Sermon title:  YOUR PLACE AT THE TABLE IN HEAVEN  

 

Matthew 22:1-14

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, August 25, 2019

 

 

During the final week before his crucifixion

our Lord Jesus spoke several parables, or illustrative stories,

and we come now to

the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

 

It’s an amazing parable

because it teaches one simple lesson

and another very deep, profound lesson, as well.

 

The simple lesson

revolves around the transition from Judaism to Christianity—

how God switched

from dealing with the nation of Israel

as his Chosen People

to dealing, instead,

with the Christian Church—

drawn from people of all nations.

 

That’s the simple lesson of the parable.

 

But the deeper, profound spiritual lesson

reveals the special, intimate,

privileged relationship

that Christians are called to

as the bride of Christ.

 

Yes, weyou and I—

are called to be part of the bride of Christ.

 

If we look together at Revelation Chapter 19

it will help us to grasp

this deeper message

before we read the parable itself.

 

This concept of the Christian Church—

all of us together—

making up the bride of Christ—

this concept runs through the whole New Testament,

from the Gospels through the Revelation.

 

Revelation 19 speaks of it, beginning at Verse 7,

 

7 Let us rejoice and be glad

    and give him glory!

 

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

    and his bride has made herself ready.

 

8 Fine linen, bright and clean,

    was given her to wear.”

 

(Fine linen stands for

the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

 

9 Then the angel said to me,

 

“Write this: Blessed are those

who are invited

to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

 

We know that the Lamb is Jesus.

 

The Apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation

also called Jesus “the Lamb”

in the First Chapter of his Gospel of John.

 

John 1:29 says,

 

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him

and said,

‘Look, the Lamb of God,

who takes away the sin of the world!’”

 

And then again, John 1:36 says,

“When he saw Jesus passing by, he said,

‘Look, the Lamb of God!’”

 

So, when Revelation 19:7 says,

“the wedding of the Lamb has come,”

it’s the heavenly wedding of our glorified Lord Jesus.

 

And it’s the wedding feast or wedding banquet of our Lord Jesus

that Revelation 1:9 is talking about,

when it says,

Blessed are those

who are invited

to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

 

And that’s what this parable at Matthew 22:1 is all about—

who is invited to this feast in heaven,

this wedding supper of the Lamb.

 

Christ illustrates it in the parable with a story

about a human king and his son.

 

We read it in our Responsive Reading,

but let’s read it once more,

keeping in mind

what we just saw

about the heavenly wedding of the Son of God.

The wedding guests in the parable

had already been invited some time earlier,

and they had sent back their RSVP’s,

indicating that they accepted the invitation.

 

And now the day of the feast has arrived,

and the word goes out

to those on the guest list

that the meal is ready.

 

So, we read,

 

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:

 

2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a king

who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.

 

3 He 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.

 

6 The rest seized his servants,

mistreated them and killed them.

 

7 The 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.

 

9 Go to the street corners

and invite to the banquet anyone you find.'

 

10 So 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."

 

It’s pretty clear how this parable applies spiritual things.

 

When Jesus began by saying,

 

2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a king

who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.

 

it’s easy to see how

this pictures God the Father

preparing for the marriage of the Lamb

that we just read about in Revelation.

Those originally invited

were God’s Chosen People, the people of Israel.

 

The nation of Israel originally accepted

God’s invitation to be his Chosen People

and to keep the covenant or agreement

that would lead to God’s blessing.

 

But then they failed to do so.

They became a disobedient people.

 

They worshiped idols,

and God saw that as unfaithfulness.

 

At Jeremiah 31:32 God said,they broke my covenant.”

 

So, Jesus says of the king in the parable,

 

3 He sent his servants

to those who had been invited to the banquet

to tell them to come,

but they refused to come.

 

God sent his prophets to the people of Israel,

but they refused to listen to the prophets

and refused to come back into line

with their covenant, or agreement, with God.

 

The parable continues,

 

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.

 

The people of Israel

paid no attention” to God’s prophets,

and paid attention, instead,

to do things that would bring them profits.

 

They ignored the prophets who spoke prophecy for God,

and instead they pursued their profitable businesses—

farming their fields

and conducting other business

that would bring them profit, financial gain.

 

The parable is about them,

but this part of it

includes a lesson for us, too.

 

It’s a lesson for us not to ignore the things of God

to pursue financial gain in this world.

 

Is that second car, or that new swimming pool,

so important that we miss church for months

while we work Sundays

to make enough overtime pay

to buy those luxuries?

 

Sometimes we miss church

due to a demanding job or some time for recreation.

that we need for life’s necessities.

 

There’s nothing wrong with that,

and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

 

The Apostle Paul took time out of ministry

to work in the tent-making business.

 

But, if it reaches the point

that we’re ignoring spiritual things

and going off instead to farm our field

or work in our business,

then we need to listen to this parable.

 

The people of Israel, of course,

went beyond just ignoring the prophets God sent to them.

 

In the parable, Jesus says,

 

6 The rest seized his servants,

mistreated them and killed them.

 

And the nation of Israel did, in fact,

mistreat God’s prophets that way.

 

Hebrews 11:36 says,

 

36 Some faced jeers and flogging,

and even chains and imprisonment.

37 They were put to death by stoning;

they were sawed in two;

they were killed by the sword.

 

Christ portrayed that in the parable

by the way those invited to the wedding feast

treated the servants sent to call them to the meal.

Jesus continued telling the story:

 

7 The king was enraged.

 

He sent his army

and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

 

The parable reflected

how enraged God was

over the way Israel treated his prophets.

 

And, finally, like the king in the parable,

God sent the armies of the Roman Empire

to destroy a million Jews

and burn their city, Jerusalem.

 

But, next, the king in the parable

also takes actions

that portray God’s building the Christian congregation

to form a new holy nation—the Christian Church.

 

8 "Then he said to his servants,

 

'The wedding banquet is ready,

but those I invited did not deserve to come.

 

9 Go to the street corners

and invite to the banquet anyone you find.'

 

Casting aside the original guest list,

the king’s new instructions to his servants

are to ‘invite to the banquet anyone you find.'

 

Just anybody!

 

Nobody special, just anybody you run into on the street.

 

And that’s how we got called

to become followers of Jesus,

with all the blessings and privileges this brings us.

 

We didn’t deserve this.

 

The parable continues,

 

10 So 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.

 

It wasn’t because we were especially good

that God called us

to belong to Christ.

In fact, many of us were especially bad.

 

The servants in the parable

“gathered all the people they could find,

both good and bad.”

 

It’s by God’s amazing grace

that he called a wretch like me—and like you.

 

We didn’t earn this blessingthrough our good deeds.

 

In fact, we may have been

heavily involved in bad deeds and in sin

when God mercifully called us

to embrace Christ

and saved us from our sins

through his grace.

 

Some of us were worse than others,

which is what the parable means

when it says

the servants

“gathered all the people they could find,

both good and bad,”

but we were all sinners saved by grace.

 

The result in the parable was that

“the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

 

Yes, the worldwide Christian Church

is filled with believers

who are called

to the heavenly marriage of the Lamb of God,

our Lord Jesus.

-----------------------------------------

 

But, not everyone you see

sitting in a pew

in a Christian church

is really a Christian.

 

There are also hypocrites

who have no desire

to give up their sins

and follow Christ—

but are in the church for some other reason.

 

And that’s what’s pictured

by the next part of the parable.

 

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.'

 

The wealthy king who put on the wedding feast

would have had his servants

supply wedding clothes to all the guests—

especially to those called in from the street corners.

 

They wouldn’t be wealthy enough

to have wedding garments in their wardrobe

or wealthy enough to rent or buy them.

 

So, the king’s servants

who brought them in to the wedding feast

would have issued them the proper clothing.

 

And that’s how it is in the Christian Church:

Christ covers our sin with his blood

and dresses us with his goodness.

 

Isaiah 61:10says,

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD,

My soul will exult in my God;

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,

He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.

 

When we put faith in him,

Christ clothes us with his righteousness.

 

Hypocrites and false Christians in the churches

have not put their trust in Jesus for salvation,

so they are not clothed with garments of salvation.

 

They have not allowed God

to wrap them with a robe of righteousness.

 

In the 13th Chapter of his Letter to the Romans

Paul makes clear

that we have a part

in accepting that robe of righteousness

and putting it on.

Beginning at Romans 13:12, he urges us,

 

let us put aside the deeds of darkness

and put on the armor of light.

 

13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime,

not in carousing and drunkenness,

not in sexual immorality and debauchery,

not in dissension and jealousy.

 

14 Rather, clothe yourselves

with the Lord Jesus Christ,

and do not think about

how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

 

Paul urges us to put on that robe of righteousness

God has issued to us.

 

He urges us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ,

or to

clothe yourselves

with the Lord Jesus Christ,

----------------------------------------------------

 

Jesus concludes the parable by saying,

 

14 "For many are invited,

but few are chosen."

 

The invitation to follow Jesus

is open to everyone.

 

The Gospel goes out to the whole world.

 

many are invited

 

But only a chosen few

actually accept the invitation.

 

In the parable of the wedding feast,

when the king encountered a man not wearing wedding clothes,

 

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.'

 

That’s the kind of language

that our Lord uses

only when he’s talking about those

who are sent into punishment after death.

 

Their place of torment is described as

outside in the darkness,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

It’s similar to what the Lord said at Matthew 8:11,

 

11 I say to you

that many will come from the east and the west,

and will take their places

at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

in the kingdom of heaven.

 

12 But the subjects of the kingdom

will be thrown outside, into the darkness,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 

The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day

rejected the Messiah.

 

They were the original “subjects of the kingdom,

but the Lord says they

“will be thrown outside, into the darkness,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 

And, instead, it will be like

when the servants in the parable

pulled people off the streets at random

and brought them to the table at the wedding feast.

 

Jesus was talking about us,

when he said at Matthew 8:11,

many will come from the east and the west,

and will take their places

at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

in the kingdom of heaven.

 

We come from various non-Jewish nationalities.

 

Our ancestors came from “from the east and the west,

from places in Europe, Africa, Asia

and who knows where else—

far to the “east” and “west” of Jerusalem.

 

We have no ancestral claim

to the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,

the ancestors of the people of Israel.

 

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be at the table

at that wedding feast in heaven.

 

But their descendants, as a whole,

refused to come.

 

So, God called people like us  to take their place—

people from the east and the west,

people pulled in from the street corners,

regardless of whether we were good or bad.

God saved us by his grace,

even though we didn’t deserve it.

 

He has ‘wrapped us in a robe of righteousness’—

Christ’s righteousness, not our own.

 

The wedding feast in the parable

pictures Christ’s own wedding—

the marriage of the Lamb of God.

 

In the 5th chapter of his Letter to the Ephesians,

the Apostle Paul wrote about marriage,

and said,

“This mystery is profound,

and I am saying that it refers

to Christ and the church.”

 

He said,

“Christ loved the church

and gave himself up for her

to make her holy.”

 

Yes, it is a profound mystery

that we can’t really wrap our heads around,

but we are called to be the bride of Christ.

 

All of us believers, taken together—

we compose the bride of Christ.

 

Paul wrote to the Church at 2 Corinthians 11:2,

“I promised you to one husband, to Christ,

so that I might present you

as a pure virgin to him.”

 

It’s a spiritual mystery that is wonderful beyond belief,

and that we won’t fully understand

until we are at the table in heaven

with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

As the angel in Revelation said,

Blessed are those

who are invited

to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”