How many of you have ever given a party? Of course you have! We have all given a party at some time. Perhaps it was a birthday party, or a slumber party. Maybe you had a picnic or a costume party. No matter what kind of party you give, it is a lot of work to get ready for a party, isn’t it? First, you have to decide what kind of a party you are going to have. Then you have to go out and buy the decorations or make them yourself. You have to plan how to entertain your guests. Next you have to decide what you are going to serve and go to the store to buy refreshments. After you have made all the plans, you make a list of who you are going to invite and send out the invitations.

Have you ever planned a party and sent out the invitations, but no one showed up? Oh, I hope not! If that happened, how do you think it would make you feel? Would you be angry? Would your feelings be hurt? What do you think you might do?

Jesus once told a story about a king who threw a party, but none of the people he invited showed up for his party. In Jesus’ story, the king was going to have a party for his son who was getting married. Since he was a king, and this was his only son, you can imagine that it was going to be quite a celebration and it was a tremendous honor to be invited!

All of the plans had been made, the food was prepared, the invitations had been sent. The day of the celebration came, but no one showed up! The king sent his servants to see where the people were and why they had not come to his celebration. The people all began to make excuses about how busy they were.

A wedding feast could go on for days with much food and merriment. An invitation from the king would be considered both an honour and a command, but the citizens of this country refused the invitation, even though the king had described the many pleasures of the feast.  In Jesus’ culture honour was highly prized and to publicly embarrass someone was a terrible affront. Some invited guests not only ignored or scorned the king’s invitation but also reacted violently against his messengers. This was the equivalent of a direct attack on the king, and he could not let this go by without a response. The king reacted as ancient rulers often did; he sent his troops to destroy the city of the murderers. To treat the king’s messengers with contempt was to treat the king himself with contempt. The king was very upset, so he told his servants to go out into the streets and invite everyone they saw to come to his son’s wedding celebration. They did exactly what the king told them to do and the Bible tells us that the wedding hall was filled with guests.

This parable refers to the rejection of the Jews and a calling of the Gentiles. In this parable, God is the king, the people who reject the invitation are the Jewish leaders, the wedding banquet is God’s salvation, and the good and the bad are the wheat and tares in the church. The Gospel was offered to the Jews but they rejected it because of their pride and wickedness. All the blessings of the Gospel were offered to the Gentiles, so they accepted it. The invitation to the wedding feast was given to everyone-both bad and good-because the original invitees had refused the invitation. This detail indicates that the Gentiles were now being offered salvation because the Jews had rejected the Gospel.

The king entered the banquet hall to meet the “guests”. Now they are no longer merely beggars, street people, foreigners, thieves, etc. They are honoured guests. Their conditions have been reversed. They did nothing to deserve it. They were invited to a feast that they could never dream they would get to attend. God’s grace echoes above the noise, the behaviour, the singing and laughing of the guests.

If God has invited people to the wedding banquet, they have already “earned” their spot in the kingdom of heaven. So why would people reject the invitation? Why would they give up salvation? Why would they pass up free food and drink? They either reject God and His message of mercy by killing the messengers, or they are busy with other things such as their jobs, their property, things they have built themselves, things they are using to define their worth in the world.

Even though the invitation to the celebration was broadcast indiscriminately, guests still had to meet certain conditions to participate in the feast, including wearing a wedding garment, which was probably given to the guests by the king himself. When the king found a man without such clothing, the man was summarily tied up and thrown out of the palace. We are given what we need once we accept the invitation to the wedding feast. Like the Cinderella story in which the fairy godmother gave her a gown so she could attend the ball, the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:12-14,19-20, “My God will supply whatever you need in accord with God’s glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

God is the king. He is no pushover, and if we are the beneficiaries of His gracious invitation we must not become complacent like the first invitees. God has thrown the doors of the kingdom wide open, and he has extended the invitation to everyone. Once we come in, we have to meet His standards. We can’t go on acting like we are not at an extraordinary party. The new garments represent God’s grace, which we receive when we repent and accept Him as our Saviour. In this parable, the soiled garments represent our old, sinful lives. They represent our attempts to enter the kingdom without doing God’s will.

This part of the parable challenges us. How have we changed our lives in response to God’s invitation? Do we realize the gift we have received? What is our attitude towards other people who have received the same invitation? If all of us are guests, none of which have earned the invitation but have received it by grace, then how can we continue to separate and divide ourselves according to race, gender, birthplace, language, sexual orientation, newcomers and old timers, well-dressed and poor?

If we really believe what we hear from God’s Word and have taken it to heart, how can we fail to look around and celebrate God’s banquet with everyone who is around us? We must not judge their motives for coming, or how they are dressed, or how active they are in the church. Let’s celebrate with them the fact that we are all hearers of the Word. We will do our best to be doers of that Word too. God will decide who is wearing the proper garments. 

For the priests and the scribes, the message is that the call of the Gospel went out to the whole world, but to the Jewish people first. Relatively few accepted the Lord’s invitation to eternal life, so the invitation was extended to the Gentiles as well. To participate in the great feast of God, one must not only be invited, but also put on the king’s wedding clothes-namely, the righteousness of Christ, accepted by grace through faith. Those without such a garment, although called, reveal that they are not chosen.

We are to share the Gospel with anyone who will listen. We don’t know who will respond and who will not (because the most unlikely candidates often come to faith), so we are to preach the Good News of the Gospel to everyone. We are living in the day of grace. As the world descends deeper and deeper into darkness and sin, God is calling us to give out His invitation. Jesus tells us to preach the Gospel to everyone. He will give us the faith and courage to persevere, even in the face of opposition. We can pray that God will bring across our path the people He wants us to reach out to so they can be drawn to Jesus. God is not willing that anyone would perish. He wants everyone to come to repentance and the knowledge of Him.

The apathy and rejection of the people who were invited to the banquet offended the king. Similarly, people who reject God’s offer of salvation offend Him.  Like the king, God will eventually lose patience with those who reject Him. They will eventually bear the wrath of God’s judgment.

In order to attend the party, we have to know the host. Similarly, if we want to enter heaven, we have to know God and accept His gift of salvation. There are many people who profess to be Christians and who belong to the church but spurn the garment of righteousness by seeking to establish their own righteousness. They are afraid to admit their own spiritual poverty. They refuse to accept God’s righteousness and therefore they are guilty of a horrible sin against His goodness. We are the recipients of God’s grace and generosity. We are part of His kingdom not because of what we have done. We are honoured guests.

Jesus’ life put flesh and meaning on this parable. He sat with everyone, and everyone was welcomed into His kingdom, but they have to make a fitting response that indicates they realize what has been given them. In other words, we have to accept God’s offer of salvation. When we do, our deeds (as represented by the wedding garment) must match our beliefs.

Many are called, but few are chosen. The chosen ones are people who realize that just showing up is not enough. Mere submission to doctrine and dogma won’t stand the test of what it means to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The chosen ones believe that God might very well stake a claim to their own humanity. They also realize that the time for bringing about the kingdom of Heaven is now-not later, not tomorrow, not someday, but now.

Through Christ’s death and resurrection, God has thrown heaven open to everyone who is willing to come. He will provide the food and the proper clothes. Anyone who is willing to trust Jesus’ invitation is guaranteed a seat at God’s table. We are worthy not because of who we are, but because of what Jesus has done for us.

We can’t really respond to God’s invitation unless we are willing to have our lives changed to become like Jesus. God’s grace does not imply approval of our injustice and lack of love. Instead, it challenges us to become as gracious toward others as God is toward us. Saying “yes” to God’s kingdom opens to us a wide variety of possibilities. Saying “no” closes the door to receiving God’s generosity. Failure to get ready for eternity is in plain sight. I can’t imagine why, but some people will turn down God’s invitation. You’ve been invited — I hope you will accept God’s invitation.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1320-1321)
  2. “You Are Invited.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4Kids.com
  3. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
  4. Augsberger, M.S> * Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; p. 18)
  5. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  6. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 28th Sunday (A).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  7. Jenifer Brownell, “God Has Already Chosen. Now It’s Your Turn.” Retrieved from dailydevotional@ucc.org
  8. A.W. Tozer, “Evangelism: Such a Short Time.” Retrieved from Biblegateway@e.biblegateway.com
  9. Gemma Gardner, “The Invitation.” Retrieved from info@seedsofthekingdom.net
  10. Erick J. Thompson, “Commentary on Matthew 22:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3443
  11. Karoline Lewis, “What Not to Wear.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4980
  12. Lance Pape, “Commentary on Matthew 22:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx/commentary_id=2204
  13. Bruce Epperly, “The Adventurous Lectionary-The nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost-October 11, 2020.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure
  14. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 28th Sunday (A).” Retrieved from firstimpressions@lists.opsouth.org
  15. Dr. Kari Vo, “Worthy.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org/dailydevotionsprt.asp?date=20201008

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