Charles Spurgeon once said if you throw a banquet you should be sure to invite the beggars. He explained that the prim and proper guests will hardly raise an eyebrow when each course of the meal is brought into the hall. But, the beggars will cheer when they see every delicacy. “Look at the size of the turkey!” one will say, while the rest join him and praise their host, “Hooray for the turkey!” The beggars have true joy because they know they are unworthy guests of a generous host. The high society somebodies lose out on the joy because they think they deserve to be there.
Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet is getting at the generosity of God. He is revealing this paradoxical tension at the center of who will be a part of God’s kingdom and who will not. A good man knows he is an unworthy guest and he desires mercy. Bad men don’t know their unworthiness and don’t desire mercy. Those who are least aware of their need for mercy are the very ones who need it most and lose out on the true joy of heaven. Those who are aware of their need are the very ones who receive the mercy of God and are overjoyed by His generosity. They cheer and praise their host, “Hooray!” The point is we all need mercy.
God’s mercy comes as an invitation, a covering, and as a feast. The invitation goes out by His messengers. First by the prophets, then the Apostles, and now the entire Church. The servants invite everyone. There is no distinction and this is good news for us. The bad and the good are invited to receive God’s generosity. The covering is God’s garment of salvation which is the pure righteousness and forgiveness of the Son Jesus. He takes our stained lives of sin and replaces them with His pure life through forgiveness. The feast is the joy of heaven where all who heard the invitation and had their sins covered by Jesus now celebrate together at the table of their generous host. You are now at the foretaste of that feast as you dine on God’s Word and come to His table to receive the bread and the cup of our generous host the Lord Jesus.
Yet, this not the easiest parable to digest. It is not politically correct because Jesus gives a hard warning and lesson. Many are called, but few are chosen. Not everyone goes to heaven. And there is a hell. The Lord atoned for the sins of the entire world. Everyone is invited to share in that good news. No one needs to pay for his own sins or go unclothed and miss the feast, but some do anyways. They refuse the invitation or refuse the wedding garment and they miss the joy of heaven.
In the parable the king first calls the insiders. The landowners and people of account. But they didn’t come. They would have known they were invited to the feast. It takes months to prepare this kind of thing. They planned on going, but when it came time they balked. Why? They thought they what they had now was better than the invitation. So one goes to his business and another to his farm. Still others had an inner hostility to the king and mistreated the servants. Jesus is getting at the heart of how mankind treats God in our sinful rebellion. So, they treated the prophets and John the Baptist the same way. Apathy to God is not just apathy. It is born of a hostility that thinks nobody, I mean nobody, can tell us how to run our lives. As sinners we want to be the king, not the guests.
No one comes to a feast unless they are invited. When a neighbor invites you to dinner tonight you cannot wait a month. The warning here is not to postpone. You can only come when the meal is ready and God is saying the feast is spread. Those who say they’ll come to God later are playing a dangerous game. Come now when you are experiencing His mercy in His invitation. If you wait too long you may not come at all like the people in Jesus’ parable.
When the who’s who wouldn’t come the king sent his servants to the highways and byways of the city. Anyone who passed by was invited to come immediately to the feast. They didn’t need to prepare anything. They didn’t need to worry about performing any special service for the king. They weren’t even asked to put on their wedding clothes for those also were prepared for them as we shall see. The invitation was everything.
This is the way it is in God’s kingdom. You don’t need to worry about your performance. Mercy comes by the invitation and not by your performance. The people who thought themselves worthy, like the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus was talking to, thought they deserved an invitation. Even then they refused. Yet, the generosity of God is shown in this, He invites all. The rich, the poor, and every ethnicity. Before it looked like you had to be a real somebody to come to God’s banquet, but now you can be anyone, even a beggar, and you are freely invited.
Imagine the scene Jesus paints for us. Hundreds of people drop what they were doing and go to the king’s court for his banquet. At the door his happy servants are clothing the guests with resplendent and beautiful robes like none they had ever owned or even seen before. Yet, one man decides he’ll pass on the king’s generous gift and come in his soiled day clothes.
Many people do not like this part of the story because it seems like God changes His standards. At first He invites anyone, but then He refuses this fellow for not wearing the correct clothing. Many will think doesn’t God accept us just a we are? This lesson teaches otherwise. We have seen how those who think they deserve to be invited are wrong in their pride. The fundamentalist type Pharisees thought they could earn heaven and then refuse a merciful invitation. Yet, this man without a garment is a picture of the other side of the coin. He presumes that the gift of the king is not costly and He can enjoy it on his own terms.
Jesus will take anyone into His kingdom, but you can’t come in just as you are. Anyone could come to the banquet, but the king clothed him at the door. So God at greater expense, will outfit you so you can enter the wedding feast. The gift of the king is costly. He spared no expense. So, God did not spare the life of His beloved Son from you. He generously and richly poured out His life for yours so He could cover your sins with the most beautiful and splendid gift He had to offer. When you see that gift why would we ever presume to pass it by and say God must accept our terms?
Yet, this is exactly what this man was doing. He is warning against the false Christians. They insist on their own garments and their own ways. They do not leave their sins behind and trust Christ to cover them. It is terrifying thing when I hear people say “My Jesus wouldn’t send anyone to hell.” They presume God will ignore all the evil in the world when that is the very reason Jesus died on the cross. Likewise, people say “My Jesus wouldn’t care about fornication if the two people love each other and everything is consensual.” They presume Jesus wasn’t serious when He said that a man will leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife loving her as Christ loves the church. We must be careful we do not end up with a Jesus that is just like us. That we confuse our sinful hearts for our shepherd’s voice and refuse to believe His word.
May God protect us from this! May He keep us steadfast in His Word. This lesson shows us it possible to come to church and still be self-righteous, self-satisfied, and unrepentant. People can fool the world, even themselves, but they cannot fool God. The only way to come into the kingdom is to repent, to stop insisting on having our own way, and be clothed with Christ’s righteousness.
And clothing us is exactly what our Lord does. The Lord says come and be clothed my mercy. Come as a beggar and celebrate my generosity. Hooray! The Lord is generous. We do not have to pretend we are something we are not. We are all beggars feasting at the Lord’s banquet cheering and whooping at every course of the Lord’s mercy! He makes us lovely to behold. A wedding party of the finest dressed and happiest guests the world has ever seen. He calls us and surprise us with more one twist. He says, “Friends, come but not as a guest. Rather, be my bride whom I have won at the greatest cost without regret, but rather with joy and gladness.” In Jesus’ name, amen!