The Kingdom Invitation
Matthew 22:1‑14 Luke 14:1‑24
Matthew 21 closed with the elders, scribes, chief priests and Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus. The only thing holding them back was their fear of the multitudes of people who thought Jesus was a prophet. He knew precisely what they were thinking. Chapter 22 opens with Jesus answering thoughts and words they had never expressed in public. He showed them the danger of their attitudes by telling the parable of the wedding feast.
A parable with similar lessons is found in Luke 14:12‑24. It was told on a Sabbath day when Jesus was invited into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat. The Pharisees watched our Lord closely that day to see if he would do anything they could criticize. Jesus healed a man with a disease called dropsy. He also taught them to take the lesser, rather than the greater, seats. Then, they would not be embarrassed by being asked to go down to a lower seat. Instead, they would be exalted by being asked to move up to a better seat. He told them to invite those to their feasts who could not invite them to a feast in return. By so doing, they could look forward to being repaid for the good they did in eternity.
The Invitation to the Wedding
Just as we receive wedding invitations days, and even weeks, in advance, so did the people of Jesus' day. They had plenty of time to place the event on their calendar and make plans to attend. Jesus also knew the invitation to a banquet was extended days in advance. The exact day would be set, with the time to be determined as the final meal preparations were made. Then, when everything was ready, the one giving the banquet would send for the invited guests.
Similarly, the Jews had been told of the coming Messiah for years. God and the prophets had been speaking and writing of this king and his kingdom since the beginning of time (Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:15; Isaiah 9:6‑7; Daniel 2:36‑45). There was no reason for the Jews to be unprepared for the Lord's entrance into the world.
Also, Jesus has told his disciples that he has gone to prepare a
place for them. He has
promised to come again to receive those who are his own (John
14:1‑6). We do not know
the exact day of his coming, so we must be watchful (Matthew
24:36‑39; 2 Peter 3:10).
The Man Without a Wedding Garment
When the king came in, he observed a man who did not have on a wedding garment. The king asked him how he came to be there without wearing the proper garment. McGarvey says the fact that the man was speechless shows he was without excuse. So, we know he had access to the appropriate garment but did not wear it. He was responsible for his own lack of preparation (compare Matthew 25:1‑13).
It would seem this guest represents those who have accepted the gospel call but choose not to live in accord with the Lord's will. Demas would be an example of one who worked on the Lord's side but later abandoned it for worldly pursuits (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:10). Paul warned those Gentile Christians who considered being circumcised to please God that such would cause them to be under the law of Moses and fallen from grace (5:1‑4). It is possible to accept Christ's invitation yet be cast into outer darkness for failing to wear the proper garment (Ephesians 4:17‑24).
"Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen"
Christ's conclusion, "For many are called, but few are chosen," ought to give all pause. It can truly be said the gospel invitation is for all (Matthew 11:28‑30; Revelation 22:17). "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: 'In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him'" (Acts 10:34‑35). The gospel's power to save is not limited to a particular people. God wants all men in every location to be saved (Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 2:4). Thus, Jesus sent his disciples into all the world with the saving message. Anyone who believes and puts on Christ in penitent baptism will be saved from his past sins (Matthew 28:18‑20; Mark 16:15‑16; Luke 24:46‑48).
The trouble is, not all will accept the invitation. Some, like the first guests invited to the marriage of the king's son, make light of God's call. Others have beaten, persecuted and killed his messengers. Because of their refusal, they will be barred from the wonderful feast in God's eternal kingdom.
Excuses Will Not Be Accepted
We may try to rationalize why we are not responding as God would have us
to, but our excuses will not be accepted.
In the parable of the wedding feast, one went to his farm and
another to his business. In
the parable of the great supper, one said he had to look at a piece of
land he had bought. One
wonders why he bought it sight unseen.
Another said he had to test five yoke of oxen he had purchased.
He cared more for business, which could have been delayed, than
the feast with his friend since he set this proving on the very day it
took place. A third used a
new bride as an excuse. The
marriage had already taken place and had no special attendant duties.
So, he placed his relationship with his wife, which apparently
was not in jeopardy, above honoring a commitment to his friend.
Both parables show us the urgency of responding to the Lord's
invitation. Nothing can be put above it lest we find we cannot accept it
at a later time. It is
imperative that we let nothing hinder our obedience to the Lord!
1. What lessons can we
learn from Jesus' teachings on the higher and lower seats?
2. Why should we be preparing for the Lord's return? How urgently?
3. What lessons can Christians learn from the man with no wedding garment?
5. List some of the excuses given today for not serving. Do you think God will accept them?