You Have Been Invited to Jesus' Wedding Reception!
O LORD—my Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter, please help me to overcome my many weaknesses. Move me to depend upon You for strength, rather than looking to myself. Fill my heart with joy as I read Your eternal Word, rather than seeking joy in the material things of this life. As I enter Your presence once again draw me ever closer to You, so that I might glorify You with my every word and action. Amen.
Isaiah here speaks prophetically of the joys that await all believers in heaven. God is preparing a most delightful banquet in which we will celebrate with Him His victory over sin and death. Let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation!
Paul here provides wonderful encouragements for our daily lives. We are to rejoice, for our God is able to take care of us and grant us true peace. We are to focus on everything that is good, knowing that God will enable us to do everything that is necessary.
Text: Matthew 22:1-14
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.”
In Christ Jesus, who graciously invites us to share in His wedding feast, dear fellow redeemed:
Have you ever received one of those official looking letters embossed with the Presidential seal—quality paper, expensive looking print-job? I have upon occasion…when a President I support was looking for a political contribution. Those letters can be reviewed rather quickly and then, if no funds are available, simply thrown into the trash without much thought. If, however, it should ever happen that you or I were invited to an official White House reception—let’s say a wedding reception for the President’s son or daughter—we would without doubt take that invitation very seriously. This, after all, is not your neighbor’s third-cousin but the President of the United States. What an honor to be invited to the White House for such an occasion. No doubt it would be a “black-tie” occasion, so we would also have to give serious thought not just to going, but to what we would wear were we to go. After all, you just don’t go to a White House reception wearing your jeans and t-shirt!
Jesus used these two thoughts in our text—the honor of attending an important occasion and the necessity of dressing appropriately—to emphasize the importance of God’s gospel invitation. May the Spirit help each of you to understand how important it is that YOU HAVE BEEN INVITEDTO JESUS’ WEDDING RECEPTION! I would urge you, first of all, do not foolishly decline to come! I would urge you, secondly, do not proudly come dressed as you are!
In His parable Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a king inviting his subjects to the wedding feast of his son. When the feast was ready the king sent out his servants to call those invited to the feast, but we are told “they were not willing to come.” We are not at this point told why they were unwilling, but the king being rather dismayed sent his servants out once again. He told them to tell his subjects: “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” Yet, they still did not come. We are told that some of the people made light of the invitation thinking it unworthy of their time and attention, while others apparently felt they had better things to do—they went back to work on their farms and in their businesses and so took care of that which they assume was of more importance. Still others were malicious—roughing the king’s servants up a bit, while still others were plainly malevolent—taking his servants and killing them. How foolish of them! They made the king so angry that in the parable the king, who had ultimate authority over his subjects, sent out his armies to destroy those murderers and burn up their cities.
How does Jesus’ parable describe His kingdom? In the kingdom of heaven God the Father has prepared the gift of eternal life in heaven—“the marriage supper of the Lamb,” His Son, as described in the Book of Revelation (19:9). Through His gospel invitation He encourages everyone to come to that feast. This is an important invitation. In fact, it is absolutely vital for the future welfare and happiness of every human being. Why? Because by nature every human being is lost in sin, will someday die, and without forgiveness will be doomed to everlasting judgment. There is absolutely no way for any human being to correct that sin situation and save himself by gaining forgiveness on his own. It is impossible! The only way back to God and the only means to obtain forgiveness and eternal life is through Jesus Christ. God calls upon us to repent of our sins and to believe that Jesus is our Savior from sin.
But how do most people react to that gospel invitation? They are unwilling to come, even when called upon repeatedly to do so. Some are indifferent—they do not think it that important in the greater scheme of things as they see it. They would rather play golf, or surf the internet, or just take a nap. Years ago a 1st Grader in a former congregation to which I belonged shocked her teacher and fellow students one Monday morning by announcing that her daddy was going to hell. The teacher, as you can imagine, was shocked. When she asked the little girl why she would say such a thing, the little girl responded: “Because he loves his mattress more that he loves Jesus!” We may smile, or perhaps even wince a bit, but her point was well taken. Her father saw no special need to respond to His Savior’s invitation to come to a feast each Sunday morning.
Other people have allowed Satan to convince them that they are just too busy to take time out for God. They have their work to take care of on the farm, in the store, or at the office. Perhaps some think that they will have time later in life for such things, but the end result is the same—God’s invitation is ignored because it is considered less of a priority than making money. But oh yes, didn’t Jesus have something to say about that at one point—“You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24)? As I recall, so did St. Paul: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
My dear friends, I trust that we do not even have to address the idea of abusing or killing those who bring us the gospel invitation, although it is true that many Christians are being so treated around our world. Jesus’ point is simply this that God in His grace has extended to us a most wondrous invitation to His Son’s wedding reception. Do not foolishly decline to come! Come to worship; come to Bible Class and Sunday School; come to the Lord’s Supper; come to your family altar in study and with prayer. When you do that, you will be ready and waiting when your heavenly bridegroom arrives, and with joy you will enjoy Jesus’ everlasting wedding feast!
Yes, YOU HAVE BEEN INVITEDTO JESUS’ WEDDING RECEPTION! Secondly, do not proudly come dressed as you are! It is this second point which perhaps bears a bit more explanation. In Jesus’ parable the king sent his servants out into the highways to gather in everyone—the good and bad so that his wedding hall would be filled. It is important for our understanding of the parable to know that the host of such wedding feasts in Jesus’ day provided the guests with special wedding garments. The guests did not have to go out and buy or rent a tuxedo or a magnificent gown, because such clothing was given to them. In that way everyone would be appropriately dressed. When the king entered the banquet hall and saw one of his guests standing there without the gifted garment on, he asked him why he neglected to wear the clothing that had been provided. The man could not answer, because his only reason was that in his pride he had decided simply to come as he was. The king recognized the insult and had him bound hand and foot, removed from the feast, and cast into outer darkness.
Once again, what is the point of comparison with the kingdom of heaven? Because of sin every human being lacks the righteousness necessary to stand before God. Morally, we look like a two year old after eating spaghetti without a bib! God’s gospel invitation offers every human being the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Book of Isaiah so graphically describes our own sinful attempts at righteousness. Our good works, should we parade them before God as worthy of justifying ourselves, are described by Isaiah as “filthy rags” (64:6). On the other hand, Isaiah describes the joy of the believer in Christ who says, “I will rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (61:10).
Yet, so often people simply don’t understand, or they forget. The natural fall-back belief of all human beings is work-righteousness. I can do it myself. I can be good enough for God, and such individuals convince themselves that surely God will overlook any minor flaws they may have missed in their estimation of their own moral rectitude. Such an attitude in God’s presence is like wearing your dirty work jeans to a White House reception! You would not be let in, and should you get in you would surely be thrown out!
My dear friends—we are studying non-Christian world religions in our Wednesday evening Bible Class. We have completed our study of Judaism and are currently considering the religion of Islam. We will proceed on to both Hinduism and Buddhism. While each of these religions differs in many ways, they all claim that their adherents can gain sufficient righteousness to stand before God on the basis of their own merit. It is the constant refrain of every religion and every spiritual organization other than Biblical Christianity. Each of these religions and spiritual organizations sends their followers into God’s banquet dressed in his or her own righteousness, proudly assuming that everything will be perfectly fine coming dressed as they are, but it won’t be fine. All such attempts will result in the same response from God—rejection and judgment!
God has provided mankind the righteousness everyone needs to stand before God—the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is His free gift to everyone who believes in Jesus. It is the means to sure and certain access to God’s heavenly feast and success once you arrive. Momentarily we will be singing that beautiful hymn: “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are, my glorious dress!” My dear friends—YOU HAVE BEEN INVITED TO JESUS’ WEDDING RECEPTION! Do not proudly come dressed as you are! To do so is proudly to despise the sacrifice of Christ and the gift of God. Rather, receive with joy the blessing of Christ and rejoice in the gift of God, for then you will gain that which is most precious—life, and you will have it most abundantly! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!