A Party’s Going On!!
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 22:1 (Holman) Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables:
The original hearers of Jesus’ parables often found them hard to understand, but through the centuries, Christ-followers have found the parables to be extremely helpful learning aids. Jesus mastered the art of putting in story form lessons we need to learn. It was kind of Him to simplify His message, to condescend to speak on our level. He made the Gospel so easily understandable that a six-year-old child can grasp it.
We too must make sure the Gospel is communicated to others with laser beam focus. We need to break through the cacophony of religious noise that lost people constantly hear over radio and TV. We have to take time to clarify the message for individuals one at a time. This is the only way we can make sure they understand the basic, simple elements of salvation.
Matt. 22:2 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who
gave a wedding banquet for his son.
This parable, one of Jesus’ easiest to understand, certainly applies to our day. Its meaning is clear; God invites people to follow Him, but many are too indifferent or overly arrogant to do so.
The crux of history is; God is King, and takes His king-ness seriously. He wants to be treated like the sovereign Lord of the Universe He actually is. Since He is in earnest about it, it behooves humans to be serious about it.
The King of Heaven means business. He has a Son He strongly wants everyone to honor. In eternity past, the Son dwelt in Heaven with the Father, but eventually emptied Himself, and left Heaven’s glory on behalf of sinners.
Due to our sins, the Father let His only begotten Son die. For our benefit, the heart of God’s own Son was drained dry. Due to this sacrifice, the Father feels His Son deserves something wonderful in return from us.
The Father asked, what can I do to honor my Son that will let sinners also honor Him? The Father answered; On behalf of My Son I choose to throw a party. A party?!!? The Father wants us, the ones responsible for His Son’s death, to come to a party? Yes, and not just a little party, a huge fiesta.
A wedding banquet could be the richest, most extravagant, form of entertainment a King ever extended. Featuring free food and fun, wedding banquets were sumptuous affairs that epitomized happiness, yea ecstasy.
Weddings are a happy time. On July 29, 1981, Ruth and I woke up in the middle of the night, put our 9-inch black and white TV in bed with us, and watched Princess Di marry Prince Charles. On April 29, 2011, over two billion people watched the latest royal British wedding between William and Kate. Wherever there’s a royal wedding, there’s usually a party going on. All who come to a royal wedding party can temporarily cast cares to the wind.
Wedding banquets are a massive undertaking. Food service requires much preparation. I have learned this firsthand by watching Ruth prepare the Thursday night meals our young adult group enjoys so richly at our house.
In our parable, Father and Son did yeoman work, sacrificing much to make ready the banquet. They paid a huge price, but offered it to us free of charge. We think too little of God’s gracious gifts and His royal hospitality.
God has neglected no detail. Scrutinize the fully satisfying banquet God by His free grace sets in front of us. One course is peace with others. “God sets the solitary in families” (Psalms 68:6). We are not alone; a special spiritual bond with others produces true fellowship, love, and usefulness.
Another course is peace with ourselves; we find life’s answers, truth, hope, and purpose. This inner spiritual benefit, freely made possible for us, is pictured in carefree guests attending a wedding party offered by the King.
The main course at God’s wedding banquet is peace with Himself. He grants us access to Himself by forgiving our sins’ guilt. At Jesus’ banqueting table we revel in the King’s presence and acceptance.
The last social barrier to be broken down in our homes is usually the table. By inviting us to the banquet, God lets us know the “table barrier” has been shattered. He invites us to come sit before Him, and party with Him.
I do not celebrate this banquet-gladness often enough. Pastor Hosea Bilyeu and I have discussed this tendency we feel we share in common. We both feel our preaching too often accents duty, to the neglect of delight.
We Pastors often stress discipline too much. This parable reminds us we should preach more about the gladness we believers are to be sensing. A beautiful thread of wedding bliss should be woven more into our messages.
A Pastor’s pulpit-directives to do God’s work should be accompanied with invitations to enjoy the God who gives us the work to do. Even our duty should be enjoyed as our delight. Beneath our deeds, joy should reside.
This ongoing celebration made the early Christians stand out from the people around them. They rejoiced in the life God expected of them, and had buoyant praise toward Jesus. They enjoyed God. This was radical and new.
This does not mean we are to be flippant or giddy. Christian living is not always glad or sad, nor always grinning or grinding. The two opposites co-mingle here. Someday we will enjoy Heaven in Heaven without interruption forever. Till then, we can enjoy Heaven on Earth often. Is not “Thy kingdom come” a prayer that Heaven will be brought down to Earth? As glad and sad co-mingle in our daily lives, try to let the glad dominate.
We serve a gracious good God. We believers need to act as if we enjoy knowing Him. This is by far our best hope of wooing others to Jesus.
But even this positive attitude cannot guarantee success. Despite God’s free bounty and our shown joy, some folks we can’t drag to Heaven.
Sinners can be like Lot. When leaving Sodom, angels had to haul him out. “He hesitated, so because of the Lord’s compassion for him, the men grabbed his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters. And they brought him out and left him outside the city” (GN 19:16). Even after this, “His wife looked back and became a pillar of salt” (GN 19:26). I can’t help but recall the warning, “Remember Lot’s wife” (LK 17:32). Move the right direction—toward God. People who fail to do so act at their own peril.
Matt. 22:3a He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the
banquet, . . .
Slaves summoned the already invited. Before precision timepieces were available, “save the date” invitations went out. A “come and get it” followed when the food was ready. Without refrigeration, opportunity was sandwiched into a limited window of time. This system worked because most people lived in crowded cities; they were close together, like sardines.
Without inviters, none would come to the wedding banquet. Inviters may be underrated by us, but are much appreciated by God and the invitees.
If we are welcomers to the banquet, we are highly useful. We give our best effort when we go, a work of love, in order to say come, a word of love.
Today more believers than ever live on planet Earth. Today more unbelievers than ever live on planet Earth. The former must reach the latter.
God not only provides for us. He sends the Holy Spirit and believers to go chase us down. When God first approaches us, our backs are turned to Him. We never initiate the relationship with Him. It always starts in Him. At the outset, we are running from Him, but His grace runs faster than our sins.