Good News of the Greatest Mandate

Do we love God completely or only partially? The answer lies in what Jesus taught as the greatest mandate of the Old Testament.
Our denominations sometimes emphasize only one dimension of loving God. Let us learn of the more complete love taught by Jesus.
We will examine the Great Commandments in Matthew 22:34-46.
Honda & Jesus
Soichiro Honda the founder of Honda Motor Company wanted to build better quality piston rings. He took classes at a local university’s engineering school to learn how to solve the problem. Once he found the answer he needed, he quit. His teachers wanted him to continue and graduate. He told them that he knew all he needed for his business and did not want to waste time on pointless studies. The Honda Motor Company eventually became a resounding success. Education is good, but when an education takes one away from the central focus it can become a useless waste of time. Honda’s whole focus at that time was to build piston rings, not become a general engineer. Even experts in the Bible can miss the most important things (Matthew 22:34-46). Like Honda, Jesus focused on the most important thing.
Jesus as a Threat
What was the purpose of the Pharisees tempting Jesus (as the original language shows) with a trick question (Matthew 22:34)? Would Psychologists say that such vehement opposition comes from inner turmoil caused by a perceived threat? Was it perhaps similar to the motives that caused atrocities such as the Spanish Inquisition in which the Church was complicit? When the Church teaches dogmatically what Jesus taught his Apostles it carries Jesus’ authority. When the Church teaches dogmatically things that neither Jesus nor the Apostles taught, is it operating much like the Pharisees and Sadducees? How can the dogmas of a magisterium or doctrinal committee be declared infallible and inerrant teachings unless they agree with what was taught by Jesus? If he was physically present on earth today, would many church authorities accept him or also perceive Jesus as a threat?
Summing up the Faith
There are many lesser rules and human traditions which divide the Christian Church but one great and wonderful rule which unites us all. It was outlined by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39. The Bible contains many excellent summaries of right religion. Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Do what is just and right (Isaiah 56:1). Seek God and live (Amos 5:4). Live by faithfulness (Habakkuk 2:4). These are articles of faith. Jesus chose a couple of other Old Testament statements to summarize the faith. One was from Deuteronomy (6:5) about loving God and the other was from Leviticus (19:18) about loving our neighbor. These commandments were not even specifically from the Ten Commandments, though they are there in principle. They unite all of Christianity under one statement of belief.
How Love God
Do we “give our heart to the Lord”? Instead of pop sayings, let’s see what Jesus said (Matthew 22:37). We love the Lord with our entire heart, soul and mind. This is the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5), the central creed of both Judaism and Christianity. What that actually means is that we love God with all that we are and have. Is love “all we need”? Jesus said that differently too. Some forms of Christianity emphasize the heart and avoid the mind. Some varieties of Christianity are emotionless with very little heart. Some kinds of Christianity emphasize outward show but neglect the inner soul. Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament law as hanging from love. He also delineated that love as not just being empty emotionalism, but a love that includes everything in our lives: heart, soul and mind.
How Love Neighbor
The command to love our neighbor as ourselves strikes at the root of human failure (Matthew 22:39). The seed of society’s evils is love for self and reckless disregard for others. It is also very shortsighted, because ultimately love of others returns long lasting recurring benefits to us and is therefore an act of self love. We were designed to naturally love ourselves. We want food, shelter, protection, health and happiness. As we appropriately bless others, crime and other evils should decrease. All this is impossible unless we first love God with all of our being. If there is no God and if we don't love him, we may as well act just like the animals, where survival of the fittest counts. Instead of acting like vicious animals, devouring and destroying, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Universal Principle
The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39) is a version of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12). Is it so important that God inspired it in other world religions, among those who have not yet come to know their Jesus as Savior? Judaism, Islam, Jainism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Buddhism are some of them. Is this principle is so vital and fundamental that God did not want to leave any creed or religion with an excuse for not knowing it (Romans 1:19-21)? Even atheists who claim that they don’t believe in God admit its fundamental importance. Some people may object that God has nothing to do with religions other than Christianity. But let’s think about it. If God also believes and follows the principle of loving his neighbor, why would he not want to spread such an important universal principle universally?
What Kind of Love
What kind of love does God expect from us? Is it the emotional love of a romance novel? Is it the sentimental love of popular songs? The word love in the ancient Hebrew scripture that Jesus quoted (Deuteronomy 6:5) and in the New Testament Greek of Matthew 22:37 were both similar to the same word in English. The word love needs a context to define it further. The context of the Great Commandments defines that love as something involving all of a person’s life: heart, soul and mind. It is an emotional love, but also an intelligent and practical love. It was a love defined in terms of a practical covenant relationship. If we look at the context of the Old Testament text, loving God by doing things for him was part of the evidence of that love.
Loving God with our Minds
One individual said he loved God and Sunday School but hated theology. But, Sunday School is theology. Any study of God is theology. Another said that we don’t need doctrine; we just need love. But, is not that also a doctrine or teaching and is not love also the principle doctrine? The anti-intellectual bias in some corners of the Church actually contradicts the Bible, because in Matthew 22:37 Jesus taught us to love God with our minds. In Greek the word literally refers to examining all sides of a matter, using thorough thinking. Wrong teachings are often blamed on God’s inspiration. In reality are we sometimes just too mentally lazy to study matters deeper than a shallow point of view? Is being ashamed of our minds also to be ashamed of God? Jesus encouraged loving God with our intellect.
Loving God with our Hearts
How do we love God with our hearts (Matthew 22:37)? If we lust after that which is not ours to have, then how can we love God in our hearts? So that makes us all guilty right? Yes, but do we go to God in prayer asking for forgiveness for evil thoughts in our hearts? Do we then fill our hearts with what is good? What about our attitudes of heart? Are we thankful to God with our whole heart for his forgiveness and other of his abundant blessings? Are we also thankful for his will when his will includes suffering? Do we fill our hearts with the things of God? Do we fill our hearts with praise and singing? Do we ask for help from the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with God’s love (Romans 5:5)?
Loving God with our Souls
How do we love God with our souls (Matthew 22:37)? The word soul in English is an ambiguous word used to translate words in the original languages meaning a variety of things like life, creature or spirit. In this passage the Greek word is psyche which can also be translated as breath or spirit. In Psalm 42 the descendants of Korah composed a song of love to God, describing the soul thirsting for God like a deer panting for water. This passionate spiritual desire is something that we often ignore with our daily distractions. If we love God with our souls, then why would we want to miss assembling weekly with others who also love God? If we love God would we also love God with our souls through prayer, Bible study and meditating on the things of heaven?
Most Important Legal Principle
Where did the idea of legally guaranteed equality come from? In the United States constitution do the words, “We the people” summarize the most important national rule? Does British law which guarantees equality for all, contradict itself by guaranteeing prerogatives of the royal family above others? The Chinese constitution clarifies a citizen’s fundamental rights and duties. The European Constitution guarantees human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and a free market. When asked what was the most important part of the law (Matthew 22:37-40) Jesus explained the most important as love of God and the second most important as love of neighbor. British law favors the royal family’s rights above everyone else’s. God’s law makes all people equal in our responsibility to love one another as ourselves. Nobody may be loved more or less than ourselves. God makes us all equals.
Dogmatism & Ignorance
When Jesus asked his opponents whose son the Messiah was (Matthew 22:42) they answered with orthodox dogmatism, correct but ignorant of Christ. When churches spoon feed us with dogmatic answers that leave out thinking, they do us a disservice. They do not allow us to love God with our minds. What thinking formed the teachings of the Church? Good theology schools teach the various views of doctrines along with strengths and weaknesses of each view. One professor taught that doctrine was a 2,000 year long discussion and that discussion is not over yet. Too often we approach church doctrine as if there were no more discussion. We dare not use our minds. Jesus’ challenge to his hearers was to use their minds. If the Messiah is the son of David, how could David refer to him as Lord?
What Liberal Commie Pinko said that?
Teacher: Class, what is the most important command of all?
Seventh Day Sally: The Sabbath is the test command.
Evangelical Evie: Just believe.
Catholic Cathy: Obey the successor of Peter.
Pentecostal Penny: Tongues are the initial evidence.
Mennonite Mitsy: Submit to the Gemeinde rules.
Orthodox Orson: Follow the ancient way.
Fundamental Freddie: Obey all the rules made up by the elders.
Methodist Mel: Follow the method.
Baptist Babette: Be immersed. If you ain't dunked, you ain't really baptized.
Anglican Andy: Follow the middle way.
Teacher: What if I told you that love was the real deal?
Class: Love???????????? What liberal Commie pinko said that?
Teacher: Jesus. (Matthew 22:34-46)
Class: oh...
The Messiah Riddle
Jesus asked some religious leaders whose son the Messiah was. His answer is called the Messiah Riddle (Matthew 22:41-46). The expression "son of David" was familiar. Jesus descended from King David. The religious leaders answered that the Messiah was the son David. Jesus knew their lack of belief and that they thought of the Messiah as a mere man. He asked them why David referred to his son or descendant as "my Lord." That passage reads, "The Lord (God) said to my Lord (my son)" (Psalm 110:1). Why would a father call his son, my Lord? Because that son, the Messiah is divine. But, Jesus did not always answer a riddle. Instead he asked, Since David called the Messiah my Lord, how can the Messiah be his son? No one could answer him. Jesus challenged people to think.
Paul’s Definition of Love
The Greek word agape does not always mean divine love. In some contexts it just means love or affection. In the Bible it sometimes even refers to a wrong kind of love. Men loved darkness (John 3:19), or the praise of men more than God (John 12:43), or this world (2 Timothy 4:10). Here we see three cases where the word agape was not godly love. The verb and noun form do not have different meanings. Just like the words love or affection in English, the meaning depends on the context. A preacher's volume and enthusiasm are not always a sign of divine inspiration and quiet preaching may not indicate that truth is absent. If we want a definition of agape which is the kind of love that God expects we must go to 1 Corinthians 13.
Some denominations teach people to love God with their emotions but not with their minds. Others teach people to love God intellectually but not with their emotions. Some only focus on the things of the spirit, but not the heart or mind. Loving God is not just emotional, or intellectual, nor just spiritual but all of those dimensions. Jesus taught us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind.

Good News About the Duties of Citizenship

Citizenship in a country of this world brings with it moral dilemmas. Is love of country idolatry? Is it wrong to work for a company that has some corrupt practices? Is paying taxes participation in evil acts by governments?
To educate the consciences of those who find paying taxes a moral conflict.
We will look at the discussion of paying tribute to Caesar in Matthew 22:15-22 and the moral dilemmas it poses.
Outspoken Jesus
How outspoken ought we to be? We all struggle with this issue. Should we speak our mind or hold our tongues? Some societies are very outspoken but tactless; others are tactful but filled with pretense and fake civility. Is civility always an act of love, or is it occasionally very unloving to suppress the truth under a veil of phony politeness? If someone flattered you with insincere words designed to trap you, how would you answer them? Beginning in Matthew 22:15, the Pharisees tried to sweet-talk Jesus by calling him an honest and impartial man. What would you have said? Would you have given a courteous reply or an outspoken one? Jesus was forthright in his answer. He did not mince words, nor get entangled in polite pretense. His reply was, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trick me?”
A False Dichotomy
A false dilemma is a predicament that implies that there are only two choices. It is also called a false dichotomy, suggesting that we may only choose from two answers. The two choices may not be mutually exclusive. They may both be right or wrong at times. Politics may pretend there is no alternative or that truth is only on one side. Not every choice between two alternatives is a false one. Both choices may be right, both wrong, or one right and the other wrong. In Matthew 22:17 the Pharisees’ disciples tried to trick Jesus by putting forth a false dichotomy – pay taxes to Caesar or not. The lesson for us is that the truth in a false dilemma sometimes lies in a third option: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.
The Imperial Tax
Paying tribute to the Roman Emperor was not voluntary, but necessary for survival under occupation. It violated the conscience of believers because the coins contained blasphemous inscriptions, a reminder of the gods imposed upon them by the Romans. Some revolutionaries refused to pay Roman taxes and died as a result of their rebellion. So when Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:17 whether or not it was right to pay taxes, he was being asked a larger question of conscience that believers face today. How far do we cooperate with the oppressive rulers of this world? How much ought we cooperate with corporate overlords who demand corrupt practices on the job? Is paying tribute to Caesar metaphorical for the extent that we who are called to love the world, are to be in the world, but not of the world?
Whose Image
Human government is nothing to brag about. Injustice, burdensome laws and oppressive administrations have only lessened slightly under democracies. Under the Roman sandal, life was bleak for the Jews. Israel’s history was filled with saviors who liberated them from such hated foreign oppression. A popular view in Jesus’ time saw him as another such savior to free the Jewish people from Rome (Horsley, Richard A. Jesus and Empire. 2003 Augsburg Fortress. 44.). In Matthew 22:17 Jesus was asked whether or not it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, a politically and religiously loaded question. Jesus’ answer showed remarkable grace towards a human government that did not deserve it. How did Caesar get the coins that contained his inscription if not by brutal oppression and unreasonable taxes and tributes? What was Jesus’ answer? Give to Caesar what belongs to him.
Our Caesars
Who are our Caesars today in a modern democratic world? Most of our economies are mixed, part government controlled and part privatized. Almost entirely capitalist countries only exist in the third world where there is enormous disparity between the rich and poor. In a mixed economy, we actually serve two Caesars, government and the oligarchy (the wealthy and powerful). One demands taxes. The other demands tribute. In America, just as in ancient Rome, our Caesars are also our gods. We worship our form of government and we worship our market. Is it right to pay tribute to our Caesars (Matthew 22:17)? We might ask today whose face is on the album cover, or on the bottle of pills, or on the pension check? Our Caesars ask too much tribute and give too little in return, but pay we must.
Right & Moral Ambiguity
Compromise is a dirty word to some people, yet anyone who is married is familiar with compromise. Some compromises are troublesome, such as making a choice between two evils. Which is worse, working for a corrupt corporation or not providing for our families, paying taxes which pay for evils or going to jail? Some people boycott particular companies for their sins. A boycott is like punishing one sinner and not the rest. All companies sin somewhere and the hidden sins may be worse than the known ones. So we work for companies that sin and pay taxes to governments that sin in a world that sins. Even if all Christians joined monasteries or communes to escape, our sins would follow us. In a world of moral ambiguity we pay tribute to corrupt Caesars in order to survive (Matthew 22:17).
Integrity & Flattery
Flattery is nice but it can also be a trap. Experienced pastors are well aware of the trap in a new assignment when they are flattered and a previous pastor criticized. Sooner or later, those who say such words may end up hating the new pastor too. Hollywood schmoozing may seem positive and encouraging on the surface, but it is flattery with a purpose, to get people somewhere. Just watch a Hollywood roast to find out how people really feel. And so in Matthew 22:18 a trap was set for Jesus with flattery: You are a man of integrity and teach God’s way truthfully without being swayed to shade the truth by popular opinion. Just as Jesus was not fooled by flattery, so too when we are flattered, we ought to go on high alert for a possible trap.
Paying Unjust Taxes
Jewish society at the time of Jesus had no separation of church and state. So when Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:19 whether or not it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, the underlying assumption was the injustice of excessive tax burdens — not an unfamiliar theme to us either. Under Roman rule the burden was socially destructive. The poor often lost their lands in order to pay tribute and taxes on top of tithes and offerings (Horsley, Richard A. Jesus and Empire. Augsburg Fortress 2003). In effect they were forced to serve another god, Caesar. The question to Jesus was a politically motivated trap. If he said yes, he would be branded a traitor to God. If he said no, he would be in trouble with the Roman authorities. His answer showed remarkable grace and incredible wisdom.
Whose Inscription
The tribute coin of Matthew 22:20 was probably one labeled with abbreviations meaning “Tiberius Caesar, Divine Augustus Son of Augustus.” It could have also been an earlier coin with the inscription “Caesar Augustus son of divinity, Father of his Country.” Either coin makes claims which were blasphemous to the Jews. Such actions by the Romans gave rise to tax revolts such as those led by Jewish Zealots. Jesus was a different revolutionary. His agenda was certainly political, the kingdom of heaven, but the kingdom of heaven would conquer the kingdoms of this world by different means. So when Jesus said to render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar he was not capitulating to this world’s governments, but subverting them by submission to the point of death. That revolution continues today in the hearts of all who believe.
Duties of Citizenship
What is our duty to country? Is it right to mix Christianity and national idolatry! Would God want us to make an idol of country? What is the balance? Why does love for country so often seem to automatically extend to bigotry, jingoism, and xenophobia? What ought to be a Christian approach to national duty? In Matthew 22:21 Jesus was asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. His answer came in the context of idolatrous Roman Emperor Worship. To the Jews Caesar’s image on a coin was very offensive. Yet, paying Caesar his paltry tax was a rather insignificant claim in comparison to God’s claim. God required their entire lives. That is the difference. So, when it comes to duty to country, Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.
Give Back to Caesar
Government is a bad word to many people. In Appalachia it once evoked pictures of those who stopped the poor from earning a side income selling moonshine. On Wall Street it evokes a picture of tax burdens on businesses. In Jesus’ day, government evoked a picture of an oppressive regime, with burdensome taxes and Emperor Worship. In Matthew 22:21 Jesus was not asked whether it was okay to worship Caesar, but whether it was right to pay taxes. Jesus, the Son of God picked up a coin, which usually contained the inscription “son of a god” on it, and said that it is right to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. What then do we owe the government of our day? Whether the government is right or wrong, we still owe to the government what belongs to the government.
Give Back to God
America is the land with the world’s largest socialized freeway system and until recently the world’s best funded socialized space exploration agency. It is the world’s only wealthy capitalist country that does not have a universal health care system. Very many are not covered and the rest live under a cloud of doubt as to whether their insurance company will cover every need or find some exclusion in fine print. Americans spend twice as much on healthcare per capita than any other country. About half of bankruptcy filings in the USA are due to medical expenses. We render unto Caesar, who is a corrupt false god (Matthew 22:21). Should we not even more render unto God by helping the poor as he demands? Should not those who accumulate while others suffer be held accountable for their social responsibility?
What is God's
If we are to render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar (Matthew 22:21) do we also render to God the things that are his? What then do we owe to God? Even the coin that Caesar had  placed his image and inscription upon and probably said something like “son of the gods” ultimately belonged to God. Like Caesar, we too do not really own anything. We rent things temporarily from God. What does God ask in return? He asks for honor and offerings. When human Caesars abuse us, God will rescue us. We must render to Caesar what belongs to him, even if he stole it from us in the first place. God only asks that we love him and our neighbor. What a different world it would be if we paid him what we owe.
Render unto God
The saying render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's comes from Matthew 22:21. We may assume this supports the separation of church and state, but that is wrong. It was written in a time when that was not even a concept and the Jewish and Roman religions were both part of the state. So rendering to God what belonged to God in that context then referred to the allegiance to the God of the Jewish people, not God entirely separated from a human government as we might picture it today. An unstated hidden message might be that Caesar in reality owns nothing. He is a false god. In faith we believe that what we must pay Caesar is a temporary burden. What do we render to God? Everything?
They Were Amazed
Let’s compare Stephen the Martyr’s response to questioning in Acts 7 with Jesus’ response in Matthew 22:22. Jesus knew that it was not yet his time to suffer the cross and so his answer was crafted with that in mind. He sidestepped the moral dilemma presented to him with a practical and inoffensive answer. On the other hand, Stephen went on the attack. His words were targeted and sharp, especially after verse 51. Particularly notice verse 56 in Acts 7. Stephen saw Jesus standing. Jesus who is usually described as sitting seems to have stood up in response. Stephen may have been even blunter than he needed to be, but there is a time for forthright accusation against religious injustice. If we choose to speak out, we must also know the potential consequences and the impact of our words.
Outro - Tainted Taxes
It is impossible to live and work in this world without being tainted. We work for companies that may sometimes engage in corrupt practices. Law enforcement often makes compromises because they don’t have resources to stop all crimes. Political leaders are often forced to deal with brutal foreign dictators for the sake of peace between nations. If we drive a car, we are inadvertently supporting regimes which oppress their people. So, when Jesus was asked if it was right to pay taxes in tribute to Caesar, he did not give an answer which satisfied every-one's political conscience, but the practical reality of life under a brutal Roman dictator (Matthew 22:21). We live in this world and do not yet have opportunity to change all of its corrupt ways. We pick our battles and the battle begins within ourselves.

Good News: You're Invited

An invitation is great but we must accept and we must wear the right clothing.
To show that with the good news of our invitation to salvation comes a two-fold responsibility
We will look at the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:1-14 and its implications for our calling and election.
A Wedding Banquet
Jesus continued a reply to the chief priests and Pharisees in Matthew 22:1-2. He told them a parable of a wedding feast. The kingdom of heaven, represented by the Church on earth, is like a king preparing a wedding banquet for his son. The first invitations in the Church were to Jesus’ own countrymen. Christianity was originally Jewish. Most Jewish leaders refused the invitation. Most Bible commentators see the marriage allegory used in several other parables as symbolic of salvation for the Church. This parable focuses on the initial marriage feast which, in ancient times began a celebration lasting several days. It involved great preparation and in this parable, great expense. It was seen as one of life’s most important events, and the wedding of Christ to his Church is one of history’s most important events. You are invited.
They Refused to Come
Many people don’t enjoy royal weddings. They seem like shallow affairs of families who got their power by the plunder of the weak and helpless. Sycophants paying fawning attention to a selfish, wealthy elite can be a complete turn off. Many of us may have difficulties with the picture of the kingdom of God being like a royal wedding in Matthew 22:2. We may even understand why some people shrugged their shoulders making light of the invitation. When Jesus spoke this parable, royalty had an even worse reputation than it does today. Royals terribly abused the citizens they were supposed to be serving. Yet, unlike most royalty in all human history, this was no invitation from a self-serving king to a list of snobs, but an open invitation from a self-sacrificing king who would die to save his people.
Tell Them to Come
The parable of the royal wedding in Matthew 22:3 is shocking. We have watered down the fear of God. Certainly, fear means deep reverence and respect. However, it also means to be afraid. We are too unafraid of God these days. The king in the parable is to be feared. He was not erratic and irrational. Knowing what he wanted was pretty easy to figure out. The invitation was issued politely, but a wise person knows that the king’s wish is a command. And everyone knows that when you go before a king, you wear proper clothing. It’s really quite simple. God invites. We respond. The only right clothing is that of putting on Jesus’ righteousness. We sure don’t have any such clothing. Also, hell is a choice that we make. It is a consequence of rejecting God’s invitation.
A wedding is one of the biggest occasions of life. It is a formal declaration of a lifelong commitment, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, and so on. It offers both parties legal protection and heaven’s blessing. It was given by God so that a man and a woman might always enjoy each other's companionship, help, support and appropriate expressions of human sexuality. Being asked to a wedding is not an invitation to a mere fashion parade. A pretentious and gaudy display can cheapen the true meaning. The real purpose of a wedding invitation is to share in celebrating the start of life’s most important human relationship. Perhaps that is why our Christian calling is pictured by an invitation to a royal wedding in Matthew 22:4. Will you come? You are invited.
They Paid No Attention
What if we prepared a great party and people paid no attention? What if we went to great efforts in inviting people, but they still refused? How heartbroken would we be if some people just ignored the messengers we sent or even murdered them? How does God feel after thousands of years of people doing just that with his invitation to a great celebration of his kingdom? Jesus painted this discouraging picture in the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:5. What could be more important in our lives than paying attention to our maker’s invitation? What could be more urgent than to rush to his invitation and go to where he is being celebrated? We are invited. Does it matter whether the nearest church might be Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Protestant? How could we pay no attention?
Farm & Business Priorities
Why would anyone consider their farm or business more important than an invitation to eternal life (Matthew 22:5)? That’s what the parable of the wedding banquet illustrates. Jesus’ own countrymen were invited to the greatest wedding banquet of all time, the marriage of God’s own Son. They accepted the idea of a Messiah, but when he actually appeared, many refused to come to the wedding feast and enter the Church. They were more interested in their farm or business than the things of God. Are we any different? Do we let our daily interests distract us from the most important experience of all time, the kingdom of heaven? Do we let television, sports, activities or business monopolize our lives so that we have no time for God? God has prepared a feast and we are invited. What is our answer?
Spurned Opportunity
When we are young, we don’t understand that opportunity knocks rarely, very rarely. So we waste years of our lives looking for a dream situation that may never come along. We often spurn the opportunities that do present themselves. In Matthew 22:6 a king offered people an opportunity, but they ignored it and mistreated his messengers. We can perhaps understand their jaded reluctance. The rulers of this world have been a selfish lot. We are not impressed with them. Because we are disenchanted with human beings we can easily miss the best opportunity in history. We are invited to the greatest celebration on earth. That celebration takes place every Sunday at your local church. Let’s not be so offended by the faulty people of the church or distracted by the world that we abuse God’s servants and miss out.
Murdering the Messenger
Why do people murder? Is temporary insanity valid? Murder is an act of insanity every time, even when calculated and cold-hearted. People have slaughtered others for the most trivial reasons, even for something as mundane as a pair of sneakers. If someone had been invited to a wedding and after several reminders, murdered the messenger, would that be a sane reason for homicide? Of course not, yet that is precisely the act described in Matthew 22:6. God’s messengers had invited Jewish leaders to the banquet of God’s Son, yet they abused and murdered them. Since that time, other nations have martyred far more of God’s envoys, so we can’t just blame the Jews. If we refuse God’s invitation and abuse his representatives are we any different? God has prepared a feast and his messengers are inviting everyone to come.
The King was Enraged
Some people rarely or never go to church. What’s wrong with that you may ask? Is the habit of avoiding church, with obvious exceptions for the sick and elderly, a bad one? Is it not an invitation to a heavenly celebration? In the parable of the wedding feast the king became very angry with those who refused his invitation (Matthew 22:7). How long will we go on refusing God’s invitation? We have many excuses to avoid church attendance: people or musical style we don’t like, preaching, rituals, being with fellow hypocrites, or getting out of bed. Has not God invited us or is church just a club? The greatest wedding of all history is being celebrated. It is our choice to attend or not and it is God’s choice to act upon our decision. Will we accept God’s invitation?
Burned Their City
It seems to be a strange thing for a king to do, to not only destroy a gang of murderers, but burn their city. This part of the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:7 seems to foretell the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. God punishes national sins. That does not seem to change under the new covenant. National punishment for nationwide sins seems to be the judgment of heaven. God’s reprimand was often via a foreign military force in Old Testament times, so his use of the Roman army in 70 AD need not be a strange thing. There are those who refuse to see God’s hand in national events and prefer to imagine a God who has, since the cross, gone on vacation until Christ returns. Does his passage allude to God’s intervention throughout history?
Invite Anyone You Find
Who should churches invite? Some churches are very exclusive. We might be invited if we pass certain legalistic membership criteria. Some churches will not invite gays, gamblers, drinkers, men with long hair, women with short hair or makeup, or those who play cards, work on Sunday or belong to another race. Many churches are not so narrow, but have an open door to anyone who wants to come. So too is God’s invitation (Matthew 22:9). He encourages us to invite both the good and the bad to our celebrations. Exclusiveness is self-righteous because it classifies other people’s sins as worse than our own. As far as God is concerned, sin is sin, and none of us are righteous. Yet, we can put on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In so doing, we are appropriately dressed for the wedding celebration.
The Bad as Well as the Good
The parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:9-10 pictures the reign of heaven. That reign includes the church and that feast includes the Lord’s Supper. Some churches exclude people from holy communion, but that seems to go against the message of parable. The invitation to this feast is to all. Ought not communion also be open to all, rather than restricted to those with a particular political loyalty to a religious organization of mere men? One could argue that the necessity of proper clothing makes for some sort of exclusive nature of communion, but how exclusive? The clothing merely represents the righteousness by faith in Christ, not a loyalty to any exclusive interpretations or doctrines of mere mortals. If that is so, ought not the only criteria for a welcome to communion be our faith in Jesus Christ?
Wedding Clothes
How do we dress in appropriate clothing for heaven’s royal wedding? A person not properly dressed for the wedding of God’s son to the church is not welcome (Matthew 22:11-12). God’s people will be dressed in white in his kingdom, symbolic of the righteousness of the saints. So, what is that righteousness? At one time righteousness was obedience to the law but now it is by faith (Romans 1:17; Philippians 3:9). It is a living faith evidenced by good works (James 2:14-26). No one can enter the kingdom of heaven without faith in Jesus Christ. Putting on Christ is the right wedding clothing. We can learn how to dress for the wedding by going to a healthy church which teaches what Jesus instructed to be taught. The celebration has already begun. Will we accept the invitation?
Without Wedding Clothes
Is the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:13 also the wedding supper of Revelation 19:7-10? While there are similarities, there are also differences. One is a parable, the other a prophecy. In the prophecy no one appears without the proper clothing. John Wesley argued that the parable is about the church militant (on earth) and the prophecy is about the church triumphant (in heaven). The idea of clothing representing righteousness is not found in the context of this parable. Hence, Spurgeon suggested that we have no right to simply assume the garment in the parable represents the same thing. He suggests another possibility. The neglect by one guest to wear the wedding garment provided by the host could represent a refusal to display an outward show of loyalty perhaps even revealing an inner heart of disloyalty.
Consumer Church
In the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:11-13 was a man who came for the food but not to abide by the wishes of the host. He came for what he could get, but not for what he could give in loyalty. Sadly, most churches today have people who are not there to follow a calling to serve Christ, but to have selfish desires fulfilled. Why does one family go where youth activities are served up on a silver platter, rather than where there is a need for someone to do youth ministry? Why does another family go where there are wonderful programs offered instead of lending a hand at a church that needs help with programs? Granted, the sheep need to go where they are fed, but they also need to grow up into loyal service.
Throw Him Outside
We often speak of using tough love to help someone who is hurting themselves. The Wedding Parable reveals an aspect of grace that we could call tough grace. A king invited any and all who would come to his son’s wedding, both bad and good. The invitation was filled with grace, the response to those who refused the invitation was tough grace. The response to the man who did not wear appropriate clothing was tough grace. How so? Entry to the kingdom of heaven is an open invitation. Hell is our choice. It is our choice because we refuse the invitation to heaven. It is our choice because we cannot stay without the right clothing (Matthew 22:13). As with ancient kings, attendance would indicate political loyalty. Refusal would indicate political rejection of the king. Let’s attend and put on the clothing offered.
Not Wearing Wedding Clothes
In the parable of the royal wedding banquet a guest did not have on the right clothing and was thrown out (Matthew 22:13). Guests at weddings of the time were expected to wear white. Couriers had invited guests from the streets who would have had time to go home, clean up and change into some appropriate clothing. It was an insult to show up smelly from a day’s work and wearing dirty clothing. The individual’s sloppy attitude is implied in the parable. And so the lesson for us is that we ought not to approach Christianity with a careless attitude either. Elsewhere we see that fine white clothing symbolizes righteous deeds. Even though salvation is a free invitation, we ought not to take it for granted by neglecting to take the things of God seriously. Wear the right clothing.
Into  the Darkness
Common views of hell see it as a place of fire and sulfur or eternal darkness. One view is of eternal suffering in fire. Another is of a lake of fire where people are thrown and burned up to become ashes under the feet of the righteous. Other Bible verses seem to describe people separated from God forever, cast into outer darkness, crying and grating their teeth (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Jude 13). Does God cause their agony or is it the result of their own sins and the absence of God’s blessings? Does black darkness contradict bright fire, or are both metaphors picturing a horrible destination? Some have even tried to harmonize fire and darkness as “black fire.” Was that even the intent of the original writings? Bottom line: Don’t choose hell.
Invited and Chosen
The parable of the wedding banquet reveals that many are invited but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). This parable reveals heaven as a selection process in two stages: 1) the invitation and 2) being chosen. It also reveals two steps to being chosen: 1) accept the invitation and 2) wear the right clothing. It is no use just going to a weekly celebration of salvation. Faithful church attendance alone is not enough. We must put on Christ or clothe ourselves with him (Romans 13:14). When we are baptized we put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). Salvation is possible in Jesus Christ and those who ultimately refuse him refuse salvation. I say “ultimately” because some may have never even heard the truth about him and may only have an opportunity to even know who he really is later on.

Let us accept God’s invitation and those He sends with the message. Above all let us wear the right clothing, putting on Jesus every day.