Title: Invitations and Wedding Dresses
Text: Matthew 22:1-14
FCF: We often struggle understanding the place of works in our salvation experience.
Prop: Because those who are called and clothed in righteousness will enter God’s Kingdom, we must bear much fruit.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 22. Well happy New Year! We are only 1 month away from the two year anniversary of our first message on the book of Matthew. In two years, with some breaks along the way, we have managed to exegete 728 verses of the 1071 in Matthew’s gospel. Some of the lengthiest chapters await us, so even though there are only 7 chapters remaining, they average out to about 50 verses a piece. And two of those chapters are the Olivet discourse which I am both excited for and intimidated by all at once. If I had to guess, I’d say we were still around 6 months away from finishing up the book of Matthew. Some have asked if I have an idea of what book we’ll study next. I do… but I’m not telling J Why?
We have much to do yet in Matthew. Matthew as you know has been writing in cycles of discourse and narrative that feed into one another. Since chapter 19 we have been in a narrative section where Matthew continues to hammer home the point that the religious elite and by extension, Israel itself, although having the very Words of God for centuries, have not understood them, have misapplied them, and ultimately have not obeyed them. Furthermore, contributing to the greater theme of Jesus being the King and Messiah, Matthew continues to present Jesus as not only the final interpretive authority for the scriptures, but also, a perfect follower to its teaching. To the Letter… and to the Spirit.
The last two parables specifically have been honing in on a particularly dangerous teaching prevalent in 1st Century Judaism, twisted from scripture and ultimately damning. It is that if you are a Jew, you are automatically included in the Kingdom of God. And what Jesus has been revealing to the Jews, and quite appropriately to us in 21st Century America, is that God has taken away the Kingdom from those who had failed to bear the fruit of His Kingdom, and will give it to those who will.
Our applications to this, have been specifically attacking a worksless faith, that many claim is saving, but is in fact dead.
We ended last week saying, that if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed. Not to sin abundantly, and not simply from sin’s penalty… you are free to be enslaved to righteousness.
And I think I won’t be spoiling much if I tell you, that the message for today, will be much of the same. Look with me at verse 1 of chapter 22. I’ll be reading from the NET today but follow along in whatever version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible, please don’t leave here without one.
Let’s dive right in.
I.) Only those who heed the invitation of God will inherit the Kingdom, so we must bear much fruit. (1-7)
a. [Slide 2] 1 – Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:
i. Matthew is the only gospel which has this parable.
ii. This parable is so similar in its teaching to the previous vineyard parable, that we may wonder exactly why Jesus teaches it.
iii. Probably since the previous parable was addressed to the chief priests and Pharisees, This parable is addressed also to them. However, Mark and Luke seem to indicate that the Pharisees and chief priests had left him and went away after his parable of the vineyard and the tenant farmers.
iv. Therefore, it is much more likely that Jesus turns now to the crowd as a whole to communicate His message.
v. This solidifies that Matthew is not content to throw the religious elite under the bus, but the entire state of 1st Century Judaism. All of 1st Century Judaism is polluted and unfruitful.
b. [Slide 3] 2 – “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for His son
i. At first I thought I would need to look into wedding culture of Israel at this time to understand where all this was going, and indeed there is one point where that culture will help us
ii. But actually the real key we need to unlock this text for us, is simply to understand Jewish Rabbinical writings of the first century. Because, although you may not see it on the surface, Jesus actually recycles two rabbinical parables and combines them into 1 parable changing only a few details, but of course the details He does change have huge theological implications. Both of these parables can be found in the Talmud, specifically in the Tractate Sabbat.
iii. [Slide 4-7] The first of these Rabbinical parables has to do with the King’s feast. In Isaiah 25, we read about this feast that God offers. Look with me at verses 6 through 9.
iv. [Slide 8] Based on this imagery of the King’s feast, the Rabbinic parable proceeds. It describes a feast with an undisclosed time to be offered. So the wise wait outside the gates of the palace, sure that a King can prepare a feast at a moment’s notice, and the foolish go back to the fields thinking that time must be required of even the King to prepare such a meal. When the summons comes for people to attend, the wise are already adorned and the fools are in work clothing, forced to watch as the wise eat the banquet. The meaning of the Rabbinic Parable teaches that Israel is to be ready for the arrival of their King and Messiah and the promised Kingdom.
v. [Slide 9] So in this first verse we see already, one striking difference. The King is not throwing a banquet for his people… but rather, for His Son.
c. [Slide 10] 3 – He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come.
i. Here again we see another staggering difference between Christ’s parable and the Rabbi’s.
ii. There were none ready. No one was outside the gate. No one was adorned beautifully for the feast. All were not only absent, but even rebelliously refusing the King’s summons.
iii. Such disgrace would have been unthinkable to give to a sovereign. Indeed, the King would have been just to cast such people into prison.
iv. Yet this King is not a mere human King… but the Lord of Hosts. Yahweh. And he is longsuffering and loyal in His love. So what does He do next?
d. [Slide 11] 4 – Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’”
i. The King sends more slaves to plead with the invited guests. Even trying to entice them with the greatness of the feast to come. Assuring them it is ready.
ii. Some commentators say there are two meals here, and early meal and the actual banquet itself. Perhaps not, it doesn’t really matter.
e. [Slide 12] 5 – But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.
i. Now in the rabbinic parable, who were the ones who went back to farming and business?
ii. They were fools correct? They were unworthy. They were disobedient.
iii. But there is another category. In both the Rabbinic and Christ’s parable there are two classes of people – but in the Rabbinic there is wise and foolish… In Christ there are fools and rebels.
f. [Slide 13] 6 – The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them.
i. Pairing up well with the previous parable it is obvious that such is an illusion to the state of Israel with regard to the prophets God sent them
ii. At best they ignored them and at worst they killed them.
iii. What should people expect from a King who’s slaves are treated this way?
g. [Slide 14] 7 – The King was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire.
i. This has obvious eschatological significance.
ii. Not only are they killed but their city is burned to the ground.
iii. This could simply be a prediction to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD
iv. But is probably more likely a broader statement of divine judgment on all who oppose God.
h. [Slide 15 (blank)] In this first part of the parable we see what is obviously Israel ignore the call of God. They were His people. He invited them to His party. But they would not come. By Jesus combining two Rabbinic parables into one, effectively what He is doing is providing for us the two components necessary for someone to enter the Kingdom of God. And the first is an invitation. It is a general call, a summons to enter. Without a summons none would come. Without an invitation none would enter.
i. This truth is elementary but is essential. If we can grasp it we can agree with the council of Carthage of AD 418 when the doctrines of Palagius were determined to be heretical. Palagius was a Brittish monk who saw a more legalized Christianity leading to lackadaisical Christians, getting saved and waiting for God to change them. His teaching supposed that God would never demand anything of humans that they were unable to obey. Thus mankind were not wicked and depraved, dead in their sin. Instead mankind are well and healthy, and need only to will themselves to act and obey God. After all, why would God call a man to be perfect, if in fact they could not be perfect.
j. The teaching of Jesus in this parable is that none stood outside his palace waiting for the summons. Instead, there were only various degrees of disobedience. None wish to get into the palace. And when His general call rings out – none come running.
k. Since Jesus and Palagius disagree, it is no wonder that Palagius and his teachings were declared to be heretical.
l. God must invite and even pursue His invited for them to come, because none are standing waiting to be invited.
In a world infested with humanism, such a powerful message is absolutely necessary to be sure that we don’t have a false understanding of who we are. We all are evil from birth, born as rebels to God. And there is none who would seek after God. He must invite them. But there is another component necessary for kingdom entrance. We’ll look for it starting in verse 8.
II.) Only those who give the Son the honor He is due will inherit the Kingdom, so we must bear much fruit. (8-14)
a. [Slide 16] 8 – Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy.
i. The only ones worthy to enter the feast, are not those who are simply invited, but those who actually attend.
ii. Worthiness to enter is proven by the response to the invitation, not the invitation itself.
b. [Slide 17] 9 – So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’
i. Going back to Isaiah 25, did you notice how God would have a feast with all nations?
ii. It is interesting how the Rabbinical teaching completely ignored such a concept.
iii. Israel had not only disobeyed their call to represent Yahweh to other nations… but they are now not even seeing it as a command that He made.
c. [Slide 18] 10 – And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found both bad and good and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
i. The slaves here are no doubt the disciples and all subsequent members of the true invisible church. Those who are actually followers of Christ.
ii. Notice that they are not overly concerned about the quality of person. Bad or good people, both alike are being invited as guests to the feast.
iii. Of course this speaks to both the general call of the gospel to all, and also the global call in that all manner of men and women are invited and can come to the banquet. There is no race, sex, economic status, sinful status, nothing that limits someone’s attendance to the banquet… well, at least nothing yet.
d. [Slide 19] 11 – But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
i. Now you may be thinking, well of course he didn’t have wedding clothes!
ii. You just invited a bunch of people from off the street. Of course there is gonna be someone there without proper attire.
e. [Slide 20] 12 – And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he had nothing to say.
i. Commentators disagree, but I see this very much the way Augustine saw it…
ii. This comment actually reveals what is going on here.
iii. He asks how he got in without wedding clothes. In other words, the King was handing out proper attire for the guests at the door.
iv. Regardless of which commentator you read though, they all agree that this person coming in the party without wedding clothes, is less about him not having access to the clothes and more about him refusing to wear the clothes.
v. The man had nothing to say. He had no defense.
f. [Slide 21] 13 – Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’
i. O…K… so Jesus broke the 4th wall of the parable there.
ii. Although it may be possible that the King throwing the man into outer darkness, could be talking about how the only lit place at the time would be the party… what makes no sense in the story is the destination’s effect on the man.
iii. Why would kicking someone out of the party lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth?
iv. Jesus doesn’t have a 1 to 1 for hell in this situation, so He just talks about it in non parabolic terms. Jesus says this man is cast into hell.
v. But that still leaves for us a question… why in the world would He throw this guy out, committing him to weeping and gnashing of teeth, for simply not wearing wedding clothes?
vi. It is obvious that the clothes are significant in some way. And that is where Old Testament scripture and Rabbinic teaching comes in.
vii. [Slide 22] Let’s start with the scripture that the Rabbinic parables are derived from. Isaiah 61:10
1. The context references as a metaphor the decorative clothing of a bride and groom at their wedding. And that decorative clothing is salvation and righteousness.
2. And this is not the only text Old or New Testament where scripture speaks of righteousness as something to be clothed in.
3. When we add the Rabbinic parable to this, we’ll find even more to prove this point.
viii. [Slide 23] The second Rabbinic parable that Jesus borrows and tweaks is about a King who loans His citizens pure clothes to wear. It was the responsibility of the guests to keep them clean. The wise would do just that, but the fools would take the loaned clothing and work in it. When the King asked for the clothes back, the wise would give back their robes to the treasury of the King and go home in peace, while the foolish would have the clothing taken from them so they could be cleaned, and they were sent to prison. The teaching from the parable is that God gave purity to the Jews and it is the Jew’s responsibility to return what God has given in perfect condition.
1. But in Jesus’ version, the garments were given at the party itself.
2. To enter is to obtain clothing.
3. Again we see that even the Jews had this false understanding of the human condition. They thought too that mankind was basically good, but just needed to maintain their goodness. They even believed that God was the one who gave them that initial goodness. But Jesus disagrees.
4. [Slide 24] Jesus reveals two things by the end of this parable.
a. First, that all men are by nature not prepared for the feast, and their righteousness must be given to them by God.
b. Secondly, it reveals that actual righteousness and actual holy living is a necessary component to stay at the banquet.
c. This of course does not mean that our righteousness earns us our place… it can’t since every guest that enters does so because they were invited and given the garments of the King.
d. But it does mean that if the King will grant righteousness to all His guests, when one is found without it… they are not welcome at the feast.
f. Because the feast is for the groom. For His Son. For the groom to have wedding guests dressed to the nines is to give him great honor.
g. In the same way, the reward for Christ’s sufferings, is His acquisition of a people who love and obey Him.
ix. All this brings us back to the final point of the parable… One we would do well to remember.
g. [Slide 25] 14 – For many are called, but few are chosen. “
i. Generally speaking, many men and women, boys and girls over the course of time will be shown the truth of the gospel.
ii. This expression is probably a Semitic expression meaning, all or everyone.
iii. The call of God, generally, is open to any and all who would come.
v. It is only those who have responded AND experienced a new birth, a changed life that will be permitted to stay for the feast.
vi. All are called but less than all are changed.
vii. God’s chosen are those who bear much fruit, not simply those who answer His call.
[Slide 26 (blank)] So although the application for us today is not overly difficult to see, let’s examine it again with new eyes. What can we learn and how then shall we live?
Well I think the answer to that question is found in the teaching of Jesus in this parable. That two items are absolutely necessary for someone to stay for the wedding feast.
First is that they must be invited.
There is a crazy notion in this world that all men are good at heart. That all men have the ability to be good or evil. We have a dualistic nature. We have great power to do terrible or heroic things. And on the surface, from a purely moral standpoint, I think that is true to some degree. But spiritually… when you realize that the chief end of man is and always has been to bring glory to God… suddenly every good deed not done in His name, becomes service to another god. And every wicked deed, is outright rebellion. So every good deed of a man is idolatry and ever wicked deed is rebellion. Tell me what is so good about man again?
There are none who wait patiently outside the King’s palace. There are none who sit wisely expecting His summons. There are no human heroes in scripture my friends… There are only God empowered tools used to further His plans and purposes. Which means of course… that there is only 1 hero in scripture. And They is God.
There is none righteous. There is none who seeks after God. God is the one who pursues. God is the one who raises us from spiritual death. Jesus did not consult with Lazarus to be sure that Lazarus actually wanted to be raised. He did not ask permission or for help from Lazarus. He simply said “Lazarus come forth” and Lazarus’ part in being brought to life was to live his new life. His part was simply to obey. He came out of the tomb… but He did not bring himself to life. He had absolutely no part in that.
Mankind is not good. In fact… quite the opposite.
That is why all who would enter the Kingdom of God, must be invited. Pursued. By God.
But once God has offered the invitation there is still the part about walking out of the tomb. Attending the feast. This would be faith. This is dependence and surrender. Forgoing all other plans, like farming or business in the parable, and instead committing to the 7 day feast where you bring honor to the King’s son. You are depending on the King to feed you and keep you healthy, even clothe you while you are there. And thus you surrender your time and person to the celebration. Faith is the appropriate response to the call of God. Just as attendance is the appropriate and only response to the summons of the King.
But as Ephesians tell us, when we express that faith that has been given to us, what do we receive? Grace. Grace unto salvation.
See being invited does not mean you can show up as you are to the feast. Why? Because as you are is not good enough.
This brings us to the second prerequisite for staying for the wedding feast. You must be clothed for the event. Clothed in righteousness.
To help us understand this , I’d like to turn to the actual wedding celebration, not in parable, but in reality that is alluded to in Isaiah, here, and at the Lord’s Supper.
[Slide 27] Turn with me to Rev 19:6-8.
One day all the saints, the bride of Christ, from all races, both sexes, every social status, all walks of life, with various sinful backgrounds, will all be gathered together to celebrate our blessed union with the Lamb.
But notice the phrasing of the last part of 7 and 8… His bride has made herself ready…She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Such is the adornment of the bride of the lamb.
Weddings in our culture have gotten a little out of hand. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an event that will be over in hours… not days… hours. And sometimes brides spend as much as 5 digits of those thousands on one item… a dress.
Husbands I’m sure you can remember with fondness the first time you saw your wife wearing her dress. Do you remember how beautiful she was in that dress?
Wives do you remember putting on that dress for the first time. Standing looking in the mirror. Knowing that this dress may be the best you’ll ever look. Dressed to the nines. Dressed to impress.
Future wives, I know you have that dress idea in your mind. I know because my 3 year old loves getting dressed in a wedding dress and pretending to get married. My 3 year old loves to be beautiful. She loves being told she is beautiful. Maybe too much J
Listen to me… The beauty of Christ’s bride… The beauty of His church is found in their obedience to Him. The righteous deeds of the saints – is our wedding dress.
There are none at that celebration who do not have this fine linen dress. Do you know what that means? That means that if the King has given you wedding robes to wear, and you aren’t wearing them, then you aren’t worthy to be at the feast.
That is another way of saying, if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.
Again… my friends… God predestined you for good works which HE has prepared for you to do. The beauty of the bride of Christ is in her righteous deeds.
I will leave you with a quote from a semi-well-known preacher
[Slide 29] “We can only have confidence that we have any part in Christ’s atoning work to the degree that there is evidence of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit within us. A renewed heart will manifest itself, not in an effortless sinless perfection, but in gradual transformation. “ – Paul Washer
Are you being transformed? Are you being made new?
If not… perhaps you have not yet received your wedding robes? Perhaps you have been invited, but you are not prepared for the feast to honor the King’s son.
The Groom is coming! But, even now at this late hour, there is still yet time.