Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
This parable is not new to me, but I must admit it took me a while to really understand it. I had a hard time getting past the literal and delving into the allegorical. But one Sunday morning this was being preached at church, and I had my own, “Aha!” moment. I got it. I could see how it all fit together, and how it emulated God’s Kingdom. All good.
Except, unfortunately, for one thing. If you’ve read my previous posts, then you know that I am a very visual person. Everything comes to me in pictures, and I relate what I learn to those pictures. So here I am, sitting in church, “watching” the scene play out. My mind is going back and forth from the king’s banquet hall to our King’s pearly gates, lining everything up and how they fit together. Everything.
But I can’t help getting stuck with the one vision I have at the king’s banquet. There is a very long table, many people sitting, eating, enjoying themselves at this celebration. At the very end of the table, in a chair on the right side looking up toward the king (I’m not kidding about how visual I am!), sits a man. He looks to be in his late thirties to early forties, he has a short, respectable hair cut, a little scruff on his chin, and his clothes, though not dressy, are nicely put together (modern times). To me he looks like a nice guy who just got carried along with the crowd of people, none of his peers close by. I don’t know his background, but I can tell he’s done the right thing his entire life. He’s good.
Then the king notices him and approaches him. “’Friend,’ he asks, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’” (v.12) I watch as the man looks up at the king, embarrassed. All he was doing was sitting there, quietly eating his meal. He hadn’t expected to attend a banquet that night, but he was pulled in. An awkward silence passes between the man and the king, as the story tells us, “The man was speechless.” (v.12)
And then the king gives the orders to have him thrown out. He doesn’t quietly and politely ask him to leave, he doesn’t offer him a set of wedding clothes from his abundant closets. He tells his attendants, “’Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (v.13)
My heart goes out to that man. He was quiet, he wasn’t causing a ruckus. He didn’t sit in a place of honor; in fact, he sat at the lowest place possible. And yet, because of his clothes, he was singled out and thrown out of the house like a dog who had just ruined Christmas dinner. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.
And to top it all off? Jesus ends his parable with, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Well, what the heck? What’s the point of inviting him only to embarrass him by having him kicked out in such a harsh manner? What’s the point of it all? I don’t understand! And, really? He was a good guy! Jesus said earlier that anyone on the street was to be invited, both good and bad. This guy didn’t fall into the “bad” category, so why was he singled out? It’s not right. It’s not fair.
I got the message, but that part still baffled me. A couple of nights ago I was reading my Bible, and, of course, one of my readings happened to be Matthew 22. Back to the parable of the wedding banquet. Okay. I was bound and determined to figure it out once and for all (no, I didn’t look deeper into this at that time) what the end of this parable meant. So I read, finished up verse fourteen which ends the parable, and still didn’t get it. Great. The same exact scene played out in my mind with the same outcome, the same, “Huh?”
Finally I decided I had to figure this out, so when my husband walked into the bedroom where I had been reading I talked to him about it - I typically am able to figure things out when I talk to him, whether he leads me to the answer or I figure it out just by talking it out. I explained my dilemma to him – and of course he laughed at just how visual I was about it – and then he explained to me that he just never accepted Christ. Plain and simple. Oops. Am I the only one who missed that? Probably. But there it was. He never, in all his life, accepted Christ. The wedding clothes come when you put on Christ, when you are covered with His blood. I started singing a line from a song we would sing at my old church when adults were being baptized, “You have put on Christ. In Him you have been baptized. Alleluia, Alleluia.”
So I finally got it. Maybe this came up the Sunday it was being preached, but I had missed it. But I told my husband - since I was still trying to fight for this guy – that maybe no one actually talked to him about it. Maybe he never knew Christ because no one took the time to tell him. And there was “Aha!” moment number two. Or was it three? Anyway, writing all this out in my notebook I realized that there are going to be many people waiting their turn to get into heaven, but many of them will be turned away because they missed one step. They never accepted Jesus. In John 14:6-7a, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.”
“No one comes to the Father except through me.” That’s it in a nutshell. We must accept Christ in order to be accepted into the Kingdom of heaven. But what if that person didn’t know? That’s when it came to me. It’s our job to tell them. Yes, this is something that Christians are told time and time again, and new Christians are one of the first to want to rush out and save the world, but do we really understand the call? Some, yes. Others, maybe not. Why was my heart hurting so much for that one man who was thrown out of the banquet? Because I personally need to take that step. I admit I like to hide behind my writing, and my words do come out much easier when I put them down on paper (or type them on a computer). The written word is a gift that God has given to me, and I can use it to share His Gospel. BUT…that doesn’t excuse me from sharing it by word of mouth when I’m out and about. I can’t use the “I’m shy” excuse. It may be true (more than I’d care to admit), but it’s not an excuse. It’s actually selfish. I can’t say, “They would never listen to me,” “They’ll just roll their eyes and walk away,” or even, “So-and-so would be able to do this much easier. I’ll just let them save the world.” Yeah, that’s not what we’re called to do. We’re not called to shirk our duties as Christians. We need to immerse ourselves into God’s work. Regardless of where we’re called. We are all called to different avenues; we just need to find out where those are, what those are. We can all make a difference when the day of judgment comes if we all do our part now.
And it doesn’t matter if the person is “good” or “bad.” A bad person can accept Christ and turn his or her life completely around. A good person can do so much good, but if they don’t except Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they don’t have a chance. Being good (like the man in my visualization) doesn’t give you a free ticket into heaven. Isaiah tells us that “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6a) So then how are we to become clean? By accepting Christ and being “washed in the blood of the Lamb.”
“And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:14-17, emphasis mine) Doesn’t that sound amazing? Some of us are already guaranteed this. Now we need to help others take the step that will also give them this gift of eternal life.
Last night in my small group a question in the book we’re reading asked, “Why does your tomorrow depend on today?” Well, what would happen if we left everything for another day? What if we knew where we were supposed to be, and by being there we could bring more people to Him, but instead we find something “more important” to do, or we’re too tired, or we just don’t feel like it. How are we ever going to win a war just sitting back doing nothing? We can read the Bible ‘til we’re blue in the face (and we should always be in His word), but we have to put it all into action somehow.
So, how are you going to make a difference? Will you be able to stand before God and know that you helped even just one person pass through His gates into His Kingdom? Will God look at you and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” I know I want that. I want to stand there and watch people entering, not being kicked out.
Lord Jesus, I understand now that it is my responsibility, my duty, as a Christian to help grow your Kingdom. When I sit idly by I’m doing nothing. Please help me to remember that I am saved through the blood of the Lamb, and I need to share that gift with others. Lord Jesus, thank You.