Flashback Episode — God’s Two Gifts: Matthew 22:1-14

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As we move through the week leading up to the cross in Matthew’s gospel, we come to a challenging parable Jesus shares with some powerful implications. In this parable, we discover how one group of people gives up their privileged status, and another group gains the invitation to step into the first group’s place.

However, while this sounds simple, perhaps even too simple, the parable we are about to read really contains only two major details we should pay attention to, and these two details are crucial for our ultimate salvation.

Our passage and parable is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 22, and we will read it from the New International Version. Starting in verse 22, Matthew tells us that:

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 to 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. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Jumping out of our parable for a minute, I want to point out that if Jesus ended His parable here, He would have ended on a high note, at the most positive point in this illustration, but He would have only shared with us one of the two major details we must pay attention to in this parable.

Instead, Jesus then continues in verse 11, saying:

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “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.’

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

In this parable Jesus shared, we started on a high point with a king preparing for a celebration. Things then turn worse when we discovered how those who had been originally invited to this celebration decide to ignore or outright reject the invitation that was theirs. Things then shift back to being positive when the king extends the invitation to everyone regardless of their prior status.

Part of me is curious about how those who were present and listening to this parable responded when Jesus shared how the king opened the invitation to anyone and everyone. This major detail in this parable is vitally important for us to pay attention to. This major detail draws our attention onto a gift that God offers to each of us. While I don’t know if God would have opened this gift to everyone if those who were originally invited had accepted their invitations, because this first group rejected it, it gives anyone and everyone who wants to the choice to accept the invitation.

This parable draws our attention onto the amazing gift God offers to each of us when He invited us to be a part of His family, and to take part in the celebration when Jesus returns to bring God’s people home.

If we stopped reading here, this parable would end with the best news possible.

However, Jesus continued sharing, and things take another turn downward. When the king arrives in the banquet hall, he sees a person who isn’t wearing wedding clothes, and he throws this man out.

On the surface, this sounds both reasonable and ridiculous. The reasonable side of this is that this is the king, and he can do what he wants. If the king didn’t like how someone was dressed, he is perfectly within his right to kick that person out of his home and his event.

However, this also sounds ridiculous. When we look at how the parable progressed prior to this point, those who ultimately are in the banquet hall are those people who woke up that morning with no thoughts or plans of heading to the king’s banquet. All those present are last-minute invitees to this special event. Those present represent anyone and everyone from the rich to the poor, the good to the evil, and the well connected to the social outcasts. In this parable, those present come from any and every background, and they are all miraculously wearing wedding clothes when the king arrives.

The only way this detail makes sense, especially when reconciling this with the realization that not everyone present would have been able to afford appropriate wedding clothing, is that the king gave the guests wedding clothes on their arrival. With this detail in place, we discover how the king is fully within his rights to throw someone out who had refused the second portion of his gift. The king had given everyone an amazing gift of an invitation and he gave each person present the gift of wedding clothing.

In this parable, we discover how God gives each of us two gifts. God first gives us the gift of an invitation into His family and into His special event. If you’re worried about whether you are in the first group of invitees or the second, don’t worry about this. All you need to know is that you have been given an invitation. Everyone in this parable received an invitation to this wedding banquet!

This first gift requires a choice, and we must choose whether we will accept this gift or not.

The second gift present in this parable is the gift of wedding clothing. It is completely possible to accept the gift of an invitation but reject the gift of wedding clothing. The person who the king throws out for not wearing wedding clothes may have believed he had wedding clothes on, he had on the best clothes he had, or that the clothing one wore to this event wasn’t significant. Regardless of the reason, this man is thrown out for rejecting the second gift.

If you are concerned about whether you have accepted the gift of wedding clothing, this might be something to look into. The gift of wedding clothing is Jesus’ righteousness. The gift of clothing is defined for us in Revelation as the righteous acts of God’s people. In one of the most symbolic books of the Bible, John gives us the definition of this metaphor.

The second gift is a challenge for each of us. The second gift challenges us regarding where we place our focus and our hope. With the gift of clothing, are we going to come before God showing Him what we have done for Him with the attitude of trying to build ourselves up, or are we going to come before God thanking Him for what Jesus blessed us with and how nothing we do could ever repay His generosity?

For some reason, the man in this parable who is thrown out decided that He could appear before God with his own righteousness, and this cost him his salvation. I might be understating this when I say “Don’t be that guy!”

Instead, choose to accept God’s two gifts, both the choice and the challenge, and live your life as a thank you to God for everything He has blessed us with, both through what Jesus did for us, and through what Jesus is still doing for us each and every day!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, be sure to intentionally seek God first in your life and let Him give you the two gifts that matter the most. Make the choice to accept His invitation and accept God’s challenge to replace your life and character with Christ’s life and character. This is only possible with God’s help and it is the best way we can say thank you to God for giving us what we easily don’t deserve.

Also, pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God each and every day. God wants a personal relationship with you and He doesn’t want a relationship where you filter Him through the thoughts and opinions of others. Choose to make your relationship with God personal by choosing to spend time with Him on a regular, frequent basis.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or be tricked out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 39: In a challenging parable Jesus shares, discover how God gives us two important gifts, and how our salvation depends on us accepting the gift of a choice and a challenge!

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