March 29, 2009

The Royal Wedding Reception Invitation - Mar 29, 2009


You know, there’s a world of difference between reading an announcement, and getting an invitation. An announcement lets you know that something is going to happen. But with an invitation someone is saying, “I want you to be a part of this.”

In the parable of the Royal Wedding Banquet, Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding reception – one that you and I have been INVITED to.

Matthew 22:1-14 (NIV)

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4“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.’
5“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
13“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.’
14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

When we interpret Jesus’ parables we want be careful not to miss the point. Most of the time, a parable teaches one main idea.

Jesus clearly states the main idea of this parable in verse fourteen. Concerning the Kingdom of Heaven,

“…many are invited, but few are chosen” (v14)

Even though everyone is invited, not everyone will spend eternity in heaven. Some ignore God’s invitation. Some reject it violently. Some try to come, but are thrown out because they come dressed in sin.

As we examine this parable’s details, keep the main point in mind, “many are invited, but few are chosen”.

“The Invitation Ignored” – Value the King’s Invitation!

Jesus doesn’t specifically explain all the details of this parable, but the rest of the Bible helps us understand.

The king is God the Father.
The son is God the Son.
The wedding banquet is heaven.
The servants sent to gather the guests are God’s Old Testament prophets.
The first invited guests are the citizens of Israel.

In the Old Testament God records how He took one tribe from all the peoples of the world, and made them His own.

He took Abraham’s descendants from Egypt. Gave them their own land. Entrusted them with His written word. Gave them ceremonies and traditions to follow which pointed them to the Savior of the world. God also gave the Israelite nation the honor of sharing the message of the coming Savior with the world around them.

To communicate this amazing invitation to Israel, God sent many prophets to them. Men like Moses and Aaron. King David and Elijah. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and many others.

It is true than many Israelites joyfully accepted God’s invitation. They trusted in His guiding hand and in the Savior that He promised to send. But, over the years, most of the Israelites did not accept God’s invitation to be His people.

God did not give up easily. He sent many prophets to the people of Israel, calling them to come. Inviting them over and over to be His people of faith.

They continued to worship at the pagan altars or the neighboring nations. They ignored the invitation of God by their unbelief. And when they died, they were not ushered into Heaven.

In the parable, it says that when the servants of the king went out to tell the invited guests to come, they refused.

When the king sends more servants, they pay no attention to them either. They are more interested in their own affairs. More interested in the family farm, or the family business.

We too, have been invited by God, to an eternal celebration. We must not ignore this invitation. We must value the King’s invitation!

Think about it. It is a ROYAL banquet that we are invited to take part in. This isn’t a cheap sheet cake and a bunch of balloons that will be on the floor in the morning. This is the celebration of the ages. The joys of which are so far beyond our expectations that we can only imagine what it will be like.

And this isn’t a potluck. We don’t need to worry about bringing something or cleaning up afterward. The King has prepared everything already. The best of everything.

We are not invited to be waiters at this celebration, but to be enjoyers of it. God invites us to RELAX, have a glass of wine, eat our fill, and sing for joy His praises. We’re invited to enjoy this banquet for free.

Let’s hold tight to the invitation that God offers us. Let us continue to believe in the Son of God. Continue to trust in Him as the one who took our sins away. And let’s continue to look forward with great longing to the Wedding Banquet of Jesus.

“The Invitation Rejected” – Honor the King’s Messengers

In the parable, Jesus says that some of the invited guests did more than just ignore the servants of the king. They seized, mistreated and murdered them. With this detail Jesus was referring specifically to how Israel had treated God’s prophets.

When Jesus denounced the Scribes, the so-called Bible experts of His day He said,

“47“Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all” (Luke 11:47-51 NIV).

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t kill the messenger”. But by killing God’s messengers a definite statement was made by Israel, “We hate the King who sent them. We reject His message altogether.”

And like in the parable, this lead to just retribution from the King. In the Old Testament, the people’s rejection of God lead to God’s destroying of the northern half of Israel. Later the southern half was enslaved. Israel only escaped complete annihilation because God had promised that the Savior would be born from the tribe of Judah, in the town of Bethlehem.

God still sends His messengers to us today. Not prophets that foretell the events of tomorrow, but prophets who faithfully speak the teachings of God as recorded in the Bible. Teachings of sin. Teachings of salvation through Jesus, through His perfect life and perfect sacrifice in our place.

We want to HONOR God’s messengers because in honoring them, we honor God. We want to respect the Holy Spirit who calls out to us from our own Bibles. We want to listen to Christians who rebuke us when we sin, remind us of God’s love and point us to His Word. This includes our called pastors and teachers, but it is certainly not limited to them.

Speaking to his fellow Christians, the apostle Peter said,

“…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV).

Honor your fellow Christians when they bring you God’s message. They are God’s priests and priestesses. And when they speak the things of God, it is the very voice of God that speaks through them.

Jesus said,

“He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16 NIV).

The highest form of honoring God is believing the message He brings us through His messengers. Let’s consider that message with care and believe it. When we do, we will not receive God’s just retribution, but His forgiveness, approval and protection.

“Your Place in at the Banquet Forfeited” – Come Dressed to Meet the King

In the parable, the guests who were invited did not care to come. They excluded themselves by their disregard for the King and His Son. So, the invitation was taken to others.

After Jesus took away the sinner’s punishment by suffering it on the cross, He sent His apostles out to share this Good News with the world. These messengers of God went to the Jews first to extend this invitation to faith, forgiveness and eternal life. But when the Jews rejected it still, they took it to the Gentiles.

Listen to Acts 13:44-48.

“44On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
46Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
48When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:44-48 NIV).

So the invitation to heaven went out to the Gentiles. And Churches dedicated to the Father’s Son sprung up everywhere the message went.

But still, we must come back to the main point of Jesus’ parable,

“…many are invited, but few are chosen” (v14)

The invitation goes out to many, but the requirements for meeting the King remain the same. One must be dressed properly – in the faith-given garments of Christ’s sinless life.

Verse eleven:

11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
13“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’” (Matthew 22:11-13 NIV).

Imagine, the scene for a moment. A wedding reception. A royal wedding reception, put on in the palace by the King in honor of the Prince and His new Bride. The room is packed with people there to celebrate and share in the joy of this day. But there in the middle of it is a man in his work clothes. His paint spattered shirt goes well with his hole riddled and thread-bare jeans. But this apparel is completely out of place here.

This attire is an insult to the King. It says, “I’m the important one here. I don’t need to dress up for you. What I feel like wearing is good enough.”

But the King will not have this kind of guest here. This guest cannot truly celebrate the Son’s wedding, for this guest has no love for the Son, as his lack of respect shows. He’s just here for the free meal. Or something. But he will not remain. Out he is cast, into the darkness.

When we appear before God, the King of all things, we dare not come in our own clothes. We dare not appear in the garments of our sinful life. A shirt dirtied with lies. Pants covered in the mud of selfishness.

With our sinful words and actions we clothe ourselves in filthiness. As Isaiah the prophet said,

“6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6a NIV)

The Holy God will not have His Son’s celebration tainted with even a single speck of sin. If we dare to enter eternity and God’s own presence in our own SIN CLOTHES, we will be cast out of God’s presence forever.

This would be a terrible mistake to make. And a hugely stupid one as well, since the SON Himself has provided SINLESS CLOTHES for us to wear. HIS CLOTHES. His righteous life lived for us. His lightning white perfection is draped over us when we trust in His sacrifice.

“…many are invited, but few are chosen” (v14)

ALL who by faith are covered in Christ’s righteousness are chosen. Trust in the Son, and prepare to celebrate.

This parable speaks about people invited to the wedding reception of a king’s son. But there is another image that God uses to show us how intimate this “invitation” really is. In the Bible, God calls the Church of genuine believers, Christ’s Bride. You are Christ’s Bride.

In Israel, marriage worked a little different than here in the states. The Bride and the Groom were legally married before the day of celebration. Though, they did not live together or share in the privileges of marriage yet.

When the special day came, the groom would take a special wedding walk with all his close friends, to his bride’s house. There she would join him and amid the shouts and songs and celebrating of all their friends, they would walk to their new home. And there the wedding banquet would commence. For days it would go on, for this was a thing to be celebrated. A new life was being born. Two made one.

You are the Bride of Christ. He has invited, no, proposed to you. He doesn’t just want you to know that the celebration is coming soon, He wants you to be part of it. His Bride, forever.

Don’t be distracted by the pathetic riches of this world. Don’t reject Him for the sinful and oh-so temporary! Trust in Jesus and the forgiveness that He won for you on the cross – and be His forever. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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