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June 8, 2022

Jesus and the Wedding Banquet Parable

Text: Matthew 22:9-10

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.

     Some religious institutions have become highly exclusive. They are actually “not open” to everybody. They in fact,  are comparable to the elite country clubs and other social clubs that exist. They dare not upset the status quo by inviting someone who is different then themselves, and falls outside of  the criteria and parameters they have established for membership .They dare not invite anyone who bears any resemblance to what we will call “otherness.” They won’t extend the invitation to folks that don’t look like themselves, belong to a different political party, or are from a different economic social location. Denomination ethnicity, skin color, and cultural expressions of faith are the major contributors  to the segregated church. We end up with the black church, the Korean church, the Chinese church the white church, the African church and the list goes on. 

     As we look into this well-known story we will see how an invitation to attend the great wedding banquet was methodically, deliberately and intentionally extended to everyone and so it should be with the church today. We should return to a thought out and consistent approach to our outreach to others. We must be reminded that there are people out there that desire to be included and certainly will benefit from being included,  but they tragically remain without the invitation from the church. 

Matthew 22:1-14 (NIV)
1  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.

So in the beginning of this story we find the king has extended the invitation to a specific group and they refused to come. (Biblical scholars suggest that this portion of the story represents the early prophets and apostles sent out the invitation but people refused, and rejected the Word of God) So I guess a reasonable observation would lead us to understand that we will also experience some resistance to the invitation, or even our practical  community outreach as well. Returning to the story we find the king expressing a sense of urgency. The king dispatches a second team to restate the invitation. 

 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. 

The king’s gracious response was to send another set of servants to tell those who were invited that: everything is ready, the all preparations are complete, the feast is ready, the celebration is ready to proceed. Again the invitation is extended to those who were invited. This time the invitees response was even more repugnant. They paid no attention to the graciously extended invitation—they ignored it, they reprioritized the value of the banquet and instead went to their fields and crops.  For their fields were certainly more important to them. They would rather spend their time paying attention to the condition of their fields. They had more concern with the wellbeing of their property. Others went off to their businesses. To tend to that which mattered most to them. The business of making money was more important than a wedding banquet for the Son of the King. Then there were those who not only refused and rejected the invitation they violently mistreated those who came to remind them of the extended invitation. Their response to the invitation was inhumane. They responded to grace with violence. They responded to grace with hostility.  They even killed the servants who were sent to them. This reminds me of those prophets of antiquity who were the voice of God who cried out to people reminding them of God’s love and justice. They were often met with rejection, refusal and repudiation. They were often met in the same way with violence and murder. This reminds me of the early carriers of the Gospel. The Apostles, the disciples who were often met with rejection, and violence. It also reminds me of the many men and women closer to our time who have cried out, raised their voices against injustice, poverty, war, tyranny , racism… only to be met with violence. Violence in the form of water hoses, police dogs, gun shots, beatings, imprisonment, lynching, and assassination. And today we have people murdered in the streets across the nation and around the globe, because of their voices being raised for justice. Justice is the will of God and cries for justice are the voice of God which is silenced with bullets across the nation. 

7  The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 

The King responded to this rejection, refusal, repudiation and hostility. He sent His army and destroyed the murderers and burned the city. Well I guess the King exacted judgement. Let me say this the King didn’t cancel the banquet because of those who wanted no parts of the rejoicing celebration for the wedding of the Son. Oh no – there was going to be a celebration—  the celebration was going to happen anyway… Let me remind you today about  the ones who didn’t make it to the celebration. They were  not there because of their own deliberate, intentional, and voluntary rejection of the good news of the invitation. Let me remind us today that the only thing that prevents the salvation of the sinner is clearly articulated in the Baptist Articles of Faith: Article VI. The Freeness of Salvation.
We believe that the Scriptures teach that the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the Gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by cordial, penitent and obedient faith; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, but his own determined depravity and voluntary rejection of the Gospel; which rejection involves him in an aggravated condemnation.

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. 

The king decides to extend the invite, to everyone. To all the people from all walks of life, it didn’t matter what was your ethnicity, your skin color, your social- economic status—people who could be found on the street corner, in the market, in the village the invitation was extended to all. Many showed up in response to this invitation by the king.

 Now please imagine this – those who were in poverty, the marginalized, the oppressed, those excluded from the benefits of the economic system it place—were most likely need of proper wedding banquet attire.. After all you couldn’t just show up to the banquet looking any kind of way. This wasn’t a dress down affair ,, no this way a celebration, a banquet celebrating the wedding of the King’s Son. So the King had to provide the  proper clothing to everybody that would be in attendance. Proper wedding attire.. paid for by the king. The king would spare no expense. You might have looked one way out on the street, but in order to be in attendance at the banquet you needed some new clothes. You may have been clothed in filthy rags out in the street. But in preparation for the banquet you needed to be clothed by the King. There needed to be a makeover, a transformation to get you ready for the celebration. I can imagine that being homeless one day and re-clothed with fine garments was an uplifting experience. I can sense the happiness, the joy of feeling liberated from poverty and exclusion and  now being included in the royal celebration. Someone could have went from sleeping in the streets, homeless, without food, without a job, without money, they lost their family, they hated themselves because of their social condition. They were labelled as the outcast, the marginalized the unwanted, the undeserving, But now- coming into the presence of the king they were dressed up – feeling good, looking good, smelling good, hair styled, nails done, all cleaned up, the complete package on their way to the celebration at the royal palace. I was once on the outside, but now I’m inside. I was down, but know I’m up. I was an outcast but now I’m headed to the palace. I don’t know what kind of food they were serving. But my imagination is filling in the blanks. Corn Bread, collard greens, fried fish, hot sauce, tartar sauce, mac and cheese, potato salad, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler --  I don’t know what food was served but this I Know—at the kings party the hungry would be fed, the thirsty would thirst no more, all the needs of the guest would be met at the banquet celebration. 

But something else happened in the story: when the  king came to see the guests- He found someone without the proper attire.. 

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." 

     This person crashed the party, he came in some other kind of way. Maybe he bought a bootlegged, scalped ticket. Or maybe he just snuck in the back door. But one thing for sure He skipped over the being clothed by the provisions of the king. He stood out from the others. Don’t be confused by this story. It sounds like he was simply put out because of the inappropriate clothes he had on. Today some people   won’t come to church unless they have a new suit to wear. The story has a greater meaning than that. The greater meaning is this - He came in through his own methodology. He rejected being clothed by the king.  So  today we can say this with clarity.  Don’t expect the king of kings – Jesus the Christ to accept you into the celebration, clothed in your own righteousness. Don’t expect to be accepted into right relationship with God based on your own self merit- Don’t expect to be graced by God with salvation because of your good deeds. 

Not at all-- righteousness, salvation, the forgiveness of sin – is all the gracious gift of God. You can’t buy it, you can’t earn it, you can’t produce it, you cannot negotiate it because of your privileged status in this world. God is the author of our salvation. God is the one who enables your righteousness, and that righteousness is to be found in and through Jesus – the only begotten Son of God.  This certainly reminds me of a final judgement to come.  So I believe in a day of judgement. And I can guarantee you this, on that day I will not stand before God pleading my case based on all the good things I have done. I won’t be presenting a power-point showing my involvement in ministry, or pictures of how I cared for my wife and children. I won’t be asking to be on the right side of God because of my work. I won’t have to. Why because I believe in the finished work at the cross. I believe in the birth of Jesus , the life, the ministry, the death, the resurrection and the return of Christ. I believe that any righteousness is imparted from Christ. 

The Baptist articles of faith declares:

XVIII. The World to Come.
We believe the Scriptures teach that the end of the world is approaching; that at the last day, Christ will descend from heaven, and raise the dead from the grave for final retribution; that a solemn separation will then take place; that the wicked will be adjudged to endless punishment, and the righteous to endless joy; and that this judgment will fix forever the final state of men in heaven or hell, on principles of righteousness.

We have some good news to share. The good news is to be extended with our invitation to others. The only requirement for membership in the church is being born again. It has nothing to do with skin color, how much money you make or where you live. God is willing to clothe us in righteousness through His Son. We can’t earn our way, into righteousness, we can’t buy our way—the way of salvation is through Jesus, It is the gift of God. We don’t have to worry about being excluded, or put out from the banquet.. for our righteousness has been imputed, freely given, by the grace of God through his Son Jesus. Jesus did it all. Amen


     So now if you are reading  this I  invite you today to accept the gift of righteousness from God. That gift puts you into a right relationship with God. All sins are forgiven. God sees you as righteous because of what His son has already done for you. 

God’s  greatest  gift to all of humanity was the giving of his only begotten Son.  John 3:16-17 (NIV)
16  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 14:6 (NIV)
6  Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

      So today you have the opportunity to be clothed in righteousness by the king – you are invited and welcome to receive this gift.