The Kingdom Of Heaven
Matthew 22:1-14 - "Jesus responded and spoke to them again in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a marriage feast for his son. He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the wedding, but they were not willing to come. He tried again and sent other servants, saying, Tell the invited guests, Look, I have prepared my banquet, my steers and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding. But they paid no attention to it and went off, one to his farm, another to his place of business. The rest grabbed the servants, treated them shamefully, and murdered them. So the king's wrath was kindled, and having dispatched his troops he destroyed those murderers and set fire to their city."
Then he said to his servants, "The wedding is ready, but those that were invited did not deserve the honor. Therefore go to the country crossroads, and as many people as you can find invite to the wedding. And those servants went out on the roads and gathered all they could find, good and bad alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests."
Now when the king went in to view the guests he saw there a man who was not wearing a wedding robe. He said to him, "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?" But he was speechless. Then the king said to his attendants, "Bind him hand and foot and throw him into the most distant darkness; there shall be weeping and grinding of teeth. For many are called, but few chosen."
The first words of John the Baptist, the one whose ministry it was to prepare the way for the Lord are recorded in Matthew 3:1-2: "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand".
It is also significant to note that the first words of Jesus, himself, upon his entry into public ministry as recorded in Matthew 4:17 are: "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". And the prayer taught to us, Jesus' own prayer as given in the Lord's prayer are "thy kingdom come, will be done in earth as it is in heaven."
The kingdom of heaven is somewhat of a mystery to us all; but we do know that it was ushered in by Jesus Christ himself. The kingdom of heaven is at hand in the person of Jesus ...the kingdom has come in the person of Jesus and it will grow, expand and advance on earth as people repent and turn from self and their own perspective to seek and obey the will of God by accepting Jesus and receiving Him into their hearts ...so will the kingdom come on earth.
Now, the scripture above is about the kingdom of heaven - notice how it starts out - "The kingdom of heaven is like ...".
As I read this parable I was totally mystified. The reason was because I was reading the words from my perspective and understanding of the natural mind. The Bible says that the natural mind cannot comprehend the things of the spirit - 1 Corinthians 2:14 - "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Is the kingdom of heaven like this? I had many questions. I could not understand why the king was so severe. Why would he cast this man out after they went to the highways and byways to invite all in, "all they could find, both good and bad alike".
Maybe the king was mad because those originally chosen rejected the royal feast and this one off the street did not conform!
Was the king wrong in doing this? He seems obviously very cruel. judgmental. a stickler for fundamentalism and legalism, too rigid, no compassion of heart, insensitive, etc., etc....
Why is the wedding robe so important? It's obvious he was just off the street; he had no robe or couldn't afford it. He probably didn't have time to go home and change even if he did have one. Isn't the important thing the fact that he accepted the invitation and attended, regardless of his appearance?
And then the unbelievable condemnation, the binding hand and foot in front of the whole assembly in the banquet hail. And, finally, the utter casting out and banishment of this poor fellow to the distant darkness!
This is too much, I thought! I can't believe it and I don't comprehend it. How could a loving king who freely and graciously invited all out of the generosity of his heart - especially the poor, the rag tags, the underprivileged, and those right off the streets - how could he do such a cruel thing?
Is this what the kingdom of heaven is like?
Yes! Absolutely and unequivocally - this is what the kingdom of heaven is all about.
A. General Observations
1. There are two ways of sinning against God's gracious and merciful invitation and gift:
a. Refusing to accept it as the Jews did and as unbelievers do today.
b. Taking and accepting the invitation in outward fashion, but continuing in sin.
2. The King (God) is most patient and long suffering - three invitations were sent out - but his patience has a limit, then He acts in a devastating manner.
3. God is no respecter of persons. The final invitation was given to all by the King. None has any special standing before God.
4. Those who accept the invitation are to pass the scrutiny of God - He has an all seeing eye. Each one of us are under the King's eye.
5. The central thrust and core of the text is to insist that all in attendance wear the wedding garment (the robe).
6. The wedding garment symbolizes a condition of readiness and acceptance in the eyes of the King (God).
7. Great emphasis is placed on the responsibility of man. First, he had to accept the idea of wearing a robe in order to feast (the benefits of salvation). Secondly, he had to actually put on the robe.
8. The passport or condition of entry into the royal feast )the kingdom) which was the robe was something not of human achievement, but rather something given by the King - good works do not admit into the kingdom.
9. The Xray of God's truth penetrates and shines right through us. The man was speechless - caught, so to speak, with his pants down, because he didn't have the robe on. He was struck dumb.
10. Doing it our own way, self will, and independence (the man who refused to wear the wedding gown), but outwardly pretending righteousness by accepting the invitation is met with expulsion, binding and banishment out of God's realm (the kingdom of heaven). Doing it our own way without receiving what God has to offer (the wedding gown - salvation) is insulting to God.
The Jewish nation had refused to listen to God's call to repentance, had rejected the Messiah, and had refused or neglected the invitation to the marriage feast (vs 1-7).
But what I want to focus on here is the man who did not have on a wedding robe (vs 11-14). This is the pith, core and heart of the parable. But first ...
B. The Invitation
The final invitation had gone out to all, good and bad alike (from a human standpoint of judgment). Therefore, the man could have been rich or poor, in position of authority or a beggar on the street. He could have been a church goer or not. He could have been a doer of good works, a pillar in the community, a man of social stature ...or he could have been a 'low life', a sinner, a wicked and bad person in the eyes of man, maybe he was not in good standing with the law.
The point is that before receiving the call and invitation to the banquet all kinds of people, all classes, races, colors, position and place in life are acceptable unto the King. No one is excluded. Now, it is the call to invitation alone that is operative (evangelism - heralding of the Gospel) in that it brings men and women into the kingdom irrespective of their former condition, whether they are despised or admired by the world.
C. The Significance of the Wedding Garment - The Robe
1. It signifies the passport for entry into the royal banquet hall, the kingdom of heaven.
2. It is something provided by the King. How could the King expect all that He had invited to have a wedding gown fit for a royal occasion? There is only one solution! At the entrance to the banquet hall the robe would have been offered to each guest to put on and wear.
3. The robe must be "put on" and worn by the person. If we are to participate in the kingdom of heaven and to partake of the royal feast which is available to us now, we must "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
4. The wedding garment indicates that the old way must be laid aside and the new life must take its place.
5. The robe indicates that the King does not require prior righteousness - it is the robe of Jesus Christ which makes him acceptable and nothing else.
6, Wearing the robe puts the attendee under the protection and authority of the King and so the wearer of the garment trusts the requirements of the King.
7. The wedding robe symbolizes a condition of total acceptance by the King. Everything is laid out for us and with the robe on we can eat, partake freely and enjoy all of the bountiful blessings of a royal feast which is the kingdom of heaven now available to all who are properly 'dressed'.
8. The garment also represents holiness and righteousness imputed unto us; i.e., given to us by Christ ...we are clothed in His holiness and righteousness. We have no goodness in our own selves acceptable unto the King.
9. It is only by faith and acceptance of Jesus Christ - we put Him on - and it is only Him that makes us acceptable to the King, not our own good works, 'Sunday best', or self righteous behavior.
10. Without the garment we are hopeless before God and with certainty we are cast out.
D. The Man Himself - The Intruder
1. He was an intruder because he dared to regard his own clothes (his natural humanity) as being good enough when everything in the kingdom (the banquet hail) is regal and royal. Can we imagine wearing our levis and tee shirt to a White House state dinner! The only acceptable dress in the King's banqueting hall is the robe of Jesus Christ ...only He guarantees us acceptance and participation in the kingdom of heaven.
2. The man insults the King, his son, the wedding atmosphere and the guests by rejecting the wedding garment which was the required 'dress'. He probably brushed the dust off of his own clothes, straightened them up, adjusted his tie, and said "my own dress is good enough ...I don't need the one you are offering me."
3. This fellow was probably quite smug and prideful observing that the others had to bend the knee and conform so to speak ...but not him. He did it his way! This bowing and scraping to the King - what miserable worms! All are afraid to maintain their own individuality and independence he secretly was thinking.
4. This man was accepting the King's bounty - he had accepted the invitation ...he was inside the banqueting hail ...the food was before him ...he was ready to eat ...and yet in his heart he yet questioned the greatness and dignity of the King and what he had to offer. He was, in actuality, insulting the King and dishonoring Him by not doing the one thing that would justify him - wearing the robe - "Putting on Christ". Satan says "What right has God to say ye cannot eat of every tree of the garden". "Don't believe him! He is holding back true satisfaction and happiness from you - if you do it your way you will feel good ...and what right has He anyway to rule you?!"
5. Yet everything was free - all for no cost. Yet by the man's selfishness and disobedience he flouted the very nature of God and questioned his authority. He sinned deliberately against the King. In the original Greek text there is the connotation that the man came inside knowing that he was not properly dressed. Maybe he came in for outward show or for false confession knowing that he could later return to his sin of true unbelief and disobedience.
"Not having been garmented" - the Greek text makes the negation even more decisive and clear cut. This mans heart had not been changed. He was not repentant in the sense of giving his heart to the Lord.
6. No one in his right mind would have thought it possible that among the many guests so graciously invited that one would dare to come in with his own clothes on and not clad in a wedding garment like all the rest. So this is the outrageous thing that the King saw. And God looks at the heart ...we might appear to be properly dressed on the outside, but God looks at the inside, at the heart of man. And the King saw a man minus the wedding robe - a heart not given to Jesus Christ and he bound him and cast him out.
7. Here is the man sitting in the banqueting hail, ready to dine - yet without a repentant heart ...maintaining his prideful countenance and independence ...self satisfied in his own accomplishment ...then the fateful words "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?" The light of truth pierces to the core. The man is totally speechless - he is unmasked - he has no leg to stand on - he has not "put on" the robe of Jesus Christ. He is struck dumb - he has no defense - he is finished ...self condemned, then ejected in front of all from the hail.
Beloved, brethren, we hear the good words of Jesus - "Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."
Jesus wants us to partake of the royal feast, He wants us to eat plentifully of God's richest blessings and provisions, He wants us to dine with the King in good cheer ...freely and uproariously happy.
That's why He died. That's why He went to the Cross - trusting and believing that those of us who hear the call will come, put Him on, and enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said - "My yoke is easy and my burden is light"!
Jesus died to make us right with God. He died, believing in faith that: we might rise up, repent, claim our true inheritance as Sons of God, turn from self, turn from deceptions, and simply take on the name of Christ as our own - become a Christian - put on Christ and be acceptable to God.
Our Father, the King, says "I am your God and you are my people". We have a blessed covenant, a promise, which can never be broken from Almighty God.
He delights to have us sit down and dine with Him! Bon Appetite!
In His service and love,
Stanton R. Herpick
1. International Critical Commentary, Page 235, St. Matthew.
2. The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 7, Page 516.
3. The Gospel of Matthew, W. Hendrikson, Page 791ff.
4. The Interpretation of St. Matthews Gospel, Lenski, Pages 855-859.
5. Expositions of Holy Scripture, Alexander MacLaren, Vol. VII, Pages 130-135.
6. Evangelistic Sermons, D.M. Lloyd Jones, Pages 90-102.