COME ONE, COME ALL

 

Week of September 14, 2008

 

Bible Verses:  Matthew 22:1-14.

 

Life Impact: Understanding the breadth of God’s desire to reach people for His kingdom, you can embrace His invitation to you and invite others into the kingdom.

 

Invitation Delivered: Matthew 22:1-7.

 

[1]  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, [2]  "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. [3]  And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. [4]  Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' [5]  But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, [6]  and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. [7]  But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.”   [NASU]

 

The third in this trilogy of parables further hammers home the danger in which the members of the religious establishment had placed themselves. The parable is not unlike that in Luke 14:15-24. There are obvious resemblances between the two parables, but not enough to say that they are variants of the one story. Rather, they are variations on a theme that a teller of parables might well make on different occasions, before different audiences. Surely one of the advantages of the parabolic method is that the parables can be adapted to new situations. And if and when Jesus repeated a parable before a different audience, is there any reason why He should not have modified it to suit its new application?

 

[1-2]  Again adds this to the previous parables and completes the trio. In all three Synoptic gospels the kingdom is the most important topic in Jesus’ teaching. In Matthew, it is usually the kingdom of heaven (32 times) while the kingdom of God, which is the most usual expression in Mark and Luke, occurs but 5 times. It is generally agreed that the kingdom of heaven in Matthew means much the same as the kingdom of God in the other gospels. It is also accepted that we should understand kingdom as meaning “rule” rather than “realm”. That is to say, the expression is dynamic. It points us to God as doing something, as actively ruling, rather than to an area or a group of people over whom He is sovereign. The kingdom is something that happens rather than something that exists. The kingdom is closely connected with the person of Jesus. There is a sense in which the kingdom is future and another sense in which it is present. In this parable, the kingdom is compared to a king giving a wedding feast for his son. Any royal occasion would be notable, but the wedding of the son would be especially significant. Jesus says nothing about the preparations that went into the making of the feast, but it would be expected that the king would put on a magnificent banquet. And it would also be expected that people would be very glad to receive an invitation and would make a point of being there.

 

[3-4]  At the time when the banquet was about ready, the king sent out his slaves to tell the guests that it was time to come. This presupposes a previous invitation that had been accepted. It seems that a second invitation to a feast was usual. In a day when people had nothing equivalent to watches and when banquets took a long time to prepare, it was obviously a very helpful thing to be notified in this manner. But on this occasion they were unwilling to come. This was something completely unnatural; in real life a royal invitation is not refused, and people are very glad to be present at a royal banquet. There had to be some mistake; the guests had been invited, and they would surely come. So the king sent other slaves. This time they had a specific message from the king that said, first, that the great feast had been prepared; second, that oxen and my fattened livestock had been butchered for the occasion; and third, that everything is ready. Nothing could be more explicit. So, the assurance having been given that everything had been done to ensure that the guests would have a magnificent banquet, the king concludes with come to the wedding feast.

 

[5-6]  But all to no avail. The guests paid no attention, an incredible attitude to take up in the face of a royal command and the almost sacred duty of complying with an accepted invitation. But this group of people were too concerned with their own affairs to respond to the king’s invitation. Jesus illustrates with two concerns, which we are expected to regard as typical. One prospective guest went off to his own farm. Jesus does not say what it was that took the man to the farm but it was surely something that might easily have been held over. So with the second and his business. No urgency is suggested, and this, too, looks like an excuse. Jesus is citing typical shallow excuses to bring out the point that the impolite guests had no real reason for staying away from the banquet. They simply did not care. The rest leads into an account of those who took hostile action and did not simply go about their own affairs; the expression indicates that there were quite a few of them. They treated the king’s messengers with scant respect. First, they seized his slaves. In no society is it considered good manners to lay hands on people who come bearing a warm invitation, even if one does not intend to accept it. Then two things are said about what they did to the slaves sent to them with the message of goodwill. The first is that they mistreated them, a term that covers a wide range of unpleasantness. The verb has meanings like “outrage, insult, treat insolently”; it stands for an attitude that treats the objects as absolutely worthless. The second is that they killed them. This does not necessarily mean that they did this to all of them, but it was a dreadful crime to do it to any. Their easy assumption apparently was that they themselves were in no danger. They could do to the king and his messengers anything they wished and do it with impunity. They had no respect for the king and no fear of him.

 

[7]  But they had not thought hard enough about the king. They had not allowed for the fact that he was not the kind of man to take a snub lightly, nor did they reckon with the way their refusal would inevitably be regarded. The king was very displeased and sent his armies, which in this context will denote not an entire army but a detachment of soldiers, sufficient to deal with the offending guests. Jesus speaks of them as murderers and says that the soldiers set their city on fire. This pictures the insulters as being concentrated in one city which was not the place where the feast was to be held. It would, of course, take time for this to take place, and other events occurred before the destruction of the city. But Jesus takes to its conclusion His account of the fate of those who rejected the king’s invitation before returning to the subject of the feast. We should not miss the point that the language is very much like that of Old Testament passages dealing with judgment.

 

Participants Sought: Matthew 22:8-10.

 

[8]  "Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. [9]  Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' [10]  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.”   [NASU]

 

[8-10]  The narrative becomes vivid with the use of the present tense as Jesus moves on to a further instruction the king gave to his slaves. A wedding is an important occasion, and the celebrations are not to be cancelled just because some ill-mannered guests refuse the invitations and must be dealt with. The king reminds some of his slaves that the wedding is ready, a fact that has emerged as early as verse 4. Normally the guests would even then be reclining at table and consuming the magnificent banquet. But those who were invited were not worthy, which, considering what they had done to the messengers, is a considerable understatement. The king then sends his slaves out to the main highways, which seems to mean the places where the main highways go out from the city to the country, evidently places where poor people tended to congregate. Such people would not expect to find themselves as guests at a royal banquet, but the king is determined that the wedding feast go ahead, and that means that there must be guests to fill the places. Poor people at the road junctions are unlikely to refuse such an invitation. So the king instructs his slaves to invite as many as you find there to come to the wedding. The slaves went out into the street and gathered together all they found, both evil and good. In the application this means that Jesus accepts people the Jewish establishment would regard as evil and therefore totally unacceptable. Of course, those who accept Jesus’ invitation do not stay evil, but the point is that Jesus welcomes people that the high priests did not want to include among God’s own. In the end the king’s purpose was worked out, and Jesus leaves His hearers to see that God’s purposes will take effect. In the end those He calls will be present at His heavenly feast.

 

Imposters Expelled: Matthew 22:11-14.

 

[11]  "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, [12]  and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here  without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. [13]  Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' [14]  For many are called, but few are chosen."     [NASU]

 

[11-12]  The parable could have ended at this point but the story Matthew relates has a further point to make. These concluding verses [11-14] express the main point of the parable. Jesus says that the king came in to look over the dinner guests. This seems eminently reasonable since the king would not have known whom his slaves had brought in. So he came in to make his presence known and to see for himself who had come to the feast. He found a man not dressed in wedding clothes. It is likely that the king had provided proper wedding garments to all the guests, especially considering that these guests were poor and did not have the proper clothing for such a banquet. Yet one guest had evidently refused the offer of the wedding garments, choosing instead to remain in his own robe. The king greeted him as Friend, a polite form of greeting. The king goes on to ask how the man came in without the right garment, but the offender has nothing to say. Quite plainly he knew that he could have had the right clothing but had declined to wear it. What then does the wedding garment represent? It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ; that perfect righteousness that God provides freely to all who repent of sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. The man who refused the king’s wedding garment represents all those who attempt to enter the kingdom of heaven dressed in their own righteousness.

 

[13-14]  In this parable the king is a strong personality, one who tolerates no nonsense. So the king gives a command to his servants, directing them to tie the man up, both feet and hands being specified, after which he is to be thrown into the outer darkness, an expression often used to denote the uncomfortable lodging of those who are rejected. Jesus rounds off the parable with a reason for the rejection of this man. Many are called classes him with the other guests. They had all heard the gracious invitation of the royal host, and they were all where they were because of his generosity. But Jesus sounds a warning. Those who hear God’s call and know of His grace must not think that a call is the same as a true response. While many indeed hear the call, few are chosen. In interpreting this we must bear in mind that Hebrew and Aramaic both lack comparative forms of the adjective. Comparisons are expressed by using expressions like “large” and “small,” sometimes “many” and “few.” When used in this manner, the terms have the meaning of “more numerous” and “less numerous” or “the larger number” and “the smaller number.” Jesus is not saying whether the elect will be a tiny remnant or not; He is saying that not all the called will be finally chosen. This is an expression of the doctrine of election that we find in one form or another throughout the New Testament. The gospel invitation goes far and wide, but not everyone who hears it is one of God’s elect. Many are invited; but some refuse to come, and others who do come refuse to submit to the norms of the kingdom and are therefore rejected. Those who remain are called chosen, a word implicitly denying that the reversals in the parable in any way catch God unawares or remove sovereign grace from His control. God will continue His saving work until all the chosen are present at the banquet feast. We know those who are elect by their genuine, obedient response to the gospel invitation. They alone have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ and enabled by His Spirit to remain faithful to the end. 

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.          How is the kingdom of heaven like the wedding banquet described in this passage? What is the point of this parable?  

 

2.          In verses 11-13, what do you understand to be the significance of the wedding clothes? Where do the clothes come from? Why is the king so upset about the man not wearing these wedding clothes? 

 

3.          What is the meaning of verse 14? What is the difference here between called and chosen? What does the call represent? What does chosen represent? How do you know that you are one of the chosen?

 

References:

Matthew, D.A. Carson, EBC, Zondervan.

The Gospel according to Matthew, Leon Morris, Pillar NTC, Eerdmans.