The Quest For Guests
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
No expense was spared for the banquet, and no effort to invite guests was spared. The first 7 verses in this parable dealt with those who coldly refused to come to the banquet. The last 7 verses will deal with those who did come. In verse 7, the King showed wrath, but now mercy will prevail.
Matt. 22:8 (Holman) Then he told his slaves, “The banquet is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy.”
We must carefully interpret the words “not worthy” here. They refer not to immorality, but to rejecting grace. None is ever morally worthy of salvation.
In this parable, the unworthy are those who try to come to God in ways other than the one way He has prescribed. All such efforts are sinful. The worthy, the ones God accepts, are those who come to Him in the only way He appoints.
Any who refuse to come God’s way make light of grace. Snubbing grace is the only thing that makes us too unworthy to receive grace. Unbelievers are often too proud, too self-sufficient, to receive salvation by grace. If we think the Gospel is beneath us, unworthy of us, we prove us unworthy of it.
The worthy are the ones who feel unworthy. Being willing to be saved God’s way is the only worth we need. The banquet details are prepared. The only thing lacking is our willingness to receive the finished work of Jesus.
Luke 7:1-10 illustrates this worthy/unworthy contrast. A centurion sent elders to Jesus to ask Him to come heal his slave, who was near death. The elders said, “He is worthy for You to grant this, because he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.” They felt worth was based on merit. While on His way to the house, Jesus received word from the centurion, “I am not worthy to have You come under my roof.” Jesus healed the slave, deeming the centurion worthy not because of his works, but because he felt unworthy.
Matt. 22:9a “Therefore, go to where the roads exit the city. . .”
Always see what a “therefore” in the Bible is there for. Some refused to attend the banquet, “therefore” the Father found others to come. He refused to let His Son be dishonored or disappointed. What the slaves deemed catastrophic was used by the King to invite more guests than ever.
The King’s kindness did not depend on the fickle nature of invitees. He was determined to find people who would appreciate having His favor bestowed on them. “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9).
In this verse, the King sent out the same slaves who had previously invited people and failed. We become discouraged too easily. Have you been rebuffed enough times to stifle your evangelistic fervor? Don’t assume all will be as hardened as the unbelievers you have tried in vain to reach before.
Learn two vital lessons here. One, do not let disappointment stop you. Two, do not keep inviting only the same unbeliever. Never give up on anyone you have long worked with. God has assigned that soul to your care. At the same time, invite others too. Many banquet seats remain empty.
The King told his slaves to hit the “roads” (plural) again, to head out of town, branch off as they reached forks in the roads, and seek people in every possible direction. The multitude of guests the King wanted to invite to the banquet were scattered. Thus, to find them, the slaves had to scatter.
The Twelve and other early believers followed roads to Rome, Athens, Antioch, Corinth, etc. Eventually, someone came down the roads you and I lived on. In Nicaragua I learned what we are to do at the end of the road. Larry White shifted into four-wheel drive and took off through a field.
Ever be finding or creating new roads to go down. Locate new people to share with. Do not wait for unbelievers to come to us. Unfortunately, many churches employ the word “come” as their primary outreach motto.
We believers must escape our church buildings. Our edifices are a superb gift, unless they become our fortress-prisons. I am grateful for church buildings. They make possible a large assembly, as believers in Acts enjoyed in the Temple and in synagogues. Paul, choosing to maintain a big crowd in Ephesus when he left the synagogue, did not withdraw solely into homes; he occupied for two years a school, the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9).
I am not one of those who advocate abandoning our buildings. They keep us warm in winter, cool in summer, and dry in rain and snow. Some say, “Christians had no buildings for 300 years,” and point to this as an ideal era. Their claim about no church buildings is true, but it is also noteworthy that once believers started using church buildings, they never looked back.
Our original intent for church buildings was sound. We meant to make them our common houses. Rules of hospitality in homes were to apply there. They were to be kind, welcoming places for believers and unbelievers.
I admit, a church building is a convenience not required. I also believe it is a powerful tool if used as a launching pad, and not as a fortress-prison.
I will linger on this point, and use it to make an application pertinent to our specific situation. It is ironic that one of the “roads” I am going to ask you to go down soon is not a church building, but a building nonetheless.
I am making a special appeal for Easter. It is the Sunday when the unchurched are most likely to go to church if invited by an acquaintance.
We’ll have our Easter services April 20 this year at Drury University. We have learned through past experience that it is easier to convince the unchurched to come to a neutral building rather than a church building.
We are spending a lot of our church’s money to help us get our friends to come. We feel it is worth every penny of it. Souls hang in the balance.
For years I have recorded on a piece of paper our Easter attendances. Some of our largest crowds were when we had services at the Hammonds Center on the Missouri State University campus. This tells us you are more likely to be successful in inviting guests if we meet at a neutral facility.
For this Easter effort to please God, we must begin with much prayer. We need to pray for ourselves, that we will be filled with the Spirit. Before 3000 were saved at Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Before we begin seeking after others, let’s seek after God. “Enquiring saints lead on enquiring sinners” (Spurgeon). As we pray for us, also begin to pray by name for individuals we should invite. Pray for them earnestly.
After praying for them, invite them to come. This is what the slaves in our parable were commanded to do. Let folks know we want them to come.
If they come, sit with them. The ones you invite are your special responsibility for that day. After the service, eat with them. Take them out for a meal, or better yet, have them in your home. If these options interrupt an Easter family tradition, please try to move your tradition to Palm Sunday.
Ruth and I will lead the way. We are praying for our small group, several of whom do not attend church. We are going to invite them to attend the later service and sit together. Then Ruth and I will take them to lunch.