And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “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. 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.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore 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. “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 foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
(Matthew 22:1-14 ESV)
Jesus continues to respond to the Jewish leaders in the Temple today with a third parable. The previous two were specifically directed towards them. This one, however, addresses the entire nation of Israel. And like the previous two, this one also speaks of God’s grace and judgment.
The Jews believed (and still believe) that the kingdom of heaven was reserved exclusively for them (and possibly some Gentile converts). This would have included not only the afterlife but also life on this earth in the form of God’s protection and blessing. But as this parable attests, this would not be the case.
In this parable a king gave a wedding feast for his son. He invited many but they would not come. Notice that they “could” have come. But they “would” not come.
So he sent other servants to again request that they come. But they paid no attention and went about their lives. Some even treated the king’s servants shamefully and killed them.
This parable painted a very vivid picture of Israel whom God graciously and repeatedly invited to come into His presence. But the people of Israel did not respond. Some were too preoccupied with their lives to care. Others reacted with hostility to the invitation.
Of course, this parable also describes the world we live in. People today (and all throughout time) have had these similar responses to God. They are more concerned about their temporary earthly lives than they are about eternity. Or they’re actively hostile to the gospel message.
In the end the king was angry and had their city destroyed. God is extremely patient. But He is not going to be patient with people forever. A time comes when God’s patience, as plentiful as it is, runs out. Prophetically speaking, Jesus’ words came true about 40 years later when God allowed the Romans to destroy Jerusalem, including the beloved Temple.
So instead the king’s servants gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. The Jews rejected God’s invitation so God sent His invitation to the Gentiles, who accepted.
Notice that both the “good” and the “bad” attended the feast. From a human point of view some were more qualified to attend than others. But that is not how God sees people. God invites everyone to be with Him no matter what the world thinks of them.
Here we see that no one enters heaven based on merit. We’re all unqualified [Psalm 14:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Roman 3:10]. The only requirement for entering God’s eternal presence is saying “yes” to His invitation. Those people who end up in hell do so not because they are sinners (otherwise we’d all end up there). They end up there because they said “no” to God.
Like the servants in the parable, Christians are to invite others into a relationship with God through His son. We are not to be concerned with whether they accept or decline. Like the people in the parable, everyone is responsible and accountable for their own eternity.
The vast majority will decline God’s invite [Matthew 7:13-14]. But not to worry… God’s eternal house will be filled.
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