Monday, January 24, 2011

Don't Mess Around With The Invitation, And Don't Misplace Your Wedding Clothes

Everyone loves a good wedding. Yesterday my wife and I received a wedding invitation  from a couple who we are just getting to know. It is an exciting time for them as they make all their preparations for that special day. Knowing the time it takes to go through the list of family and friends to decide who to invite to the celebration, we consider it an honour to receive an invitation. But imagine how a couple would feel if no one agreed to celebrate with them; if all the guests refused the invitation. This is the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 22.

He likened that moment in history as a wedding preparation period. God was sending out the invitations to his immediate family but the immediate family refused the invitation and even abused the messengers. This was a clear referral to the many times the Jews had rejected the intimate relationship God had called them to. It was not just a nation he had grown, they had become like his children and like any father he longed for intimacy with his children. But they were a rebellious bunch, always focused on themselves, doing what they wanted to do. So when God sent the prophets to them, his people rejected them and even killed some of them. Jesus reminded the leaders of this history through this parable.

Jesus gave more then a history lesson here; he also served notice that a change was coming. God would no longer be exclusive with his family. He intended to have intimacy with his creation so now he was throwing the doors open to everyone, sending invitations out to the rest of the world:

“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.’ 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. (Matthew 22:8-10)

We are not told how the priests and Pharisees responded to this parable but we can imagine it would not have been received well. They had this notion that they were secure with God simply because of their bloodline to Abraham. However, after all these centuries of disobedience, God was no longer interested in bloodlines, he was looking for a people who would obey out of love. We should be careful to take note here, those of us who rely on their heritage instead of their relationship. Our God is not interested in family histories and traditions; he has invited us into an intimate, personal relationship with him. It is his longing and desire for us, yet we would rather keep him at a distance by relying on traditions and ceremonies and keeping time for him reserved for an hour on Sundays. This is where we find the warning Jesus gave for the likes of us.

Even though we have all been invited to this incredible relationship with the invitation we find in John 3:16, there are still requirements. None of us would dream of arriving at a wedding in our jeans unless the invitation indicated such attire would be accepted. Everyone has a certain suit or dress that they set aside for such formal occasions. With our invitation from God there is a certain requirement for acceptance. The only way that we can accept the invitation is through Jesus Christ:

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
“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.’ (Matthew 22:11-13)

Jesus Christ is our wedding clothes. The only way we get in is by clothing ourselves in his righteousness and we do that by accepting his sacrifice of blood on the cross. Regardless of what Oprah or many people are saying, there are not multiple paths of truth. These people march through a very wide gate that is leading to eternal destruction. Jesus is leading us through the narrow gate that many people refuse to accept. It is the reason he ends his parable with:

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)

For the disciples of Jesus Christ there can be no one more important than Jesus. He is everything to us. He is not an historical figure, good guy, man of love. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end for us. Our desire is greater intimacy, to know him better, to be like him, to serve him with our entire being. There is no mistaking what he said concerning himself:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

There is no possible way to misinterpret these words, to twist them or excuse them away. There is only one way into the wedding and his name is Jesus. Good works will not do it, or living a good life, or long prayers, or dressing right, or talking right or any other thing we may try to do to earn our way in. There is no earning our way because we don't belong there in the first place. It doesn't matter how good you have been since you accepted Jesus, if you no longer have a relationship with him, if he is no longer Lord of your life, the forgiver of your sin, the conquerer of your death, then you will not be able to get into the wedding. We all come from that same place:

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) 

None of us merit the invitation or the wedding clothes but they are ours for the taking. Our invitation and our attendance is always only by the grace of God. It doesn't matter who you are in life or what you have done, Jesus Christ covers anyone who accepts the invitation. This is the reason we honour him with our lives, why we worship him with all our energy, why we trust him for deliverance. He does not give as the world gives, and he does not love as the world loves, he does not forgive as the world forgives. He's awesome.

Check yourself. Check to make sure you have accepted the invitation; it is going to be quite the party. Also check to make sure that you have not lost your wedding clothes under the pile of life. Make sure you are still covered, that the relationship you have is strong and growing stronger, that the things of this world have not robbed you of the greatest treasure in this world and in the world to come.

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