“The Kingdom of heaven is like a wedding banquet that a King has prepared for his Son.” That’s the beginning of this story from Jesus today. And this, by the way, is the last story we will hear as part of this worship series. Today is also, Lord-willing, the last time we will be doing Sunday worship in this gym space, so take it in. You good? You ready? Let’s go. Let’s go back to that opening line from Jesus, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a wedding banquet.” Right away, Jesus makes it clear that what he’s about to talk about, the story he’s about to tell, it’s all about heaven. So, take a look at this, here is the story. There is this king and he has prepared this wedding banquet, and he wants people to come. And, in verse three of our lesson, we see that invitations, or save-the-dates, for this heavenly banquet had already been sent out to all kinds of people. The king wanted these people at his son’s wedding banquet, but of course preparing all the food, getting things ready, that takes time, and so there is this gap between the save-the-dates and the actual date of the banquet. Finally though the day comes, the banquet is ready, so the king sends out his servants to let everyone know.
Except what do we read? Those invited, those who initially accepted the save-the-date “refused to come.” So this king invites all these people to this banquet and he figures they’re coming, but now they refuse to come. And at first they don’t have a good reason; they just refuse. And you know how furious this must have made the king? I remember when my wife and I got married, getting married is the worst – not the actual event itself; I better be careful here – it’s the worst though because today’s venues, the reception halls, so often they want these exact numbers months ahead of time, and so you’re making these lists of people who you want to be there and you’re just hoping everyone shows up that RSVPs because you’re paying for it, right?
Now, thankfully my wife handled most of the wedding details, so I’m not sure how much money was wasted, I mean spent on our family and friends. But I think you get the point. If you invite someone to something that you put a lot of time and effort into, you want them there, and if they initially say “Yes, I’ll come,” but then they’re no-shows, ooooh, that’s annoying. It’s frustrating.
This king, he wasn’t frustrated – not yet. Instead, he tries again. He figures, you know, maybe their invitations got lost in the mail. So, he sends out more servants and he has them explain that the invitation is real, the prime rib has been sliced, the wine is flowing, the meal is really, ready to eat. All they need to do is come and feast. But they still don’t care, except now they have excuses. They had fields to tend to, businesses to run, money to make. What’s worse, a few of them turn violent, they “seized the king’s servants, mistreated them and killed them.”
Now, the king of course doesn’t take this lying down. In verse seven, we read that he’s enraged and he destroys these people. Now, here is the kicker in the story, even after this incredible rejection, the king, he keeps inviting. He’s not cancelling. He’s dead set on having people at his son’s wedding banquet. The king says those original guests didn’t deserve to come, so it’s time to find some new ones and we read that “the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
So this king extends his invitation. He opens the party up to everyone and suddenly he has a wedding hall filled with guests, and at this point we’re thinking, “Great, the story ends with a happy ending. This is what heaven is going to be like, all these people both the bad and the good; I love it! But then you get those last few verses. After the king’s last invitation is extended and the people are gathered. He heads into his banquet. He wants to greet his guests but look what he finds. Verse 11: “He noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “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. For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
That’s the end of Jesus’ story. It’s maybe not what we’re expecting. A happy wedding feast is ruined by a wedding crasher, and that last line, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”Mm. What are we to make of this? Why is Jesus telling this story? And why does he end it like he does? It might help us to go back to the beginning of our lesson as this story is introduced to us. In verse one we read, “Jesus spoke to them again in parables, in stories.” Who’s the “them?” It’s who it normally is, it’s the religious leaders. It’s the pharisees.
And so the first part of this story was specifically directed at them. They were the ones currently rejecting God’s initial invite. They were violent toward God’s prophets, and ultimately toward their own Savior, as they approved of Jesus’ crucifixion. They were the ones rejecting the wedding banquet of the son. And the rest of this story, while it’s still being told to those same religious leaders, its application is much more for us.
And, I’d like to start with the warning. I’d like to start at the end with that man who stood there speechless as the king called him “Friend,” yet wondered why he wasn’t wearing the provided wedding clothes. Why was that man speechless? He thought he belonged. He thought he had every right to be at that banquet, and you know what? He must’ve been invited, but he must not have looked very closely at his invitation because wedding clothes were required, and he wasn’t wearing any. Now, that begs the question, how did the other wedding guests get wedding clothes? They came in off the streets. They likely didn’t have time to buy clothes, nor could they probably afford clothes. So, where did they get the clothes? As was the custom back then, the king clothed them. He provided the wedding clothes. Which means this guy either refused the clothes or didn’t think he needed them. So, he was kicked out. Not to come back later when he found his clothes, but forever.
There is the warning for us. Right, this story certainly rings loudly with the warning of “Don’t reject God’s open invitation to be with him in heaven! Don’t deny your Savior, Jesus!” But, listen, people like you and me, we hear that open invitation all the time. Many of you have grown up with this invitation. You’ve been baptized. You go to church. You read your Bible. You attend Bible Class, or a Christian day school, or Sunday School. Weekly, if not daily, you receive an invitation from God to be with him forever. Now, what are you doing with that invitation?
You see the bigger warning for someone like you and me isn’t “Don’t openly reject Jesus.” We know not to do that. The bigger warning for us is to not take this open invitation from God for granted. Look, if someone invites you to a meal today, you can’t respond to that invitation by saying, “I think I’ll come next month.” The invitation isn’t for next month! It’s for right now. God’s invitation for you to be a part of his eternal family, it’s here right now. So, to sit here and say, “Ah, Jesus loves me, that’s good.” But then you go do what you want, think what you want, be what you want, and only take that invitation out every once and awhile to reassure yourself…well, that’s not what the invitation is for. Likewise, if you sit here and figure God’s patience is never-ending, I can come when I want, and so you check in at church here and there, and you crack open your Bible from time to time, maybe throw a prayer out when you remember, but God doesn’t hear from you much more than that …well, you’re putting your invitation at risk, and you’re really not taking it seriously. And, one day you may show up at God’s door expecting to get in, figuring your good and set, only to find that you’re not welcome. You see, as Jesus said, “many are invited, but few are chosen.”
The late Reverend Charles Spurgeon, wrote a sermon on these Words from Jesus and he had a line that I think is worth sharing with you today, he said this, “You always want beggars at a feast because the prim and proper ladies they sit there all uptight and when the food comes in they sorta lift their heads like it’s beneath them, but the beggars, the beggars cheer for every dish.
Can you imagine that? As the courses of that meal keep coming in, “Oh look another one” Look at that turkey – hooray for the turkey! – beggars! Beggars cheer for every plate. They want to be there; they love being there. Friends, we are beggars. We have no right to stand before God. We have no right to show up when we want. We have no right to think that we can come in whatever way we want. We must be invited. We must be chosen. But here is the good news, you are invited, you are chosen.
Go back to verse 10, “the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” I love this verse…for two reasons. One, “the wedding hall is filled with guests.” Remember this story is about heaven, and God is letting us know that there will be so many people there one day – that’s beautiful. That’s the first reason I love this verse. Here is the second: look whom the king invites now: “the bad as well as the good.” People who by our standards are bad, they get into heaven. They get into heaven just as quickly and as easily as people who are good by our standards get into heaven.
God will take anyone into his kingdom. The invitation is for all. So, if you’re constantly working overtime to earn God’s favor, to be good in his eyes, and worthy of his love, you can stop now. If you’re certain that God will never accept you, your past sins are too heinous, your guilt is too great, and you’ll never be worthy, come on in. God’s waiting for you.
Now, a lot of people think this means that God has gotten rid of standards. He’s a God of love, and he’ll take in anyone and everyone just the way they are, but this isn’t a removal of standards, it’s grace. This isn’t God saying I’ll accept you just the way you are, it’s God saying, “I’ll clothe you at the door. I’ll make you worthy of being here.”
You see we’re all equally dead in sin. And a dead person doesn’t suddenly decide to get up. If a person says, “I think I’m dead” They’re not! Bad or good that’s how we all start – dead! And the only way we become alive is through Christ. He invites us to live with him now and chooses us to be with him for eternity. That’s a wonderful thing because that means our invitation to heaven isn’t based on our performance or our good works on this earth. I get no credit for the invite. I get no credit for walking through the door. It’s all God. It’s his patience. It’s his love. It’s his desire to have me. It’s his sacrifice that saves me. You see this? There is a beautiful invitation here from your Lord. He wants you to join him in heaven, to believe in Jesus as your one and only Savior, to confess and repent of your sins and to be clothed with Christ, to be free from guilt and shame – it’s all here.
This is why Jesus is telling us this story. Jesus is telling this story for you. He wants you to find comfort in his Father’s incredible patience as those invitations go out again and again. He wants you to rejoice in his Father’s grace as he opens his heavenly banquet to all, to you. He wants you to believe that he is the way, the truth, and the life; he, Jesus, is the one who makes you one of the chosen, and not just one of the invited.
And that’s why you’re here today because of Jesus. You’re here to confess your sins and to rely only on Jesus’ sacrifice for those sins. You’re here to taste and see that Christ’s body and blood is for you. You’re here because God has invited you, called you, , and has clothed you with Christ. And with those clothes of righteousness – here is the best part – heaven is your wedding banquet where you are united with the Son, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Now and forever, amen. As Isaiah wrote, “Let us then rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” Amen.