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We all get excited about a wedding. Today, a lot of time and money is spent on weddings. It is an important day of celebration with the bride and groom. In this passage of the wedding feast, Jesus was in the Jerusalem temple area speaking to the Jewish leaders. There were only a few days to go to His crucifixion. He tells them this parable to make them think very carefully about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, by comparing it to a wedding feast – an ordinary event they would have been very familiar with, as well as us here today.
It is one of only three parables Jesus told, known as the judgement parables, concerning their rejection to Jesus and their misunderstanding of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The King sends out servants with wedding invitations. We need to know this is a first century wedding. This is a royal wedding. This makes a difference. Messengers were sent out initially to say to expect a wedding to be soon. Then, when everything is ready, messengers were sent out again to say, ‘Come. Everything is ready.’ You would be expected to attend. You would have been forewarned, so would be expected to clear your calendar.
Because Jesus has told us this is a royal wedding, it is even more important for the guests to attend. The King’s only son was getting married. To be invited would be a great privilege. It would be unheard of not to attend a wedding of that status. You would want to tell everyone you have been invited. We can understand the king’s frustration that the guests were not willing to come (verse 3). He thinks there must be some misunderstanding, so he sends the servants out again (verse 4). He will try to entice them to the wedding. The shocking thing here is found in verse 5, “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,” (Matthew 22:5). It was shocking that the people have no respect for the king and the prince. Worse still, some seized his servants and killed them (verse 6). How awful! The king was seeking to invite them to the wedding and laid on wonderful things for them.
What will be the king’s response? “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22:7). What does all this mean? When the chief priests and Pharisees heard this, they knew Jesus was talking to them. The king in the parable is God, the son is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the servants were prophets who were sent out with God’s word and treated so badly. Jesus acknowledged their sinfulness will not go unpunished and the city would be burned. We see this happen in AD 70.
We are told everything was ready. The wedding feast was to continue. How would this happen when there were no guests? The servants were told to go and invite anyone they could find. The banquet will go ahead. What honour will be if all are invited? Great honour. Everyone there will be looking for the king and prince. They will want to be there celebrating. There will be great honour.
Here we see the gospel call that goes out everywhere, inviting everyone to come to Christ, to come and rejoice. This is what the kingdom of Heaven is like. We see the goodness of the king, those who rejoice in the son, in the wedding. Those who will be there don’t come because of the position they have achieved in the world. They come because they have been invited. What a wonderful picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, likened to a wedding feast, a joyous occasion. It will be full of people, full of guests, looking to the king, rejoicing. It is not surprising some have linked this to the marriage feast of the Lamb.
The main purpose of this parable is found in verse 14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The gospel is still our main means of filling the church. We are reminded of the importance of calling, going out, even if few are to be chosen. We preach without discrimination. Everyone is invited to come to Christ, to come as they are, to come in response to the gospel. We also need reminding, even if we can build the church, there is still the refining process that goes on in church. There will still be believers and unbelievers.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.” (Matthew 22:11). What does it mean by the king coming in to see his guests? He wants to see them. Wonderful! The guests, at the same time when He comes in, they see him. Everyone wants to see Him. Everyone is looking forward to that moment. The church may have many things that attract our attention today – being with other Christians, singing hymns, loving to hear scripture being read, the preacher, having fellowship with other Christians, the tea, coffee and cake – but most of all, our hearts cry out for God’s presence among us. We want the King to come in, we want to feel His presence among us. We call Him to come amongst us. We want the King to come in amongst us and bless us. We look back to times in our history, to revival, we want to be blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We desire the gospel to be preached and the Lord’s blessing among us.
It is very sad to be in a church where God’s presence has gone out, a dead church. We desire to see the King, to see His favour. When the King comes in and the light grows stronger, hidden things are revealed. One individual hasn’t got a wedding garment, “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.” (Matthew 22:11). Did it really matter? After all, he’s in the wedding feast. We see the King’s response. He notices him. He goes and speaks directly to that one individual, “And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” (Matthew 22:12). ‘Friend.’ This is the way the guest may appear, as a friend to the king. But he was no friend at all.
What is this wedding garment? A particular item of clothing that makes a person suitable for a marriage feast. If you attend a wedding, you have a certain code of dress. If you went to a wedding venue, you would instantly recognise who was part of the wedding party because you would see by the clothes that they were wearing, that they were wearing those that were suitable for a wedding. It would set them apart. This is what we can see here.
There are many things we could say theologically about the wedding garments, but for simplicity’s sake, here this morning, I want us just to focus on that thing which separates us from any other person outside. That garment which separates us. To be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, to be seen to have a holy life.
Why was this individual in then? He didn’t need to come in. To get in you would have had to put on a wedding garment. That would have been the rule of the day. You didn’t come in with your own clothes that would not have been suitable for a wedding. You wouldn’t have been able to afford special clothes as people would today, so you would rely upon the king providing suitable clothing for you to join in and celebrate this important occasion. Here, it is important to recognise that for this man to come in, he would have had to push by those people who were offering the garments. He would have known he was the only one not to have a garment on.
Going in to a shop today, you have to out on a face mask. Yet, perhaps you will se some that haven’t got a face mask. You might ask the question, ‘How is it that you haven’t got a face mask?’ There will be some who will say because of medical reasons, which we have no problem with. There will be many in a church that may not have a wedding garment on because they have come in and the Lord may be working on their hearts, they are yet to be saved. We haven’t got a problem with that. But this individual could be likened today to those who we may ask, ‘Why are you not wearing a mask?’ and they might say, ‘We don’t want to, I don’t think I have a need to. I reject that system. I reject it all.’ Here is a man of a similar kind. This man has come in, but he has no regard for the king’s son. He decides not to honour the king’s son. He comes in defiance. He wants to come as he is and not change. It’s the spirit of today’s age – I don’t need to obey the rules. I don’t need to look towards God’s word. I don’t need to accept God’s word.
This man doesn’t want to obey the king. He is a rebel who goes against the king and everyone else. So, it is not surprising that the king will come straight to this one individual and deal with him. The king calls him a friend because that is how he may appear, because he is there. But he is no friend of the king. He is asked how he has come in. There are many today who think they will be saved by looking to their own way, their own thoughts. They may say that they don’t need to come to Christ the way you say. They think that when they get to heaven, they will say their reason and God will accept them. Well, here we see an example of what it will be like for a person of that kind.
As he stood before the king, this man was speechless. He had no words to say. That’s what it will be like for everyone who comes in an unappointed way to the king in whom they think they may get away with it. There will be no getting away with it. If we do not come through the Lord Jesus Christ, in faith to Him and repentance towards God, and clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be treated no differently to this man. He was speechless. He had nothing to say. He knew he was in the wrong at this moment. Worse still, he does not repent. There are no tears, no cry to the king to ask for forgiveness or mercy. This is a man who is resentful of the king and the son of the king. He has come to rebel. Sadly, these are many today in that position, going to a lost eternity. I have seen some who have rejected Christ all their life, yet even on their deathbed will not cry out to God, so hard has become their heart. They will not even repent in a moment of this kind.
The king responds by saying, “‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.” If we were to look at the Greek language here, the encouragement to us would be the servants were sent out to bring them in, with different servants to those called to bind him hand and foot and cast him out. These were different servants. The servants of the king were called to do what was required because the king would not have anyone spoil that occasion. That’s how it will be in heaven; there will be no sin. No-one will come into heaven but the appointed ones. Outside there will be darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Friends, the place described here is not a place you would want to go. There is a warning then for us. In this New Year, let us desire the gospel to go out, God’s blessing to be found in the church, for us to be defined and to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, and others to be saved.