A couple of years ago, Patricia and I had a happy privilege. We were asked, and it was a first time ever, if we would narrate a Christmas album. The title of it was “Come Celebrate Jesus,” and it was produced by Don Marsh; and Don called and said, “Would you and your wife narrate this album?” And I said, “I’ve never done anything like that, but it sounds like it would be fun.” And so we did it, and because of that that album has a special place in our hearts. And very often when I think about Christmas, I think about the fact that Christmas is a time to come and celebrate Jesus, that’s really what it’s all about.
I’m quite confident the world doesn’t understand that. But I want us perhaps this morning to sort of reaffirm our commitment that this is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In order to do that you sort of have to find your way through the maze of Christmas items.
You might be interested to know, for example, that most of what we celebrate at this time of year began about four thousand years ago. That’s two thousand years before the birth of Christ. So most of it has nothing to do with Christ at all. The Encyclopedia Britannica says, “Christmas customs are an evolution from times that antedate the Christmas period, a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious, and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition.” End quote.
For example, the end of December was a significant time in the northern hemisphere in ancient days. The days were very short, in fact, the shortest of the year. The sun was at its lowest point in the sky. And special festivals were held as far back as four thousand years ago urging the sun to move up in the sky and stay up longer, in order that crops might grow and that the world might be warmed. And when at the winter solstice the days begin to lengthen, there was a great concentration on celebrating, and much of the ancient world in the northern hemisphere celebrated right through the first of January as they saw what they called the sun being reborn. Festivities developed to worship the sun, to worship whatever deity in whatever culture they assumed had control of the sun, and all of this several thousand years before the birth of Christ.
And even before the birth of Christ it was customary at this time of year for Romans to trim trees. There were a group of pre-Christian cultic priests known as Druids who had the custom of tying apples to tree branches at this time of year. Branches of holly and branches of mistletoe were revered, because they stayed green through the winter and actually bore fruit at this time of year. As a result, holly and mistletoe became symbols of fertility in a world of barrenness. And that’s still with us today. When you go to someone’s house and you see mistletoe hanging someplace, and if you get under it, you’re supposed to get kissed; that is the residual from an old tradition that related mistletoe to fertility. Now I know you didn’t know that. You have a new appreciation for mistletoe.
But a lot of those things had, of course, nothing to do with the birth of Christ. There were all kinds of festivals and feasts and candle lightings and bonfires and celebrations. In fact, we talk about yuletide. We talk about the yule log. That comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word jol wheel, which is the root word of wheel, and it had to do with the sun. And that log on fire was a symbol of the sun; and we’re back to the same pagan customs of worshiping the deities connected with the sun as people wanted the sun to shine more; and when it began to do that and the days began to lengthen, they celebrated. Legends about people grew up after the time of Christ, legends about saints: Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, and all of that.
But all of the trappings that surround Christmas really have nothing to do with the birth of Christ. God has not commanded any of those things. God does not say anything in Scripture about trees or candy or gifts or parties or meals or fires or whatever. But I believe God does call the world to celebrate His Son. I’m confident God calls the world to celebrate His Son. And while the world is celebrating all the all the other stuff, for the most part they are not celebrating His Son, which is God’s great concern. The one great thing that you want to focus on in this Christmas season is to celebrate His Son. If any celebration is a worthy one, if any celebration is to be held, it ought to be the birth of God’s Son.
Christ most likely was not born at this time of year. The birth of Christ somehow got pushed into all the rest of this stuff. But it would be right to celebrate the birth of Christ, so I’m convinced that we ought to do it, pushing all the rest aside. God calls us to celebrate His Son.
As I was thinking about that over the last couple of weeks, my mind was drawn to a most interesting parable in the New Testament, a parable where I believe we have a picture of God calling men and women to celebrate His Son. Turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 22, Matthew chapter 22, and here is a real invitation to a real celebration. It is a magnificent and rich parable. It has profound, historical significance. But it is also analogous to the time in which we live, and speaks very pointedly to us.
Let me read it to you: “Jesus” – it says in verse 1 – “spoke in parables,” – that is stories to illustrate spiritual truth. This one says, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, and another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.
“Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
“But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
What a dramatic and poignant story, fascinating – a story about a king who put together a celebration for his son, invited folks who wouldn’t come, destroyed them, invited new people who would come; they filled up the banquet hall. And then he had to deal with a man who was there without the proper garment, tied him up, threw him into outer darkness where there would be pain and agony. What an amazing story. And what is its significance? That’s what we’re going to find out.
Let’s begin in verse 2: “The kingdom of heaven,” I believe that simply has reference to the sphere of God’s rule by saving grace, the realm of redemption, those over whom the Lord is ruler. Here is a story then to teach us about how it is in God’s kingdom, a story designed to teach spiritual truth about the sphere of God’s rule by salvation. It is a story that is easy to understand, that can explain some very hard to understand spiritual reality.
The main character is introduced in verse 2. The main character is a king. Obviously a king is the epitome of society. He was the highest person in the mind of the hearer and the reader of this. He is the exalted person. He made a wedding feast for his son. This would have been the festival of all festivals, a king preparing a feast for his son.
The word for “feast” here is gamos. The singular form is also used here. In fact, the singular and plural jump back and forth. Sometimes it’s gamos and sometimes it’s gamos. It means “wedding feast.” That’s why we talk about marriage as being monogamous, it’s the same root word.
So here is a king who puts together a massive celebration for the wedding of his son. And as I said, sometimes it appears in the plural as it does in verse 2. It actually reads, “who gave wedding feasts,” a series of them. Other times it appears in the singular, and that’s because weddings in those days lasted about seven days; that’s right. They started with breakfast on the first day, and culminated on the final day with a final feast. And the bridegroom then took the hand of the bride, turned it over – the friend of the bridegroom, rather, took the hand of the bride, turned it over to the bridegroom, and they went away to consummate the marriage and the guests went home. But it was at least a seven-day event. And so it was the celebration of all celebrations. The singular could refer to the whole period, the plural use of the term to all of the feasts going on within the whole period. So here is a king who puts together a celebration for his son.
I don’t think that the issue here is that it was a wedding. No bride is ever identified or mentioned, and no marriage ever takes place. The reason that our Lord chose the term which reflected a wedding feast was because it was that term which described the greatest celebration they had in their society. And so we would not be unjust in asserting that the emphasis here is on the celebration, not the fact that it was a wedding.
As I said, there’s no wedding that takes place and there’s no bride in the scene. The idea here is that the king put together a monumental, grand celebration on behalf of his son; that’s the issue. And this would have been the most extensive celebration that society would have known; and having been planned by a king would have been more grand than anything else – a royal festival, a royal feast series, a royal celebration with meals and banquets and entertainment and fellowship. This is the picture.
Now verse 3 tells us, “He sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.” This introduces us to a Middle Eastern custom which is of some interest. The participle here, the “already having been invited ones,” here’s the way that works. If you were going to give a marriage feast for your son, you would invite the guests way before the time of the feast; you would invite them long in advance. And then when everything was ready for the feast, you would go back and say, “The time is now.”
They didn’t run life by the clock. They didn’t have fast food. They didn’t have refrigeration. They couldn’t get at the drop of a hat everything they wanted. For a king to put together a massive celebration like this for his son would have taken so much effort, so much work, there would have been so many components. And these people were not controlled by clocks and watches, so that the only notice that you would really have that it was time was when somebody came and got you: “It’s now time.” And if it wasn’t today, maybe it would be ready by tomorrow. If it wasn’t tomorrow, maybe it would be ready the next day. So you pre-invited everybody and said, “Get on hold,” for the general time, and somebody will come when it’s time to come.
It would be like me as a father sending all of you invitations and saying, “My daughter is going to be married, and I’ll be notifying you exactly when to be there at the hour when everything is ready.” It might have been months in advance, likely it was.
So that was the custom, an advance invitation. And that allowed you an awful lot of time to get excited about it. Imagine being invited by the king to come to the celebration of his son at the palace. I mean, you would be an honored person to have such a privilege to go to the party of all parties, the festival of all festivals, the celebration of all celebrations. Apparently the assumption is that these pre-invited guests had not refused the invitation, but had accepted it, counting it a privilege to be a special friend of the king, and accepting with joy the opportunity to be in his palace to enjoy the bounty of his table.
But notice what happened in verse 3: “He sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast.” It was time, everything was ready, so he sent his servants out and said, “Now get them all here.” And verse 3 says, “They were unwilling to come.” Literally they willed not to come – imperfect tense. They didn’t want to come. They weren’t interested in coming. It seems inconceivable given the circumstances: this is the king, this is the prince, this is the palace, this is going to be a feast to end all end all feasts. It’s one thing to be invited out to dinner, my friend, it’s another thing to be invited to the palace for seven days. They wouldn’t come. They wouldn’t come.
Verse 4: “Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited,’ – the already having been invited ones – “Behold,” – exclamation – “I have prepared my ariston, my breakfast, actually. I have prepared it, my oxen, my fattened livestock are all butchered and there’s no way to preserve them, we’ve to eat; and everything is ready. Come to the celebration.”’”
Now the Jews basically had two meals a day. The first meal came in the mid-morning about nine o’clock. They would work a number of hours, and then they would stop and eat, and then their second meal came after sunset. So this celebration was to commence with a brunch, if you will, in the morning of the first day. This is the wedding breakfast that launches the festivities and the wonderful celebration.
The king says, “My oxen and fatlings,” which means that he was actually killing several animals, and that tells you a little about the size of the celebration. “Many animals” indicate the extent, it was a big, generous, magnanimous celebration for the king’s son. “Come” – he says in a commanding mode “to the celebration.”
Notice verse 5, this is unbelievable: “But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business.” I mean, to put it in a simple context: if somebody from the White House called you and said, “You’re invited to a celebration in the White House. The President wants you there personally at his table, and we’ll be notifying you exactly when to come.” if the notification came it would be hard to imagine you saying, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go plant my garden. I’m sorry, I’ve got a lot of book work down at the office.” That’s highly unlikely. But that’s exactly what you have happening here.
Now please notice that what you see in verse 5 is basically indifference, not hostility. It’s basically unconcern. “They went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his emporian,” from which get “emporium,” his business. Some of the people were agrarian, they were out in the field. Some of them were working within the city in some kind of shop or business, craft, whatever it was.
Here they absolutely disdained the invitation of the king. They’re indifferent to it. They’re selfishly occupied with frivolous things that will always be there, and they ignore the great opportunity. It isn’t that they are evil, it isn’t that they are hostile, it isn’t that their attitude is ugly; they’re just indifferent, and they insult the king.
In effect, they say to the king, “Look, you’re not as important as my farm, and your son isn’t as important as my farm, and you’re not as important as my business, and your son isn’t as important as my business; and it’s more important for me to be at my farm and my business than in your palace celebrating your son.” That’s amazing; it’s a shocking story.
Verse 6 takes it even a step further: “And the rest” – the rest of the pre-invited guests – “seized his slaves” – these are the guys that are giving the invitation – “and mistreated them and kill them.” Now can you handle that? The guy comes to invite you to the celebration and you kill him. Now that’s hostility. See, some were indifferent and some were hostile, very hostile. The remnant of the invited people grabbed the servants, abused them, and murdered them. So you have outright hostility added to indifference. That’s amazing.
Now let me give you a little understanding of what the story is really portraying. First of all, the king is whom? God. The son is whom? Christ. That’s the easy part. The rest gets really intriguing. This is God calling men to the celebration of His Son, the celebration of Christ, the celebration of the Savior, the celebration of the Son of God. This is God calling for people to come celebrate His Son.
The invited guests, the already previously invited guests couldn’t be anybody but the Jews, who by virtue of covenant relationship under the old economy were the people of God, pre-invited to the great banquet, the great messianic kingdom banquet – that’s a Jewish concept – a great banquet given by God on behalf of Messiah. They were the pre-invited guests. It was to them that God had said, “Some day there will come a glorious kingdom, and My Son, or the Messiah, will reign and be honored, and you will be invited to that.” It was the Jews who were the already invited guests. The feast was salvation with all its glory. The servants – the preachers who called the Jews to salvation, who called the Jews to come and acknowledge the Son of God.
John the Baptist might have been the first of their line. The apostles, the uniquely called people of God, the Jews, who had already been pre-invited to the messianic glory, to the messianic kingdom, who had already been pre-invited to come and exalt the Messiah are now told He’s here, and the dinner’s ready, and it’s time to celebrate.
And what was their response? John 1:11 says, “He came unto His own, and His own” – what? – “received Him not.” The pre-invited guests, the Jews, to whom were given the oracles of God and the promises and through whom would come the Messiah, were all the pre-invited guests, ready to be invited to the feast; and when it happened they were indifferent, they were indifferent. The mass of the populace were just indifferent. They weren’t hostile, they just didn’t care; it wasn’t important. Christ could not capture their ultimate interest. That’s tragic, but that’s exactly what happened.
But there were also those who were hostile. There were also those who killed the servants of the King. John the Baptist was beheaded. The apostles, for the most part, were martyred. When God calls people to the celebration of His Son, there are those who are indifferent, but there are those also who are hostile, antagonistic, angry, murderous. There were those Jews too. There was the bulk of the population that existed in disdain and indifference, and then there was that rabble that were hostile enough to kill the Son Himself, to say nothing of the messengers.
Now how does this parallel our season? Just this: while its historical context has to do with the Messiah coming, offering the kingdom to Israel and their rejection, it demonstrates for us such a vivid perception of how men are still treating God’s call to celebrate the Son.
Here we are at this time of year when the world’s attention could be focused on Christ; but there are many in the world, perhaps most, who are just plain indifferent. I call them “the mall mob.” They just roam up and down. They’re into the shopping and the indulgence and the parties. They are the ones who say “Happy Holidays.” And if you say Merry Christmas to them, they’re stunned that you should be so deeply religious.
This is happy holiday time. They’re indifferent. They just ignore Christ; they don’t even care; that is not an issue. They have no regard for the King; they have no regard for the King’s Son; they have no concern to celebrate the Son. Salvation is not an issue to them. Being in God’s kingdom they treat with utter indifference.
On the other hand, you have the hostile, those people who want to make sure that they do every single thing in their power to get Christmas out of society. They want Christ out of everything. They’re the ones that sue the school where they sing Christmas carols. They’re the ones that sue the cities where they put a manger scene in the public park. They’re the people who want to get every reference to the birth of Christ out of anything that has to do with public education or public life. In the name of equal rights, they want to eliminate Christ totally; and given the opportunity, believe me, they have a heart of a murderer. They’re still with us, folks, nothing new.
This is a tremendous indictment, of course, of the Jewish leaders to whom Jesus is speaking. The parable prior to this, if you go back into verse 33 of chapter 21, here Jesus is confronting in the temple these religious leaders and He tells them another parable about a land owner who planted a vineyard. And, of course, you remember the story. The land owner plants the vineyard, and the vineyard has reference to the nation Israel, to the people of Israel, the covenant people. They were God’s vineyard. You can compare Isaiah 5.
It’s harvest time so he sends his slaves to the vineyard. And you remember what happens in verse 35, they take the slaves, and beat one, and kill another, and stone a third. Sent a larger group of slaves larger than the first, they did the same thing to them. Afterward he sent his son to them saying, “They will respect my son.” When the vine growers saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and cease his inheritance.” They took him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. That’s the same kind of picture.
And what Jesus said in that parable was, “Look, I planted you, you were the vineyard. I sent you My prophets, you killed My prophets. I sent you more prophets, you killed them. I sent you My Son, you killed Him.”
Now in the next parable He moves chronologically into the next segment of time and says, “Now I am calling you to celebrate My Son, and you’re going to beat up and mistreat and kill the messengers who call you to the celebration of the Son.” This is a wholesale indictment of the fanatical Phariseeism that had become rampant in Israel to the extent that they had left true religion and could not recognize the call of God when it came.
There are those people who today in regard to Christmas are indifferent. They don’t care one bit about the birth of Christ, they’re into “Happy Holidays.” The closest they come is “X-mas.” They don’t care about Christ, they’re indifferent – nice people, not hostile. Then there are the hostile ones who go and get somebody from the ACLU to sue everybody in sight in order to get Christ out of every possible nook and cranny in our society. They’re very hostile ones.
But I want you to notice, while they are distinct as groups, they end up the same. Please, verse 7: “But the king was enraged, and sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.’” The king is enraged, and he sends his armies in his anger to destroy those murderers and burn their city. He just consumes the whole bunch of them – destruction. Why? “Those who were invited” – he says in verse 8 – “were not worthy.” They were not worthy.
“What do you mean, ‘They were not worthy’? Is there some worthiness that we have to be invited?” No, not some personal worthiness, some inherent worthiness; but what he meant was, their refusal of the king’s kindness made them unworthy. Their refusal of the king’s graciousness made them unworthy. Their refusal of the king’s invitation made them unworthy. And what Jesus was saying here is judgment is coming on Israel. And I believe He had in mind and describes there fairly accurately the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Titus Vespasian came, destroyed that place, burned it, murdered a million-plus Jews. A hundred thousand were sold into slavery, and that people who were either indifferent or hostile toward Christ were judged by an angry God.
It’s not all hearts and flowers. You know, you turn on the television at Christmas season and you see all this plethora of syrupy, smashy, squashy sentimental musical deals about love and brotherhood and family and happiness. And somewhere down the line you want to say to people, “If you are indifferent to the celebration of Christ, if you are hostile to the celebration of Christ, then God is angry with you, and you stand in line for judgment.” It’s not a happy time for those who will not come to the celebration of the Son. There’s a limit to God’s patience. There was then, and there is now.
Israel, by refusing the invitation of God, rendered itself unworthy; and to be unworthy is to be judged. At the end of that parable in chapter 21, do you remember how it ends? Verse 40: “The owner of the vineyard comes, and when he comes, what will he do to those vine growers?” Jesus asked. “What will he do to them?” And the listeners said, “He’ll bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he’ll rent out the vineyard to other vine growers.”
In other words, he’ll destroy them. And that’s exactly right. And He did. God sent judgment into Israel, devastated that nation. That judgment was not just a military judgment, not just a momentary judgment, but an eternal judgment, an eternal judgment. It’s a picture of eternal doom historically related to Israel.
But God is the same God today. And when God calls the world to celebrate His Son, He will punish the indifferent, and He will punish the hostile; He’ll punish them together. So being indifferent is no improvement.
But notice verse 9, God will not be frustrated; “Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the celebration. We’ve got to have some guests.” Here is a wonderful way to illustrate God’s work in calling together a new people of Jew and Gentile – the church. “Go into the crossroads, go into the forks of the road, go into the outlets, go everywhere, without discrimination, without selectivity, without regard for race; and as many as you find, invite, as many as you find.” And God passed over Abraham’s posterity and called a new family of faith, and the fall of Israel became the rising of the church. There’s no discrimination here on social status. There’s no discrimination here on moral character.
Look at verse 10: “Those slaves went into the streets, they gathered together all they found, both evil and good.” What does that mean? That means just from the viewpoint of human life, they ran the gamut. The church is made up of the wicked of society and the good – and I mean that in the sense of relative human good. It’s made up of those who were good people, upright, loyal, honest, hard-working, and those who were wretched, rotten, vile, murderous criminals. He says, “Go invite them all to come and celebrate the son.” And we see here that God is a seeking God, and He goes to seek those who will come.
Morality was not the issue. God wasn’t seeking just moral people, He’s seeking anyone who will come. That’s why in the Corinthian letter he says, “Such were some of you,” 1 Corinthians 6:9 to 11, and lists a gross list of sins. There are good people that He seeks from a human viewpoint – honest, upright people – and there are wicked, wretched people that He seeks to come and celebrate His Son.
Now listen to me, okay? Three groups are here: the indifferent, the hostile, and the ones who come to the celebration. You’re in one of those groups. Everybody in the world is in one of those groups. You’re either indifferent to the celebration of the Son, or you’re hostile to the celebration of the Son, or you come to the celebration of the Son. You’ve got to be in one of those.
Now let’s assume because you’re here this morning you’re in group three, and you’re saying, “I’m at church. Doesn’t that say what group I’m in? I’m not indifferent, I’m here. I’m not hostile, I’m here. I’ve come to celebrate the Son. I send out Christmas cards with pictures of Jesus.” Good, you’re in group three.
Let me tell you something about group three, verse 11: “When the king came in to look over the people reclining at his table, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes.” Hmm, boy, a crowd swept in. When the invitation was extended by the servants who went out to call the guests, a crowd swept in. They came from the streets and the highways and the byways. And everybody – get this – everybody was perfectly dressed. Everybody was properly dressed, properly attired for the celebration. They were there, and they were properly outfitted.
But as the king looked over the group he came across this guy, and he wasn’t dressed properly. And naturally his stinking, rotten rags stuck out. He was an embarrassment to the event. And so he says in verse 12 to him, “Friend,” – there’s a tenderness in that, a pathos in it – “how did you come in here without wedding clothes?” And he was speechless.
He didn’t give an excuse because he didn’t have any; if he had one he would have given it. The emphasis is on the guilt of that man. “What do you think you’re doing here without your proper clothing on?” Hmm, deliberately daring to intrude is the idea. You see, everybody else had the proper garment.
So he says to him, “The king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” “Get him up, tie him up so he can’t resist you, and throw him into outer darkness.” We know from the gospel of Matthew that weeping and gnashing of teeth have to do with the torments, the agony of hell. “Throw him into hell; he’s here without the proper clothing.”
I like to call this guy a “kingdom crasher.” He tried to invade the celebration, but on his own terms. He was dressed all right; he was dressed in the filthy rags of his own self- righteousness. He didn’t have the proper garment on. He was easily detectable.
You say, “Well, what should he have had on? What is that garment? What does it symbolize?” Listen, in Job 29, verse 14, it says, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me.” Listen to the words of Isaiah which so directly speak to this issue, Isaiah 61:10, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.” Did you get that?
There are two kinds of people who show up to celebrate the Son: the ones who are garmented in righteousness, and the ones who are standing there in the filthy rags of their own sin. That’s so important. That’s the climax of the whole parable. And you may be saying, “Well look, I’ve come to celebrate. I’ve come to celebrate Jesus.” But you might be standing here in the rags of your own self-righteousness, because you have never been clothed in the righteousness of God, you’ve never been clothed with the holiness of Christ, you’ve never been garmented with perfection.
You say, “How does that happen?” Second Corinthians 5:21, “Jesus Christ was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through Him.” When you put your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He garments you in His righteousness, He garments you in His holiness, He garments you in His purity; and when you stand before God He sees righteousness. But when you try to crash the celebration and have never by faith received the righteousness of Christ, you stand there in your own filthy rags, only to be tied up and thrown out. That’s the message.
Disrespect characterizes the man who flagrantly came into the kingdom party thinking he was okay in his own garments. And if you think you can come and celebrate the Son in your own garments, without being clothed in faith in Jesus Christ with His righteousness, you’re wrong. The indifferent crowd that didn’t even show up were judged. The hostile crowd that killed the messengers were judged. And the man who wanted to be at the celebration on his own terms was equally judged. Those who do not have regard for Christ are sent to hell. Those who are hostile to Christ are sent to hell. Those who try to worship Christ without Christ and His righteousness are sent to hell.
This was a powerful statement to the Pharisees to whom Jesus said it. And you can understand their reaction in verse 15: “Having heard that, they wanted to trap Him,” of course for the purpose of killing Him, which they were soon to orchestrate.
Dear friends, let me put it to you simply: God has called us to the celebration of His Son, just like He called Israel. There are still those people who are indifferent to it, there are those people who are hostile to it, and there are those people who are attracted to it but without the righteousness of Christ. I simply say to you that the only way that you can celebrate the Son, the only way you can get past all the stuff of Christmas to focus on the one the Father wants you to focus on, the only way you can really be at the celebration of the Son is if you’re garmented in His righteousness, if you’ve come to God and said, “My garments are filthy rags, God. Clothe me in the righteousness of Christ.” And if you ask for the garment, it’s yours, it’s yours; and you can be in the celebration.
That’s my prayer for you this Christmas, that you would truly be garmented in the robes of righteousness so that you may forever attend the celebration of God’s Son. Let’s bow together in prayer.
Father, You know the hearts of all who are gathered here, and I pray that for those who might be with us today who have been indifferent to the reality of the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to die and rise again to redeem sinners, Father, I pray that that indifference might fade away, and that they might be irresistibly drawn to You, drawn to Christ. I pray that they might be, in the words of this parable, chosen, chosen. For those, Lord, who are hostile, O God, I pray that that hostility might be melted and broken, that they too might be chosen to be a part of the celebration.
And, Father, I pray especially for those who have that strange longing to want to acknowledge Christ, who want to be a part of that celebration, but they’re standing in their own filthy rags, their own sin, their own wickedness, their own ugly self-righteousness which is so short of Your true righteousness; and I pray, O God, that You will grant to them the righteousness of Christ. Garment them, Lord. Garment any in this place who at this time are in their own filthy rags. Garment them with the righteousness of Christ, that they might enjoy the eternal celebration and not be cast into that place of outer darkness for weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Help us, Father, to know that this is the message of the Father. This is the call of the Father to celebrate the Son, this is the warning. Help us, Lord, to apply it in our own hearts. Amen.
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