Wedding Invitation from Jesus

Jesus has announced the grand plan for His coming wedding way ahead of time

Matthew 22:1-14 Luke 14:15-24
And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’ 

But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 

But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

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


Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

Then He said to him, 

“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 

But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 

So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 

And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ”

 

Jesus was born into the tribe of Judah. He grew up in Israel adapting to the life styles of his fellow Israelites with a mom and a dad and some younger brothers and sisters. His father, Joseph, apparently died when Jesus was a boy, so as far as we know. Jesus carried on his father’s trade (carpenter or stone mason) up North in Nazareth. At the age of about 30 he set out to teach and recruit a dozen vagabond disciples. He attracted large crowds for about three years (or so) but his main calling was to resolve the problem of human evil by reconciling the world to Himself. 

Jesus was unusual among men in that he was born without original sin, that terrible affliction in all mankind which causes us so much pain and tragedy and death. Had He not been murdered by his own countrymen three decades into his life, Jesus would have lived forever and never died. 

The late Arthur Custance studied the genetics of a man born without sin. He concluded that “original sin” was transmitted genetically through the male sperm, not the female ovum, hence the necessity that the Savior of the world should be born of a virgin.  The Seed of the Woman

Ordinary a young man growing up in Israel back then, would marry as early as possible in late adolescence, living with his his parents until he had saved enough money to move out and start his own family.

Probably Mary the mother of Jesus was only 15 or 16 years old and not married when she became pregnant with Jesus. It is usually assumed that Joseph married her to avoid scandal though he was probably much older than her. 

There was no “hooking up” (premarital sex) before marriage in those days of course.  Every bride was expected to be a virgin before the wedding.
Jesus taught about a group of wise and foolish virgins who anticipated being invited to attend His wedding. Half of them missed out!

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

In order to qualify as a suitable sacrifice for the rest of us Jesus had to grow in through all the stages of life from babyhood to toddler, to puberty, to adolescence, to mature manhood. 

It is Jesus Himself, raised by the dead, who has been building His ekklesia for two millennia now. She is a glorious church, “Without Spot or Wrinkle.”

 

“...But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:

“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”

And again:
“I will put My trust in Him.”

And again:
“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:9-17)

 

Jesus was given the assignment of reconciling the lost human race to a holy God.

Jesus is the Second or Last Adam corresponding to the first Eve.

Is there therefore a Second Eve? Yes! She is not a Jewish girl picked by Jesus from a village in Israel.

Adam and Eve were instructed to be fruitful and multiply and full the earth with their offspring. This has been done already! Earth is now way over populated with over 7700 million inhabitants—far more than our fragile planet can comfortably support. 

So there will be no marriage as we now know it, in heaven. The “bride of Jesus” will not be one woman but probably about ~7700 million men, women, and children from every nation, and from 2000 years of church history.

Obviously the union of Jesus with His bride will be intimate but not sexual. 

The Bride Jesus will be marrying must be a virgin, obviously. A few men and women down here on earth have been able to remain technical virgins for their entire lives. Some of us have met these virtuous old maids and life-long bachelors--but everyone needs revirginizing and that Jesus is able to do, for anyone who wants to know Him.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,

“Though your sins are like scarlet,

They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.

If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,You shall be devoured by the sword”;

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20)

Down here on the planet surface we all will die by 70 or 90 or 100 or so, if not sooner. 

“...now, once at the end of the ages, Jesus has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Hebrews 9:26-28)

It’s important for everyone to set aside fanciful notions of “pie in the sky when I die,” or of Elysian Fields of eternal bliss where one is said to enjoy extended retirement and creature comfort forever. 

Death is not the snuffing out of a candle flame (nirvana), not automatic Paradise. Immediately each of us, when we die, time travels to one of two cosmic court rooms for a one-on-one evaluation by our just and holy Creator.

When a person dies, for any reason, there is no longer another chance. Soul sleep, purgatory, extinction of consciousness are nowhere endorsed in the Bible. Ahead after death, is a fork in the road. One branch leads directly, outside of time, to the Judgment of the Great White Throne. The Judge is Jesus and the archived books are open. The second portal fo those who died knowing Jesus leads to the Judgment Seat of Christ. En route, each person receives a new body appropriate for their appointed eternal destiny.

We are all immortals now but where we spend eternity after death is negotiable in advance. Our existence before we were born is debatable but once have been born, we will live somewhere forever. We are, even now, mostly software. This raises questions about degrees of punishment in hell. Hell has been called "the backside of love," because God IS Love. If we give Jesus permission to love us and be healed we will be in a safe place forever, enjoying God and delighting in our brothers and sisters who are also "in Christ."

That same love will be a torment forever for those who have always refused to be loved and never responded to love all their lives.

The center point of history, of all time and all space, is contained in the Man Jesus Christ. Though He arrived on scene "late in history," the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus encompasses all of history. His sacrificial death (Six Hours on the Cross) sent ripples backward and forward in time. He is available today since Jesus now occupies the highest place of authority in the entire cosmos. You can capture in the gospels that unique week in Jerusalem when Jesus "died" -- but returned three days later, fully restored. His death for everyone silences all skeptics. Jesus has the last and final Word for all of us.

"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not [d]imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

Jesus knew way ahead why He came here in the first place. Having reconciled the world to God by His death on the Cross (as our substitute) Jesus returned from the dead on the third day, to be welcomed by his disciples, family and friends. He then spent 40 days hanging out with them. He had a whole new body and could appear and disappear at will. Jesus then ascended to the throne room of heaven. Ten days later Jesus and His Father dispatched God the Holy Spirit to call out His Church. She, the true church, is destined to be His Bride. We aren’t married yet but the wedding will be soon. (More on Jewish Wedding Custome and Typology).

 

Birth of a Tradition

by Jack Kelley, 2004

We’ll begin with a summary of the story of Isaac and Rebekah from Genesis 24.  Abraham was getting old and Sarah had died, so he sent his chief servant to the land of his brother to get a wife for Isaac. The servant loaded up 10 camels with gifts and set off. After some time he arrived in the village of Abraham’s brother Nahor. Approaching a young woman near a well, he asked for a drink, in accordance with a plan he had devised with the Lord.  When the young woman offered to draw water for his camels as well, she was giving him the confirming sign he had asked the Lord to provide.  He then accompanied her to her family’s home.

That evening he asked her family for permission to take the young woman, whose name was Rebekah, back home to be the bride of his master’s son Isaac. Using the gifts to reward her and to compensate her family for the loss of their daughter, he said he wanted to leave immediately. When Rebekah’s father turned to her for final approval, she agreed and they set off the next morning. After several days of travel during which the servant told her all about her betrothed, they arrived at Isaac’s home where she met him for the first time.  That very evening Isaac and Rebekah were married.

That’s The Way It Goes

Members of royalty often followed a procedure very similar to this in obtaining brides for their sons, sometimes arranging them years in advance of the actual event. Common people also adopted this method, but of course, with them, the prospective groom acted on his own behalf rather than sending someone in his stead.

Even today in some Middle Eastern cultures arranged marriages are common, with the groom’s mother selecting a bride for her son. The logic here is that a young man’s mother knows her son and his temperament better than anyone and can most accurately predict what kind of woman would please him. On one of our trips to Israel and Jordan, our Jordanian guide told us that his marriage had been arranged in this way and he was very happy with his mother’s selection.

Back To Biblical Times

In those days when a man took a liking to a young woman, he approached her father to ask for her hand in marriage.  Due to the prevailing economic conditions back then,  it took a long time for a man to become financially stable enough to think about starting a family.  When he did, he looked for a bride who was still young enough to bear him many children who could help him work the land when he got old.   So while the man in these cases could be in his thirties, the potential bride would often still be a teenager.

Inviting the man into their home, the young woman’s parents sat down with him around a table while she brought wine and four cups. After she had poured each of them (but not herself) a cup of wine, she listened while this man, who she was meeting for the very first time, described his assets, skills and other qualities that made him a desirable mate. A brief negotiation followed where the price he would have to pay as compensation for the family’s loss of their daughter was determined. It was called the bride price.

If the two men reached an agreeable amount all eyes turned to the daughter who had been listening intently to the entire discussion. She now had to decide if she would take this man to be her husband. If she turned her empty cup upside down, the man went away never to return. But if she filled her cup and took a sip of the wine, she was agreeing to become his wife.

At that point, they signed a betrothal agreement, wherein the man promised on oath to return for the young woman when all the wedding preparations were complete. Now they were officially engaged and the relationship could only be terminated by a divorce.  He went away to build a home for them on family property next to his father’s house. This could take some time, and the couple rarely met again until the father of the groom pronounced the newly built home fit for habitation.  Only then was the wedding date set, and the man was given permission by his father to go collect his bride for the wedding.

During this time the young woman was to watch and wait at her parents’ home. She and her bridesmaids had to maintain a constant state of preparedness, since the wedding date would not be revealed to her until the bridegroom actually appeared at her door to take her to their new home.

Surprise, Surprise

For his part, the groom would try to show up unexpectedly to surprise her, carrying her off suddenly “like a thief in the night” when no one would see them. The only advance warning she would get was the sound of his voice shouting her name and the blast of a ram’s horn.

When the bridesmaids discovered that the bride had been “spirited away” they would organize a great torch-lit procession, going throughout the whole town announcing that the wedding banquet was soon to begin. The banquet typically capped off a seven-day celebration during which the bride and groom were hidden away in their private rooms while the whole town made merry. Then they reappeared at the banquet to receive the congratulations of their friends and family, and their married life officially began.  The father of the groom picked up the tab for all the festivities.

Maybe you’re beginning to see the similarities. The Lord Jesus, being royalty, does not come directly seeking His bride. His Father sends an unnamed servant on His behalf, just like Abraham did. This servant, of course, is the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, who beckons us.  Interestingly, the name of Abraham’s servant was Eliezer, which translates “God is my Comforter.” And even more so, in Genesis 24 Eliezer’s name is never mentioned, as if he’s serving as a model of the Holy Spirit, whose name is also withheld from us.

The role of the Holy Spirit is to extol the virtues of the Son of God, who when told that the Bride price was nothing less than His own shed blood, agreed to die for us, and for the joy set before Him endured the cross. (Hebr. 12:2).  His last word from the cross, recorded in John 19:30, was tetelestai, a Greek word that’s been translated It is finished.  In the Lord’s time, it was a legal term that literally meant, “Paid in full”,  It was written across paid invoices and prison documents upon release of prisoners who had served their full terms, and had therefore paid their debt to society. With His death, Jesus paid the price in full for His bride.

Who Loves You?

At the Last Supper Jesus had hoisted His cup and said,  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”(1 Cor. 11:25).  When we first “take the cup” we’re signifying that we’re officially betrothed,  and we’re rewarded with gifts from the Holy Spirit, who is sealed within us as a guarantee of our inheritance (Ephe. 1:13-14). We then begin our journey, the balance of our life on Earth, while the Holy Spirit continues to teach us about our betrothed and helps us develop behavioral standards that are pleasing to Him.

As He does, we learn to our utter amazement that we have always been our Lord’s consuming desire,

That He lived so that we might come into existence and be set apart,

That He has longed for us to know how much He loves us,

That His every word and action were designed to bring us honor and express His devotion to us,

That He has dedicated Himself to us and covered all of our imperfections with His love, and

That He gave His life for us.

For His part, the Lord is even now building a house for us. “You trust in God; trust also in me, He said. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3) He has sworn an oath to return for us when the wedding preparations are complete and take us to His Father’s house, to the place He’s been preparing for us.

Soon And Very Soon

One day when we least expect it, He’ll come like a thief in the night and spirit us away to our new home.  For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so will we be with the Lord forever. (1 Thes. 4:16-17).

In Heaven, the King and His Bride will be hidden away in our rooms, while on Earth the last seven years of human history unfold (Isa. 26:19-20).  At the end, following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9), we’ll return together to rule and reign for 1000 years, and then it’s off to our eternal life with Him.  Praise the Lord.  Selah 08-22-09

 

The Chance to Live

Author: Ray C. Stedman

For our concluding study of the Parables, would like to turn to Matthew 22, and look with you at the parable of the marriage feast. In some ways this is the easiest parable of all to interpret because there is an obvious meaning lying right on the surface. This parable grew out of our Lord's controversy with the Pharisees during the last week of his ministry, when it was very apparent that he was on his way to the cross. The enmity against him had sharpened tremendously throughout the city and the Pharisees, scribes, and rulers were plotting together to kill him. Knowing this, Jesus spoke very sharply to them and informed them very clearly about what was going to happen. Part of that information was given in the form of this parable, which is built upon what he had said to them earlier, as recorded in Chapter 21, Verse 43: "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it." Here is his announcement to these Pharisees that they were to lose their privileged position and that the gospel was thereafter to go out to all nations everywhere.

In the first seven verses, we have our Lord's description of his own ministry of invitation to the nation, of the refusal of the national leaders to heed what he said; and then his prediction of the ultimate destruction of the city of Jerusalem:

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.' But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city." (Matthew 22:1-7 RSV)

What a clear prediction of what will happen as a result of the rejection by the nation Israel of our Lord's invitation! All of it is couched in this figure of the marriage feast. This is an Eastern wedding scene, as we have noted before in some of our Lord's other parables. The custom there was to invite people to the wedding feast a long time before it actually occurred. The invitations went out and were acknowledged and accepted. Then, when the preparations were complete, servants were sent out to bid those who had already accepted the invitation to come.

It is important to understand this because our Lord here clearly has in mind the nation Israel. Historically, they had been invited to the wedding long, long before, through the prophets whom God had sent them. The invitation was to come and have fellowship with the Son. (Notice that the marriage feast is for the son.) But now all things are ready. The son is there in their midst and is himself extending this final call, "Come now, everything is ready. Come and enter into fellowship with me." But they refused to heed the summons even though they had already accepted the invitation. That is the picture our Lord is drawing here. As a consequence, we read in the next section, a worldwide invitation goes out to all men, everywhere:

"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests." (Matthew 22:8-10 RSV)

This is clearly our Lord's prediction that the gospel message, with its invitation to worship the Son, is to go out to all the world. Everyone is invited. It does not make any difference whether they have a respectable reputation, or are disreputable in the eyes of society -- bad and good as used here are only men's evaluation. No matter who they are, if people have a need, if they want life, whether they are of good reputation or not, they are invited. We know that history has confirmed that this pattern has been followed exactly. The gospel has gone out to all the world, and it has been "whosoever will may come," (Revelation 22:17). And through the centuries many have come in response, out of the highways and byways of life.

But that is only the understanding of this parable which lies right on the surface. You can hardly miss it, can you? But we would miss a great deal if that were all we saw because it has a deeper significance. So I want to take a closer look at certain of the elements in this parable which will unveil its significance to us here this morning, and its clear implications for our own day.

Notice first that this occasion is a wedding feast. Today we call them receptions, and it falls my lot as a pastor to be present at many receptions. Usually I find them joyful occasions marked by gladness, music, and laughter. In fact, sometimes people work up such elevated spirits that it is hard to keep them out of trouble. They tend to want to perpetrate all kinds of high jinks. That is why you often find the bride and groom driving off in a car that is a disgrace to behold, dragging old cans and shoes behind them. It is an expression of the cheerfulness, the joyfulness, the gladness of the occasion.

It is important for us to understand that this is the way our Lord characterized God's invitation -- the gospel. It is not an invitation to a funeral, even though some people act as though becoming a Christian is equivalent to being soaked for a week in formaldehyde. It is an invitation to joy. It is not an invitation to a formal state dinner, but to a relaxed, cheerful, joyful occasion. It is an invitation, in other words, to life. This is what we so desperately need to understand.

During this tremendously significant last week, when man landed on the moon for the first time -- and when we now even have pictures coming to us from Mars, and are really beginning to understand something of our solar system and the universe in which we live -- it struck me very forcibly how barren and dreary and desolate these places are. I don't want to live on the moon, do you? Once you have seen one square mile of the moon's surface you have seen it all. It seems to be the ugly repetition of the same scarred, barren, dreary landscape. When I first saw the picture from Mars, I mistook it for the moon. It looks very much the same. It struck me as highly significant that, so far, the only beautiful place in our solar system is earth. It was the only beautiful thing the astronauts saw on their trip to the moon -- the beautiful earth. As we look around on our planet we can see something of the goodness and the graciousness of God toward man. What a beautiful place he has prepared for us! How he has flung beauty abroad with a lavish hand! We see it on every side.

This is indicative also of what God has prepared for the spirit in man. His invitation to us is never to unhappiness or sorrow, drudgery or darkness, fear or death; it is to life and to vitality, to excitement, joy, and gladness. We will never understand the gospel unless we understand it in those terms. God is inviting men to come alive, to discover what makes life exciting, challenging, wonderful. A phrase in Paul's letter to the Romans comes to mind here: "For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink [it is not made up of mundane things even enjoyable things such as food and drink] but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," (Romans 14:17 (RSV)). That is what God is calling us to.

A few weeks ago a Christian young man was talking with me about what he should be doing for the next few months of his life. He said. "I have two choices before me, two things I can do this summer. One of them I would really hate to do. It doesn't have any appeal to me at all. I feel that perhaps I should do it, but I don't want to. The other is something I really enjoy doing. It's a ministry I delight in." And he looked at me and said, "Of course, it's not difficult for me to know which is the will of God. I know he wants me to do the hard thing, the difficult thing." I asked him, "Why do you say that?" He said. "Well isn't that what God always wants?" He wants us to do things that are tough and challenging and difficult." I said, "My friend, I'm afraid you don't know God very well yet. The Lord Jesus said, 'I delight always to do those things that please him.' It is great, it is exciting, it is challenging to do the things that please him." This is the testimony of millions who have become Christians that they have found the secret of life. God has invited them to a joyful feast in fellowship with the Son of God.

A lady said to me a couple of weeks ago. "Oh, I had no idea that, when I became a Christian life, would be as exciting and wonderful as it is. I accepted the Lord fifteen years ago and I had no idea at the time that I would ever enter into the kind of peace, gladness. and joy that I've been experiencing of late." That is the testimony of many. I know there are exceptions. The philosopher, Nietzsche, once said about Christians. "If you want me to believe in your Redeemer, you're going to have to look a lot more redeemed." Some of us need an exhortation like that. But the important thing to understand is that when God issues the invitation through the gospel, he is inviting us to discover life -- life as it really is.

Notice also the nature of the call here. It is an invitation. It is not a summons from the draft board to report for duty; it is an invitation which recognizes the right of the ones invited to reject, if they so desire. It is without coercion or compulsion. When God offers to us this marvelous gift of life in Jesus Christ, he does not threaten us. He does not try to coerce or compel us to come; he offers it as an invitation which we are free to accept, or reject, if we want to. "Come, all you who are weary and heavy laden," says Jesus, "and I will give you rest," (Matthew 11:28). "Come if you really want to live," is the nature of the invitation.

"Well," someone says, "wait a minute! Doesn't it say here that the king was angry when they refused to come? And that he sent his troops and destroyed these people and burned their city? That looks pretty compulsory to me." Yes, he did do that. But notice when he did it. He did not grow angry when they first refused the gospel invitation. Instead, he sent other servants to plead with them. Here is a revelation of the patience and kindness of God, is it not? There is no resentment on his part at this callous refusal to come when everything has now been made ready. Rather, he sends other servants and another entreaty, and he describes the feast to them, trying to entice them to come. "Everything's ready," he says, "I've made ready the dinner, the oxen and the fat calves." This was the greatest gastronomic treat they could expect in those days. It was all ready and he pleaded with them to come.

But notice the reaction of these people. Monstrous, really. The record says that they made light of the invitation. Now we could understand this reaction if it were a case of excessive demand on the part of God. All of us get tired of someone who is constantly demanding something from us. Our tempers grow short after awhile, and we say, "Leave me alone! I don't want to do it. I'm not interested." But that is not the case here. This was an invitation to enjoy what these people wanted more than anything else. It was what they desired, what they were looking for in life -- joy and gladness, fellowship, and companionship -- fulfillment in every sense. So when they rejected and refused it, they were refusing the very thing that they wanted most.

What stopped them? Why did they thus refuse? Matthew tells us "they made light of it." In a parallel passage. Luke says they began to make excuses. One man said, "I bought a field, so I can't come." Another said, "I've bought some oxen and I have to go try them." And a third said, "I've married a wife, and I can't come," (Luke 14:18-20). (His was probably the best excuse of all.) What does all this mean? It means that these men were putting the everyday concerns of their lives before this call to discover and enjoy the secrets of life. They were taking the ordinary, normal matters of business and counting them as of far greater importance than this which actually meant everything in life to them. This invitation, which was the embodiment of everything they wanted most of all, they downgraded and treated with scorn and indifference, in contrast to some of the less important matters of life. There is nothing wrong with the things that they set in its place; but obviously, the whole point is that they had lost their perspective. They could not evaluate things properly and they treated lightly this marvelous, gracious invitation to come to the fellowship of the Son.

Some went even further, the record tells us. They seized the messengers which the king had sent and killed them. They not only resisted the invitation and refused it, but they hated it. This is revealing, is it not? They murdered the ones who brought it. And it was then, only then, that the king became angry after they had descended to murdering the ones he sent. Then they had become criminals, and it was then that he came and destroyed the city.

All of this reveals a very great mystery about human lives. It reveals that what this marriage feast symbolizes -- this fellowship with the Son -- is so essential, so necessary to man that, without it, man cannot remain human. When he refuses this, something happens to him. He begins to deteriorate, to fall apart. Either he loses his perspective and life turns upside down, so that rather trivial things become all-important, while really important things are treated lightly and with scorn. That is, he lives then in an unreal world, a phantasmic world, an Alice in Wonderland existence where everything is out of proportion, a world of unreality. Or, he becomes animalistic, fierce, hateful, and dangerous, so that he actually breathes out anger, hatred, and threatening against the very message sent to set him free.

Is it not striking that the two major problems of the day in which we live are meaninglessness and violence? It is because men turn a deaf ear to the message of the king to come to the wedding feast, to come to the fellowship of the Son. And when they refuse that, they are refusing such an essential element of human life that they no longer can remain human beings in the true sense but drift off instead into one or the other of these two extremes.

But, as the record tells us, the king is not defeated. He is determined to have guests at the wedding. So the invitation goes out, literally, "to the partings of the highways," to the place "where cross the crowded ways of life," where people mingle and mix without distinction, where there are all kinds -- the respectable and the disreputable, the up-and-outers and the down-and-outers. The invitation goes out to anyone who will hear, anyone who wants to live. If what you are after is to discover the secrets of life, then you can come. That is very much like what we have in the opening of the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord Jesus said. "Blessed are the poor in spirit [those who do not have anything in themselves to count upon] for theirs in the kingdom of heaven," (Matthew 5:3). The parable takes a sudden turn here. A rather strange event occurs:

"But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:11-14 RSV)

The high point of the feast was when the king himself came in. After all, that is the chief value of this feast -- the opportunity for a personal acquaintanceship with the king. The king saw there a man without a wedding garment. He was what we would call today a gate-crasher. He came in without the prescribed proper dress. He was there on false grounds, in other words. At every Eastern wedding like this, the one who gave the marriage feast always provided wedding garments for the guests to wear. They did not cost them anything -- they were provided. All they needed was to put on the wedding garment and they could come to the feast. Yet when the king comes he finds a man there without one.

It is not difficult to interpret this, as we have garments used many times in Scripture as symbols of righteousness. The wedding garment is a picture of the gift of righteousness which the Lord gives to those who come with no righteousness of their own. It is a picture of that righteousness of Jesus Christ with which we stand clothed in God's presence if we are ready to renounce any dependence upon ourselves, or upon anything we have done, or our background, heredity, ancestry or anything else we might think of value to us. If we renounce our righteousnesses, which, as the Scripture says, are as filthy rags, then God has the gift of his righteousness to give to us.

This man was standing there without a wedding garment. And, in the original language, the account makes clear that his was a deliberate refusal. There are two Greek words fornot and both of them are used in this account. In the first sentence we read, "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had not a wedding garment." The word simply means the negative. He did not have one, that's all. A plain statement of fact. But when the king said to him, "Friend, how did you get in here not having a wedding garment?" he uses another Greek word. It is a word that implies a deliberate action of the will. This king is saying to him, "Look, friend, you are here under false pretenses. You are deliberately rejecting what has been provided. Your being here without a wedding garment implies that you are in rebellion against all that this wedding feast stands for. You are here as a phony, a sham."

And we read that the man was speechless; he had nothing to say. So the king said, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." In other words, this man is as bad off as those who refused to come in the first place. He is in the same condition as those who actually hated the king and fought against him. This is a picture, easy to see, of hidden rebellion of an outward pretense toward being what the king desires, but an inner refusal actually to go along with him. So, in view of this, the final pronouncement of our Lord is that he was cast out into the outer darkness, where men weep and gnash their teeth. "For," he says, "many are called, but few are chosen."

Many have wondered what that sentence means. Sometimes you hear it paraphrased, "Many are cold, and few are frozen," and that is getting fairly close to the truth of it. What our Lord says, literally, is, "Many are called, but few are called out." The words are related. There are many adherents of Christianity, but there are few who actually become disciples. There are many who are willing to come without a wedding garment, they are at the scene of the wedding feast, in the presence of the fellowship of the saints with the Son, but they themselves do not actually enter in.

You can see how accurately and incisively descriptive this is of those who are present with the people of God, who profess Christianity, who are there Sunday after Sunday along with all the others, singing the hymns and reading the Scriptures, bowing their heads together at the right time. Yet they sustain an inner rebellion in their hearts, an inner refusal to accept the gift of righteousness of Jesus Christ. Instead they cling to something in themselves upon which they are depending for favor before God, and they refuse to heed the authority and acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ. For these the sentence is, "Bind them hand and foot, and cast them into the outer darkness; ... For many are called, but few are chosen."

You often hear people say, "The reason I don't go to church is that there are so many hypocrites there." Well, there are hypocrites in the churches. There is not one of us who is not a hypocrite, in one way or another. But what our Lord is focusing upon here is the initial entrance into the relationship of fellowship with the Son of God. That must be based solely upon the gift of righteousness, the gift of justification by faith. If we do not have that, then there is no possibility of development in the Christian life. Our Lord is highlighting for us the fact that we are dealing with God, who sees our hearts and knows our inner thoughts -- everything about us.

This is particularly significant and pertinent as we come to the table of the Lord, because, here, we are dealing with something which can easily be used as a mask, a guise of Christianity. All of us can partake of the table of the Lord. All of us can eat the bread and drink the wine. But God is watching the heart. He is looking to see whether that heart has really accepted the gift of life and has genuinely entered into an understanding of the joy, the gladness, and the glory that it is to know Jesus Christ.

We were singing earlier this morning a song that I love very much. A verse in it says,

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.

Those words always speak to my heart because I have such a sense of having been cleansed, of having been foul, dirty, filthy, and of needing every day the cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ. That is what this Communion table speaks of.

And God will be examining our hearts as we meet together here. That is why the Scriptures tell us not to treat this lightly, not to treat the table of the Lord as though it were a mere perfunctory ritual, for God is reading the attitude and the reaction of the heart as we participate together.

It is not the will of God to cast anyone out. He has made full provision for a wedding garment for us all. But only those who actually put it on will enter into the joy of the Lord at a time like this. As we participate together in this central sacrament of the Christian faith, will you be asking yourself these questions: What is the reaction of my heart to all of this? Is there joy there? Do I really know the glory of a cleansed life? Has God washed away any sins of mine? Am I free from my dark, sordid past? Is my inner life cleansed, as well as my outer life? Has God brought me into the place where I can rejoice and discover the joy of the Holy Spirit?

If you cannot say, "Yes," then I suggest that you face the Lord Jesus on other terms. Say to him, "Lord, until now I've been pretending to be a Christian. Up to now I've been doing all the outward, expected things. But I have never really trusted you. I've never really accepted from you the gift of life. Until now I've wanted to run my own life. I have wanted to be my own boss, make my own plans, and do all the things that I want to do. But now, Lord Jesus, I bow to your authority, to your right to be my Lord, and I thank you for your willingness to change me, to love me, and to lead me into the experience of life." Will you pray that way?

Prayer

Our Holy Father, thank you for the significance of this feast to which we come today. How luminous it becomes in the light of these words of the Lord Jesus. This is the feast intended to symbolize all the good things of life -- joy and peace and righteousness. And Lord, as we come to it, we pray that we may be honest, sincere, open, and transparent before you. We come, Lord, not because we feel that we have anything to offer. We partake only on the grounds that we have nothing in ourselves, but all things in you. And, Lord Jesus, we thank you for this. We pray that this will move our hearts and that we will experience anew what it means to be set free from the weight of guilt for our sins, to be forgiven, to be restored to be given the gift of life in Jesus Christ and to walk with him in daily fellowship. We thank you in his name, Amen.

 

Psalm 45

The Glories of the Messiah and His Bride To the Chief Musician.
Set to “The Lilies.” A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love.


My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One,
With Your glory and Your majesty.
And in Your majesty ride prosperously
because of truth, humility, and righteousness;
And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies;
The peoples fall under You. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With
the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,
Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your honorable women;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.

Listen, O daughter, Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father’s house; So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him. And the daughter of Tyre will come with a gift;
The rich among the people will seek your favor.
The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace; Her clothing is woven with gold.

She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors;
The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.
With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought;
They shall enter the King’s palace.

Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons,
Whom You shall make princes in all the earth.
I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations;
Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.

See also The King in His Beauty, by Ray Stedman.

A picture of the Bride and Bridegroom in heaven is given in Psalm 45. 

 

 

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:12-17)

 

January 22, 2020

Christianity Without Jesus
Jesus is a Single Man
The Wife of Jehovah, The Bride of Christ
Jesus Plain and Simple
City Life
Christ in You
Intimacy
Rapture Shock
The Royal Road to Wholeness
Love and Relationships
Keys to the Song of Solonon
Yin, Yang, the Tao, and Wholeness
Made in the Image of God

Email Lambert Dolphin