R.S.V.P.July 10, 2023
(Take time to read Matthew 22:1-14)
Just in case you know what RSVP means but do not know what the words of the abbreviation are, it is "Répondez s'il vous plaît". This is a French phrase that translates to "please respond" or "respond if you would, please". It is with this meaning that invitation cards and similar documents are often marked with "RSVP." In Western and European culture, it is often considered rude to not reply to an RSVP request whether confirming attendance or declining. However when it comes to the invitation that is offered in the gospel, it is more than rude to neglect or reject it. The kingly gospel invitation is very special and very serious. In fact it is better described as a royal summons, rather than a “come if you chose” invitation.
The coronation ceremony for the Queen of England is more in line with the imperative invitation the gospel extends to its hearers. Prior to a coronation of the Queen of England, a summons is sent to her friends and dignitaries that reads like this: "We greet you well. Whereas we have appointed the second day of June for the solemnity of our coronation, these are therefore to will and command, all excuses set apart, that you make your personal attendance upon us, at the time above mentioned, there to do and perform such services as shall be required of you."
During the course of our lifetimes, we receive vast numbers of invitations and most of them can be ignored or refused with little or no consequences. However when it comes to the gospel invitations delivered by authorized heralds of the King of Glory requesting your presence at the marriage feast of His Son, you cannot ignore or reject them with impunity.
This document you are reading is written at the commands of my King. He has hurled me forth as one of His ambassadors with another official invitation requesting your presence at the gospel feast. The King says, “Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” (Mt. 22:4) The King’s invitation requires and immediate response. To excuse His invitation is to refuse it; to neglect it is to reject it! At the end of the details of this invitation, you will be given an opportunity to R.S.V.P the King of Kings.
The parable of our text is the third in a series that our Lord gave in the presence of the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. The first dealt with the religious leaders' rejection of God's authority over their lives, demonstrated by their implicit rejection of Jesus Christ. The second typified the religious leaders' folly in rejecting God's way to righteousness through His Son, the Cornerstone. Now the continued theme of rejecting God's revealed will in the gospel of His Son is found in this present parable. Let’s examine the parable by considering first how:
I. The Provisions of the Gospel are Fully Completed – Mt. 22:4
The Lord Jesus tells us in the parable, that the king's servants said to those who were bidden, "…everything is ready, come to the marriage feast!"
Bishop J.C. Ryle comments: “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 needful, 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 this 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 strait gate, all are invited to come in.”
“Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” (Mt. 22:4) When Jesus begins the parable by saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son," He gives more light on the nature of His unshakeable kingdom. From this parable we learn that life in the kingdom is not about limitations on what one can do, but about celebrations on what one can enjoy. It is not to sorrow but to joy that the great King invites his subjects. It is not that you may be distressed but that you may be delighted that he invites you to believe in the crucified Savior and experience His abundant life! Matthew Henry describes it by saying, "A feast is for love and for laughter, for fullness and for fellowship." It is even so with the gospel. It is for love because in the gospel, sinners are invited to be reconciled to God, assured that God forgives their sins, ceases to be angry, and would have you reconciled to him through his Son. Thus love is established between God and the soul. Then it is for laughter, for happiness, for joy. Those who come to God in Christ Jesus, and believe in him, have their hearts filled with overflowing peace, which calm lake of peace often lifts up itself in waves of joy, which clap their hands in exultation.”
There is in the Gospel a complete provision for all man's needs. There is a supply of everything that can be required to relieve spiritual hunger and spiritual thirst. Pardon, peace with God, a true, living, and lasting hope in this world, and glory in the world to come, are set before us in rich abundance. The promises of the gospel become yours, and all the riches contained in them, along with access to the throne of grace, the presence, comforts and gifts of the Spirit, and a well-grounded hope of eternal life.
It is "a feast of fat things." The preparations for this feast include a heaven in the heart upon earth now and a heaven in heaven shortly. God has fully prepared it in his counsel and in his covenant. It is a dinner, denoting present privileges in the midst of our day, beside the supper at night in glory. 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--joy to the mourner--a home to the outcast--a loving friend to the lost. It is glad tidings. God offers, through His dear Son, to be at peace with sinful man. Let us not forget this -- "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10.)
Wow! With such fully completed provisions and such a feast and fellowship with the King’s Son being offered, it seems like and offer or invitation that no one would want to neglect or refuse – but alas, multitudes do just that!
II. The Invitations of the Gospel are Freely Extended – Mt. 22:2-6
The wedding feast had been prepared. As was the custom before the advent of clocks and wrist watches, those who had been previously invited were now personally summoned to come to the feast for the beginning celebration. "And he sent out his servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast." At this juncture it appeared that everything was in order as the king had earlier put his guests on notice of the upcoming wedding celebration. In light of the fact that this was the king's son who would be married and in order to honor his son, a very bountiful celebration was being prepared. Therefore to receive an invitation to attend as guests would have been the greatest honor for anyone living in the kingdom, and surely no one would dare to refuse the king's invitation!
When it comes to gospel invitations, for the most part, Americans in general and those in the “Bible belt” in particular, have failed to grasp the great privilege that they have been afforded in the receiving of these invitations over and over again. We assume that it is a very ordinary thing, when in reality it is a very special privilege and honor to receive the gospel invitation to join the kingdom celebration.
Although this was not the point of Jesus’ parable, another problem has arisen today – the servants who are willing to deliver the gospel invitations are few in number and very localized in itinerary. Floyd McClung points out the consequences of repeated invitations to those who have received many gospel invitations and the restrictions embraced by many have obeyed the summons to come to the kingdom feast: “More than 90% of the churches resources world-wide goes to work with the already reached and already evangelized people groups of the world. That means we are pouring huge amounts of money and effort and people into helping those who have already heard the gospel. We are giving time and energy to help people learn about such good things as inner healing, how to do inductive bible study, good parenting skills, Sunday school, men’s ministries, etc., etc., while over one third of the global family, approximately 2.3 billion people, have never heard the name of Jesus one time in their life, and never will unless someone learns their language, and then braces extreme weather and living conditions to go to them with the good news of Jesus.
On top of that, those who are unreached and unevangelized are the poorest of the poor. They die because of lack of water or water borne diseases. In some people groups over 65% of the children die before the age of five!
There are reasons why the unreached are unreached and the poorest of the poor are poor: they are in the hard places. All the easy places have been taken. There are about 5875 distinct unreached and totally unevangelized tribes and peoples in the world. We know where they are, who they are and what languages they speak; so it is a matter of focus and dedication, not ignorance, to reach them. It will mean tremendous focus, shall I say, passionate focus, or, extreme focus. While local churches continue to be preoccupied with self-preservation and church growth where they are, running bigger and better programs to attract more and more already evangelized people, we will never reach the unreached and respond to the poor of the earth.
Some people want to argue about the best way to do church, the right form of church government, how to run the programs of the church, etc. I have no interest in such discussions. Maybe I did when I was young and argumentative. No more. I want to see one thing while I still have breath: people who have never heard His name hear there is a God who made them and has not forgotten them. It will take extreme intense severe radical relentless unyielding fierce FOCUS to share the love of Jesus with people who have never heard his name. My plea is for those people!”
III. The Invitations of the Gospel are Inexcusably Rejected –22:5; Lk 14:18-20
As the servants of the King served the invitations and summoned the guests, they found an unexpected response: "and they were unwilling to come." It appears that the initial list of guests each had their excuse or reason for not attending. The language is curt and the truth is self-evident -- they did not want to come and therefore did not will to come. It was not that the king had failed to prepare for the feast or that he had failed to notify them of the impending wedding. The invited guests all knew what would take place. But even though the king had invited them, "they were not willing to come."
Luke 14 contains another parable of a feast, which is probably a variation of the parable in Matthew 22. In this story Jesus shows the lameness and inexcusableness of men’s refusal to accept the gospel invitation to the kingdom’s feast: Luke 14:16, “But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.'”
The first invitee refuses the invitation because he is simply too busy making a living -- 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.' The second recipient declines because he is too attracted to the new and the novel -- And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.' The third is too satisfied at home -- 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.'”
The majority who reject the gospel invitation today use what I call the “Terrible Too’s” excuses – they are too busy, too bad, too many hypocrites in the church, too young, too old, feel that it’s too late, they have too much to give up, etc. All these excuses have one thing in common, they are inexcusable!
Pastor Phil Newton reminds us that what these who refused the gospel invitation were doing with their time and energies was not evil at all. “They were just living normal lives. But the evil came when they trivialized and neglected the king's invitation to pursue the normal course of life. "Oh, I've heard the gospel. Yes, I think that it is probably true. But I have other things to do. I have a life to live. I have activities to pursue. I have a career to make. I have other interests that are just as important. Maybe later I'll have time to give to the gospel but not now. I'm just far too busy with my own life to think about what God has spoken."
That one could reject such a freely given, costly prepared invitation to the marriage feast of the King of Glory’s Son is mind-boggling. Pastor of years gone by, C.H. Spurgeon, expresses similar sentiments: “My brethren nothing so honors a man as for him to accept the gospel. While his faith honors Christ, Christ honors him. It is no mean thing to be a king's son, but those who come to the marriage feast of God's own Son shall become King's sons themselves—themselves participators in the glory of the great heir of all things. While I am speaking of this generous method my heart glows with sacred ardor, and my wonder rises that men do not come to the banquet of love which honors all its guests. When the banquet is so costly to the host, so free to the guests, and so honorable to all concerned, how is it that there should be found any so unwise as to refuse the favor. Surely here is an illustration of the folly of the unrenewed heart, and a proof of the deep depravity which sin has caused. If men turn their backs on Moses with his stony tables, I do not marvel, but to despise the loaded tables of grace, heaped up with oxen and fatlings—this is strange. To resist the justice of God is a crime, but to repel the generosity of heaven, what is this? We must invent a term of infamy with which to brand the base ingratitude. To resist God in majesty of terror is insanity but to spurn him in the majesty of his mercy is something more than madness. Sin reaches its climax when it resolves to starve sooner than owe anything to divine goodness. I feel I must anticipate the period for delivering my message, and as I have described to you the way in which God honors his Son, I must at once proclaim the invitation, and cry to you, "Come to the wedding feast. Come ye, and glorify Jesus by accepting the provisions of grace. Your works will not honor him, if you set them up as a righteousness in competition with his righteousness. Not even your repentance can glorify him, if you think to make it a rival to his precious blood. Come, guilty sinner, as you are, and take the mercy Jesus freely presents to you, and accept the pardon which his blood secures to those who believe in him." Methinks when the messenger went out from the King and first of all marked signs of neglect among those who were bidden, and saw that they would not come, he must have been mute with astonishment. He had seen the oxen, and seen the fatlings, and all the goodly preparations, he knew the King, he knew his Son, he knew what joy it was to be at such a feast; and when the bidden ones began to turn their backs on him, and go their way to their farms, the messenger, repeated his message over and over again with eagerness, wondering all the while at the treason which dared insult so good a Being. I think I see him, at first indignant for his Master's sake, and afterwards melted to pity as he saw what would surely come of such an extravagance of ingratitude, such a superfluity of insolence. We mourned that his fellow-citizens whom he loved should be such fools as to reject so good an offer, and spurn so blessed a proclamation. I, too, am tossed to and fro in soul, with mingled but vehement feelings. O, my God, thou hast provided the gospel, let none in this house reject it, and so slight thy Son and dishonor thee, but may all rejoice in thy generous way of glorifying Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of his church, and may they come, and willingly grace the festival of thy love.
IV. The Messengers of the Gospel are Cruelly Treated – 22:6
“But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”
A. The First Response of Indifference. First, some simply "would not come" and even "made light of it and went their ways." That is, they failed to grasp the significance of the Son, the feast, the invitation and the honor due the King. Some simply ignored the offer by going to their farms and others ignored the offer by going to their "merchandise" or business. But they all responded with indifference at the invitation. cf. Ps. 118:22 with Luke 20:17-18; Matt. 7:26-27 with Luke 6:46-49; Matt. 11:16-19, etc.
B. The Second Response of Hostility. The second response of rejection was more serious, as these were not indifferent but hostile: they took the servants and "treated them shamefully and slew them." The first group were indifferent and rejected the King and His Son; the second group were hostile and insulted the King and His Son. cf. Ps. 2:1-3; Matt. 22:33-45; John 15:18-24, etc. And they did this by their direct reaction to the messengers of the King, i.e., the Apostles, as we discover in the Book of Acts. Jewish leadership was generally either indifferent or hostile, rejecting the Gospel invitations. Once more we marvel at the grace of God offered to those who rejected John the Baptist, were instrumental in crucifying Jesus Christ but were now given a further opportunity through the Apostles preaching. Jesus then moves in His parable from the response of these two groups to the response of the King, relating...
C. The Third Response of Judgment. This third response was by the rejected King, obviously representing the offended God, whose Gospel invitation through the ministry of the Apostles has been rebuffed by the indifferent and hostile Jewish leaders. This angry King or God the Father whose servants or Apostles were treated with indifference and hostility, launches an attack against both groups, but especially those who "shamefully treated and slew" the Apostles and He burns their city to the ground. Although, Jesus was yet to fully predict the destruction of the nation and the burning of the city of Jerusalem, by the Romans in 70A.D., this is obviously what He was hinting at. Under generals Vespasian and Titus, the Romans marched on Palestine, following a zealot uprising and killed over 1,000,000 Jews, along with destroying the Temple and entire city of Jerusalem. They had to set an example once and for all to the stubborn Semitic peoples of the Middle East.
Invitation Number Two
Jesus prophecies of the manner of treatment of those that He would send to Israel in Matthew 23:34-35, “Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous bloodshed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.”
“And some of them ye shall kill” -- as they did Stephen, the first "martyr", who was stoned to death by them; and James, the brother of John, whom Herod, to their good liking, killed with the sword; and the other James they threw headlong from off the pinnacle of the temple, and killed him with a fuller's club: “And crucify” – as was Simeon, the son of Cleophas, who was crucified at the instigation of the Jews, as Eusebius relates: “And some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues” – as was John, Peter, and Paul: “and persecute them from city to city” -- as they did Paul and Barnabas, as the book of Acts testifies.
It is easy as Christians living in America to assume that persecution is only something that happened back then. Our naiveté is culpable and our ignorance and relative indifference for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ today is incriminating.
Gospel messengers are still cruelly treated. It is estimated that more than 43 million Christians have been killed for their faith since the crucifixion of Jesus. It's been estimated that more Christians were martyred in the 20th Century than in all the prior 1,900 years combined. There have been more than 26 million documented cases of martyrdom in the 20th Century alone. More than 200 million Christians in over 60 nations face persecution each day, 60% of these are children. 150,000 to 165,000 Christians are martyred each year.
Christians today are the most persecuted group in the world. Persecution is on the rise because of Communism, the expansion of Islamic and Hindu extremism, and because of the anti-Christ spirit that is prevalent throughout the world.
Of the worlds over six billion people: 151 million claim to be atheists, 2 billion are Christians, 1.2 billion are Muslims, 786 million are Hindus and 362 million are Buddhists. Literally hundreds of thousands of people today are being killed, brutalized, sold as slaves, imprisoned, tortured, threatened, discriminated against and arrested solely because they are Christians.(These statistics are from 2004)
In more than 60 nations around the world today Christians are being persecuted for their faith. In some of these nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share your faith in Christ, change your faith or teach your children about Jesus. Those who boldly follow Christ—in spite of government edict or radical opposition—can face harassment, arrest, torture and even death. Yet Christians continue to meet for worship and to witness for Christ, and the church in restricted nations is growing.
For example, on June 14, 2009, a pastor and his family in India were brutally attacked when Hindu extremists barged into their church during a prayer meeting, accusing them of forcible conversions, according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts. At 11 a.m. more than 40 Hindu extremists barged into Beersheba Church and asked for Pastor Kulpeep Daniel. When the Pastor told them who he was, the extremists immediately started beating him. The extremists also assaulted Pastor Daniel’s wife, brother and his two-and-a-half and one-year-old children. The attackers also destroyed the family’s property in the parsonage, musical instruments and other equipment in the church. The pastor and his wife suffered internal injuries.
In a recent crackdown on Christians in Myanmar (Burma), at least 100 churches were ordered to stop holding services. About 50 pastors were forced to sign at least five documents each to cease church services—and warned repeatedly they could face time in jail if they disobeyed.
One brother, unaware of the plight of our brothers and sisters in Christ, went to church to hear the testimony of Pastor Oswaldo Magdangal, Pastor Wally. The pastor had been put in prison in Saudi Arabia, where he was the pastor of the largest underground church in a country where it is illegal to preach the Gospel. Pastor Wally suffered torture and was sentenced to death by hanging. He spoke of the believers in Saudi Arabia who were in prison and informed the congregation of the world wide suffering of Christians who are still harassed, tortured, discriminated against, murdered and in prison. The visiting fellow-believer was dumbfounded to hear how many countries openly persecute the church.
Because we are in the Body of Christ, we are to remember those that are persecuted and imprisoned for the sake of the gospel: Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”
We pause and pray: “Father, would you bring the persecutions of Christians everywhere throughout the world to immediate halt. Set all persecuted Christian prisoners free. Comfort and encourage and give hope to all persecuted Christians and their families around the world. Grant them sufficient grace to endure the sufferings where there is no other way out. Meet all of their families needs. Restore the health, finances, and favor of the persecuted Christians in their communities, so that they may continue to reach others with Your Gospel. Grant that not one pain or drop of blood of the persecuted Christians will be wasted, but that You will use all of their sufferings for Your purpose in advancing the gospel.”
V. The Rejecters of the Gospel are Justly Punished – 22:7-8
Jesus would have us note from His parable that although the gospel is offered for a long time, and even more than once, yet it has a time limit and carries serious consequences for rejection of it.
We read in Matthew 22:5-7, “Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.' But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”
When the King heard of this mistreatment of his servants, their cries coming up into his ears, and their blood calling for vengeance at his hands; and he knowing what they did to them and why, he was angry with them. John Gill observes, “Well had it been for them, had they taken the advice of the Psalmist, "Kiss the Son", the Son of God, believe in him as such, embrace him as the Messiah, yield subjection and obedience to his word and ordinances, "lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little" (Psa 2:12). But now his wrath was kindled very much, and was poured out like fire, and there was no standing before it; the day of the Lord burned like an oven, and destroyed the Jews root and branch. The manner and means, in and by which this utter ruin was brought about was by sending “forth his armies”; not the angels, who are the armies and hosts of heaven; nor desolating judgments only, as pestilence and famine, though the latter was severely felt by the Jews, but chiefly the Roman armies are here meant; called "his", because they came by the Lord's appointment and permission; and were used by him, for their destruction.
“And destroyed those murderers” of Christ and his apostles, as their fathers had been of the prophets before them: “and burnt up their city” -- the city of Jerusalem, where the principal of these murderers dwelt; and which was burnt and destroyed by the Roman army, under Titus Vespasian. And a worse punishment than this, even the vengeance of eternal fire, may all the neglecters of the Gospel, and persecutors of the ministers of it expect, from him, whose vengeance is, and who will repay it; for if judgment began at the house of God, the people of the Jews who were so called, what will be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of Christ? How sore a punishment shall they be thought worthy of, who trample underfoot the Son of God, count his blood a common thing, and do despite to the Spirit of grace? If the law, when transgressed; demanded a just recompense of reward, or inflicted deserved punishment, how shall the neglecters of the great salvation revealed in the Gospel escape?”
C.H. Spurgeon sums up the gospel invitation with a lament: “Beloved friends, the feast is such as you greatly need, let me tell you what it is. It is pardon for the past, renewal of nature for the present, and glory for the future. Here is God to be our helper, his Son to be our shepherd, the Spirit to be our instructor. Here is the love of the Father to be our delight, the blood of the Son to be our cleansing, the energy of the Holy Spirit to be life from the dead to us. You cannot want anything that you ought to want, but what is provided in the gospel, and Jesus Christ will be glorified if you accept it by faith. But here is the hindrance, men do not accept it, "they would not come." Some of us thought that if we put the gospel in a clear light, and if we were earnest in stating it our hearers must be converted, and God forbid we should ever try to do otherwise than make it plain and be earnest, but for all that the best ministry that ever was, or ever could be, will be unsuccessful in a measure; yea, and altogether so, unless the effectual work of the Spirit be present. Still will the cry go up, "Who hath believed our report?" Still will those who serve their Master best, have reason to mourn that they sow on stony ground, and cast their bread on thankless waters. Even the prince of preachers had to say, "Ye search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, but ye will not come to me that ye might have life." Alas, alas, that mercy should be rejected and heaven spurned.
Brethren and sisters since Christ finds many loath to honor him, my exhortation is to you who love him, honor him the more since the world will not. You who have been constrained to come, remember to sing as you sit at his table, and rejoice and bless his name. Next go home and intercede for those who will not come, that the Lord will enlighten their understandings, and change their wills, that they may be yet constrained to believe in Jesus.
And as for those of you who feel half inclined this morning by the soft touches of his grace to come and feast, let me bid you come. It is a glorious gospel—the feast is good. He is a glorious king—the Host is good. He is a blessed Savior, and he is good. It is all good, and you shall be made good too, if your souls accept the invitation of the gospel which is given to you this day. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned." "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." The Lord send his Spirit to make the call effectual, for his dear Son's sake. Amen.”
Today you must R.S.V.P. – YES or NO – to Christ?