Sermon on the Parable of the Wedding Feast
I looked up the meaning of the acronym RSVP, and I discovered that it stands for the French phrase, “Répondez, s’il vous plaît.” That translates to, “Would you reply, please?” I’ve been involved in a fair share of weddings throughout my life and ministry, and I have seen how important each RSVP is for the purposes of planning. However, in my experience, Americans aren’t very good about returning an RSVP.
I looked up what etiquette says to do if someone doesn’t return their RSVP, and modern practice says that when planning who to invite to your wedding, you should create an A list and a B list. You invite the A list first, and then if they don’t respond, you write them off and send out invitations to the B list. Isn’t that interesting? It’s exactly what happened in this Gospel parable… This has been going on for over 2,000 years!
It’s interesting to think about the attitude of the king of heaven toward those who don’t RSVP and still show up anyway. Unlike a modern day wedding, in which every seat must be carefully planned, there is always room in the kingdom of heaven, and you are always welcome to come, no matter how late your response. Thinking of some of the other parables from the Gospel of Matthew, we’ve seen that the vineyard keeper will give the workers their full pay even if they only worked for an hour (Matt. 20:1-16). Or the father will appreciate the work of the son even if he at first refused to do it (Matt. 21:28-32). The king is very generous to all comers.
However, in this parable, we examine the way some responded that were not acceptable. When the people who were invited to the wedding did not reply, the king in this parable did what Emily Post Institute tells us is the proper approach to those who fail to return their RSVP – a follow-up call. Rather than writing them off, first reach out politely and ask them if they are coming. The king did this by sending servants to ask them in person if they are coming. However, the rude invitees dismissed and ignored the servants and the invitation.
Andy Stanley wrote a small book called “Choose to Cheat,” in which he says you have to choose what part of your life is going to be cheated in favor of something else. You have to choose to sacrifice work in favor of family or family in favor of work. Choosing priorities has to be intentional. We can say that one thing is our priority, but when we step back and examine what we are giving our time and money to, we find out that something else is actually our first priority. All of us struggle with upside-down priorities – when things that we want to be less important tend to dominate our lives. This is what happened with these rude invitees – their priorities were placed in work, in family, in anything but accepting the call of their king.
C.S. Lewis said it this way:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
We see this same thing from the Israelites in the book of Exodus. God’s people have seen astonishing demonstrations of God’s power on their behalf, but when Moses spends just a little too long up on the mountain, the people ask Aaron to make them an idol, and they turn away from worshiping the one true God (Exodus 32).
The human heart is so fickle. We do it all the time. We take the work of our hands and make it our gods. And we have an amazing capacity to self-deceive. We make up stories that convince us we are not at fault, but those are lies. We are responsible for creating our own idols.
This was the problem that kept the first group of people from accepting the king’s invitation – they were busy devoting themselves to work, family… All idols. Then we have a second group of people who refused to attend the wedding of the king’s son out of contempt for the king and his son. When we think of it in the framework of the kingdom of God, the son in the story is Jesus. And those who refuse to attend his wedding are those who reject him as the Messiah, the Son of God.
In the wedding parable, the rebellious invitees refused the king’s servants and treated them shamefully. In the kingdom of God, the people refused, rejected, abused, and killed God’s servants when they invited them to enter the kingdom of heaven. In return, the king in the parable reacted with anger and judgment to this rejection, and so did God when his people rejected him.
And so, when the original invitees refused and rejected the king’s invitation, he moved to the B list. “Go out to the roadsides and bring in anyone who will come!” In the kingdom of heaven, this is when the invitation opens to the Gentiles, to all the nations… And this is how we fit into the story! When the original people of God refused the invitation, then the invitation was opened to the whole world. That is the Gospel!
Then at the end of this parable, we have one guy who showed up in the wrong clothes, unprepared for the party. What is the deal with this one guy? His coming dressed inappropriately shows that he wasn’t sincere in wanting to celebrate with the king. He simply showed up, possibly wanting to cause trouble or just to see what he could selfishly get out of the party.
What we’re talking about here is not when someone doesn’t wear a suit to church. What we’re talking about in the kingdom of heaven is that sincere seekers of Christ are to bear his image. We take off our sinful actions and attitudes and put on the righteousness of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit. We put on Christ and fully devote ourselves to his worship and work. The king delights in genuine seekers! This is in sharp contrast to those who show up to church looking to see what they can get from God, with no intention of genuinely repenting.
May we never forget that when we come to worship the Lord, we are accepting his invitation to celebrate the wedding feast of his Son! We must come fully dressed, preparing our hearts to enter into genuine worship. And we must also go out to the roadsides, the ends of the earth, and extend the invitation to all those who have sincere hearts to receive God’s invitation to this glorious banquet.