Today, our gospel message comes to us from Matthew 22:1-14, “The Parable of the Wedding Feast.”
1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen” (ESV).
Heavenly Father, you sent your Son to reveal your will for our lives and redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire us with confidence that you are with us in the midst of the storms of life, bring peace to our troubled souls, and lead your church throughout the ages. Enable us to live as your redeemed saints, that our lives may witness to our faith. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
By Kevin Ruffcorn
One of the most challenging concepts to grasp in Christianity is that God wants a relationship with us. The depth of faith is not determined by the number of religious activities we are involved in every week. Faith is living each day celebrating God’s love and grace, and trusting that God is guiding us and walking with us through our adventures.
It is easy to become complacent in our faith or ignore the faith element (God part) of our lives.
This parable, “The Parable of the Wedding Feast” addresses these issues.
In the first verse, Jesus sets the stage of the parable by stating that there was a king who wanted to throw a wedding feast for his son. I like the fact that heaven is compared to a party—a feast—a celebration. God wants everyone to participate in the celebration, so God invites everyone to the party.
In the Judeo/Christian tradition, the first people that God invited to the party were the Jews. God invited them through their patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the great leader and lawgiver Moses. But it was not a dynamic, vital relationship that it was meant to be.
- Like the people in verse 3, the Jews wouldn’t come to the celebration. They were angry at God because God didn’t do what they wanted God to do. Or, they decided to add a little spice to the religious side of their lives and other gods like Baal. (Have you ever noticed that those times we are angry at God, we do not want to worship or celebrate?)
- The second invitation of the king, in verse 5, was ignored. The people were too busy with their lives. They had farms or businesses to manage. Certainly, that sounds familiar to us.
- Like the Jews of the Old Testament (verse 6) who killed the prophets, the people in the story harass and kill the king’s messengers. The prophets were calling the people of Israel back into a relationship with God. We aren’t the first people who plug our ears and harden our hearts when we hear something we don’t want to hear.
The party was ready. The food was hot. The king still wanted people to come to his party.
The king decided to invite anyone and every one to his party. In verse 10, the king instructs his slaves to gather all the people they found—both the good and the bad—to the party.
God’s grace is expansive; it is all-encompassing. No one is excluded from God’s grace. The grace that was once assumed to be reserved for the Jews was now available to the Gentiles.
Some people believe they are worthy of attending the celebration to which God has invited them. They have lived as good a life as they needed to live to gain admission to heaven. Some people think of past sins for which they are not able to forgive themselves. They believe that these sins block their entrance to the party.
According to the parable, all of the people were gathered into the party—both the good and the bad. As Christians, we believe that we can come to the party because of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. The entrance to heaven and the party is not determined by our goodness, but by God’s abundant grace. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
The party has started! It began on the first Easter morning when the women discovered that the tomb was empty.
NO CHEAP GRACE
The celebration is a transforming experience. A person goes from the drudgery of everyday life to the celebration of God’s grace. Such a celebration affects our lives.
In verses 11 and 12, the king notices that one of the guests isn’t wearing a wedding garment. The man refuses to celebrate; he refuses to be transformed. As a result of his refusal, the king has the man thrown out into the nether darkness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined the term “cheap grace.” This grace is what is practiced by the complacent and the comfortable. They relish the good news that their salvation is free, but they do nothing in response to God’s grace. These people conveniently ignore Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).
Sometimes we don’t rejoice very well. We don’t clap our hands, sing loud, raise our hands, or dance in the aisles. I guess that’s okay. But we need to celebrate by savoring the life that we have, cultivating an attitude of gratitude, and sharing God’s love and grace with others by our words and actions. Every day God invites us to be guests at the party.
Father, extend that invitation with grace and power through the Spirit to every heart. May there be no foolish excuses that get in the way. Today, may we choose to accept your invitation and take a seat at the table. May there be an embracing of the only way of salvation, the only hope of heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. Father, we do commit to you this truth, and we thank You for the great and glorious time of worship of being in Your presence. We pray that the truth that we have learned today may be useful to us, not only in our own lives but as we reach out to others. Like Jesus, may we seek to pull the rug out from under people living with false hope. May we unmistakably and clearly tell people that apart from Christ, there will never be heaven. Use us, Lord, to bear Your truth to those who need to hear as we continue to grow closer and closer to you. We thank You in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Sermon contributed by Kevin Ruffcorn.
The invitation to be guests at God's wedding feast is extended to all.