A Royal Invitation

Posted: January 2, 2013 in Matthew

Matthew 22:1-14, “A Royal Invitation”

People get invitations all the time.  Some are worthless, such as the various “monumental sales events!” that come from the auto dealerships.  Others are fun, if a bit routine, such as the many birthday parties that kids go to.  Others are special, and their invitations come on special paper with special writing, such as weddings – and people plan for these events months in advance.  Yet even among these events, there are some that stand out, based on who is the one doing the inviting.  Between two weddings on the same day between a business acquaintance and a family member, one is going to take a much higher priority. 

What would happen if we received a personal invitation from God?  This would go straight to the top of the list!  There could be no higher priority.  After all, there is no one more important in the entire universe than the God who created us, gives us daily life, and holds the universe together by an act of His sheer will.  Surely this would be the most important invitation of all!  The truth of the matter is that we have been given an invitation by God.  He has invited us to be forgiven of our sins, and to receive everlasting life and relationship with Him through His grace.  This is a command invitation, to which we must respond.

Of course the invitation we’ve been given was first given to the Jews, which is what Jesus is illustrating in Matthew 22.  God had invited His people to come into the kingdom of heaven, but they were on the cusp of refusing Him, and turning away in rebellious violence.  The invitation of God was about to be given to someone else.

Remember that this is the week prior to Jesus’ crucifixion.  Tensions have been high for some time between Jesus and the religious authorities, and now He’s proclaiming in parables that He will be rejected and killed, and God would judge the Jewish people severely.  (Which doesn’t exactly calm things down too much!)  Jesus had been received into the gates of Jerusalem with acclaim, and had been directly proclaimed to be the Messiah (the Son of David, King of Israel) by the people.  He performed miracles of healing, demonstrated His authority when throwing out the money-changers, and demonstrated His supernatural power when cursing the fig tree.

Most recently, Jesus had come into the temple, and was called onto the carpet by the chief priests and elders.  They demanded to know His credentials (which had already been abundantly evident), and Jesus trapped them in their own pride when He asked them about the credentials of John the Baptist.  They refused to answer, and Jesus launched into two parables teaching about their outright rebellion against God the Father & His Son, and showing that the privilege they had enjoyed as the people of God would be given to another group – which was unthinkable to these children of Abraham.  Ch. 21 ended with the priests and Pharisees ready to kill Jesus at that very moment, but they were unable to do so, due to the presence of the multitudes (who had not yet rejected Jesus – this would soon change).

Now Jesus speaks to them again, giving a third parable.  This one is along the same lines as the previous two, though He goes into even greater detail.  Here, Jesus speaks not only to those who will reject Him, but also to those who would receive Him.  God’s invitation to grace is not something to take lightly.  It’s not enough to hear the invitation of Jesus; we must respond rightly to it as well.

Matthew 22:1–14
1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:

  1. He had already been speaking in parables – He continues to do so here.  It’s very similar to a parable Jesus told earlier in His ministry (Luke 14), and some scholars believe it to be one and the same (with Matthew organizing Jesus’ teachings differently than Luke).  There are some key differences between the two (Luke’s version is about a supper, but not a wedding – Luke’s version doesn’t include the man without a wedding garment – the general context and emphasis seems to be different).  Besides the internal differences, the timing of Matthew cannot be easily dismissed.  Vs. 1 of Ch 22 distinctly sets it apart during the time that Jesus is in Jerusalem, keeping it in context with everything else He has been teaching there at this time.  Of course it would not be unusual for Jesus to use one illustration or analogy several times during different contexts – modern teachers do this all the time.  Jesus could have easily done the same.
  2. Here Jesus teaches it to underscore and elaborate upon what He had just been saying with the parables of the sons and wicked vinedressers.  Each of the three parables addresses many of the same things, with each progressing in detail along the way.  In this case, there was the parable of the man with two sons.  Each had been disobedient, but at different times.  One had promised to obey, but did not – the other promised to disobey, but ended up doing what his father had asked of him.  Jesus directly tied this to the ministry of John the Baptist, whom the priests and Pharisees should have obeyed, but did not, while the tax collectors and harlots did obey in repentance to God.  The promise of the kingdom would be given to the outright “sinners” long before it would be given to the hypocritical priests and Pharisees.
  3. The second parable was of the wicked vinedressers.  Jesus spoke of a wealthy landowner who had prepared a vineyard, and leased it out to vinedressers to bring in the fruit.  They rebelled against him, trying to take it for their own.  They killed all of the servants the landowner sent, eventually killing his own son as well.  When Jesus asked the priests and Pharisees what would happen, it was obvious to them that the landowner would come in wrath, kill the wicked servants & find others to whom to lease the land.  From there, Jesus showed the priests and Pharisees that they were the ones guilty of rejecting the messengers and the Messiah of God, and that the kingdom would be taken from them and given to a people who would be faithful.
  4. Now Jesus takes them into a new parable – much the same as before, but giving more details about those to whom it would be given.  The setting changes a bit, but the idea remains much the same.

2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.

  1. Any wedding is a grand event – how much more a royal wedding!  This should have been the talk of the land – the event to which all people everywhere would have looked forward.  When modern royals marry today, the news floods our papers and TVs for weeks on end (and we as Americans don’t even have royalty!).  For the nations in which they serve, it is a monumental occasion, to which all pay close attention.  What makes this particular parable interesting is that the reaction of the people was completely the opposite of what was expected.  The people who should have been excited to come, now didn’t come at all.
  2. Note that the people who were called to come had already been invited to the wedding.  The time now was simply right to do what they had already been called upon to do.  They may have not known the specific hour that the wedding feast would be ready, but they knew that they needed to be prepared.  This had been arranged by the king long in advance, and their invitations had already been given.  The king expected their presence, and they knew he would be expecting them.  Yet they didn’t come.  Who knows what excuses they gave – the bottom line is simple: “they were not willing to come.”  It came down to a matter of the will; they refused.
  3. What Jesus is setting up seems to be pretty obvious.  He is telling a parable about “the kingdom of heaven,” the king obviously referring to God, and the king’s son being a direct reference to Himself as the Messiah.  God has indeed arranged a marriage for His Son – this is the wedding of weddings, between Christ and His Church. …
  4. That said the marriage spoken of here might, but doesn’t necessarily, reflect the relationship between Jesus and the Church.  Remember that a parable is not an allegory, in that there doesn’t need to be a direct tie between every single aspect of the teaching and Biblical theology.  Instead, there is generally a single point that is being addressed (this particular parable seems to have two).  In this case, the marriage sets the general scene.  There is a grand celebration and relationship within the kingdom of heaven, and God had invited His people to take part.  Throughout the covenants of the OT, God had repeatedly called the Hebrews to be His own people, and gave them the promises of that relationship.  Yet when the time came for them to act, they refused the invitation of God.

4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’

  1. The first servants were seemingly ignored, so the king graciously sends more servants to the people.  This time, he sends a message telling them that he had already made all of the preparations.  A feast was ready, and everything was done.  Greek scholars debate if the better translation should be “breakfast,” – we might think of it more as “brunch,” but the basic idea remains the same.  A bountiful feast had been prepared, with the king’s own livestock slaughtered and cooked.  There was not time to reschedule until another day.  This was the time the people had been waiting for, and they were to respond to the king’s invitation immediately.
  2. Keep in mind that this was a command invitation.  When invited by the king to come to a dinner, you come.  There are no “ifs, ands, or buts” – there are no more pressing engagements.  When an ancient king invited you to come to an event, the invitation was not a suggestion; it was a command.  The people had known they were expected to come, and they had known well in advance that they would be called upon to come.  To NOT come would be an act of rebellion against the king.
  3. There is a distinct parallel here regarding salvation.  Just like the wedding feast was a wonderfully gracious gift from the king, so is the offer of salvation a wonderfully gracious gift from God.  There is nothing more wonderful that could possibly be offered – particularly since we do not deserve a bit of it. The work has already been done.  Just as the king had already killed the oxen, so has Jesus already been killed on our behalf.  He has already done the work by dying in our place upon the cross, and taking God’s righteous anger due to our sin upon Himself.  The justice of God is poured out upon Jesus, and the grace of God is shown because God’s justice was poured out upon His Son & not upon us.  When Jesus rose from the dead three days after the cross, He showed that all the work had been done.  Just as He declared moments before His death, “It is finished!”  No more work remains – Jesus had accomplished it all.  There’s nothing that we need to add to Jesus’ work for us to receive salvation…truly “all things are ready.”  And now the invitation goes forth.  God invites us to be saved (just as He was reminding the Jews of His invitation).  It’s a gracious invitation, but it is indeed a command.  God’s desire is certainly for us to be saved, and it is His command to all the world that we respond to the invitation.  [Paul & the Athenians] Acts 17:30–31, "(30) Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, (31) because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”" []  The invitation to salvation is not like an invitation to a party that we might decide we can pass upon; it’s a command invitation from the Omnipotent God!  Like a 5-star general who commands his troops to leave a building before it explodes, it is gracious in that it is bound up in a desire to save life – but it is also a command coming from the One who has the ultimate authority to command.  To refuse this offer of grace is nothing short of rebellious treason.

5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.

  1. 2nd refusal – Some ignored the king; others committed outright violence.  The first group treated it as just another day.  To them, there was nothing special about the invitation of the king through his servants.  They treated it as a competing suggestion of how to spend their day, and in their minds, the needs of their individual farms and businesses was more important than the invitation of the king.  The second group acts as the wicked vinedressers from the earlier parable.  They take the servants of the king, abuse them, and murder them violently. 
  2. The Jews had been guilty on both counts.  By and large, the majority of the Jews likely fit within the first group.  They had not been violent, but they had been indifferent.  The word of God mattered little, if anything at all, in their daily lives.  They took their heritage for granted.  They had been born children of Abraham, and that was enough.  Throughout their history, they showed themselves to ignore the word of God, calling out to God only during their times of need, going back to their sin as soon as the danger was over.  (This might describe the entire book of Judges!)  The cares of this world were more important to them than the call of God, and it showed.  At the same time, there were many Jews who also fit the 2nd category.  They had rebelled against the prophets, persecuting them and putting them to death.  Ultimately they would also do the same to Jesus, following exactly the description that Jesus gave.  They would seize Him, treat Him spitefully, and kill Him.  Likewise with Jesus’ disciples…they would be treated the same as their Lord.
    1. Of course it isn’t only the ancient Jews.  We see examples of the first group in those who see nothing special in the gospel of Jesus.  They yawn at the glorious news of the Son of God becoming flesh, dying in our place, rising from the grave, and offering us forgiveness and life and relationship and eternal inheritance.  It’s meaningless to them, and they believe that the events of their lives are far more important than what God has done.
    2. We see examples of the second in the vast persecution that takes place worldwide.  Christians are still seized, treated spitefully, and killed.  We read about some in the news headlines (like Joseph Nadarkhani who was recently re-arrested in Iran), yet there are many more of whom we will never read.  Christians die every single day for their faith as people act out in hateful spite against the One True God.
  3. Each reaction is one of rebellion.  Persecution is obviously rebellion against God.  Saul learned this when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus.  Saul thought he was doing good things for the kingdom of God, when he dramatically learned from the Risen Jesus that Saul was persecuting the Lord Himself when he persecuted the Church.  Persecution is certainly rebellion – but so is indifference.  Those who willfully ignore the call of God are also rebelling against Him.  Again, when God invites people to be saved through Jesus Christ, He is giving a command invitation.  There is simply no other way for people to be saved, so God graciously commands us to our only option.  To treat Jesus as no better than our everyday business, is to horrifically insult the God who gave Him.

7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

  1. The wrath of the king.  This was a completely understandable reaction…particularly in regards to the murderers.  They had acted in violence against the servants of the king, and they earned their just retribution.  And the others in the city were just as guilty.  They had been indifferent to the invitation of the king, and apparently they were indifferent to the violence of their townspeople as well.  They had taken no action, nor had they appealed to the king.  The king had to hear about all of this on his own, and he acted in his righteous fury.  It was the only just thing to do.  The people had rebelled against him repeatedly, and there needed to be an response to their rebellion, so he gave it.
    1. BTW – this would have gotten no argument from the people listening to Jesus.  Remember that in the last parable, once Jesus asked the people what should happen to the wicked vinedressers, the people were the ones who said that the landowner should destroy them miserably.  From the removed perspective of the parable, the issue of justice is made absolutely clear.  People who violently rebel against their king incur for themselves their own destruction.
  2. Historically, what Jesus warned the Jews of here is exactly what happened.  The Jews did not heed the warning of Christ, and they rejected Jesus and sent Him to die violently upon the cross.  After Jesus rose, He sent His disciples to the Jews (and into all the world), and the Jews still rejected the witness of the Church.  Thankfully, thousands of Jews came to faith in Christ, but the religious authorities still persecuted the Church, having Stephen stoned to death, repeatedly jailing Peter and John, sending Saul out to various cities to persecute Christians, and turning on Saul/Paul when he returned to Jerusalem (among other instances).  They had filled up on the measure of their wrath, and God allowed their city to be destroyed, exactly according to Jesus’ teachings and later prophecy (Mt 24:1-2).  In 70AD, the Romans sent in Titus (who eventually became Caesar) who laid siege to the city, eventually setting fire to the city and temple, killing thousands.  The historian Josephus records: “Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder; for one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething hot, as full of fire on every part of it, that the blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number than those that slew them; for the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it; but the soldiers went over heaps of these bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them.”  It was a gruesome event, and a dramatic fulfillment of Jesus’ words here.  The Romans were the instruments of God’s wrath as He sent this army to destroy these murderers and burn up their city.
    1. Question: did it have to be this way?  No!  The Jews could have repented.  Even after Jesus rose from the dead, they could have repented and placed their trust in the Risen Messiah.  But they didn’t, and they experienced the righteous wrath of God as a result.
    2. Likewise for every single soul that will end up in Hell.  Does it have to be that way?  No!  The invitation has gone out to all the world to be saved.  Jesus died for all, making it possible for the worst of sinners (even you & me!) to be saved.  All we need do is repent and place our trust in Jesus.  Yet multitudes will not.  They will continue to shake their fist at God in rebellion, and they will receive the righteous wrath of God as a result.  (That’s not what God wants for you!  God wants you to be saved!)

8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.

  1. Why weren’t they worthy?  They didn’t respond to the invitation.  To be sure, their indifference and their violence were terrible acts of rebellion…but those things were just outworkings of the initial refusal to respond.  To hear the parable, we might normally think that they were not worthy because of their violence, etc. – but the very next statements from Jesus show that both good & bad people were invited to the wedding.  It wasn’t the outward actions that made the people unworthy of the wedding; those things were just symptoms of a much larger problem.  The main issue is that they refused the king. (Their actions simply showed different ways of refusing him.)  They refused the king, his gracious invitation, and his relationship, and thus they were unworthy of being included at the wedding feast that had already been prepared.

9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

  1. Others were invited – and in contrast to the original invitees, these were people of all stripes and backgrounds.  The originals were the townspeople – those who would have known each other and been respected citizens.  These new guests were the vagrants.  The basic idea is that the king’s servants would go out to all the various forks in the road, looking for anyone who might be there.  If they had a pulse, it was more than enough in order for them to receive the invitation to the royal wedding feast.  The king had a wedding to celebrate, and it was his desire to do it with as many willing people as possible.
  2. The call went out to everyone.  The servants brought together everyone they could find, “both bad and good.”  Can you imagine the scene?  Typically at an event of high-society, the invitation list is highly restricted.  Yet here is a royal wedding, and everyone ranging from farmers & fishermen to tax-collectors & harlots are invited in.  There are people who would share the same nationality, and people who would be complete foreigners (who just happened to be on the right road at the right time).  Everyone was invited, no matter what their background may have been.
  3. Praise God this is exactly the way it works with the gospel of Jesus Christ!  ALL are invited to come – all are invited to be saved.  There is no requirement of previous accomplishments – there is no family background test – there’s not even a test to see how much of the Bible we may or may not understand.  Everyone is invited to come to Jesus, and receive of the salvation and grace that He offers.  The only requirement is that we simply come.  Matthew 11:28–29, "(28) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." []  What a grand invitation & promise!  This is our Savior – this is in Whom we trust!  Some people wonder what they need to do in order to make themselves worthy of God’s love & salvation.  News flash: we’re all unworthy.  And we remain unworthy when we refuse the invitation of Jesus.  But Jesus isn’t waiting for us to make ourselves good enough, because we could never do it.  He’s the One that reaches out to us and makes us worthy! 

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.

  1. We might have expected the parable to have ended with vs. 10.  After all, that’s much of what Jesus’ other parables have done.  Those who reject God and His representatives are punished, and those who are unexpected are invited to partake in the place of the rebellious ones.  In fact, that’s exactly what happened in the previous parable of the wicked vinedressers…  Yet in this parable, Jesus continues.  Now the focus changes to those who have been invited in.  The lesson isn’t over yet – there’s something more Jesus wants us to see.
  2. As the king comes in to see who actually did respond to the invitation, there is one person who stands out dramatically…he wasn’t wearing a wedding garment.  The details of the garment are not told us, and there is debate whether or not a king might actually supply special clothing to his guests, or if this person was expected to find something appropriate to wear once he was invited.  Either way, he wasn’t properly attired for the occasion, and he stood out like a sore thumb.  What we do know is that whatever this clothing was supposed to be, (1) everyone else was wearing it, and (2) it was an expectation that they do so, which was understood by all who were present.

12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.

  1. The king addresses the man as a “friend,” questioning him on his lack of attire.  The man could say nothing in response.  He had effectively muzzled himself, indicating that he knew he had no excuse.
  2. There has been much speculation as to why the lack of a wedding garment would be so wrong (perhaps as an insult against the king – perhaps a statement of arrogance, etc.), but in the end all we can truly say from the text is that a wedding garment was simply necessary.  Everyone knew it was necessary, and everyone else had the garment.  Without the proper garment, this man didn’t belong and he could say nothing about it.
  3. It’s not enough to be invited; we need to be clothed.  The obvious question is: what’s the clothing?  Jesus does not tell us directly here, but it is plain from the rest of the Scripture that we need to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  Isaiah speaks of God’s people being clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with the robe of righteousness (during the Millennial kingdom – Isa 61:10).  The prophet Zechariah had a vision of Joshua the high priest having his filthy robes taken from him when God removed his iniquity, and being given clean robes (Zech 3:4).  Revelation recorded Jesus as promising the few faithful in the church of Sardis that they would be clothed in white garments (Rev 3:5) and also describes the Church in heaven giving God praise, and looking forward to the wedding of Jesus the Lamb – and the Church is said to be clothed in fine linen, which “is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Rev 19:8)  The imagery in the Scripture is clear: we must be clothed!  We have no righteousness of our own, so Jesus gives us HIS righteousness and whatever we do, it’s based in whatever He has already done for us…and this is what is described as clothing.  We have put off what we were before, and we have put on (been clothed with) that which only Jesus can give: His righteousness.
    1. This all points to the work of Jesus in our salvation.  When we turned to Jesus in faith, asking Him to forgive us our sin & to be our Lord & Savior (our King, our God), Jesus cleansed us.  He covered us.  He made us acceptable in the sight of God.  All of this Jesus made possible when He died upon the cross for us, in that He served as our substitute upon the cross – at the moment of our salvation (justification), what was possible became reality.  Previous to that point, we were not covered in Jesus’ righteousness, but now we are.  2 Corinthians 5:21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." []  What an incredible gift!  That which we could never obtain on our own is what Jesus gives us: the perfect righteousness of God.  And because of this gift, now we can experience life and relationship and eternity with God in heaven.
    2. This is where other religions and man-centered philosophies fall short (among other things).  Religions outside of Biblical Christianity showcase men & women’s attempts to clean up themselves.  It’s about doing better, achieving more, and showing all of the things we’ve personally accomplished to make ourselves look to be a better person.  When the “good” stuff outweighs the “bad” stuff, then that is their hope of eternity.  The problem is that the bad is never truly done away with, and the good isn’t good enough.  The righteousness of MAN is inherently corrupt – what is needed is the righteousness of GOD, and that only comes through Jesus Christ.
  4. In the parable, this is what the man at the wedding feast was lacking.  Everyone else had an appropriate garment, but he did not.  At what he was lacking changed everything.  See vs. 13…

13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

  1. He was addressed as a friend, but he ended up being treated as an enemy.  Without any excuse, the man is bound and cast out into a place of suffering – with one of the normal descriptions of hell given.  He had come in at the invitation of the servants of the king, but whatever happened after that point, he did not respond fully.  The clothing that he was supposed to put on, he didn’t, and he showed himself to be as unworthy of the wedding feast as the previous people whom the king destroyed.
  2. Don’t miss the full picture here.  This man had seemingly gotten on the inside.  Sure, he looked different than everyone else (which would have been obvious to all), but he would have thought he was safe and sound now that he was in the king’s wedding hall.  Yet he received the surprise of his life once he encountered the king.  He had previously been around the king’s “stuff,” but he hadn’t really received anything from the king at all.  He wasn’t known by the king as one of his own people, and thus he was treated like the outsider and enemy that he truly was.  Jesus taught something extremely similar to this early on in His ministry.  Matthew 7:21–23, "(21) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" []  There are people who get involved in church stuff and know all of the things that church people do, but they themselves are not actually part of the Church.  Sure, they might have their name listed on a membership roll somewhere, but they don’t know Jesus & Jesus doesn’t know them as His own…and thus they are never part of the actual Church.  Jesus is the One to build His Church, and He knows who belongs to Him.  Religious actions (even miracles!) are no substitute for true faith, and Jesus cannot be deceived by them.
    1. Do you know Jesus?  Have your received His righteousness by faith?  That’s the only way you will be saved!  It’s not enough to play the church game.  The amount of theology you know, or Scripture you’ve memorized, or worship services you’ve participated in will not save you.  Those things will not clothe you in the righteousness of Christ.  Only faith in the Lord Jesus will do that.  Run to Him & cling to Him in faith!

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

  1. As Jesus wraps things up, He provides a fitting conclusion.  In the parable, everyone had been invited – but not everyone participated.  The servants had gone out to the street corners, and invited everyone in, regardless of their background.  It didn’t matter if they had been good or bad in the past, they were all invited to come.  Yet once in the wedding hall, not everyone actually participated in the wedding feast.  One was seen who had not responded fully to the invitation, and he was cast out.
  2. All are invited to receive the salvation of Christ, but not everyone is saved. All are invited to partake in the kingdom of heaven, but not everyone will.  There are many who deny the invitation of God outright, and show themselves unworthy.  There are others who seem to respond at first, but do not come in Jesus’ righteousness.  Only those who respond fully in faith in the Lord Jesus will be saved…those who come at His invitation, and surrender themselves to Jesus, receiving the righteousness that only He can provide.  Although those who do number in the multitudes, much higher than can be counted, it is still relatively “few” in respect to all of humanity.  The opportunity for salvation is there, but most people will turn aside from it.
    1. There are many passages in the Scripture which ought to do away with the teaching known as “universalism,” and this is one of them.  It’s understandable why people want all people to be saved – who wouldn’t?  Even God’s desire is for all people everywhere to be saved, and that is His command to them.  But the plain fact from the Scripture is that NOT all people will be saved.  We need to come through the grace and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, or we will not come at all.  In His grand compassion and mercy, God has made a way available for people to be saved – but we must respond.
  3. Salvation is available to ALL to will respond.  All who do show themselves to have been chosen by God to be saved.  In this we see a wonderful Biblical balance of God’s sovereign choice (election), and mankind’s free-will responsibility.  God invites, and as men and women respond to His invitation, they show that they had been wonderfully chosen by God to experience salvation.  None of these takes away from the universal invitation, nor does it take away from the absolute responsibility of mankind to freely respond to that invitation.  Just as those who refused the invitation showed themselves to be unworthy, so do those who respond show themselves to have been chosen.

Have you responded to the royal invitation?  We have a God who has invited us to something wonderful: grand life in eternity, intimate relationship with His Son, total forgiveness for all time, and much more.  The invitation is there, and has been given to the entire world – Jews and Gentiles alike.

There is application to the Jew of Jesus’ day.  Although it might be easy to do, we cannot overlook this.  After all, this was the original audience of Jesus at the time, and He taught this parable not only for those who would read generations later, but primarily for the people who were listening to Him that minute.  What was Jesus telling the Jew?  They were endangering themselves!  They were on the cusp of refusing the grand command invitation of God Almighty, and they would suffer needlessly as a result.  They did not have to make the mistake of rebellion against God, but if they did, they could be assured of the consequence that they would face.  And they did indeed face it. (Titus’ destruction of Jerusalem 70AD…)  Did Jesus know that the Jews would refuse?  Yes.  But their refusal and rebellion did not negate the mercies of God!  Even knowing what their response would be (in just a few days when Jesus would be crucified!), God still reached out to them with a gracious warning and invitation to be saved.  To this day, the Jew still has the invitation to receive Jesus as their Messiah, and although they still reject Him, there is the promise that one day they will see Him for who He is.

Of course, what the Jews refused has been offered to the rest of the world.  The gospel has gone out (and is continuing to go out) to every corner and country, and the invitation is there for people to be saved.  No matter what our background might be, Jesus offers to save us.  To those who respond, we have the assurance of forgiveness.  We have power for life today and the promise for life eternal.  God has already done all of the work through our Lord Jesus; we simply cling to Him by faith.

There is also a warning for the hypocrite.  To those who believe they can skate by on appearances – who think they can just put up a show of religion without truly surrendering everything to the Lord Jesus, they will have a harsh confrontation with reality when they see Jesus face-to-face.  It’s not enough to be “around” the things and people of Christ; you need to know Christ.  You need to have received His righteousness.

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