Calling All the Hopeless (and Hopeful) to the Feast
The World’s Plea For Help
I mentioned last week that art is important because it reflects the thinking of a culture, and more so, a particular era in a culture’s history. This is why Leonardo Da Vinci’s art from the renaissance is so extravagant and hopeful, while Salvador Dali’s more contemporary work is dark and mystical and dreamlike. His was an attempt to paint the unconscious mind with all of its sexual desires and obsessions with death and the like—something he learned from Freud.
Anyways, art is more than just visible productions—its also music and especially poetry (often found within music). Turn on your radio and take some time to listen to popular music—I mean, really listen to it. Hear what the musicians are saying. It’s pure hedonism. Everything is about sex, partying, drinking, waiting for the weekend, and having fun.
Hedonism is the only option when there’s no God. This is why Paul said, “If there’s no resurrection, then let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Cor. 15:32). Hedonism involves the ultimate pursuit of pleasure—at all costs and any expense—even to the hurt and malign of your so-called loved one. This is why we have movies like Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s where total pleasure without true, Biblical love leads. And the problem is, anybody who ever went down this path found it totally empty, worthless, hopeless, and they despaired.
I think Solomon spoke of this kind of thing in Proverbs 4:16 when he said, “For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.”
Miranda and I were driving the other day, and a lyric from Shawn Mendes struck the both of us. Ironically, from within the hedonistic culture of Hollywood, his song is a plea for somebody to help—because all that stuff isn’t helping!
He says this, “Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in; sometimes I feel like giving up, but I just can’t…Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing; I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something; I could take to easy my mind slowly; just have a drink and you’ll feel better; just take her home and you’ll feel better; keep telling me that it gets better—does it ever?”
What’s your answer, Christian, with the greatest news in all the world? What would you say to Shawn Mendes in a conversation? What about the millions of other people who are asking the same question, searching desperately for hope? What’s your answer?
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:2-14).
The purpose of the parable and the purpose of my message is twofold: (1) to give hope to those whose life apart from God left them hungry and empty; and (2) to give a solemn warning to those who have this hope—a warning not to forget this hope, and a warning not to hoard it.
To accomplish this twofold purpose, I’ll divide the message into four parts. Let’s study!
(1) Relating the Kingdom in Hope to a Hopeless World
If somebody were to ask you, “What is the kingdom of heaven?” how would you answer them? “Oh…well, umm, it’s the church!” Well, how in the world would that give hope to somebody who's lost the way?
What if you were to say, “The kingdom is a place filled with all the joys of a wedding—laughter, dancing, family, friends, glad songs, new beginnings, the hope of a future, relational harmony, and FOOD! And at this festal gathering—and the reason it’s so good—we gain the favor and audience of the Most High God of the world. That’s what the kingdom of heaven is.”
Do we present it like that? Do we even think of it like that? “Yeah, umm, good question…the kingdom is rules, your best behavior, church gatherings, and judgy people.”
Now, I’m not saying anybody in here has presented it like that. It’s just that, somehow, that’s the idea the world has of the church. And I’m not even sure it’s the fault of this generation of church-goers, but it’s most definitely the fault of the previous generation of church-goers; and it will be our fault if we don’t do anything to correct it.
Are there rules? Yes! But that’s like asking, “Are there gonna be any rules at the royal wedding? If so, I’m not going!” Yes, there are rules, but that’s not what the kingdom is. I read an article the other day about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. Attendants were given pages of rules prior to the event—they couldn’t come if they didn’t follow these rules.
Did anybody hear about that? I suspect very few did--because that wasn't the point.. Most of the attention dealt with the marriage, the occasion, the happiness of it, and the glitz and glamor of the venue. Rest assured, there are requirements for entering the wedding feast of the kingdom of heaven, but that’s not what the kingdom is.
The kingdom is hope! The kingdom is a fattened calf big enough to feed every starving child on the planet; the kingdom is Divine favor resting on people, who, left to themselves, were lost.
Be prepared to make the case for Christianity by first telling the lost how you got found; tell them of your personal indulgences of the flesh and the pointlessness in it all; tell them somebody loves them—truly loves them. And be sure to define that love. I’m afraid most in the world have a secular view of love. In the world, if you’re unsightly and misshapen, the man will leave. God loved all of us when we were our ugliest.
We must absolutely present it this way. Wanna know why? In the parable, the king—God—said, “Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast’” (v. 4).
That’s what God said to tell those who are invited. It’s a dinner; it’s a feast. Are you hungry? All things are ready! Come!
(2) Everyone is Invited--Everyone
The rhetoric of the world for women is what? If you want to be wanted or loved, you must (a) look perfect all the time, (b) do whatever Ken wants, whenever he wants it, (c) be ready to compete against every other image in the world at Ken’s disposal.
When relationships are built on these grounds, just the slightest change in figure or age will make him leave—or he’ll just leave emotionally, giving himself to others in many other ways. Any arguments or hard times that are bound to happen when two different people come together will rock the foundation and cause a split.
And children are often in the middle of it. I read an article in Psychology Today where Jan Gumbiner, a licensed Psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California, argued that divorce hurts children*—even grown ones, every time. She said that very often children, even the most intelligent, believe the divorce was their fault.
So what’s the psychology of the person who would, perhaps, otherwise respond to an invitation to the kingdom? They’ve been trained up in a society where the people they love most rejected them and left them! Do you think that’ll have a bearing on their response to a message to come to God? No doubt.
This is why it is so profoundly significant that the love of God isn’t based on frivolous superficialities and matters subject to change in a person. The king in the parable said, “‘Go…to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
Here’s where this point finds its greatest significance. The invitation first went out to the people who already knew the king: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to 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” (vv. 2-3). That was the Jewish nation. Israel, by and large, rejected the Messiah.
Imagine inviting everybody you love and have known for years to your wedding, and not a single one showed up. Would you be angry? You’d probably say, “Good riddance!” and elope. But this king—God—still wants a wedding ceremony. So he said, essentially, “Go gather everybody—all the people who don’t know me or have any ties to me. Just get the people off the streets.”
So, God extends the same love to a total stranger as he extended to the people who knew him best. The world must know this. Nobody has been so bad or so rebellious that God won’t invite them--and love them deeply. God is not like the broken people who abandon loved ones. And what was the result when the kingdom was presented that way? “The wedding hall was filled with guests” (v. 10). In other words, people respond when we make the kingdom out to be what it really is—a feast!
(3) Why Most Reject the Invitation
But not everybody responded. Still not everybody responds. In fact, most don’t respond. Jesus said “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
John Calvin was dead wrong when he assessed this verse and others like it. “Few are chosen.” To him, God predetermined who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. It’s totally outside of a person’s desire or will. This is heretical and perverted. Jesus tells us why only a few were chosen. It wasn’t because God only chose a few.
First of all, “Many are called.” I’m gonna rephrase that to say, “Everyone is called.” “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
In this parable, God had everyone called—friends, family, strangers, good people, and bad people. All were called. Only a few were chosen because why? Because the others either (1) rejected the invitation, or (2) didn’t properly adorn themselves for the wedding.
(1) “[He] sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come” (v. 3).
So why won’t this group be chosen? They didn’t come! But, amazingly, God went after them again: “Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast”’” (v. 4). This should break our hearts. The love of God joyfully called for all his children to come to the dinner table, and they didn’t come. So then God called out again, “I’ve prepared a rich feast for you. Come!”
If John Calvin were right, then God would here be a liar. “Come! But don’t come—I already destined you to go to hell. But let me make it look like I wanted you by calling you a second time.”
Why weren’t the people chosen? V. 5—“But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.” What does this mean? This means that the first and largest group of people who reject the message of God’s salvation are doing so because they’re too busy with work and everyday life.
These people weren’t off living in lasciviousness. They were just working. Don’t think for a moment you’re secure because you’ve overcome your bad habit of lust, or if you’ve overcome your bad habit of gossip and make it to church every Sunday. Do you have a job? Then the devil will use it against you.
This group knew God. This group was religious. And this group ultimately rejected God because of work. Work can bring you down some dark alleys by making you too busy for God; tempting you to dishonesty; tempting you to pursue after money; tempting you to get a big head because you’ve been promoted. Watch yourself, Christian!
(2) “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and food and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (vv. 11-13).
This is one of the scariest statements in the Bible for those of us who’ve committed our lives to Jesus. This guy had responded to the invitation, didn’t he? He came to the feast, didn’t he? He was, at least temporarily, in the kingdom.
Why did he get kicked out? He wasn’t adorned properly! Now, at ancient weddings, guests were given special garments at the entrance. Then they could enter the wedding party.
Somehow or another, people enter into the church and fail to be adorned for Christ. Paul said, “[Jesus] gave himself up for [the church], that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-26).
He said elsewhere, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). And in Romans 13:14 he said, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
A composite statement from those three verses is this: In order to be made holy for the kingdom of God, we must put on Jesus Christ by being baptized, after the Word cleansed our mind to no longer make provisions for the sinful flesh.
But a lot of baptized people haven’t truly let their hearts be washed by the Word. What is your heart wearing? Does God see you as properly adorned for the kingdom? Like, right now--what is God looking at in you? Only you can answer that question. Many people will be speechless when the Lord comes again—speechless because they had every opportunity to be properly adorned but failed to do so.
You may have never known God; you may have lived a wild life; and these things don’t matter to God. You’re still invited! The only thing God won’t tolerate is a failure to put on Christ. Many come to the feast, and at the door the attendants say, “Sir, or ma’am, here are your garments,” and the guest says, “No thanks!”—shoving past them—“I just came for the meal.”
Translation? I just came to get heaven; I just came to avoid hell; I just come to get the blessing—I care nothing for what God expects of me.
(4) The True Servant’s Work in the Kingdom
Lastly this morning, let me ask you: What is a servant in the kingdom most involved in doing?
Verse 3: “[He] sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast.”
Verse 4: “Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited…Come to the wedding feast!’”
Verse 9: “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.”
Verse 14: “For many are called (invited).”
What are servants of the Most High to be doing with the best news in the world? Heralding it to everybody! And guess what? Many of the servants were rejected for doing it (v. 3); many were persecuted for doing it (v. 6); many were murdered for doing it (v. 6).
And that they still invited people, knowing the danger, implies the value they saw in it. The kingdom is worth losing everything to have it; it's worth losing everything to tell others about it. Didn’t Jesus say that earlier? The kingdom is like a treasure that a man found in a field, and he sold everything he had to buy the field and acquire the treasure!”
Ask yourself this morning: When was the last time I pursued a soul for the kingdom (beyond immediate family)? When was I last successful in at least getting somebody to visit our church?
Do you really believe you have the greatest news in the world? If so, how would anybody know it?
For all the hopeless, come to the feast. The fellowship with the Father gives eternal purpose. And there’s no other friend like Jesus. While the world (mom, dad, friends, brothers, sisters) may have let you down, here’s the promise from God for those who come to him: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
In the Greek, that promise has five negative particles (not, nor), which is the Greek way of emphasizing a point. Double negatives don’t cancel each other out in Greek—they are emphatic. God is saying, “I will never never leave you, nor never never will I ever forsake you.” Come all. Be baptized in water for the washing away of your sins. Put on Jesus Christ and make yourself ready for the return of the King. A feast awaits.
© Finding Canaan. All rights reserved. "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another" -- Jeremiah 23:30
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