Matthew Lesson #129
July 24, 2016
“Father again, we express our gratitude to You for all that You have provided for us and that You’ve given us Your Word, Your Word that is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. and that You have given us the responsibility to learn Your Word, to study Your Word, to reflect and meditate upon Your Word, and to internalize Your Word that we may come to understand how You think, that we may change the way we think, so that we may live in a way that honors and glorifies You.
Father, as we continue our study in the Gospel of Matthew, we run into many interesting things, to many challenging things that our Lord has taught, and in this section as we study about His confrontation with the Pharisees, we need to be reminded that the enemy of grace is legalism and that we need to fully understand Your grace and Your goodness to all of us that is not deserved. We don’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We have done nothing to put You in a position where You’re required to do anything for us, but You do it out of the goodness and of Your own essence and Your own being.
Father, we’re thankful for all that You’ve given us, and now as we study Your Word, we pray that God the Holy Spirit would help us to understand it and to apply it to our lives.
And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re now in Matthew 22. Matthew 22 is in the middle of the last week of our Lord’s life upon the earth prior to the crucifixion. This began in Matthew 21 at the beginning, describing what traditionally we call Palm Sunday. There’s a lot of debate over exactly what day of the week that was, whether it was Sunday or Monday, and you will probably note that I haven’t taken a view of that yet. That is extremely complicated and a lot of people think they’ve nailed it down. Usually, there’s a problem. We will get there when we get to the end of Matthew. I hope that by then I will have completed more study on that. I’ve only been studying that issue for the last 45 years and taken different positions. So it’s not like I’m coming to this lightly or lately, it is a complex issue. So what’s the saying today? It’s complicated.
We’re in Matthew 22, though, and what has happened in the context is important for us to understand. The point that we’re going to see in this particular parable in Matthew 22:1–14 is the importance of having the right kind of garments, the right kind of clothes in order to enter into Heaven and have eternal life. That sums it up. We’re not going to close in prayer.
Matthew 21 describes what happens after Jesus enters into Jerusalem. On the second day we’re told that He is going to Jerusalem, and in the morning and He’s on the way, He sees this fig tree by the side of the road, and He goes there expecting to find fruit, expecting to find figs, and there’s no fruit on the tree, and so He curses it. This looks like some sort of nasty arbitrary act on the part of our Lord. It’s not. He is making a point through visual imagery. There’s no fruit. Therefore, there will be judgment.
The fig tree, as we saw, is a symbol for Israel, and there’s no fruit in Israel. They have rejected God. They have substituted a legalistic idolatry, an idolatry of Torah and not just Torah but the traditions of men that grew up around the interpretation of Torah. Torah is the Law of the Old Testament.
As a result, when John the Baptist came and said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” the Pharisees and Sadducees and the religious leaders came out to evaluate him, and he said to them, what? He said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” In other words, if you’ve changed your mind about the Kingdom and you’ve changed your mind and rejected the legalism of your pharisaical position, then there should be production consistent with that. They had not done that. So he’s announcing that there will be will be judgment.
Jesus picks up on that theme here with His announcement of judgment on the Pharisees. The Pharisees and the Sadducees, the religious tradition of Israel, and I believe that the pharisaical position is what survived the destruction of the Temple and basically morphed over the next few centuries into what we now know as Orthodox Judaism. It is something that is based on the tradition of the elders, not the text, but the tradition of the elders. And so we have to understand that historically, what happened is God punished the Old Testament Israel because of their physical idolatry. They were worshiping false gods made out of stone and out of wood and out of metal, and so they’re punished for that idolatry.
They were destroyed. This was the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC, and the Southern Kingdom in 586 BC. They were deported from their land that God had promised them. The Jews were primarily taken. “The Jews,” that word comes from the first syllable in the word Judah or Judea. The inhabitants of Judea were taken, many of them, and they were relocated to Babylon.
They came back 70 years later, reestablished the temple, the second temple, and as they were brought back, as the religious leaders came together under Ezra and others, they gradually over a period of about 200 years came up with the idea that we really don’t need to go through that again. That was a pretty nasty experience. When God disciplines you, it’s a bad thing. We don’t want to get kicked out of the land again. So we have to protect ourselves from ever getting back into idolatry.
What they decided to do was take their traditional interpretations of the Law, which were applications of the Law, and they began to establish those and in their terms, they built a fence around the Law, and that fence was made up of additional commands. And those additional commands we’re designed that if you don’t break those commands, you brought won’t break the Torah commands. After the first century AD they built a second fence. So you have these traditions that are given the same authority as Scripture.
Now is a point of application, we do a lot of that today in evangelical churches. You do it a lot in Catholic churches. In Roman Catholic churches, you never study the Bible. I got my second Master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in Philosophy, and often some of my classmates were nuns or were young men hoping to go into the priesthood, and one day we were in a discussion in class on a seminar on something, and I made a point based on a scriptural verse, and the nun sitting next to me leaned over and whispered in my ear, “We’re Catholics. We don’t read the Bible.”
They read the traditions of the popes and the priests and the theologians. Everyone from Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and many, many others, but they don’t read the text. That’s what’s happened in Judaism. They didn’t read the text. They read what the rabbi said, but they didn’t read the text.
Now in evangelicalism I’ll often hear pastors and others talk about, “Well, this pastor says that, that past pastor says this, this pastor over here says that.” “Well, have you read your Bible lately?” “No.” “Have you read ever read your Bible all the way through?” “No.” “How long have you been a believer?” “Oh, I’ve been a Christian most of my life.” “And you’ve never read the Bible? How do you know what God has said to you? The Bible was written to you.”
You know systematic theologies were not written to you like the Bible was written to you. Pastors have their understanding of the Word, and some are accurate and some are not. But it’s not about what this pastor said or that pastor said that leads to a cult of personality, which is another form of idolatry. That’s the cult of personality that you find in Judaism. That’s the cult of personality that we find in Roman Catholicism. It’s not based on the text of Scripture.
Here at West Houston Bible Church—I’m saying this because we have a number of visitors here—we believe in going through the Bible verse by verse and trying to understand what the Bible says.
We have to understand it in its original context, to the original people to whom it was addressed, and then we can have an accurate understanding of how to apply it. But if you don’t understand what it meant originally, then you can’t really understand what it’s supposed to mean for us today.
There’s only one interpretation, and we have to uncover that, and that’s pretty clear most of the time, and that will narrow the fields so that there are applications, and then in a broader field there are implications. But what we see here is an emphasis on a fundamental truth of salvation, that if we are going to go to Heaven, we have to have the right clothes on, the righteous garments. That’s the focal point here,
So what’s happened in this particular day is that Jesus came into the temple after cursing the fig tree. He came into the temple and there’s a confrontation with two groups that are mentioned here, the chief priests and the elders. Later, we will learn that the Pharisees are also there, and that doesn’t mean that the scribes and Sadducees weren’t around. They may have been, but those are the groups that are mentioned here, the chief priests and the elders.
Their question in verse 23 was, “By what authority are you doing these things?”
He cleaned out the temple, He chased the money changers out, He has been coming into the temple, and He’s been teaching the multitudes, He has great crowds around Him, and they’re challenging His authority.
We saw that what He did in a very sophisticated manner was He avoided the answer by saying first, “You tell Me whether John the Baptist was from God or not, and then I’ll answer your question.”
They got in a little huddle and said, “If we say He’s from God, we’re in trouble. If we say He’s not from God, we’re in trouble.” So they don’t answer.
So Jesus said, “I’m not going to answer you either.” But then He does answer them in a more subtle and sophisticated way through this collection of three parables that He began to go through. Each of these parables is going to describe something about authority.
Let’s look at four points related to these three consecutive parables.
First of all, each develops a more subtle answer to the question of Jesus’ authority. We have to think of them as a collection that must be interpreted together.
The reason I say that is when we get to this third parable this morning in Matthew 22, there are a group of theologians, not just those who are today, but there was a group of similar-minded men in the 1800s, and they taught, in a broad sense, their theology was somewhat accurate, but they often went to the Matthew 22:1–14 passage and applied it to the church and the Judgment Seat of Christ, and that is erroneous.
These passages have nothing to do with the church—that’s you and I—it has to do with God’s indictment and judgment of the religious leaders of Israel at that time. That is crucial to understand that. Okay so, it is answering the question related to His authority.
Second, each parable involves a father, a son or sons, and the rejection of the father’s authority. That’s how we know that each of these parables further develops a subtle answer to that question about His authority.
Third, each of these parables is addressed to the unsaved, nonbelieving religious leaders, not to the multitude. The reason I add that is those that abuse Matthew 22:1–14 to apply to the church, try to argue that that passage is directed to the multitudes, not the religious leaders. We will see that as we go through the passage.
Then fourth, each parable builds the case for God’s rejection of the religious leaders of Israel, even as they are rejecting His Son. See, they are rejecting the authority of Jesus, which means they’re rejecting the authority of God. So because they have rejected God and God’s grace, God is going to bring judgment on that nation and on the religious leaders, because when the leaders make bad decisions, the people suffer. If the leaders are not righteous and building their policies on righteousness and what the Word of God says, then they will bring judgment upon themselves and upon the nation. That’s an important point to remember in an election year.
In the first parable we see the point of the rejection of the father’s authority indicated a lack of faith. It talks about two sons. To the first son he says, “Go work in the vineyard.” The son said, “No, I’m won’t.” And then he goes and does it. That son pictures the rebelliousness of the sinners, the tax collectors, and the prostitutes.
Then there’s the second son, and he says, “Go work in the vineyard.” That son says, “Yes.” So he has the appearance of obedience, but he doesn’t do it. That’s the religious leaders. They had the appearance of religion and following God, but they don’t do what the Torah really says to do.
When Jesus applies this in verse 32, He says to the Pharisees, to the chief priests, and to the elders, He says, “For John came to you in the way of righteousness—that’s John the Baptist—and you did not believe him.”—what was the issue? Faith. Belief—“you did not believe him, but tax collectors and harlots—prostitutes—believed him.”
What makes a difference? Faith. Faith is the issue in salvation. It is not what we do. It is not our goodness or badness. We’re all bad in God’s eyes. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The phrase “glory of God” is a circumlocution describing His essence. We fall short of who He is. And God, who is perfectly righteous, cannot have a relationship with a creature who is less than perfectly righteous. So we have a righteousness problem.
In the Old Testament, Isaiah described this in Isaiah 64:6. He says, “All our works of righteousness—that’s all our good deeds, not the bad deeds. He says, “All your good deeds are like filthy rags”—filthy garments. They’re garbage.
The best that you have to offer (people think), “Ah! Impress God! I’ve given a lot of money, I’ve gone to church, I’ve done this, I’ve done that.” God says, “It’s all garbage!” Because if you’re inherently corrupt and a sinner, you can’t produce anything good. How can a bad tree produce good fruit?
So the first parable has to do with the rejection of the father’s authority, and the issue is faith. The prostitutes and tax collectors believed John, and so they are saved. The religious leaders did not [believe], and Jesus has given them even in a second or third chance here, and says even afterwards, you did not relent and believe him. The issue is belief, again and again. That’s the thing that’s emphasized.
Then He has a second parable, verse 33, here’s another parable. It’s the Greek word ALLOS, which means another parable of the same kind. So it shows us that He’s developing, and He goes from the first story to the second story. That’s all a parable is, it’s a story that is used to illustrate a spiritual truth. That doesn’t mean that every element in the story has some significance and meaning. But we have to understand the thrust of the story.
So in that parable, we saw that the landowner was God the Father, the vineyard is the Kingdom that has been offered but has been rejected by the religious leaders, the contract that the landowner makes with the vineyard workers is the Mosaic Law, and the point that the landowner has built a wall or fence around the vineyard, he’s built a winepress and a tower demonstrates the care and provision of God for the vineyard. In other words, God has historically cared for Israel to provide for His ultimate plan and purpose, which is the Kingdom.
The tenant farmers and the vine dressers, who so abuse those whom the landowner sends, are the religious leaders of Israel. They get that point. When you get down towards the end of the section, He says in Matthew 21:45 that the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, and they perceived that He was speaking about them. So they weren’t totally dense.
The servants that are sent represent the prophets in the Old Testament, and the son that is sent represents His Son, Jesus the Messiah, and they reject all of them. So there’s going to be judgment that is announced on them.
This announcement is made in Matthew 21:43, where the landowner, who is God the Father says, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you”—that is, you religious leaders failed and so the Kingdom is not coming now. The Kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament, that was offered by John the Baptist, and by Jesus is going to be postponed. It will come at some time in the future. When Jesus returns as the Messiah, He will establish the Kingdom.
The problem then and now, as I pointed out earlier is religious legalism gets in our way. This is the idea that we do something that can impress God, that He will bless us because of something that we do, and it’s just another form of idolatry.
The idolatry of the Israelites prior to the Babylonian captivity was an overt idolatry. But the idolatry that they got into after they came back was a religious mental idolatry where they have created a God of their own morals, their own ethics, their own standards, their own, eventually, their own culture. This was a religious legalism and a religious idolatry that God is going to judge.
The term “nation” that is used there doesn’t refer to the church. It refers to a later generation of Jews that will respond to Jesus as Messiah. That generation comes, and that will be the generation at the end of the Tribulation period. They will turn to the Lord, they will call upon His name, He will deliver them during the battle campaign of Armageddon, and then He will defeat the forces of the antichrist, and He will establish His Kingdom.
The judgment upon that generation is announced in Matthew 21:44, “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken”—and that is those who reject Jesus as Messiah. He is the stone. He’s the chief cornerstone—and those on whom the stone falls are those who will be judged by Jesus. It says that they will be crushed or scattered.
This was the punishment of the fifth cycle of discipline promised in Leviticus 26, that if the nation was rebellious enough, and disobedient enough, then God would take them out of the land. That is where they had been in diaspora for the last almost 2,000 years, for 1,900 years plus.
Now we come to the second parable. “Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables, and said.” Now this is an important verse to understand because it helps us place the context. It says, “Jesus answers and said to them.”
What we see here is that He is following up on the last parable which said, “Hear another parable.” Now He is developing from that.
In Matthew 21:45–46 we read, “Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.” The “they” and the “them” refer to the Pharisees and the chief priests and the elders—“but when they”—that is the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the elders—“sought to lay hands on Him, they”—that is, the religious leaders—“feared the multitudes because they”—that is, the crowd. See it shifted its meaning there. You have to be careful with that. Pronouns can get pretty ambiguous sometimes—“because they”—that is, the crowd—“took Him”—Jesus—“for a prophet.”
Now that’s important because when we look at Matthew 21:21 when Jesus answered and spoke to them, He’s not talking to the multitudes. You can perhaps take your pen and in your Bible you can circle the “them” in verse 1 and go back and connect it to all but the last “they” in verse 46.
He is still talking to the Pharisees. He’s not talking to a mixed multitude of believers and unbelievers. He is talking to unbelieving religious leaders. That’s crucial to the interpretation of this parable. If He’s talking to believers, then it has a different application. If He’s talking to unbelievers, then we will see the correct interpretation.
He goes on to say in describing the parable, He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.”
In this in this parable, it’s going to center around a wedding feast or a wedding banquet. Here the wedding feast or the wedding banquet represents the Millennial Kingdom. It represents that time of feast and fellowship with God. And so it is depiction over all of the Millennial Kingdom, and it fits within a pattern that we have seen in Matthew. This parable is about the Kingdom of Heaven.
The “Kingdom of Heaven” is a precise term that refers to a literal, physical kingdom on the earth, a geopolitical kingdom on the earth. This is what was promised in the Old Testament to Israel. God has promised that they would have a king in the Davidic Covenant. God promised that He would give them specific real estate, and that is the land that is over there today. We refer to it as Israel. But modern Israel doesn’t take up all of the land that was promised to Abraham.
The land promised to Abraham went from the river of Egypt, which is down in the Sinai, to all the way to the Euphrates and to the Mediterranean. So all of the land that comprises modern Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, a little bit of the northern part of Saudi Arabia, and portions of Iraq all would be part of this land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That was where the kingdom would be.
When you get into the New Testament, they don’t change the definition of the Kingdom to make it Heaven. It’s a literal physical geopolitical kingdom that was been established there for Israel.
There are 11 parables in Matthew that begin “The kingdom of heaven is like.” We have studied nine of them. This is the 10th one, and we have one more to go.
He’s describing characteristics of this Jewish Kingdom. He’s not talking about the church. He’s talking about this Jewish Kingdom that will come in the future. This describes the Kingdom of Heaven parables. All of them describe something about what is happening in relation to the Kingdom and its postponement, because John offered it. They rejected it; Jesus offered it. They rejected it. Then in Matthew 12 Jesus pronounced the judgment on the religious leaders and basically said because you’ve rejected the Kingdom, it’s going to be postponed to the future.
So there’s no Kingdom today. You’ll hear a lot of people, you’ll go to some churches and they’ll say, “Well, we’re doing this for the kingdom.” Huh? We’re not in a Kingdom. There is no king on the throne of David in Jerusalem, there’s no Kingdom. That comes from amillennial theology. That is not what the Bible teaches. That’s based on allegory and a nonliteral interpretation of the Scripture.
The Kingdom of Heaven describes what’s going to happen in the future when this Kingdom is established. It’s a story of the king who is going to celebrate the marriage of his son and there is this marriage feast. And we’re told a few things about what happens here—that he’s going to send out his servants to call those who we’re invited to the wedding.
We see the first use of this word “call,” and it refers to the invitation to come to the wedding. The reason that’s important is because a verse that has entered into sort of the idiom of religiosity and also into the culture is the last verse “for many are called but few are chosen.” The calling refers to the general invitation to all; it is rejected by many.
This is not referring to what Calvinists described as the “efficacious call.” They will go to this verse and others to substantiate a doctrine called the “efficacious call,” which means that when God is calling you, it will be efficacious and the elect will respond. They will go to that verse. But as we will see, that’s not what this is talking about.
The invitation is the general challenge to people to respond to the gospel, to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, that He came to earth, He’s the eternal God who entered into human history for the sole purpose of going to the Cross to die for our sins. He was our substitute just like the picture in the Old Testament of the Lamb that was without spot or blemish.
That pictures the Messiah, the sacrifice for sin that must be sinless Himself, and that when the person offering the sacrifice puts his hand on the lamb, then that is a picture of the transference of sin from the person bringing the sacrifice to the lamb. Then the lamb is killed to pay for the sins temporarily of that person. It was not permanent, so that Lamb is a picture, a prototype, as it were, a foreshadowing of Jesus, who was called the Lamb of God who what? Takes away the sin of the world. This is the basis for our salvation, the basis for our future in Heaven is that Jesus has paid for that. So “the son” here is a term that refers to Jesus as the Son of God.
So the servants are called to invite those to the wedding by proclaiming the gospel. But what happens? We’re told that they were not willing to come.
Now before we get any further into this, I want to go through the players. You know how it is when you go to a play, or go to a sports event. You have a listing of the team, who the quarterback is, who the pitcher is, who the first baseman is, who the running backs are, who the ballerina is, whatever it is. You have a program that tells you who the players are. So we have to understand that.
- The king in this parable is God the Father.
- The son in the parable is Jesus the Messiah, who is the Son of God.
- The wedding and the wedding feast represent the Kingdom.
- The servants that are sent out to call the people to the Kingdom represent the prophets of the Old Testament. They are the ones who challenged the people to turn back to God, and who gave the promises and prophecies of the coming Messiah.
This will be rejected eventually, and we will learn that armies will come to destroy the city. This refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
It’s going to talk about those who are not worthy. The reason they are not worthy is because they were not willing to come to the wedding feast. It didn’t have anything to do with whether they were good or bad. It didn’t have anything to do with whether they were of the right ethnicity. It has to do with their willingness to come.
The issue in salvation is volition. It’s not your background, it’s not your failures, it’s not anything that you have done or I have done. Nothing makes us savable. It is based on the grace of God. They were not willing. This is what John 3:18 says, they’re condemned because they have not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.
The wedding garment is what is described theologically and by the apostle Paul in Romans as imputed; that is, credited righteousness, and we will look at the great illustration of this as we go through the passage.
In Matthew 22:2–3 we’re told that the kingdom is like this king who sends out this invitation, but the people are not willing to come. That’s the Greek word THELO. It’s the word for volition. They have negative volition. They don’t want to go. That’s it. This is what happened a lot in the Old Testament. The prophets challenged the people to turn to God, and they said, “NO!” Just like a lot of people today, they don’t want to know about God. They don’t want to go to Heaven. They don’t want to believe in Jesus. They are just hostile to the gospel.
We see the second and third rejections related to the next sending out of the servants, “Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatty cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”
This describes again the grace of God. He’s done everything. He’s provided everything. You don’t have to bring any food, you don’t have to pay for it. Everything has been supplied. Everything is provided. Everything is ready for your salvation. You don’t have to do anything to come except respond to the invitation.
But what happens? In Matthew 22:5 we read that, “But they made light of it—they ignored it—and went their way.” They were too busy; they were too busy for God. They we’re too busy to be concerned about their eternal life. They were caught up with raising their kids, getting an education, paying the bills, having fun, watching television, going to movies, going out dancing, doing whatever they wanted to do, not that any of those things are wrong in themselves, but they were so distracted by the details of life, they just didn’t care about God.
So “they made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his business.” There’s nothing wrong with farming, there’s nothing wrong with business. But it was more important to them than paying any attention to what God had to say.
Then there’s another rejection, a more extreme rejection, and that’s in Matthew 22:6, “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” This is what happened in the Old Testament. Many of the prophets were martyred. They were killed. Isaiah was killed. They said he was sawed in two. Others were stoned. They were destroyed eventually, as we see the Son of God will be.
This is illustrated back in Matt 21:21, in the previous parable, back in Matthew 21:35–37, where He said the vine dressers took his servants, beat one, killed one and stoned another, and he, that is the landowner, God the Father, sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. And last of all he sent his son to them and they killed the son. So this fits with and develops the ideas that are in the second parable.
Then we see the king’s response, “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.”
This is the judgment of God. This is a summary statement of what is described in a series of five stages or cycles of discipline that God would bring upon Israel if they were disobedient to Him.
These are described in Leviticus 26:1–12. You have the blessings if they’re obedient, and following that you have these five cycles of judgment. The last one is that they would be taken from the land, the land that God had promised them promised, promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That land that represents the fullness of their blessing to them. God said, “I’ll take you out of the land and scatter you among the nations.”
That happened in 722 BC in the Northern Kingdom, 586 BC in the Southern Kingdom. Then in 538 BC they were brought back to the land. And now because of the rejection of Jesus as Messiah, Jerusalem would be destroyed in AD 70, and the people would be scattered throughout the world.
And they still are. But the regathering has begun. It began toward the end of the 19th century with the first Aliyah, and it continues today. We’re almost at a point, for the first time I think since 722 BC, that you have over half of the Jewish people in the world living in the land that God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I think that is extremely significant.
So what happens next, after the king announces his judgment, “Then he says to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who are invited were not worthy.” Those who were initially invited were the Jewish people. That’s the message of John the Baptist and Jesus, to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. They said, “No, we don’t want it.”
So now he sends out his servants to go into the highways and find as many, “and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.” Invite everyone, not just those original ones, not just the Jews, but invite everybody. Go throughout the world. That’s the message of the gospel today, to take the gospel to every nation.
The gospel isn’t an Americanized gospel. The gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ died for your sins, that you have forgiveness if you trust in Him as your Savior. It’s not a motivational message. It’s not a feel-good message. It is a message, though, that gives us hope for eternity and the promise of eternal life.
So everyone is to be invited. He says that those who were invited, at the end of verse 8, those who were invited; that is, the Jews of the Old Testament, were not worthy.
What made them not worthy? Were they not worthy because of their sins? Were they not worthy because of their idolatry? Were they not worthy because of their immorality and all of the sexual sins associated with the fertility cults? Is that what made them not worthy? Not in this context. What made them not worthy was they didn’t accept the invitation. They didn’t accept the gospel invitation. They didn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
That’s the same thing Jesus said earlier at the end of the first parable. He told the chief priests and the elders of the people. He said the reason that the tax collectors and sinners are going to get into the Kingdom of Heaven before you is because they believed and you didn’t believe. The issue isn’t what we do, or what we don’t do, or the sin in our life. The issue is whether we believe and accept God’s invitation to trust in Christ as Savior.
This is what John 3:18 says, “He who believes in Him—it doesn’t say he who believes and is good, he who believes and goes to church, he who believes and gives money, he who believes and, you know, claims Jesus. It doesn’t say any of that. It says in the Gospel of John over 85 times believe, believe, believe. It’s never qualified—“He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already”. See, we’re born in a state of condemnation—“he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Nowhere does it mention anything other than belief. That’s the Good News. Anyone can believe. Anyone can accept that invitation.
So in verse 10 we read, “So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good.”
See, there’s not a qualification. He didn’t say go find the good folks, go find the right kind of people, don’t go to the Europeans, don’t go to the Asians. He doesn’t qualify it by race or ethnicity or anything else. He said go to everybody, whether they’re good or bad.
The word there for “bad” is PONEROS, which means evil and being wicked, or it’s usually used in relation to sin or sinful. And AGATHOS, which refers to that which is intrinsically good, but in many cases it just refers to somebody who’s just a really good person.
He says invite everybody good and bad, “and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
See, the issue wasn’t what they had done. The issue is whether they’re going to accept the free invitation, the free gift. It’s a free dinner! It is a great dinner! It’s the greatest meal you’ll ever have, and it’s free. All you have to do is accept the invitation to come. That’s the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So morality, sinfulness, status in society, or religious works are not relevant to the reception of the invitation. You don’t have to improve your life or say, “I’m going to change my life. I’m going to repent of all my sin.” None of that is there. It’s just simply believe.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who is not did not have on a wedding garment.”
Everyone else has on a brilliant white garment and this guy’s got on a dirty, dingy, stained garment. He doesn’t have on the right clothes. In fact, there are a number of lines of evidence to show that in many circumstances like this, the person who is giving this kind of a banquet would provide the garments for those who came. Understanding these garments is really important because that’s the issue. You can’t get into the Kingdom if you don’t have the right kind of clothes.
He’s talking to the unbelieving Pharisees and elders and chief priests because they don’t have the right kind of clothes. They don’t believe. They have rejected the offer. They have not trusted in the offer, the gospel of the Kingdom. It is not the gospel we have today because Jesus hadn’t died yet. But it was that offer of the Kingdom.
“So the king says, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.”
The word here for friend is not a word based on PHILOS or AGAPAO; AGAPETOS is a word for beloved, often used in the New Testament to address believers. It’s not a word based on PHILOS, which is another word for an intimate friend. It’s the word HETAIROS, which is just a polite way of speaking to somebody else and doesn’t imply anything.
If you go down to Mexico and you go in a shop somewhere, and you go into the Mikado and somebody’s working in a shop, what are they going to call you? Amigo. Do they know you? No. Do they have a relationship with you? No. It’s just a common idiomatic form of address.
That’s all this is, just a polite form of address, “ ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless.”
Some people would say, “See, he wouldn’t even be there if he was unsaved.” No, you’re missing the point of the parable. Parables don’t walk on all fours. They are stories to illustrate a point, and the point is that if you don’t have the right clothes, you don’t get into the wedding feast.
“ ‘How did you come here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” This idea of having a certain kind of garment is based on Old Testament passages.
Isaiah 61:10 we read, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.—See you don’t clothe yourself with the garments of salvation, you have to have the right kind of clothes, God-given clothes, that are righteous—He’s covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
Now if you have been listening to me, studying with me for any length of time, you know that the issue in salvation is righteousness. Some people are better than others. We have relative righteousness, but the righteousness God requires is His righteousness. At the point that we trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, He gives us His righteousness. We are saved, not because we have righteousness, but we’re clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
This is also illustrated in Zechariah 3:1–5, where Joshua the high priest is being challenged by Satan before God, and God gives new clothes to Joshua the high priest. It’s a picture of the fact that when we trust Christ as Savior, we are clothed with His righteousness.
So when somebody asks you how do you know you’re going to go to Heaven? You say because I have Jesus’ righteousness. That’s it. And how do you get it? Because you believe Jesus died on the Cross for your sins. Just as your sins were imputed to Jesus and He paid for them, His righteousness is imputed to you from that point on. It doesn’t have to do with what you do or don’t do, what sins you commit or don’t commit, because Jesus paid for all the sins. Period, over and out. At the end before He died, He said TETELESTAI in the Greek, which means paid in full. The debt’s canceled. Sin is paid for. There is punishment, though, for those who don’t have that righteousness.
“Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”
Now this is a debated passage by some people who hold to a free grace gospel. Some say that this is a punishment for believers who have been sinful all their lives, and they are punished at the Judgment Seat of Christ. That’s wrong. You have some that say, “Oh they’re cast into hell for a thousand years, and then they can come back.” That’s heresy. You have others say, “No, they’re just going to have shame for a thousand years.” No, that’s heresy. That’s trying to take this passage that’s addressed to Israel and applying it to the church and the Judgment Seat of Christ. That is the worst form of taking something out of context.
I had a professor at Dallas Seminary, Zane Hodges, who believed that. There are many within the so-called “free grace camp” that believe that and teach that. And they consistently abuse the Kingdom parables in the Gospels and try to make them apply to the Church Age.
This is a depiction of eternal judgment.
Earlier it was used in Matthew 8:12, “But the sons of the kingdom—that’s referring to ethnic Jews who had, as it were, the first right of refusal in terms of the Kingdom. They were unbelievers in the context of Matthew 8. “The sons of the kingdom’” were those who were Jews who had a birthright to the Kingdom, but then, because they didn’t believe Jesus or John the Baptist, they forfeited that birthright. It says—“the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Clearly unbelievers.
Then we have the last verse, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
What this means when He says “many are called,” that means many are invited. All are invited. The gospel is for everyone—to the Jew first and also to the Gentile—for everyone. “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
Now if you come from a Calvinist background, or if you come from a lot of backgrounds, you will look at this “we’re chosen,” you’ll be told, “This means elect. This means that many are invited, but only a few or elect; that is, chosen by God.”
I believe that is a mistranslation, based on tradition that goes back at least as far as Augustine in the fourth century. That this is an abuse of the term, and it’s the Greek word EKLEKTOS, which can mean elect, but it means a choice one, something that is choice. We will look at this in just a minute.
As we see the Greek words, you have a variety of Greek words that are used, and one of the meanings for EKLEKTOS is the idea of that which is choice.
In terms of English word meanings, the word “choice” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as something of very good quality or very high quality, something that is excellent, something that is the best, something that is special, or something that is valuable.
The ones that are valuable, the ones that are choice, are the ones that responded to the invitation. What made them choice was that they had righteousness. They were given righteousness.
This idea of choice is not something I just made up because that’s what I prefer, that this is one of the meanings for the Old Testament word. Remember, many of these New Testament words are based on Old Testament words. The Old Testament word here is bachir, which means choice, select, and most excellent one.
Several years ago when I was in Israel—those of you who know me, know how I love ice cream—I fell in love with Magnum Bars. One of my favorite flavors was the one that had almonds in it. This is a picture here of that almond bar with the Hebrew. The Hebrew word that’s written on there says shaqadim, which is the word for almond, mobecharim. So I asked my guide, because I’m always trying to improve my Hebrew vocabulary, “What does mobecharim mean?” It means choice. So here the phrase means choice almonds. The best almonds are what’s in the ice cream. And I said, “That’s really interesting because I’ve come to understand that the idea of being elect, often as it is used in the New Testament has that idea of being choice, and is that true in the Old Testament?”
One example of many is in Judges 20:16, which is talking about raising up the armies, it says, “Among all these people; that is the army, there were 700 choice men, 700 excellent men, who were left-handed.” Many other times that word is used, and it means choice.
What made these people in Matthew 22:14 choice was the quality of their garments. They had imputed righteousness. The contrast is between those who had imputed righteousness and those who did not.
So the question that each of us has to answer is the question of what kind of clothes do you have for eternity? The question is, are you “choice”? What makes you “choice” is not what you’ve done, what you didn’t do. It’s not the sins you committed or the sins you didn’t commit. It’s not were you born in the right social economic sphere or the right ethnicity? The issue in the gospel is, do you have Jesus’ clothes? Do you have the righteousness of Christ?
The only way to have that is to believe on Him, and when we do, then we’re no longer condemned. It’s a simple act of being willing to accept the invitation, and that’s the most important question we will ever answer.
Now if you’ve answered that, and you know that you have the righteousness of Christ, then the next question for you is what do I do now? That’s what most of the New Testament is written about. It’s how to grow and mature as a believer through the study of God’s Word. That’s the mandate, as we’ve been studying on Thursday nights in 1 Peter 2:2, we are to crave the milk of the Word. We’re to crave the Word so that we may grow by it, because you can’t grow any other way than by studying and learning and applying the Word of God.
“Father, we’re thankful for this time we’ve had today to reflect upon the gospel and what it is and what it isn’t, and the fact that our eternal salvation is not dependent upon anything that we do. It is not based on our good works, it’s not based on our desire to clean up our life or be moral, it’s not based on our failures, it’s based simply on Your grace, that Jesus paid the price in full. He paid for our sins, each and every one of them. The sin was paid for on the Cross so that by simply believing in Him we have eternal life.
That’s what John said, “These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His Name.” The issue is very, very simple.
Father, we pray that that as believers we will also recognize that we are to grow, that we are to grow by Your Word by walking by the Spirit. If we’re not studying and learning Your Word, then we don’t receive spiritual nourishment and we will, as it were, die on the vine. We will still be saved, but there won’t be any spiritual growth, and we won’t fully experience the blessings that You have for us because we have failed to study and learn Your Word and abide in Christ.
Father, we pray that You will challenge us with these things. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”