You’re invited to the Feast!

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Download Matthew Part 77

Matthew #77 Matthew 22:1-14

When we deal with texts that are longer than just a few verses, I don’t usually include them in the written version of the notes. I think it would help you if you opened your Bible and read the text yourself, and follow along as we go over it.

This chapter begins with some important words: “Once more, Jesus spoke to them in parables.” This is important because when we read the Bible, we need to pay attention to the genre of what we are reading; Matthew tells us it is a parable. A parable is a story that is told to illustrate just a few main points. The story is not meant to correspond to reality in every detail, and we can misinterpret a parable if we try to find meaning in each small detail. For instance, we may read verse six and say: “That’s not realistic. They would never mistreat or kill the king’s messengers, just because they were invited to a wedding they didn’t want to attend.”

Of course it isn’t realistic: it is a parable. The story is told to illustrate spiritual truths. It is not intended to be understood literally. On the other hand, this over-the-top treatment of the messengers is meant to illustrate something: that the behavior of those who reject God’s invitation is outrageous, as offensive as the behavior of the people in the story.

This is the third parable in a row in this part of Matthew. Like the other two, it is aimed at those who claim to be God’s people but do not act like it. In the parable of the two sons, the main point was the difference between saying you will do what God wants, and actually doing it. In the parable of the vineyard tenants, it was similar: God gives his people all that is necessary to produce good fruit, and expects to see that fruit. Here, Jesus addresses the relationship between God and his people.

He says the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a King throwing a wedding feast for his son. I think he has in mind God the Father inviting his people to the great celebration of the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, who is the Son.

First, the original guests were invited. Here, I believe Jesus was speaking to his immediate audience: the religious leadership. He has been doing so all along, and there is no indication that his audience has changed. So, he is illustrating the fact that the people of Israel were chosen by God. They were the first to be invited to the feast. But they rejected the invitation. Many of them simply weren’t interested – they had other things they wanted to do. Some of them were offensive about it – they mistreated, and even killed the messengers sent by the King. I think Jesus wants to remind his listeners of the many prophets who were rejected by God’s people. Most certainly, he is pointing out that they have rejected the Son of the king.

In the next part of the parable, the king sends messengers to invite “everyone you find.” Jesus says they gathered everyone they found: “both evil and good.” In other words, this invitation is open to everyone.

However, the fact that the invitation is open to all does not mean that there are no standards for the wedding feast. The expectation is that the guests should be wearing clothing that is appropriate to the occasion.

The great Christian thinker, Augustine, suggested that on such an occasion, the host of the wedding feast would provide a “wedding garment.” Therefore, if someone was not wearing “wedding clothes,” they had overtly and deliberately rejected what was provided by the host. Unfortunately, Augustine lived about 300 years after the time of Jesus, and does not tell us how he knows that this was the case during the time of Jesus. I myself could not find any reliable evidence one way or another about whether the clothing was supposed to be provided by the host or the guests.

Even so, I don’t think it matters much either way. Remember, we are dealing with a parable. I don’t think we need to get bogged down in details like where the appropriate clothes were supposed to come from. I think it is safe to assume that one way or another, the person who was not wearing the right clothing had made a deliberate choice about what to wear.

I think even today we can see how offensive this would be. Imagine you are invited to a Royal wedding, like the wedding of Prince William of England to Kate. Would you show up to such an event wearing ratty old jeans with holes in them, and a dirty T-shirt? Of course you wouldn’t; and the reason is that you know it would be disrespectful. Wouldn’t the royal family have every right to turn you away if you showed up to the wedding in those types of clothes? After all, it is their private family occasion; you are there by invitation, not because you have a right to be there.

Or, suppose one of the movie stars from Star Wars decided to hold a party. Anyone is welcome, however, everyone must be dressed like one of the characters from the movies. The rich and famous are going to be at that party. You might meet any number of movie stars. The food and drink will be awesome; the evening will be one to remember for your whole life. Is it too much to ask that you dress as the host requested? Would it not be ungrateful to show up in ordinary clothes? Wouldn’t the host have every right to kick you out if you made no effort to comply with his wishes?

So, it seems to me that the parable is making these three main points:

  • The Jewish people, God’s chosen ones, did not respond to him, and in some cases, even violently rejected his messengers.
  • God is seeking out those who will respond to him. The invitation is open to everyone.
  • Though the invitation is open to everyone (“both good and evil”), it is still required that we accept it on God’s terms.

I think it is hard for us today to understand how radical it was for Jewish people in the first century to accept that God now wanted to treat even non-Jews as his chosen people. The religious leaders at that time felt secure in that they had the temple; they also felt secure as God’s specially chosen people. However, as in the previous two parables, Jesus is saying: “None of that matters if you actually reject God. And not only that, the time has come when God is going to welcome anyone who will receive Me in faith.”

Now, of course this is not particularly radical to modern Christians. So how does the first part of this parable apply to us today? Just as in Israel during Jesus time, today there are many people who feel secure because they are religious in one way or another; however, in spite of their religion (or perhaps because of it), they have rejected God’s will and purposes for their lives. Jesus’ words were offensive to the religious leaders of his day. My next words may be offensive to some of you. I’m not setting out to be offensive, I only want to make sure that we get the full impact of the teaching of Jesus in our lives today.

Just as in Jesus’ time, some people today feel spiritually safe and self-satisfied for all of the wrong reasons. Some of them say things like: “I go to church pretty regularly. All in all, I’m a pretty decent person. I’ve done the best I can.”

Others might say: “Well, at least I’m not a hypocrite. I’ve never pretended to be a better person than I am. And I try to do right. The Bible says God is loving, and people who follow him are supposed to be loving; well, I am loving. I’m probably better off than a lot of those hypocritical church-goers.”

Still others might say: “I got saved when I was 13 years old. I prayed the prayer, and I got baptized. I know I haven’t been perfect since then but praise God, when I die I’m going to heaven.” Now, someone like this might indeed be going to heaven. But if their lives show no evidence at all that Jesus is living in them, and leading them into greater holiness, then I’m concerned for them. “Getting saved” is not a ticket that you buy, after which you can live however you want. If you are really saved, it means that Jesus owns your life.

The problem with each one of these things, is that while the people may trust in one form or another of religion, or right-living, they’re rejecting the life of faith and obedience in Jesus Christ.

Some of the people in Jesus’ parable chose not to come to the wedding because they were busy with their lives. Everyday things interfered with them accepting the King’s gracious invitation. At one level, they were supposed to be the friends and guests of the King. But when it came to actually doing something with the King, they preferred other things. This part of the parable concerns me greatly. Everywhere I look, I see people who say they are Christians, but their lives are really no different from others who say they aren’t Christians. They are still living essentially for their own goals and purposes. Sometimes those goals and purposes are not bad. They want a good family, and a stable, secure life. God is fine, as long as he is merely an accessory to that life, or perhaps as a means to getting that life. But they don’t want a King who has the right to tell them to change that life in any way he pleases. They don’t actually want a regular, meaningful relationship with the King.

I think the very last part of the parable goes along with the first. The man who went to the feast without any concern or respect for the King is also someone that we can learn from. Too many people today talk and act as if God must accept us based upon our standards, rather than his own. We think the deal is that Jesus died for our sins, and now we can live however we please. We think that receiving salvation from Jesus does not have to involve any change in our lives. The last part of the parable shows us that this is not true. Trusting Jesus should change us. The change may be slow, it may come in fits and starts, but if we truly trust Jesus, if we have truly allowed him to be our king, it will make a difference in our lives. And if our faith makes no difference in our lives, it is a warning sign.

There are two types of people who read this blog, who might misunderstand what I’m saying here. Some of you are dear, beloved Jesus-followers, but you are afraid that you are not. Every time you hear a sermon like this one you think: “Is that me? Has Jesus really changed me at all?” Let me remind you that Jesus has already reached the perfect standard on our behalf. You don’t have to be perfect. In addition, it is often hard for us to see, from within, what Jesus is doing in our lives. We often are not the best judges of whether or not we are bearing fruit.

Others who read this blog may be very inclined to excuse themselves. Their reaction might be: “At first I thought maybe that was me. But then I remembered the basic thing is just that God loves me, so I’m fine as I am.” These are people who either justify, or blow off the fact that they live in a regular pattern of ongoing sin.

The apostle Paul has some words for both types of people.

16I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The desires of the Spirit and flesh are opposed to each other. So if you desire what the Spirit desires, your heart can be at rest. If, when you fail and engage in works of the flesh, you are upset, and think, “I didn’t want to do that,” then you know that the Spirit is at work in you, making you desire what is right. Paul goes on:

19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We don’t have to wonder – the works of the flesh are obvious. Many of them are listed right here. If you practice such things – that is, if they are a regular part of your life – then you should be concerned. Next, Paul describes the life that is surrendered to Jesus:

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit (Gal 5:16-25, HCSB)

The basic point is that the works of the Holy Spirit, and the works of the flesh, are obvious. If the fruit of the Spirit are increasing in you – even in small amounts – that’s a very good sign. If you desire to be better than you are – more like the Spirit, less like the flesh, then that is also a very good sign.

But if you are practicing (verse 21) – that is, repeated engaging in, living in a pattern of – the works of the flesh, then in all honesty, you ought to be concerned.

The point is, it should be pretty obvious whether the fruit of the Spirit is gradually increasing in you, or whether the works of the flesh are present in the regular pattern of your life. Even your reaction when you sin can guide you. If you think “Rats, I really wish I hadn’t done that. I really want to be better,” the Spirit of God is at work in you. But if you think “No big deal. Everyone does it,” then you are in spiritual danger.

But this parable can be good news, very, very good news for us. The party is open to everyone. Everyone. Jesus even says: “both evil and good.” Your sin, your failures do not disqualify you, if you are willing to come on God’s terms. Of course, if we come, he will change us from evil into good, but we don’t have to make that change ahead of time. Instead, we come as we are, and allow him to make those changes in our lives. Those who are willing to come, and come on his terms, are welcomed into his joy.

Good and Evil grow together in the Real world



We should be comforted by these words, knowing that it is okay to be honestly ignorant, and to ask Jesus for help understanding. We should be blessed in knowing that our real life experience of seeing good and evil jumbled together is normal. We should rejoice in the word promises that through Jesus we are made righteous and shall shine like the sun in our Father’s kingdom.


To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Matthew Part 43


Matthew #43 . Matthew 13;24-58

24 He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. 26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from? ’

28 “ ‘An enemy did this! ’ he told them.

“ ‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up? ’ the slaves asked him.

29 “ ‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’ ”

At the beginning of Matthew 13, Jesus told a somewhat long parable, and then there is some discussion of why he spoke in parables, and after that, the parable is explained. This next section, Matthew 13:24-43 is similar in structure. Jesus tells one long parable and then two short ones, and then Matthew describes his manner of teaching as a fulfilment of prophecy. After that, the long parable is explained to the disciples. I’m not sure why Matthew took that approach, but obviously he did.

In fact there is something interesting about the entire section of Matthew 13:24-58. There are six parables in total in this passage. Two of them (the wheat and weeds, and the fishing net) appear to be about the idea that the visible kingdom of heaven here on earth is flawed; it contains many individuals who do not truly belong to God.

There is another set of two parables which seem to be related to each other. The illustration of the mustard seed, and also the story of the yeast seem to be about the same theme, which is that the kingdom of heaven starts small and often works secretly and unnoticed.

Finally a third pair of parables describes a third thing: the idea of the extreme value of the kingdom of God, and of sacrificing much in order to gain it.

Let’s begin with the first theme, as expressed in the parable of the wheat and weeds, and reiterated in the parable of the fishing net. Before we jump into this, I want us to notice something. Matthew has told us in several different ways in this chapter that Jesus spoke in parables because the people were hardhearted and did not want to understand. It could be that the parables were a way to keep them from understanding; but it might also be that he spoke in parables in order to try and help them see things from a different perspective so that they might become receptive to him. I know that some people in our groups were concerned about this, wondering if perhaps they themselves didn’t understand. But pay close attention to the disciples in verse 36. They didn’t understand. So what did they do? They asked Jesus. And Jesus was happy to explain it to them. The fact that we follow Jesus does not mean that we automatically understand everything he teaches. We are not in trouble if we don’t. I think we should be encouraged by the disciples here to admit it when we don’t get it, and to go to Jesus seeking wisdom. The only problem with lack of comprehension is when it occurs because our hearts are spiritually hardened against the Holy Spirit. In other words, some people don’t understand because, frankly, they don’t care. Their lack of understanding is a symptom of spiritual insensitivity. But there is another kind of ignorance, and that is an honest lack of comprehension. The Lord delights to help us when we come to him admitting our need for wisdom and instruction:

The LORD is good and upright; therefore He shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. (Ps 25:8-9, HCSB)

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. (Jas 1:5, HCSB)

So the disciples asked Jesus about the meaning of the story of the wheat and weeds.

37 He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world; and the good seed — these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!

I find this parable tremendously comforting because it affirms my experience of being a Christian, and of being part of the kingdom of God on earth. In the real world, good and bad are often all jumbled together. Let me share a few examples:

  • In these days, there are famous television preachers who are clearly preaching things that are biblically incorrect. It is almost certain that they are leading some people astray; and yet at the same time it is almost certain that the Lord is using their ministries to bring some people closer to himself.
  • I personally know someone who has been used by the Lord to bring actual, physical healing to others; yet he also believes that he should be a preacher, and he preaches things that I would call heresy.
  • Kari and I have friends who were led to Jesus by a group that those same friends would now call a cult. Our friends affirm that this group is a cult, and they reject their cultish beliefs; but they also affirm that they were led to Jesus by those people.

It is obvious that there are many good people who call themselves Christians; it is equally obvious that there are many bad people who call themselves Christians. Our churches are full of both kinds.

In this parable, Jesus describes exactly this type of world, the real world that we encounter every day. Good and evil are growing together, sometimes even found in the same groups, the same individuals.

When we encounter this sort of thing, many times our reaction is to try and do something about it. Jesus included this idea in the parable: the servants wanted to uproot the weeds right away. I find myself often with the same attitude. But the master tells the servants: “No. You might destroy the good plants with the weeds. Instead, let them grow together until harvest, and the reapers will sort it out then.”

I think it is important for Christians to understand the difference between good and evil. The rest of the New Testament clearly affirms the idea that we should distinguish between false teaching and the true word of God.

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. (Acts 20:28-31, HCSB)

To Timothy, my true son in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. (1Tim 1:2-5, HCSB)

Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you. (2Tim 1:13-14, HCSB)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. (2Tim 2:15, HCSB)

I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2Tim 4:1-4, HCSB)

But in another sense, it is not our job to sort it all out here and now. For instance, I think it is good and proper for me to point out the errors of what we call the “prosperity gospel.” It is part of my job as a teaching elder to keep those under my care from being led astray. But it is not my job to stop the prosperity preachers. I don’t know what to make of some their ministries. I suspect that it will go hard with them when Jesus returns. But I don’t have to sort it all out – that is the Lord’s job, on the last day.

I want to make a few more points, some of which are reiterated by the parable of the fish in the net:

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind of fish, 48 and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw out the worthless ones. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Both the parable of the net, and of the wheat and weeds describe a situation where good is mixed with evil until the end of time. But they both clearly also describe an “end time” when good will be separated from evil, and evil will be entirely destroyed, while good is preserved forever. This is important in several ways:

First, there are many people, some even claiming to be Christians, who say that there is no such place as hell, and all people go to heaven. However, clearly, Jesus did not think that was true. He teaches us right here that there will be a time when evil, and evil people, will be punished and cast away from his presence forever. You cannot claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, and that same time, believe that all people go to heaven. For many, this is one of the big negatives about Christianity. I understand why people think this is negative. But you might just as well say that falling is one of the big negatives about gravity. It is what it is. And if gravity were different, we wouldn’t exist. In the same way, the spiritual universe has absolute truths, and if they were different, we couldn’t exist.

Second, there is a positive side to the punishment of wickedness and evil. Most people can still recognize some things as evil. Beheading innocent women, children and men is evil. Making girls, boys and young women into sex-slaves is evil. Rape is evil. At least our culture still agrees with those statements. So do we want those kinds of evil to take place with no justice? What kind of universe would it be if the strong can do these things to the weak with no accountability, ever? Jesus, through these stories, tells us that there is justice. Evil cannot have its way forever. There will be accountability.

I do not want to close without pointing out the grace inherent in these things. We may be thinking, “well, yes, I can see that punishment for the wicked is a good thing, but what if that means me?” It does mean you. It means me, also. But it doesn’t have to. Jesus came precisely to save us from ourselves, from the eternal separation from God that we deserve because of our sins. Hear the end of Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the wheat and weeds:

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!

I know I’m not righteous. I know you aren’t, either. But Jesus is! And Jesus offers us his own righteousness. That’s one of the amazing things he accomplished in his death and resurrection. Our wickedness and evil were punished, and we were given his righteousness. If we simply trust that he has done this for us, we have the righteousness of Jesus. In this parable, those of us who trust Jesus are “the righteous.” We will shine like the sun in our Father’s kingdom. Jesus meant this to be a comfort to his disciples, and we are his disciples if we trust him and allow him to be ruler of our lives.

We should be comforted by these words, knowing that it is okay to be honestly ignorant, and to ask Jesus for help understanding. We should be blessed in knowing that our real life experience of seeing good and evil jumbled together is normal. We should rejoice in the word promises the righteous – those who trust and surrender to Jesus – shall shine like the sun in our Father’s kingdom.

Let the Holy Spirit speak to you today.

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