Matthew 22:1-14 Part 3


Since we’ve had a week in between expositions on this passage, we ought to spend just a minute or two bringing back to memory what we’ve already heard.

The first thing is that this is a parable concerning the Kingdom.  And the Kingdom is first; the Kingdom is the pattern – the reality from which the parable flows.  The parable doesn’t explain the Kingdom – the Kingdom gives life to the parable!

Second, this parable is Messianic.  But it is not a marriage metaphor, and neither is it a parable about a bridegroom.  It is a parable concerning preparations for wedding festivities.  And in some ways the Kingdom of God is likened to that!  In other words, God, as planned from eternity, made ready for a great event in history (which is, of course, the coming of Messiah); but God did predestine, in the fullness of the time, this greatest of all events to take place.  He also predestined that His Own people wouldn’t know Him when He came, and that they would reject Him and even kill Him!  This is the Kingdom reality which is lent to the parable.  And, within the parable itself, the feasting and festivities are indicative of the great anticipation and joy and fulfillment in connection with the coming of that predestined event of human salvation!

Third, we’ve already seen a number of times the fact that God had sent His servants, the prophets, to Israel’s civil and ecclesiastical leaders (as well as to the nation as a whole).  And these prophet/servants would bring God’s Word to them.  In every case the prophets would announce the Law of God and give a warning of coming sanctions.  The validating mark of the prophet was God’s sanctions in history.  Should Israel not respond positively to God’s Law-Word, God would stand behind the prophet’s word and impose the sanctions.  That was the mark, as I said, of the true prophet – when God brought to pass the sanctions in history.

Fourthly, in order that we might understand the parable a little better, we reviewed the history of marriage festivities, and the preparations for that event in Israel at the time of Christ.

Fifthly, we said that the Biblical doctrines of election and predestination are the underpinning of man’s knowledge of himself and history and society and culture.  Biblical, Reformed Christianity is the only religion recognizing that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit initiates salvation for men – for the glory of God!  All other religions see man as initiating salvation; therefore all other religions are false.  So Biblical Christianity is exclusive, intolerant and non-pluralistic.

And sixth, in parabolic language (as in some prophetic language) time, on occasion, becomes relatively unimportant.  The “historical moment” may view huge chunks of history as in a moment; and, like windows on a computer program, other “historical moments” can be brought into view without much regard to time constraints.  All of this is because God’s mind isn’t limited to time as ours are.  God is the creator of time.  Time is a creation!  i.e. God isn’t under any time constraints!

While I’m on that point let me just give you one excellent example of that from the text.  Within the parable itself, verses one through six describe the call to the festivities – the king had slaughtered the cattle, and the feast was ready.  It was time.  But because his servants were ignored and even murdered by those who were called, the king starts a war to punish the murderers and burn their city (verse seven)!  And all of that while the feast is ready!

So you see, if (when staying within the parable itself) we are limited to our own time frame, the whole thing becomes nonsensical!  From our point of view you can’t prosecute a war when a feast is ready and expect all the food and drink to be in the same condition when you get back!

But the parable knows no such limitation.  The fact that it may take three weeks or six months or a year to complete a war isn’t a parabolic issue.  Food spoilage somehow isn’t within the scope of the parable!

So the fact that the King’s prophet/servants had been out there for seven hundred and fifty years – calling Israel to the wedding festivities – isn’t limiting to the parable either.  The parable says the King sent them out and nobody listened!  It’s something I call the “historical moment.”  In the parable, history is sometimes viewed at a glance.

Now.  Having had that little review of the first two sermons, let’s go to the text itself.  In verse one, Jesus, having already trapped the elders and priests and shamed them and condemned them in front of these huge crowds (chapter twenty-one), now continues to heap judgment upon them; for they have, in all their history, mistreated and murdered God’s prophets.  And they have made His covenant illegible.  And they have not eagerly anticipated and prepared for the coming Messiah.  Neither did they receive Him when He came, but rejected Him (Psalm one hundred eighteen, verse twenty-two) and would kill Him as they’ve already planned to do.

So Jesus begins to solidify the case against them; the sanctions promised by the prophets were about to be levied.  In verse two, He likens the Kingdom to the preparations for a wedding feast.

The Kingdom is God’s rule of all things and events in history.  In this parable the Kingdom has progressed in time to the point of the coming Messiah and the Covenantal rebirth of humanity; in other words – the salvation of the world!  And that’s the framework for this analogy of the marriage feast preparations!  It’s a good analogy because, at the time of this text, something very, very big is about to happen in history.  In the parable it is the preparations for the wedding of the King’s Son.

In verse three we have the King sending out his servants to those who had already been set apart, informed and called.  They were to tell them that everything was ready!  This is it!  It was time!  In reality, the prophets from Elijah to Isaiah to Joel to Zechariah and Malachi to John the Baptist had warned Israel to turn unto righteousness and to anticipate the coming of Messiah.  But again and again the nation and its leaders ignored the warnings and mistreated the prophets (killing many of them), and now they were conspiring to kill Messiah!

These were the ones called out by God!  This is Israel!  They had received all the blessings of God, including receiving His Word!  Through no merit of their own, God had (just) “chosen” them!  That’s what the text means when Jesus says, “then he sent his servants to call those who had been called...” (verse three).

“Those who had been called” is a perfect passive construction of a participle, meaning that they were now in a state of having already been called!  In other words it is a given fact that all the nation (leaders and people) had been alerted to, time and again, the coming wedding festivities (a great historical event)!  And they were to expect and anticipate that great event and be full of joy and delight when it arrived!

As the prophecy of Joel says, “Blow the trumpets and call the congregation… let the Bridegroom come out of his chambers and the bride from her closet….” – alert the nation/congregation!

But, as Jesus says in his parable, when the call went out, they were not willing!  That’s in the imperfect tense, which is continual in the past; so it was a historical condition, you see.  They had always been unwilling and they had rejected the call of the prophets time and again!  They were to anticipate the greatest event in all of history, and they were to be delighted when God brought it to pass; but when the fullness of time arrived there was no response!

Exhibiting sovereign forbearance and longsuffering and forgiveness toward the ones who had been called again and again, verse four, the king than sent out other servants – giving them specific instructions as to what to say concerning the great celebration!  Here are my words you are to say.

And here, with Divine facility in the language, Jesus uses the perfect tense, i.e. the historical present.  “I have made ready my first feast...” – “wedding festivities.”  Even though the unwillingness to respond had been continual in the past, the present historical condition is that the king is now ready with his feast.  The appointed time had arrived!  The oxen have been slaughtered (my bulls, the king says), and the cattle (the other animals, like sheep).  The nationwide wedding celebration was ready – the implication being that the entire household of the king was in frenzied preparation for extended feasts and great ceremonies and joyful festivities – regardless of the past continual unwillingness of the called ones to respond!  “Tell them everything is ready!  The first feast (among many) is ready for you to recline at table.  Come to the festivities!”

Now, in response to this present, historical condition of readiness for the coming Messiah, Jesus goes back to the historical moment to provide the entire past indolence and apathy of God’s people (verses five and six).  As you can see, there are two main categories of Israel’s response to the king’s call to the festivities.

 In verse five there is inferred here a whole, wide range of apathy – one category of people.  And verse six we see those who became aggressive toward the servants who called them – who brought the message!  And I think we can safely conclude that verses five and six could include all of fallen, cursed, human response to God’s call to joy in the Messiah!

In verse five the call of the servant/prophets was ignored!  And, as it is written here, there was no listening to the preaching and then rejecting it at all.  They just “went forth” on their normal way as if nothing at all was happening.  Some had work to do on their farms and ranches and homes and families; and others were traveling merchants making a living and eating and sleeping and doing all the things people do to stay alive and comfortable.  And they all just simply paid no attention to the king’s call to come to the festivities!

Now, as I said, the spectrum of apathy ranges through humanity from the deeply religious on one hand, to the irreligious on the other.  But when the call was issued by God through His prophets for all Israel to repent and anticipate the coming Messiah with great joy and feasting and festivities, all the different levels of apathy became the same!  These were so self-concerned and involved in “earthy” things, they weren’t interested in being humble and obedient before the King.  The call was ignored.  The call concerning the Messiah was ignored!

But there is another aspect of the curse of God upon depraved humanity.  Verse six describes those who opposed the call of the king.  A Greek word here that Jesus uses is “hubris,” or, if you wish to use the French pronunciation, “hubri.”

The way to understand this word is to begin with the Divine Right of the King of heaven and Earth.  It is His Kingdom and, as Daniel says, there are no successors!  All power on earth and in Heaven has been given to Jesus Christ by His Father.

That means that no one else has Divine Right before God.  That doesn’t mean that we can rail against and disobey those who assume those rights, but, before God there is only One Who has the Divine Right of the King.  And those who falsely assume that right, leaders or not, and who trespass or violate that right, are said to be people of “hubris” – full of arrogance, contempt and spite.  It is autonomous hostility to God and the Diving Right of the King because hubris is the arrogant usurpation of those Divine Rights!  It is from spite – spite toward the King – that they mock and mistreat and commit violent acts against the Kingdom and its people!

Paul says to the Romans, chapter one, that God haters are “hubristos” – insolent.  They are high-minded, destructive to the righteous, presumptuous and impudent.  They exaggerate and overestimate their own powers and abilities, and self worth; and God’s obedient people regularly receive ignominious treatment from their hands and from their tongues!

In Isaiah chapter fourteen, the prophet says that those who are “wicked” (the word hubris” from the Greek Septuagint) are compared to Lucifer, who thought of himself as equal to God, and who wanted to be equal with God!  You see it is proud, lofty thinking of self – which portends ominous and destructive things for the righteous.

Well, that’s the word Jesus uses here in verse six in the parable to describe these people, who arrogantly mistreated and killed the kings’ servants!  The word is “hubristos.”

The reality is that the prophets of God suffered insolent maltreatment – seizings and beatings and stonings – by the haters of God.  Israel did it to spite the Spirit of Grace, as Hebrews ten, verse twenty-nine puts is.  Israel was full of hubris – people who proudly and arrogantly violated the Divine Right of the King, and treated his servants with mocking indignity!  They assumed autonomy thereby violating the rights of the only Autonomous One!

Now, these two descriptions of human depravity was what the king saw, didn’t he?  (verse seven).  In his whole realm there was no humble obedience; there was no joy at the call to come to the wedding festivities.  Many were just unconcerned with anything except themselves; and many others were violently opposed to celebrating the wedding of the king’s son!

And, of course, that same human nature is what we can observe all around us right now – being forcefully manifested in so many different ways.  Self-concern, apathy, and bitter opposition to Jesus Christ the King – with hubris!

But as is the case in this parable, so it is now – in every conceivable way!  Jesus’ parable includes a provoked and wroth king!  And remember, the reality and truth of the Kingdom of our Lord is the archetype from which the parable receives its truth.

In reality God is a God Whose Name is Jealous.  He is provoked to anger by a people full of apathy and hubris!  Those are opposites of humility and obedience.

In the parable the king sent troops and destroyed the murderers and burned their city (verse seven).  In the Kingdom reality, God destroyed the men, women and children of Israel and burned Jerusalem!  The Kingdom was taken away from them and given to another people, and millions of Jews were slaughtered world-wide in a much greater holocaust than that which happened in the Second World War.  Jerusalem fell in 70AD, leveled and burned; and the annihilation of the Jews continued in every area of the Roman Empire (all known civilization).

The “historical moment” has arrived in this text, Messiah has come, when the sanctions of God, spoken by the prophets of old, were to be executed upon this arrogant and apathetic people.  So, while the feast was ready, the king sent his troops to destroy and kill and burn.  Messiah had arrived with the sanctions to accompany the Word of the prophets.

Understood properly, this parable undeniably focuses its attention upon the verification of the word of the prophets.  What is that verification?  The sanctions.  If men and governments and nations will not obey (just as true today) the King of heaven and earth, and humbly submit themselves to His rule and sovereignty, then the sanctions will take place again!

It’s the Divine Right of the King to command us and to demand submission from us!  We don’t need new prophecy!  (It’s all complete now.)  Just recall the Word of God and His sanctions!  They have been verified time and again; we’re full of hubris (pride and arrogance) if we refuse to see that!  So why do we doubt that those same sanctions will be levied again?!

We’ll finish the last seven verses of this passage next Lord’s Day; but let me just say this in closing.  St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo in the third century AD was, arguably, one of the greatest Theologians the Lord ever raised up in His Kingdom.  But before that he was a profligate man.  He was converted while reading chapter thirteen of Romans; and later described his former self as being a miserable wretch.

Well, that miserable wretch became the greatest defender of the Sovereignty of God in the salvation of men and creation.  (He knew that there was only one true religion in which God is the initiator of man’s salvation.)  But before he died he uttered a prayer which so fits this text this morning.  He said, “You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”

There is no self-concern there; neither is there hubris but humility and obedience.  God’s call is to a festival of joy.  And the festival of joy is in worship and celebration.  The delight is in praise.  The feast is in participation in His body.  The leaders and people of Israel would not come when called.  But, as Augustine said, “You have formed us for Yourself; and you move us to delight in You….”