of his love. So in Isaiah we read, “For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.”[3] Yet despite being God’s bride, the object of his jealous love, Israel time and again proved her unfaithfulness by going after and following other gods. In the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, we’re provided with a laundry list of her infidelity and so the Sovereign LORD rebukes her in stating “You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!”[4] And even when Israel didn’t run after other gods she, like those invited to the feast in the parable, had more important things to do—tending to fields; tending to other business. What is worse she, too, mistreated and killed God’s servants, his prophets who had been graciously sent by him that his bride might repent and return to her one true God, her husband and Maker. And though the king, the Lord of heaven and earth, may have overlooked Israel’s infidelity to him, and even to his servants, the prophets whom he’d sent time and again, he would not—he could not—overlook a slight against his son.

And so the king sent his servants to anyone they could find. And so they did, gathering together both the bad and the good—in other words, these guests hadn’t been invited due to any merit of their own—until “the wedding hall was filled with guests.” As Israel, God’s bride, behaved like the initial guests who rejected the king’s invitation, we, Christ’s church, comprised of the “bad and the good,” are now also designated as his bride and have been invited to the king’s table for this marvelous feast for his Son. We are the “anyone” God’s servants could find. And so we see Paul applying the language of God’s bride for Christ’s church. Writing to the church in Corinth he said, “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.”[5] Whether in the Old Testament or the New, God’s people have ever been called to be holy and faithful to him as he is holy and faithful to them. So when God first disclosed his commandments to Israel, one of the first things he disclosed about himself was that he is a “jealous God,”[6] the very same jealousy Paul is expressing here. And in Ephesians 5 Paul similarly likened the love that exists between Christ and the church to that which should exist between husbands and wives.[7] Finally, in the vision given to the apostle John of the end of all earthly things, this symbol of intimacy between Christ and his church, between Christ and his bride, continues to carry. Listen to John’s testimony: “6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 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.’”[8] And later in John’s revelation the bride metaphor is applied to God’s final and Holy City:

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”[9]

What a glorious day that will be! A day in which we as his people will be so intimately united with him that every tear will be wiped way; a day in which death will cease for we will be united with God who is life and gives us his life; a day in which every cause of mourning or crying or pain will be removed, for the old fallen order will have been done away with once and for all; a day in which our faith will at last be sight as we become God’s living temple, his living tabernacle, his dwelling place forevermore. And how tragic it is that anyone could hear of God’s, of Christ’s, jealous love for his image-bearers and yet decide they are too busy to be bothered with him. How tragic that we, his image-bearers, could be more concerned with how we would like things to be than with how God determined they should be. How tragic that we have turned from his ways—ways that lead to life and life in its fullest—and turned instead to our own paltry notions of what it is will that will fill and satisfy our needs. How tragic that we have turned away from the magnificent, succulent feast given by God, and chosen instead dry crumbs in a meager attempt to try and satisfy our hunger and desires.

But fortunately, God’s love for us is long-suffering—and persistent—and merciful. For from the beginning he not only sent his people his Word through his prophets but, in the fullness of time he sent his Son,[10] the eternal Christ, the eternal Messiah in human flesh that we might come and join him at his feast. And that Christ is the only means of entering God’s wedding banquet is the focus of the final few verses in our passage for we read starting in verse 11: “11 But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.” Entry into the King’s banquet is not only by invitation only but also requires proper attire. Unless we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, the only begotten Son of the heavenly Father,[11]a righteousness that is made possible only because of his sacrifice, we’ll not be welcome. For our best obedience, our best attire apart from him is as filthy rags[12] when compared with the perfect obedience of Christ Jesus, our Savior, whose obedience qualified him to be a pleasing sacrifice accepted by God[13] and thereby obliterated sin and death and opened the doors to God’s kingdom which entry is through him and him alone. As the voice ensemble sang this morning: “Justice has been satisfied—he will hold me fast.”[14] This is what we mean we say that through Christ’s life, suffering, death, and resurrection our sins have been imputed—they’ve been credited to him—and, more remarkable still, his righteousness has been imputed—has been credited to us.[15] Amazing grace, indeed!

But if we think we can enter God’s kingdom on our own terms rather than God’s terms, we will suffer the same fate as the man in this parable for God our King will tell his attendants, his messengers, his angels, “13…Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” “For,” Jesus concludes, “14 many are invited,”—or “called”[16]—but few are chosen.” This is the part of Christ’s Gospel that is so very difficult for us, isn’t it? We would like to believe that God accepts us on our terms, whatever those terms may be: belief in him, belief in another god, belief in ourselves, belief in no god whatsoever. But what God has ever disclosed to us is that we can only come before him on his terms. Again, he has made it clear that he is a jealous God—he is jealous for us—for our time—for our gifts—for our thoughts—for our actions. He has made us for himself and he has made us for each other. This is the message of the parable: from the beginning God, our Maker and King, has sent his people prophets, his servants, beckoning and warning his people to turn from their ways and to turn instead to him, their one true love. But from the beginning these prophets were beaten, mocked, mistreated, and murdered. And so, in the fullness of time, God sent his Son. And the only basis by which we may now approach him is by his Son—sent to show us the lives we were intended to live—lives filled with compassion and kindness and caring for others; and Christ was sent to show us what God is like in the flesh—for if we have seen him, we have seen the Father.[17] God’s Son was sent to suffer for us; he was sent to die for us and so conquer sin, death, and the devil for us; he was sent to rise for us that he might give us his eternal life for after Christ Jesus, the Father’s Son, accomplished the work for which he was sent to earth he sent us his Holy Spirit as a promise, a seal and guarantee[18] that he will never leave us or forsake us[19] for all who come to Christ are given and indwelled by his Holy Spirit by and through whom we will rise with Christ even when we die.

Sisters and brothers, we are invited to come to him, all we who are weary and heavy laden that we might find our rest in him.[20] God knows life is hard; He knows we live in a fallen world; He knows we hurt and neglect and are indifferent to each other even though we know better; He knows we deal with physical and mental and spiritual illness; He knows we feel loneliness and sorrow and grief; He knows we worry about money; He knows we worry about family; He knows we worry about friends; He knows we worry about death and suffering; He knows we worry about work; He knows we worry about our pets; He knows we worry about our world. God knows all of these things not only because he is God but also because in the person of Jesus the eternal Christ took on human flesh and witnessed for himself all of the things that tug at the hearts of we who worry and hurt. And it is for these—and it is for us—that he not only suffered but also died and rose from death that we might come to him and join him at the marriage feast.

Are we too busy to do so? Are we too preoccupied to do so? Do we believe but need help for our unbelief?[21] Do we like the disciples on the road to Emmaus[22] disbelieve for joy? God knows all of this. And so he invites us to come.

There’s another image of the church as Christ’s bride presented to us in John’s revelation that I’d like us to consider. In the final chapter of his vision from God, John writes: “17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”[23] As Christ’s church, as Christ’s bride, we are now called to continue his ministry of hospitality that has ever been the call of God’s people. We are now called to care for others and teach and bear witness and point them to God who is their Maker and desires to be their Savior and Lord. For we are called to be holy as he is holy, to act as he acts. As from the beginning he has invited his people, initially Abraham and his descendants and then all nations who have been blessed through Abraham, to come to him, so, too, we are tasked with the responsibility to invite others to “Come.” And so:

Come to your Maker and heavenly Father who loves us with a fierce and steadfast love;

Come to Christ Jesus, his Son, who lived, suffered, died, and rose again for us and our salvation;

Come and receive his Holy Spirit, the living water who desires to flow within us,[24] that you might never again be alone but might enjoy fellowship with the triune God now and forevermore.

Come and become a part of God’s family, embracing each other as the brothers and sisters we are and will be for all eternity.

17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”[25] This is what God’s kingdom is like—and we are all invited.

Let us pray.


[1] Luke records Jesus telling a similar parable for a different occasion in Luke 14:15–24. The events recorded in verses 15 and following appear to be the occasion for Jesus doing so. Luke 14:1–24: One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say. When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” 15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

[2] See, for example, Jeremiah 31:31–32: 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

[3] Isaiah 54:5.

[4] Ezekiel 16:32.

[5] 2 Cor 11:2.

[6] Exodus 20:4–5a: 4 You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,….

[7] Ephesians 5:25–32: 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

[8] Revelation 19:6–7.

[9] Revelation 21:1–4.

[10] Galatians 4:4–5:But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

[11] I John 4:9: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.; John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

[12] Isaiah 64:6: All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

[13] Ephesians 5:1–2:Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

[14] He Will Hold Me Fast, Words & Music by Aba Habershon and Matthew Merker.

[15] Christ’s imputed righteousness is seen in Romans 4:23–25: [speaking of Abraham] 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.; Romans 5:19: For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.; I Corinthians 1:30: It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.; 2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

[16] The Greek is better translated as “called” (Greek “kaléo”) : 14πολλοὶ γάρ εἰσιν κλητοὶ ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί

[17] John 14:8–9: Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

[18] Ephesians 1:13–14: 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22: 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.; 2 Corinthians 5:5: Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

[19] Hebrews 13:5: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Quoting Deuteronomy 31:6: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

[20] Matthew 11:28–30: 28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

[21] Mark 9:24: Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

[22] Luke 24:41a: And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement,….

[23] Revelation 22:17.

[24] John 7:38–39: 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

[25] Revelation 22:17.

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