In Matthew 22, Jesus tells another parable regarding the kingdom. It is very bad news for some. It is the best of news for others. Here is the teaching from the mouth of the King of Kings:
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 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.'” But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” 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. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. 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.” For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:1-14)
Jesus calls all men to join his church. His kingdom has an open door policy. An invitation is given to all individuals, “Whosoever will may come.” However, in reality it is much more than a mere invitation, it is a command. Every individual on the planet is summoned to leave the domain of the Prince of Darkness and enter into the kingdom of the Prince of Peace.
And who would not wish to come? Think about it; within the doors of his house, a wedding feast awaits. It is a splendid place to be. The Spirit abounds, and much reading, praying, and singing are heard. Love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control are exhibited. At this point in history, it is not a perfect domicile, it is still filled with sinners, but how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity. And this present experience is only a foretaste of glory divine; the perfect consummation banquet awaits in paradise for all those whom Christ weds. There is a day when church, city, kingdom, heaven, garden, mansions, streets of gold, and paradise are all perfect synonyms.
However, sadly, many respond not to the king’s invitation and/or command. Many pay no attention and go on about their own business. They have not interest or time for the king and his kingdom, and as his messengers call out to them and urge them to come, these preaching heralds are abused and mistreated. Towards such ungrateful recipients, the king is angry. They are burned. They are destroyed. Judgment from God is their inheritance. They will be eternally condemned along with the Prince of Darkness.
Then there are those who enter the house of feasting, but they are found there without the proper attire. They have heard the invitation and found it interesting, but they have not the required wedding garment. They like the idea of church. The Father’s house seems to be a pleasing alternative. His kingdom is surely superior to that of Lucifer’s. However, towards them, the king is equally angry. In their face, he speaks in his wrath. He commands his servants to bind them, hand and foot, and cast them into hell. There is weeping. There is gnashing of teeth, but they are eternally expelled from his presence and his house of mirth.
Sadly but justly, divine anger, condemnation, and judgment await those who ignore his invitation and enter his house without the proper attire.
However, the gracious king will have his house filled with guests. He invites those who are sinful. He loves his enemies. He chooses them, calls them, draws them, and welcomes them even though they think they have chosen him on their own — in accordance with their own free will. Then, through no merit of their own, he removes their soiled clothing and dresses them appropriately. He gives them his own robes of royalty. Yes, they are made fit for the king by the king. Then, as members of the royal court, as individuals betrothed to the king, they are wined and dined in his presence. They too partake of the precious Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace and the above-listed attributes begin to be exhibited by these wicked men and women. Their cup overflows as goodness and mercy follows them as they dwell in the domicile of the Lord.
Friends, how ought we to respond to this teaching of Jesus? I might suggest seven ways for us to pray today:
- Let us hear the call of Jesus, see the end of Lucifer, and see how many times we have told Jesus to go away. Let us repent of our cold response.
- Let us hear again the invitation/command of Jesus, and today let us respond with “Jesus, I come!” Come to salvation, and come to worship. Keep not your distance from his house of celebration.
- Let us recognize our distressing apparel and not seek to dress ourselves. We have nothing in our wardrobe acceptable to the king. Let us proclaim this quickly, again and again. Let us repent of our odious appearance and trust only in the righteous robe purchased and supplied by Jesus Christ. Not for a moment ought we to think we contribute at all to the holy covering acceptable to the king. Let us find our confidence in Christ alone.
- Let us love and enjoy his presence. His house is one of continual repentance that leads to bountiful delight. We are always sinning. We are always mourning. We are always getting up from our knees and dancing with delight in the arms of our royal host. All your sins have been paid for. All your merit has been earned. You are sinful, but you are completely acceptable in his sight.
- Let us labor to learn the etiquette of his court. His Law is good, and because we love him we are to be eager to do what he commands. With greater efficiency, let us labor to learn his ways and bring glory to the king and his kingdom. Let us read his manual — the bible — and ask the Spirit to reveal the next area we are to work on.
- Let us be his heralds. His house is not yet full, and he uses people like us to fill all the places around his table. Consider the sad alterntive. Go and invite. Summon your neighbors. There is still time for them to enter. Who ought we to pray for right now?
- Let us learn to glory in the elective grace of God. Many he calls. Many say, “No!” Yet, some are chosen, and they are the ones who ultimately RSVP in a positive manner. The grace of the Holy Spirit is relentless and effective towards some. So, as we ask the question of the hymnodist, “Why was I made to hear your voice, and enter while there’s room, when thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come?” We learn to reply with his answer, “Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in; else we had still refused to taste and perished in our sin.” Let us be humbly thankful and confident that though “many are called,” “few are chosen.” It is time for us to worship and give thanks.
** How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place (No. 469 in the Trinity Hymnal)