The Parable of the Great Supper (22:1–14)
The parable related in these verses is one of very wide signification. In its first application it unquestionably points to the Jews. But we must not confine it to them. It contains heart-searching lessons for all among whom the Gospel is preached: it is a spiritual picture which speaks to us today, if we have an ear to hear. The remark of a learned divine is wise and true: "Parables are like many-sided precious stones, cut so as to cast luster in more than one direction."
1. Salvation Compared to a Wedding Banquet
First, let us observe in the first place that the salvation of the Gospel is compared to a wedding banquet. The Lord Jesus tells us that a king "prepared a wedding banquet for his son" (verse 2).
There is in the Gospel a complete provision for all the needs of the human soul: there is a supply of everything that can be required to relieve spiritual hunger and spiritual thirst. Pardon, peace with God, living hope in this world, glory in the world to come are set before us in rich abundance. It is "a feast of rich food" (Isaiah 25:6). All this provision is owing to the love of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. He offers to take us into union with himself, to restore us to the family of God as dear children, to clothe us with his own righteousness, to give us a place in his kingdom, and to present us faultless before his Father’s throne at the last day. The Gospel, in short, is an offer of food to the hungry, of joy to the mourner, of a home to the outcast, of a loving friend to the lost. It is glad tidings. God offers, through his dear Son, to be at one with sinful people. Let us not forget this. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10).
2. Unlimited Invitations
Second, let us observe that the invitations of the Gospel are wide, full, broad and unlimited. The Lord Jesus tells us in the parable that the king’s servants said to those who were invited, "Everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet" (verse 4).
There is nothing lacking on God’s part for the salvation of sinners’ souls: no one will ever be able to say at last that it was God’s fault, if he is not saved. The Father is ready to love and receive; the Son is ready to pardon and cleanse guilt away; the Spirit is ready to sanctify and renew; angels are ready to rejoice over the returning sinner; grace is ready to assist him; the Bible is ready to instruct him; heaven is ready to be his everlasting home. One thing only is needed, and that is, the sinner must be ready and willing himself. Let this also never be forgotten: let us not quibble and split hairs upon the point. God will be found clear of the blood of all lost souls. The Gospel always speaks of sinners as responsible and accountable beings; the Gospel places an open door before all mankind: no one is excluded from the range of its offers. Though efficient only to believers, those offers are sufficient for all the world: though few enter the narrow gate, all are invited to come in.
3. Salvation Rejected by Many
Third, let us observe that the salvation of the Gospel is rejected by many to whom it is offered. The Lord Jesus tells us that the people invited to the wedding by the king’s servants "paid no attention and went off" (verse 5).
There are thousands of hearers of the Gospel who derive from it no benefit whatever. They listen to it Sunday after Sunday, and year after year, and do not believe so that their souls are saved. They feel no special need of the Gospel; they see no special beauty in it; they do not perhaps hate it, or oppose it, or scoff at it, but they do not receive it into their hearts. They like other things far better. Their money, their land, their business, or their pleasures, are all far more interesting subjects to them than their souls. It is an awful state of mind to be in, but awfully common. Let us search our own hearts, and take heed that it is not our own. Open sin may kill its thousands; but indifference and neglect of the Gospel kill their tens of thousands. Crowds will find themselves in hell not so much because they openly broke the Ten Commandments as because they paid no attention to the truth. Christ died for them on the cross, but they neglected him.
4. Spurious Believers Will Be Exposed and Condemned
Fourth, let us observe that all who claim to be Christians but are not Christ’s will be detected, exposed and eternally condemned at the last day. The Lord Jesus tells us that when the wedding was at last furnished with guests, the king came in to see them, and "noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes" (verse 11). He asked him how he came in there without them, and he received no reply; and he then commanded the servants to "tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside" (verse 13).
There will always be some in the church of Christ who are not true believers, as long as the world stands. "In this parable," it has been truly remarked, "one single castaway represents all the rest." It is impossible to read the human heart: deceivers and hypocrites will never be entirely excluded from the ranks of those who call themselves Christians. So long as a man claims to submit to the Gospel, and lives an outwardly correct life, we dare not say positively that he is not clothed in the righteousness of Christ. But there will be no deception at the last day: the unerring eye of God will discern who are his own people, and who are not. Only true faith will endure the fire of his judgment; all spurious Christianity will be weighed on the scales and found wanting: only true believers will sit down at the wedding banquet of the Lamb. It will avail the hypocrite nothing that he has been a loud talker about religion, and had the human reputation of being an eminent Christian. His triumphing will last only a moment: he will be stripped of his borrowed plumage, and stand naked and shivering before the bar of God, speechless, self-condemned, hopeless and helpless. He will be east into outer darkness with shame, and reap according to what he has sown. Well may our Lord say, "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (verse 13).
Let us learn wisdom from the solemn pictures of this parable, and work hard to make our calling and election sure. We ourselves are among those to whom the word is spoken: "Everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet" (verse 4). Let us see that we do not refuse the one who speaks. Do not let us sleep as others do, but watch and be sober. Time hastens on. The king will soon come in to see the guests: have we or have we not got on the wedding garment? Have we put on Christ? That is the grand question that arises out of this parable. May we never rest till we can give a satisfactory answer! May those heart-searching words daily ring in our ears, "Many are invited, but few are chosen" (verse 14).