Preach, The Seed
Last week, I preached on Luke 14:1-14, which immediately precedes this parable in Luke’s account.
Today’s passage isn’t about an actual meal Jesus shared with people, it is a parable about a banquet. It is described in Luke as the Parable of the Great Banquet. Matthew also records a similar parable. His version is called the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. (Remembering of course that these descriptions are not part of the text). Whether Matthew and Luke are recording the same parable is not clear, some commentators believe they are different versions of the same parable, others believe they are different parables. I am not going to tackle that particular discussion this morning for a couple of reasons.
- I don’t believe it would add anything to this morning.
- Even if they ARE different parables, they are strikingly similar, not only in their content, but also in their interpretation.
What I will do then is handle them together this morning because of their similarities.
Matthew 22:1-14 says this:
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“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.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So, 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.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, 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.”
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
Luke’s recollection of the parable:
- The master prepares a banquet.
- He sends an invitation out.
- The time arrives for the banquet to start.
- He sends his servant to tell people to come.
- Invited guests make excuses about not coming.
- The invitation is sent out to anyone and everyone. Including those in the streets and byways.
- NOT ONE of the invited guests gets to enjoy the banquet.
- A man prepares a wedding banquet for his son.
- Servants are sent to tell people to come.
- Invited guests don’t come—in fact, they mistreat and kill some servants.
- The invited guests who mistreated and killed the servants get their comeuppance: The king sends in his army and destroys them.
- The invitation is then sent out to anyone and everyone. ‘Good and bad’.
- There is a detour into a description of a guest not in wedding clothes who is thrown out.
- Closing comment is that many are invited, but few are chosen.
- There is a banquet prepared.
- Invitations are sent out.
- It is a servant who brings the message.
- The invitations are refused.
- Others are invited instead.
- The original invitees don’t get to enjoy the banquet.
Extra information given to us:
- The banquet was for a son’s wedding (Matthew).
- Reasons for not coming:
- I bought a field (Luke) / One went to his field (Matthew).
- I bought some livestock (Luke).
- I just got married (Luke).
- One went to his business (Matthew).
- Matthew describes more than one servant. Luke mentions only one.
- The servants are badly treated. Including murder (Matthew).
- Others invited were described as both ‘good and bad’ (Matthew).
- Some others were compelled to come in (Luke).
- A man not dressed properly was thrown out (Matthew).
Some obvious applications:
The master represents God—as he does in so many of Jesus’ parables.
The banquet The imagery of a meal was a standard way of describing the celebration of the end-times in Jewish thought of the day.
The invited guests, who refuse to come, represent those who reject the call to his kingdom;
The ‘replacement’ guests, who do come, represent those who accept the call or message.
The servants may be unnamed ‘extras’ who do the master’s will, although they could also be taken to mirror any who preach God’s Word.
Rather than going into minute detail about every detail as I would usually do, I want to pick up on a few things which have struck me:
According to Matthew, this is a MARRIAGE banquet. You cannot miss the suggestion/echo of the ‘marriage supper of the lamb’.
Revelation 19:6-10 describes this supper:
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
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.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”
In fact, fellowship with God is described throughout Scripture as a feast. This is something we really have to understand. I’ve mentioned it in previous weeks, being in the presence of God is described in Scripture in 2 ways:
Firstly, Revelation describes multitudes: angels and the saints beyond the counting are gathered before the throne of God. Declaring things like ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, and ‘blessed is the lamb that was slain’. This seems to be a favourite for Christians who are from our particular branch of Christendom: The best worship service we could ever imagine.
Secondly, The image of a feast, or banquet is not only found in Revelation 19, it is found throughout both the Old and the New Testaments. These parables are just one place. Think about the feast the father throws when the Prodigal Son returns home. Or Luke 22:17,18 describing what Jesus says at the last supper: After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” — this is at the very least a hint about a feast (also an indication that there will be wine in heaven!).
Matthew 8:11 records Jesus saying this: “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”.
Another image of feasting in heaven is found in Isaiah 25:6: “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines”.
Or Psalm 36:7,8 “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights”.
Proverbs 9:1-6 is very interesting, it speaks of feasting as an illustration of taking in/accepting wisdom.
Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.
She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city,
“Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
“Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.”
David describes God preparing a table for him in the presence of his enemies, Revelation 3:20 which is another example of the offer of God to fellowship with us, says if we will open the door, he will come in and do what? — EAT with us.
So, given that feasting with God is seen as a picture of accepting Him as Lord. We cannot miss the interpretation of this/these parables as one about heaven and who will and who won’t get to feast with God in eternity!
So, who gets to go and who doesn’t?
The first thing to note is that people fall into a couple of categories, we note that there was an initial invite given out. God has invited the Jews into relationship with Him. We read about that as we read the Old Testament, the different covenants he made with them. They are clearly God’s chosen people. We cannot help but see the application of this parable of the original invitees as the Jews, especially the religious ones.
That being the case, we can see the implication of the parable that the Jews have (or will) reject the invitation to come into fellowship with God and that they have murdered God’s servants (more of that later).
The rejection of Jesus, and (by extension) the Gospel itself, by the Jews is mentioned in all sorts of ways. Elsewhere, we see Jesus described as the capstone the builders have rejected. This is a reference to Psalm 118:22, which is applied by Peter to Jesus in 1 Peter 2:7,8.
When the original invitees refuse to come, the invite is then sent out to the people in the streets. Everyone is invited to come. In this context, the inclusion of the phrase by Luke of ‘both good and bad’ show us that Jesus means everyone, including those who have don’t pass the ‘religious tests’ of the Jewish leaders. In short it is a hint about the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ Jesus ate with while he was on the earth, and INCLUDES the Gentiles.
The point is that NO—ONE is excluded. Those who are religious are also invited. Actually, they were invited first. The thing though is that they refused the invitation. It wasn’t until they had refused it that others were invited.
Not everyone invited will accept the invitation.
We know this, some will respond positively to the gospel, others … well, let’s just say they won’t.
Some will be indifferent, others will be downright antagonistic and treat the messenger of God badly.
The parables describe 2 types of people who miss the banquet, one is represented by a group, the other by an individual:
Firstly, there are those who refuse the invitation. Both Matthew and Luke describe a group of people who refuse to come to the banquet. The refusals described by Luke are passive in nature, they are verbal. I have just bought a field, an ox and I have to check it out. Another excuse was I’ve just got married, and I can’t come. The striking thing for me is the inane nature of the excuses. (Akin to “not tonight—I’m washing my hair”). The people who Matthew records also refuse to come. Matthew continues and describes a second occasion of the servants going. On the second occasion, we are told that the invitees ignored the servants, saying “they paid no attention and went off” (Matthew 22:5). But that’s not all, we read that others didn’t just ignore the servants, they acted. They firstly physically abused the servants, and some took the ultimate sanction—they KILLED the servant.
If we read the Scriptures more generally, we can see that the messengers God sent were, by and large, ignored.
Elijah has a bad time as he proclaims the message of God. The prophets of his day were being killed by the king, and he grumbles at God: “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:10).
Stephen, in his speech to the Jews before they stoned him, gives them a history lesson about all the prophets and the kings in their history, then he concludes by saying this: “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered” (Acts 7:52).
Hebrews 1:1,2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world”. So, prophets were sent to proclaim the invitation to the Lord’s banquet, and they were ignored and killed. Then Jesus was sent, the invitation was “extended’ to the gentiles and the ‘unclean’ of society. They killed him too.
What does this mean for us?
Firstly, think about church leaders— the Bishops and Archbishops of the established denominations, or the very influential speakers and pastors in less traditional denominations. Think about their modern understanding of the message of Scripture, what category do they fall into? The modern form of Christianity which is known as “progressive Christianity”, how do they treat people who preach a message which is informed and influenced by Scripture and not culture—how do they treat them? Will they fall into the category of “I’m not coming—my priorities are more important”? How about those who arrest and imprison Christians who are proclaiming the Gospel the Bible describes? In some countries, the messengers ARE killed by those they take the message too.
This is very alarming and frightening. How do we warn them of the peril they are in?
Secondly, what about us? What kind of response do we give to those who bring the message of God? We must beware that we don’t fall into that same trap. Note that there is a difference between discerning whether a message is from God and rejecting it altogether. Questioning the biblical origin / alignment of a message is not the same as rejecting it. We might reject it after we’ve taken that step, on the other hand, we might be persuaded and change our position.
There is an inherent danger to the person who rejects the message and mistreats the servant of God. It is spoken out in this parable. There will come a time when your invitation to the feast is withdrawn, and you will no longer be able to accept it. At that point, it will be too late for you. I quoted St Augustine a few weeks ago, and this holds true today “it is never too early to follow Christ, but at any moment it could be too late”.
Secondly, There are those who have not prepared properly. This person is the man who is improperly dressed. He gets thrown out. It seems unclear as to WHY in the parable he is thrown out for not wearing proper wedding clothes. There are a few possibilities:
One:- some suggest that there was a custom where the host provides the clothing for the attendees to wear. Two:- others submit that, just like in modern times, there was a dress code and that certain forms of dress were expected. In either case, not wearing the provided garments, or not wearing the expected form of dress was a real insult.
Interestingly, Paul writes of Christ as clothing. There is a form of dress in the marriage supper of the lamb, which is provided for us by God.
“For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
“… put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
Colossians 3 doesn’t specifically say, ‘clothe yourselves in Christ’, but it does talk of the things of righteousness as articles of clothing, and it says, ‘put off the old self and put on the new self’.
Most obviously, Ephesians 6 talks of the armour of God, a form of clothing that the follower of Christ should put on.
Revelation describes the bride of Christ, who is … ? US, the church. Revelation 19:7,8 describes the church this way:
‘… the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints’.
There is an expectation that we will wear the clothing that saints are expected to wear. Ultimately, that clothing is Christ Himself. A consequence of not wearing Christ is expulsion from the feast.
So, the point I think we can go home with today is this:
God’s message of Salvation is available to ALL. Religious people as well. People are excluded from the banquet not because they are religious, but because they reject the invitation.
Heaven will be a feast with a king!
All we have to do to get there is to accept the invitation and to clothe ourselves with Christ.