The following sermon was preached by Rev. Joe Troutman at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church in Bedford, Texas. Listen online or subscribe to the podcast.
God calls all to repent and believe and many refuse, but others believe and are welcome to the feast.
The parable of the wedding feast is the third parable of judgment spoken by Jesus on the week leading to his crucifixion. While the first two primarily targeted the Pharisees, Saducees and Jewish priesthood, this parable applies to all in the nation of Israel who do not follow Christ in faith, but are guilty of rebellion against God.
God will judge everyone who refuses to repent and believe, but will show mercy by bringing to himself repentant believers who had not previously been associated with his covenant people.
Rejection of the Call (Matthew 22:1-7) And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “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.
- The setting of the parable of the wedding feast is a feast thrown in a kingdom by the king for his son.
- It was customary to send invitations with the expectation of a response of intention to attend, followed by a second call—an announcement that the meal is now ready, and that those invited are to now come to the feast.
- Historically it was often a crime for those who promise to attend to then refuse to do so.
- Jesus’ parable portrays an absurd exaggeration of this scenario.
- In verses 5 and 6, the rejection of the invited guests evidences their ingratitude: some ignored the servant sent to call them, others mistreated and killed him, just as the Israelites always did the Old Testament prophets.
- In verse 7, the king is rightfully angry and sends troops to kill the invited guests and burns down their city.
- The guests reflect what Israel had been doing to God for generations. The king’s judgment in the parable reflects the wrath to come both in AD 70 and the Final Judgment upon Christ’s return.
Invitation to All (Matthew 22:8-10) 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.
- In verse 8, the food is made ready.
- In verse 9, the servants are sent to anyone who will come, who demonstrate a faith not found among the invited guests, as the Centurion whose servant Jesus healed in Matthew 8, of which Jesus said “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:10-12).
- Throughout all of the Scriptures, one plan of salvation is revealed: both Jew and Gentile must have faith in the Messiah of Israel. Just as Old Testament Judaism sometimes included Gentiles, so Christianity does not exclude all Jews—for example, first century Christianity was largely Jewish—but all who respond to the invitation are welcome to the wedding feast.
- Thus the invitation in the parable is what is expressed in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q&A 31) as “the free offer of the gospel.”
- The church offers salvation to all—God sorts out those who respond from those who do not respond. The church gives a general call which may be rejected or falsely received. The Holy Spirit gives an effectual call by which those who respond will necessarily be saved.
Responsibiltiy (11-14) “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.”
- The king of the parable goes in disguise to inquire of one who attends the wedding feast without a wedding garment, and throws him out into outer darkness.
- The wedding garment represents the fruit of faith: grateful, obedient works.
- In the local church, all respond to the call to worship, but not all truly believe, evidenced by a life of unrepentant disobedience. Thus, some in the local church will be found to be without their “wedding garment.”
- In verse 14, God’s choice is shown to be the ultimate factor. If God doesn’t effectually call his chosen, all would refuse to come as the invited guests at the beginning of the parable, and as the citizens of Israel who will not have Jesus to be their Messiah.
- Though many be called, few are chosen. True believers must humbly and charitably receive all who profess faith in Christ, they must not proudly exclude those who differ on non-essentials, as if they belonged to the one true church.
- There is a visible church comprised of all professing believers (all who have responded to the general call), and there is an invisible church comprised of the elect (all brought effectively to Christ by the Holy Spirit’s effectual call).
- Thus, church membership alone is not saving; renewal of the heart by the Holy Spirit to repent and believe is necessary.
- Without faith, there is no hope. With faith comes true membership in the invisible church, which the parable portrays by those who come to the wedding feast wearing their wedding garment.