Saturday, June 07, 2008

Matthew 22:11-14


11 ``But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he said to him, `Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. 13 ``Then the king said to the servants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw 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.''

This is a second parable, but it is also a very close continuation and amplification of the previous one. It is the story of a guest who appeared at a royal wedding feast without a wedding garment. 

One of the great interests of this parable is that in it we see Jesus taking a story which was already familiar to his hearers and using it in his own way.

"The Rabbis had two stories which involved kings and garments. The first told of a king who invited his guests to a feast without telling them the exact date and time; but he did tell them that they must wash, and anoint, and clothe themselves that they might be ready when the summons came. The wise prepared themselves at once, and took their places waiting at the palace door, for they believed that in a palace a feast could be prepared so quickly that there would be no long warning. The foolish believed that it would take a long time to make the necessary preparations and that they would have plenty of time. So they went, the mason to his lime, the potter to his clay, the smith to his furnace, the fuller to his bleaching-ground, and went on with their work. Then, suddenly, the summons to the feast came without any warning. The wise were ready to sit down and the king rejoiced over them and they ate and drank. But those who had not arrayed themselves in their wedding garments had to stand outside, sad and hungry, and look on at the joy that they had lost. That rabbinic parable tells of the duty of preparedness for the summons of God, and the garments stand for the preparation that must be made."

"The second rabbinic parable told how a king entrusted to his servants royal robes. Those who were wise took the robes, and carefully stored them away, and kept them in all their pristine loveliness. Those who were foolish wore the robes to their work, and soiled and stained them. The day came when the king demanded the robes back. The wise handed them back fresh and clean; so the king laid up the robes in his treasury and bade them go in peace. The foolish handed them back stained and soiled. The king commanded that the robes should be given to the fuller to cleanse, and that the foolish servants should be cast into prison. This parable teaches that a man must hand back his soul to God in all its original purity; but that the man who has nothing but a stained soul to render back stands condemned." No doubt Jesus had these two parables in mind when He told his own story. What, then, was he seeking to teach? This parable also contains both a local and a universal lesson.

FIRST--The local lesson is that Jesus has just said that the king, to supply his feast with guests, sent his messengers out into the highways and byways to gather all men in. That was the parable of the open door. It told how the Gentiles and the sinners would be gathered in. This parable strikes the necessary balance. It is true that the door is open to all men, but when they come they must bring a life which seeks to fit the love which has been given to them. Grace is not only a gift; it is a grave responsibility. A man cannot go on living the life he lived before he met Jesus Christ. He must be clothed in a new purity and a new holiness and a new goodness. He is a new creation-old things pass away and new things come!

SECOND--Then there is the permanent lesson. The way in which a man comes to anything demonstrates the spirit in which he comes. If we go to visit in a friend's house, we do not go in the clothes we wear in the shipyard or the garden. We know very well that it is not the clothes which matter to the friend. It is not that we want to put on a show. It is simply a matter of respect that we should present ourselves in our friend's house as neatly as we can. The fact that we prepare ourselves to go there is the way in which we outwardly show our affection and our esteem for our friend. So it is with God's house. This parable has nothing to do with the clothes in which we go to church; it has everything to do with the spirit in which we go to God's house. There are garments of the mind and of the heart and of the soul-the garment of expectation, the garment of humility, the garment of faith, the garment of reverence-and these are the garments without which we ought not to approach God.

So we see a contrast in these last two parables between joy and judgment! In some sense, it is like the balancing act of Law and Grace. We receive Jesus with all of the benefits, yet there are some demands upon our lives from that day forward. He has given me all of these amazing things by grace-unmerited on my part-and now He wants me to act like it.

Matthew 22:1-10


1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 ``The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 ``And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast and they were unwilling to come. 4 ``Again he sent out other slaves saying, `Tell those who have been invited, ``Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.''' 5 ``But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 ``But the king was enraged and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 ``Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 `Go therefore to the main highways and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' 10 ``Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. 

There are two parables back to back here in verses 1-14. The events of the first of the two were completely in accordance with normal Jewish customs. When the invitations to a great feast, like a wedding feast, were sent out, the time was not stated and when everything was ready the servants were sent out with a final summons to tell the guests to come. So, then, the king in this parable had sent out his invitations long ago, but it was not till everything was prepared that the final summons was issued-and insultingly refused. This parable has two meanings.

1. It has a purely local meaning. Its local meaning was a driving home of what had already been said in the Parable of the Wicked Vine-Growers; once again it was an accusation of the Jewish leadership. The invited guests who when the time came refused to come, stand for the Jewish leadership. Ages ago they had been invited by God to be his chosen people; yet when God's son came into the world, and they were invited to follow Him they contemptuously refused. The result was that the invitation of God went out direct to the highways and the byways; and the people in the highways and the byways stand for the sinners and the Gentiles, who never expected an invitation into the Kingdom.

2. This parable also has much to say on a much wider scale.

a. God's invitation is an invitation to joy, not gloom!

b. It reminds us that the things which make men deaf to the invitation of Christ are not necessarily bad in themselves. One man went to his estate; the other to his business. These weren't bad things, but normal things, when the good gets in the way of the best!

c. It reminds us that the appeal of Christ is not so much to consider how we will be punished as it is to see what we will miss, if we do not take his way of things.

d. It reminds us that in the last analysis God's invitation is the invitation of grace. Those who were gathered in from the highways and the byways had no claim on the king at and they could never by any stretch of imagination have expected an invitation to the wedding feast, much less could they ever have deserved it. It came to them from nothing other than the wide-armed, open-hearted, generous hospitality of the king. It was grace which offered the invitation and grace which gathered men in.

The only way anyone will get into the Kingdom is by the grace of God-unmerited favor from God, Himself!

Matthew 21:42-46


42 Jesus said to them, ``Did you never read in the Scriptures, `THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES'? 43 ``Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people , producing the fruit of it. 44 ``And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever, it falls, it will scatter him like dust.'' 

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.

Leadership is always the problem! As was prophesied in the Scriptures, the builders (leadership) will reject God's Messiah (the stone) and this Stone turned out to be the chief corner stone, which is the foundation for the building itself! Builders, the leadership, tend to like that position of the "vine-growers" we saw in the preceding paragraph. They tend to like that position, that power, that place of influence. It's a "safe" place for them never to share their vulnerabilities (in fact, they must cover them up), never to share their hearts (this would be too 'out of control'), rarely to be in a place of learning, unless what I'm learning also strengthens their position of power (besides, the leaders ought to know most everything worth knowing).

I have found the kingdom kids to be really super, loving and vibrant people as long as they are careful to walk like Jesus, talk like Jesus, think like Jesus and love like Jesus. However, if kingdom kids take on the attitudes of the local "vine-grower" even when they are in opposition to that of Jesus, it is an ugly thing to behold or experience! This is why Jesus warns the leadership that they will be given the worst judgment, if they lead the little ones (young believers) astray, away from the person and teachings of Jesus.

It all comes down to the same thing. It's all about Jesus!

Matthew 21:33-41


33 ``Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine -growers and went on a journey. 34 ``When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 ``The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 ``Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 ``But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' 38 ``But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' 39 ``They took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 ``Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?'' 41 They said to Him, ``He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.''

BINGO! They got it right! Remember that every parable, even every story is about Jesus. No matter the incident, you will find that you can get to know Jesus better as you reference Him in the passage. This one is quite direct!

The vine-growers (the established leadership of the vineyard, synagogue, spiritual directors) had a good thing going!

FIRST--They had a position in the community.

SECOND--They had the power to what goes in the community.

THIRD--They were fearful of losing this position of power.

FOURTH--They rejected those who spoke up of a better way to do life.

FIFTH--They then rejected the son, the heir, because of their jealousy and fear of losing their position of power.

SIXTH--What they didn't realize was that all they had-position, power, work-was given to them by the landowner-the Lord!

In this parable Jesus is referring to the Jewish leadership's rejection of His prophets and then the Son of the Landowner, Jesus. Once the Landowner returns, He will offer this position to other vine-growers (possibly to the gentiles).

All that we have is the Lord's and we are responsible only to Him and His Son, Jesus!

Matthew 21:28-32


28 ``But what do you think? A man had two sons and he came to the first and said, `Son, go work today in the vineyard.' 29 ``And he answered, `I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 ``The man came to the second and said the same thing and he answered, `I will, sir'; but he did not go. 31 ``Which of the two did the will of his father?'' They said, ``The first.'' Jesus said to them, ``Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 ``For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

GREAT STORY and so relevant today! The meaning is crystal clear! The Jewish leadership are those who said they would obey and then did not. The tax-gatherers and the harlots are those who said that they would go their own way and then came back home to God.

NOTE that the parable doesn't praise anyone. It is setting before us a picture of two very imperfect sets of people. One set was no better than the other. Neither son in the story was the kind of son to bring full joy to his father. Both were unsatisfactory, but the one who in the end obeyed was incalculably better than the other. The ideal son would be the son who accepted the father's orders with obedience and with respect and who unquestioningly and fully carried them out. But there are truths in this parable which go far beyond the situation in which it was first spoken. 

It tells us that there are two very common classes of people in this world.

First-there are the people whose profession is much better than their practice. They will promise anything; they make great claims of piety and fidelity, but their practice lags far behind.

Second-there are those whose practice is far better than their profession. They go out seeking anything but God and Godly things, but later come back to Him. 
The real point of the parable is that, while the second class are infinitely to be preferred to the first, neither is anything like perfect. The really good man is the man in whom profession and practice meet and match. OR, the really good man is the one who decides to come home to the heart of his Father-God. This is a prodigal son parable in a different format, without the specifics of the drama. All of us must come home-come back to our Creator God, our Father.

So, which one are you-the one who is home and walks away or the one who was away and came home?