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?
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?
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.
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.