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, March 23, 2018

A Most Unusual Wedding

Of all of life's celebrations, weddings are probably the biggest. Most weddings are huge affairs with a giant banquet and often the festivities go on for several days. The detailed planning consumes many hours and the event can cost a small fortune. Often guests receive a "save the date" note long before the formal invitation is sent out.

Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven was like a king that was hosting a wedding banquet for his son. I've never been to a royal wedding or reception, but the pictures are amazing. The expense and preparation are the best the kingdom can afford.  To be invited to the royal wedding festivities is an honor that is given to a choice few people. It is the privilege of the family, the influential, and the well-connected.

In the parable, the king sent messengers to the invitees and told them to come because everything was ready. Surprisingly, the invitees would not come. They ignored the messengers and the messengers returned to the king with the strange news that none of those invited were going to come.

The king was gracious. He sent a second round of messengers. These messengers described the beauty of the setting and the delightful food that had been prepared. Some of the invitees simply ignored the servants and went about their normal business. Others became aggressive and beat some of the servants and killed others. When the king heard of it, he became irate. He sent soldiers and destroyed those who ignored his invitation and treated his servants shamefully. It was a personal affront.

Jesus says that this is what the kingdom of heaven is like. A king has prepared a wedding banquet, but the influential and well-connected ignore the invitation. There is more to the story, but it is important to stop and reflect on the fact that Jesus says that God will rightfully destroy those who reject his offer. Is this your image of God? Does your picture of God include the idea that he will destroy his enemies? If not, the "god" you have mentally created is not the God of the Bible. It is an idol.

Thankfully, that is not the end of the parable. The king looks at his empty banquet hall and directs his servants, "The wedding feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite as many as you can find. My wedding hall must be filled!"

The servants went out into the streets and invited everyone they met to come to the banquet. Soon the wedding hall was crowded with people. Instead of the rich and famous who would usually gather at kingly feasts, the room was full of common people from all walks of life. Unaccustomed to the royal setting, they were awed by the splendor of the room and overwhelmed by the generosity of the king.

We like this part of the parable. The kingdom of heaven is just for the wealthy or the wise. We read in the Bible that it is open to people from every nation. Jesus invited everyone to come. The common laborer and the company president were all welcome. The riches and splendor of the king dazzle the senses and we are given access to it. It is truly incredible what the graciousness of the king has done for us.

But that is not the end of the parable. The king looks out on his overflowing banquet hall and notices someone who is not dressed for the wedding. "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?" When a wealthy person, like a king, put on a wedding banquet in those days, it was customary to provide wedding clothes for those who could not afford them. Here was a man standing in the banquet hall without proper clothes. How was this possible?

The man had nothing to say. There was no fitting explanation. This man was at the wedding banquet without bothering to put on clothes for the occasion. He has no excuse.

The king was furious. He told his attendants, "Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the utter darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Like the people who did not bother to attend the wedding feast, the man who did not dress for the occasion also suffers the judgment of the king and is destroyed.

Jesus said this is what the kingdom of heaven is like.

This should be a sobering thought for us. There are those who reject the invitation to the wedding banquet and will be destroyed. More troubling is the thought that there will be those who are at the banquet but will be cast outside because they were not properly attired. To put it in our setting, there will be those who attend church and Christian gatherings but who will be thrown into hell because they are not appropriately dressed.

Are we properly attired? This does not mean that we are happy with what we are wearing or following the latest fashion trend. The question is whether what we are wearing satisfies the king. It is his opinion that matters, not ours.

What is the proper attire?

There are several important passages that answer this question. Revelation 19:8 speaks of the great wedding feast and that the bride has clothed herself in the fine linen of righteous deeds. So the wedding attire has something to do with righteous acts. The problem is that none of us are righteous (Romans 3:23).

Isaiah rejoices that God has clothed him in garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). This robe of righteousness that we are to wear is a gift of God that is expressed in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). It is received by repentance (taking off our old clothes) and faith (putting on the new garment). We are warned about trying to attend the banquet with any other clothes (Galatians 1:8-9; Zephaniah 1:7-9). Trying to attend the banquet without wearing the garments of salvation will result in judgment. Have we repented and accepted the gospel?

We must also consider what our evangelism goal is. Many church services are celebrations with banners that read, "Welcome to the Wedding Banquet!" A festive and love-filled atmosphere fills the room as people contemplate the richness of the King. Many are attracted to the festivities. Good music, inspiring stories, a group of friendly people will draw a crowd. Like the messengers, we invite people and may see many people come to church. However, we must not be content with seeing people attend church. We must help people see their need to repent and believe the gospel so that they will be properly dressed for eternity.

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