For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Invitation to the Chateau

One of the things that people love to do here is explore the many chateaus. Some are in ruins, but have been maintained and kept up. Why are these chateaus so popular? I think it is because they fire the imagination. What would it have been like to live there? What would it have been like to be an invited guest and to dine among the opulence of the castle surrounded by the aura of royalty? It is an experience that few will ever experience, so touring and imagining are popular pastimes.

Jesus used this desire to teach us about the his kingdom. In Matthew 22 he tells a parable comparing his kingdom to an earthly kingdom. "The kingdom of heaven is like 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." A surprising beginning to the story. Jesus had been in conflict with the rulers of the day, and the parable seems to be aimed at them.

He continues, "Again, he sent other servants saying, 'See, I have prepared my dinner and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.' Incredibly, the invitees ignored the invitation, instead focusing on their farms and businesses. They had not time or interest in attending the wedding. Still others seized and mistreated the messengers to the point of killing them. The king, angered by this, sends his troops and destroys the murderers and burns the city.

Remember, this is Jesus talking about what the kingdom of heaven is like! We can understand the anger and actions of the king against those who ignore his benevolence. But we also are relaxed because we know the rest of the parable. The king tells his servants, "Go to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. My banquet hall must be full!" So the servants gather people from all walks of life urging them to come to the wedding feast. And soon the banquet hall is filled with guests to celebrate the wedding of the king's son.

We love that story. The thought of the king inviting anyone and everyone to join in the great feast fills our heart with gladness and joy. The poor, the socially-awkward, the foreigner, the peasant, and the pauper all join together in the glorious banquet of the king.

But that is not the end of the story. In fact, it isn't even the point of the parable.

The king walks into the banquet hall, now filled with guests enjoying themselves. The king smiles, looking at the scene. Then he notices someone there who is not dressed for the banquet. He scowls, and asks the ill-dressed man, "Friend, how did you get in here dressed like that?" Silence fills the room. The king turns to his 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."

Now the parable troubles us because it does not seem right. That is exactly why Jesus told it. He wanted us to know that there was something wrong with the way we think about the kingdom of heaven. He is trying to teach us two important ideas.

He wants us to know that those who reject the kingdom will suffer the vengeance of the king. But he also wants us to know that those who are not dressed for the banquet will be thrown out. He wants to warn us that there are those who will have been attracted by the food, the glamor, and the music of the feast, but do not belong there because they are not properly dressed. What makes this even more astounding is that it was customary for the wealthy king to provide wedding garments to those who could not afford the proper clothing. So this person did not even avail himself of that. He was there for the atmosphere, but had no desire to honor the king or his son.

Isaiah 61:10 says, "I will rejoice greatly in the Lord; my soul shall exalt in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness." This righteousness is only available through the gospel. Romans 1:16-17 tells us that the gospel is the power of God for salvation because it reveals the righteousness of God. Only by repentance and faith in the gospel message can we attend the wedding banquet.

Some will reject this message, just like some heard the invitation in the parable and rejected it. They will suffer the vengeance of God. Others will be drawn by the food and a chance to "see inside the castle", but they have no interest in honouring the king or actually putting on the robe of righteousness that he has provided. These are those who fill churches today who like the music and the atmosphere, but have not desire to honor the king or wear the robe of righteousness that he has provided. They, too, will be thrown out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"This is what the kingdom of heaven is like," said Jesus. The king did invite the people from far and wide to the wedding banquet. His generosity is overwhelming. But he also visited vengeance on those who rejected or despised his offer. In an age that stresses the inclusion of everyone, this type of kingdom does not sound modern and feels "mean". But Jesus said this is what it is like, and we are wise to take him at his word. The gospel message needs to be taken to the highways and alleys of the city that the banquet hall will be full. But only those who come and actually put on the wedding garments will be seated at the table. The rest will suffer the vengeance of God.

“Unfortunately, the ten-cent-store Jesus being preached now by many men is not the Jesus that will come to judge the world. This plastic, painted Christ who has no spine and no justice, but is a soft and pliant friend to everybody, if He is the only Christ, then we might as well close our books, bar our doors and make a bakery or garage out of our church buildings. The popular Christ being preached now is not the Christ of God nor the Christ of the Bible nor the Christ we must deal with finally. For the Christ that we deal with has eyes as a flame of fire. And His feet are like burnished brass; and out of His mouth cometh a sharp two-edged sword (see Rev. 1:14-16). He will be the judge of humanity. You can leave your loved ones in His hands knowing that He Himself suffered, knowing that He knows all, no mistakes can be made, there can be no miscarriage of justice, because He knows all that can be known... Jesus Christ our Lord, the judge with the flaming eyes, is the one with whom we must deal. We cannot escape it.” 
― A.W. TozerAnd He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John

No comments:

Post a Comment