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

Read the Transcript

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!

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Fit To Worship: Mark 7:1-23

Focus Passage: Mark 7:1-23 (CEV)

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

Jesus replied:

You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,

“All of you praise me
    with your words,
but you never really
    think about me.
It is useless for you
    to worship me,
when you teach rules
    made up by humans.”

You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught. You are good at rejecting God’s commands so that you can follow your own teachings! 10 Didn’t Moses command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? 11 But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they own has been offered to God. 12 You won’t let those people help their parents. 13 And you ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. You do a lot of other things that are just as bad.

14 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”

17 After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and had gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18 He answered, “Don’t you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19 It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

20 Then Jesus said:

What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

Read Mark 7:1-23 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In Jesus’ response when the Pharisees challenge the disciples over not washing their hands, He draws our attention onto how we should be more interested with what comes out of our mouths than what goes into them. However, like what often happened following Jesus teaching, the disciples bring up the subject again when they were alone with Jesus and they ask for more clarification.

In this event, Jesus’ responds to the disciples in a similar way as He had done earlier with the crowd, but He contrasts two different body parts: the heart and the stomach.

Food we consume in our mouths goes into our stomach. It is then digested. However, this food never reaches your heart before being filtered and dissolved into the basic nutrients. Instead, what leaves our heart will leave through our mouth. Our words reveal what our heart is thinking, and what comes from our heart is what can make us unclean. If you were curious if Jesus defines specifically what can make us unclean, these four verses contain Jesus’ definition: “What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.” (v. 20-23)

Jesus says that any one of these things can make us “unfit to worship God”, and this list includes some pretty bad things. Looking past the surface items in the list, we can see that this list includes items that are thoughts, actions, choices, and attitudes. Any evil thought, action, choice, or attitude will make us unfit to worship God.

While we are sinners and Jesus came to die for our sins, this doesn’t override our freedom of choice. All the evil things in the list are things that we have the freedom to choose to do or not to do.

However, what Jesus doesn’t say in this passage is how we can feed our heart. This is done by choosing what we focus on and pay attention to. While we cannot eliminate every negative thing from reaching our senses, we can be so intentional about pushing good things into our mind that the good can crowd out the bad. In many ways, this is how we are able to eliminate the things from our heart that can make us unclean and unfit for worship.

In order to find the best things for our mind, we don’t need to look any further than the Bible and the Holy Spirit. By prayerfully reading and studying the Bible, we can help the Holy Spirit push the bad habits in our lives and replace them with good, Godly habits that will make us fit to worship God.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Confident In Christ’s Righteousness: Luke 18:9-14

Read the Transcript

As we continue moving forward through Luke’s gospel, we arrive at an illustration Jesus shares that is powerful for us to pay attention to, and in this illustration, Jesus shares a key to having a prayer life that works. In this event, we discover a powerful truth that should impact our prayers to God if we have been feeling our prayers are ineffective.

Let’s read our passage and then unpack some big things we can learn from what Jesus shared. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 18, and we will read from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 9, Luke tells us:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In this passage and in Jesus’ illustration, we discover a powerful truth about prayer. Within the picture of these two prayers, we see two different ways of perceiving what God wants. In one prayer, we see someone directing God to look at how good they are in relation to the standard they have in their mind. In the other prayer, we discover someone who simple acknowledges where they are and that they need God.

However, too often we disconnect these two prayers from the reason Jesus shared this illustration, while also disconnecting the lesson Jesus shares from the parable itself.

Our passage opens with the clear reason Jesus shared this parable. Verse 9 opens this event by saying, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable”. The specific context for this parable was Jesus witnessing some people who were confident that they were righteous while looking down on others.

We should look at this parable through this window. However, as I wonder about this, which piece of the picture Luke describes is the negative? In Jesus’ eyes, was it wrong for the people He shared this parable with to be confident of their own righteousness, or was is simply wrong to look down on everyone else?

This is an interesting question. While we all could easily agree that it was likely wrong to look down on others, is it wrong to live confident of our own righteousness?

From the context of what Jesus shares in the parable and key point Jesus shares afterwards, I suspect that both looking down on others and being confident of our own righteousness are equally wrong in God’s eyes. This is because the best we can do and be isn’t enough. Even if we lived perfectly sinless from this point in our lives forward, there would be enough sin in our past to cancel out our current perfection.

Jesus finished this illustration off with a truth at the end of verse 14: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” While it is easy to take this truth and disconnect it from the parable Jesus shared, let’s instead keep this truth attached to the context of Jesus’ prayer illustration. While it is easy to say this statement is a universal truth that is applicable to every area of life, Jesus’ shared this truth in Luke’s gospel with a very specific, very narrow context – specifically in the context of our prayers.

In the context of this passage, we can conclude that exalting ourselves before God in prayer will never end well. Praying prayers that emphasize how good we are might be asking for God to humble us.

In contrast, when we come before God with a humble spirit, God promises to lift us up and to bring us glory. The powerful truth of this entire parable is that we should never be confident in our own perfection because we are not perfect. We have sinned, and because of this, we have fallen short of God’s perfection.

While there are some who say that since no one can achieve the standard we should all either move the standard lower or give up on trying, God gives us a different solution that doesn’t lower His standard, but one that gives us a glimpse of hope.

To solve the dilemma of sin, Jesus stepped into the world. Jesus lived the perfect life we could not live because we have sinful hearts and minds. Jesus proved that God’s demands were not impossible, impractical, or unwise. Jesus showed us God’s ideal for our lives through how He lived.

Jesus also showed us how much God loves us. Jesus could have written any type of death into prophecy before the creation of the world, but He chose a death that was humiliating, painful, and very public. Jesus did not deserve death, because His perfect, sinless life contained nothing that deserved death.

However, Jesus offered His life up in death so that we could accept His life as a gift in exchange for ours. God offers to trade us our sinful, sin-filled lives for Jesus’ sinless sacrifice. When we trade with God, accepting Jesus’ gift, we have a clear change of focus. With Jesus’ sacrifice as God’s gift to each of us, we should live confident in Jesus’ righteousness instead of our own and 100% aware of our continual need for Jesus to be our Savior.

Being confident in our own righteousness is never wise, because it tells God that we don’t need Him or Jesus. If we push Jesus away believing we don’t need Him, we ultimately will die because of our sins. Instead, we should humble ourselves, accept the gift God offers us through Jesus’ life, and live confidently in what Jesus has done for us and continually thank God for taking our sin-filled lives and giving us a Savior to take the punishment we deserve! When we accept Jesus’ life in place of our own, we have the assurance of eternal life, and the eternal life God gives us through Jesus’ life is one that extends into eternity!

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, intentionally seek God first in your life. If you have not humbly accepted God’s gift through Jesus’ sacrifice, I invite you to do so today. Choose to humbly come before God and ask Him to take your sin-filled life and your sin-stained past and replace it with Jesus’ life. When we intentionally trade lives with Jesus, we have the assurance of salvation.

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Filter everything you hear, see, and read through the lens of the Bible to discover whether it is something that is truly worthwhile from eternity’s perspective. God has shared the big picture with us in the Bible, and He has kept His truth safe for thousands of years. If we trust God to keep us safe for eternity, trust also that He will keep His message of salvation safe through a few thousand years of sin-filled human history.

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 wander away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Luke – Episode 38: When Jesus shares a parable about two different people who come to the temple to pray, discover how the big truth Jesus applies is given in a very narrow context, and how Jesus came to solve the problem of sin in the world today!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Action over Intention: Matthew 21:28-32

Focus Passage: Matthew 21:28-32 (NCV)

28 “Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ 29 The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. 30 Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”

The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do. 32 John came to show you the right way to live. You did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Even after seeing this, you still refused to change your ways and believe him.

Read Matthew 21:28-32 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One thing I find amazing about passages like this one is how Jesus is able to use very simple illustrations to make His point. In this passage’s case, the illustration is so simple that the Pharisees and religious leaders easily answer Jesus’ question at the end. This is one of the few places where the Pharisees and Jesus agree.

Following this short parable of two sons, Jesus asks them the question: “Which of the two sons obeyed his father?” (v. 31a) The father asked both sons to help in the field. The first son said he would/could not help, but then later changes his mind and shows up. The second son said he would help, but for whatever reason, chose not to show up. Jesus’ simple question is which son obeyed his father.

It is such a simple question that each of us could easily answer it as well – and I could guess that if we were all being honest with ourselves and with the question, we’d all answer that the first son – the one who showed up to help in the field – is the obedient one.

But here is something interesting: Both sons lied.

We can easily point our finger at the second son and call him a liar because he did not do what he said he would, but the same is true for the first son: He did what he said he would not do.

If both sons lied, then what is the difference?

The difference is action – actually doing the things we have been asked to do. It is easy to speak our intentions, but what matters in the end is what is actually said and done.

As I began to write this, my mind was distracted. I have another project in the works that is more “interesting” than pushing through producing another post. But, here is the truth: while the other project will help a number of people, the big truth I want to bring out in this passage is a more solid, foundational truth that is true for virtually everyone.

The big concept for this post is this: What we say is not nearly as important as what we do. Action is more important than intention 100% of the time.

Jesus believed this, and surprisingly, the Pharisees and religious leaders agreed with Him on this one point. If we are being honest with the question itself, you and I believe this too.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.