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THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING BANQUET - Matthew 22:1-14

May 1, 2017

 

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘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.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘the wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So 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.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

Sometimes today people are invited to a wedding ceremony but they are not invited to the wedding banquet or reception. You may have experienced or heard about cases where uninvited people turn up to the wedding banquet. You can imagine how difficult and embarrassing it would be to have to ask them to leave.

 

We have just celebrated Easter, remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus told this parable a few days before his trial and crucifixion. In the proceeding chapter the Jewish leaders question Jesus’ authority and he tells two other parables in response. Jesus was primarily directing these stories to the Pharisees and to Israel as a nation. They did not accept Jesus. However the parable is also for all who reject God’s invitation to share in wedding supper for his Son but at the same time it is to all non-Jews who are welcomed in to share the blessings of the gracious King.

 

Jewish tradition at the time held that there would be a banquet in the progression from this present life to the life after death.

 

In Jesus’ time weddings were a little different from today. In those days the betrothal was a legal and binding agreement. After the betrothal the guests, which usually included most of the local community were advised and invited. However the bride remained with her parents while the groom went off to build a place for his bride - usually a room attached to his parent’s house. This could take up to a year. Meanwhile the bride and invited guests would be waiting in anticipation for the groom’s father to announce when the wedding banquet would happen. The celebrations often went on for a week – it was a huge party.

 

This parable isn’t about just any wedding; it is about a King who invites his special guests to wedding banquet of his son.

 

At the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, the royal family spent $34 million and invited 1,900 guests. And if you were one of the fortunate 1,900 on the guest list, there is certainly no way you would turn down that invitation.

 

 

Invitation and rejection

Rejection is, unfortunately the story of mankind - rejection of God’s gracious offer.

 

The Pharisees that Jesus was speaking to were the specially invited guests. They thought that they deserved entry into the Kingdom because they were Jews but Jesus makes it clear that their rejection of him as Messiah is a rejection of God and God’s gracious offer of entry into the Kingdom.

 

Look at v. 4-5 in our passage. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘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.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.

 

The emphasis here is not that the guests couldn’t come but they wouldn’t come. The words of Jesus in Mt. 23:37 come to mind when he cried over Jerusalem, he said, “...you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."

Just like people in another parable Jesus told in Luke 19:14 about the tenants, who said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”

 

There are many ways to reject God. Some ignore him, some get angry but they all amount to the same thing. There is no neutrality with the Kingdom – either you are in or you are out.

 

It is understandable that there are consequences for those who reject God’s gracious offer whether you merely ignore it or violently reject it as the parable brings out.

But for those that are least expected at the feast there is an invitation.

 

I have a couple of questions for you to think about today.

What is your understanding of God’s offer of Salvation?

This is a crucial question to ask as we consider this parable.

 

Jesus says that God’s kingdom is like a Wedding Banquet. God in grace welcomes people to a feast.

I don’t know all of you personally, but another question is... 

”Why are you here today?”

Are you here because of the expectations of others or are you here because you have at some time responded to God’s invitation?

 

Saying you are a Christian because you have a mental acceptance of who Jesus is does not necessarily mean you are in his Kingdom.

 

When I was about 8 or 9 I learnt many memory verses. One of my Sunday school teachers used to give us money if we learnt the verse each week. I could real off the verses like, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

If you had asked me, “Do you believe it? I would have said yes. But I wasn’t a Christian! I had no conviction of sin. I had not responded to the truth about Jesus Christ. There was no witness of the Holy Spirit in my life! I hadn’t really thought about what belief meant.

You see, to say you believe, says nothing about your personal commitment.

The Pharisees believed in God and they had a faith. However the nature of their faith was faulty - they believed that God would accept them if they followed a lot of rules – the Mosaic Law.

 

What you understand about salvation is crucial. There are all sorts of alternative views on this that are contrary to God’s word.

 

How many of you have read the novel by William Paul Young, The Shack?

I actually have only read some bits of it but I have been reading some reviews of it.

It has sold over 20 million copies and in March this year was released as a motion picture. At about the same time Young also published his newest book, Lies We Believe about God.

William Young wrote ‘The Shack’ to teach his children about God and why God allows suffering. Unfortunately it and his latest book do not teach us about the God of the Bible.

 

Here is a quote, “The Good News is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into his life, into his relationship with God the Father, and into his anointing in the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that Jesus did this without your vote, and whether you believe it or not won’t make it any less or more true. (p117–18).

 

The problem with Young’s gospel is that everyone goes heaven because sin does not separate us from God and our sin causes no offense to God.

 

Unfortunately this sort of gospel is all to common these days and is very close to the gospel the Pharisees expounded.

 

We have recently been heard about Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisee Nicodemus. He accepted that Jesus was a great teacher but Jesus said to him, “truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” But Nicodemus didn't understand. Jesus said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” Jesus made it clear that there needs to be a spiritual rebirth. The Spirit needs to be working.

 

In John 16:8 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” He explained that the Holy Spirit will convict because people do not believe. In other words unbelief is sin. An understanding of our lostness is vital to or salvation.

 

The hymn, Amazing Grace  - that saved a WRETCH like me. Newton’s agony over his sinfulness was the result of the Holy Spirit’s conviction, which led to an amazing transformation from being a terrible slave trader to a becoming a gracious man of God. That’s the transforming power of the Spirit.

There is none of this in William Young’s gospel. In fact he says we are not wretches at all.

 

The Pharisees of course would not believe in Jesus – yet he was God right there amongst them. One of my Bible School lecturers described them as having paralysed minds. There was no evidence of Spiritual fruit in their lives.

 

In Jesus’ earlier parable, chapter 21 verse 43, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit”.

The Jews had all the outward religious customs but there was no evidence of the transforming work of the Spirit that produces the fruit of the Spirit.

 

For you then, is there evidence of the Spirit’s work in your life?

 

Extended Invitation and Contemptuous Rejection. V8 - 14

 

v. 8-10 “Then he said to his servants, ‘the wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So 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.

 

The King invites as many as are willing to come whether good or bad. I think this is a message to the Jews that God’s plan is to invite all gentiles to join the party. He graciously invites all sinners. His invitation is here to you all this morning from whatever background or situation. Whether you have been running from God, ignoring him or even violently opposing him he welcomes you to come.

Like the parable of the lost sheep. God the shepherd is not willing that any should perish, he searches for that 99th sheep. Is that you this morning?

 

Christianity stands apart from every other religion in this aspect. It is not about us searching for God but God searches for us. He has revealed himself in the person of his Son. Will we accept that invitation?

 

Recently I watched a recording of debate between William Lane Craig, the American Christian apologist and an atheist, Dr. Daniel Came. It was held at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. It was a rather interesting debate because Dr Came started out by saying that he wasn’t antagonistic to the concept of God but his reason for being an atheist he said was, “I have searched for God but he hasn’t revealed himself to me.”

 

I think the problem is a little like the guest who was dressed in the wrong clothes in the parable.

 

v. 11-14 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

This guest for some reason had not come on the King’s terms. He did not respond in an acceptable way. This was no casual miss-judgement. In the Greek text it is clear that this was a deliberate decision of contempt to ignore the terms of entry. When questioned he is speechless for he has offended his host knowingly.

 

As I was saying earlier we come to God understanding that we are lost and there is no virtue or goodness in us that makes us good enough for God’s banquet table. There needs to be a turning away from sin in true repentance and commitment to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

So in review, a call has gone out to the special people God, but they reject it. A general call goes out to all, but not all respond. “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

Here is a serious reminder to those who reject God’s offer in Jesus Christ. We must not think that God will forgive me however I come. This is not cheap grace. It cost the life of his precious, precious Son.

 

So I ask the question again, “What is your understanding of God’s offer of Salvation?”

 

How have you responded to the invitation? You may have come to Church many times. You may even have been baptised. But deep down you know that yours is a casual acceptance – you have taken this communion feast for granted.

 

Like a missionary kid friend of mine, from India, who in his teen age years had done all the right things, baptised etc etc, but he used to sit at the back of the church so he could drink all the port wine that was left in the large cups we used to use. His faith was a sham. For you it may not be as blatant as that but if in your heart you know that is you I pray that this morning you will come to the foot of the cross and bow your heart to the one who gave his all for you.

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