The Marriage Supper

Matthew 22  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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Matthew 22
It is a remarkable thing, until we know what man's heart is, that whenever the Lord Himself acts in the world, men call in question the authority by which He acts.
Take Moses, for example:-he was the minister and witness of the Jewish dispensation, and yet his authority was constantly questioned. It was the same also with the prophets:-they came with the testimony of God, and they slew them. When it was a question about religion, the accredited system that gives honor to the people, it was received, but the moment it was to affect the conscience before God, then it was called in question and rejected.
When the Lord comes in by the conscience, it is always called in question; but when it is something accredited as a system to raise the honor of the people, then it is received. Hence, we constantly find the Lord, in dealing with men, does not refer to His miracles, or to anything of the sort, but applies Himself to the consciences and the souls of men.
Moses wrought miracles to establish his mission; and so Christ says, as a matter of testimony, " If I had not done among them works which none other man did, they had not had sin, but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." Still, in His ministry, Christ appeals directly to the consciences and souls of the people. And the people felt this, when they said, "John did no miracle, but all things that John spake of this man were true." So now, where there is the outward acknowledgment of Christianity, it is necessary to appeal to the conscience, and not to stay at mere orthodoxy, and the general truths of the gospel.
When "the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him, as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which, if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?" After reasoning with themselves, they answered Jesus and said, " We cannot tell;" thus proving their moral incapacity to judge the smallest things of God. Therefore, said Jesus, If you cannot tell whether the mission of John was from heaven or of men, "neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." Their confessed incompetency in the one case, to judge, proved their insufficiency in the other. For, in truth, the real power to judge right and wrong is found in the conscience of the man that is addressed. Hence, we know, when the soul is subject to the Spirit of God, by the conscience of the man being engaged in judging himself. When the judgment of the soul is about itself, one is sure that the truth is received in the conscience; but not till then do we know that the truth is "of God," because it has judged the heart; and thus the judgment of the soul is formed about itself in the presence of God.
In the parable of the two sons, the Lord makes another appeal to their consciences; by putting the question, as to which did the will of his father; showing that the mere professor of religion was not judging himself before God at all. He says, "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard." He was a self-willed, rebellious son,- " and said, /will not; but afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise." He was a civil professor, "and said, I go, sir; and went not." Now Christianity has nothing to do with civility before God, but its power is found in the subjection of the heart and conscience to God. The mere profession of religion is nothing but hypocrisy before God, and therefore the Lord says, " The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." If the prophets are sent, and Christ is sent, it is plain that God is dealing with souls as not being fit to enter the kingdom of God. Until the word of God has reached the conscience, the Lord talks about "entering" the kingdom; proving that they are all out of it. And God does so now with men. He takes them up as not being in the kingdom, but as having yet to enter it on the ground of conscience and repentance, and on the direct testimony of the word of God coming to the conscience.
But how was it that the publicans and harlots were nearer the kingdom of God than the Pharisees? Not, certainly, because they were vile merely, but because they were more subject in their consciences to the word of God, than the others.
If the word visits the soul, it brings the conscience down to the level of the word, and to an acceptance of the judgment which it brings; but if God is rejected, despair brings the conscience down to the level of every sinner, and to the conviction that it is without God.
But Christ now takes up another parable, for He is still dealing with the Jews; and says, " There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it." He looked that His vineyard should bring forth grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. God sent His prophets seeking fruit, and them they ill-treated; and last of all He sent His Son, and Him they slew.
It is, plainly, not the principle of grace that is presented here, but of righteousness. It was seeking for fruit where there was no fruit to be had; for they hated His prophets and killed His Son.
This is the sure and only result of God's dealing with man on the principle of righteous requisition. And that not merely where the law is the standard of that requisition; but it is the same when the highest advantages of distinguishing goodness lay the ground of responsibility. Fruit may be sought, but there will be none; but the hatred of the heart will show itself against Him by whom the advantages were bestowed. Hence, in the parable of the marriage supper, God is acting entirely on another principle-that of grace. " A certain king made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding, and they would not come." The Jews were the bidden people, and they would not come. " Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, tell them which are bidden, Behold I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage." And they would not. Then " the king was wroth; and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city." Here the Lord closes with them, as a nation, and takes up another thing. " Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye, therefore, into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage."
This testimony was not to Jews merely, but to the whole world. " So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all, as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests." And then comes in the question of the wedding garment. Here we find professors again. The Lord has now totally relinquished the intention of seeking fruit from man, as man. He now deals with conscience, and conscience deals with the sin of self. So that when the conscience is roused by the word of God, it knows that God has judged it.
The Lord did seek for fruit in Israel; not in Cain's family, but amongst the people whom He had separated to Himself by many privileges. The Lord had such a dealing in the world with man, and He was then seeking for fruit. Of course He knew the end from the beginning; but man was thus tested and proved, and the result is the expression, " I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed; how art thou become unto me the degenerate plant of a strange vine."
All these pains had been taken in the Lord's wisdom for producing fruit: and more than that, He looked for fruit; but there was no fruit to be had. God sent His prophets to Israel, showing that He expected fruits; nay, Christ Himself came in that character to the Jews. For God says, " I have yet one son, I will send him; they will reverence my son." They will give the fruit to Him. This is shown in the parable of the barren fig-tree. (Luke 13:66He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. (Luke 13:6).) Thus God did seek for fruit. His ordinances, His word, His prophets, and last of all His Son, all were spent upon them. " What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?" And yet no fruit was to be found in God's vineyard. One thing is certain, that the more care God took in providing for its bearing fruit, the more it brings out man's wickedness in refusing it. And last of all, and worst of all, it brings out the deliberate enmity of the heart of man against God, in the willfulness which crucified His Son. What good then would it do to dig about a bad tree? It would only bring forth more bad fruit. The law of God only brought out man's disobedience; and the claim of God for fruit did but provoke the enmity of the heart of man against God for claiming it. Not only have they refused to give the fruit when God sent His servants, but they have killed His Son. The thought of producing fruit, therefore, as if in the vineyard, when not there, is a proof of the truth not having reached the conscience. It is like the son who said, " I go, sir, and went not."
But to the parable. " A certain king made a marriage for his son:" he provided for his guests. Here God lays aside the principle of His whole dealings before. He is not now looking for fruit, for this one simple reason: He has proved the tree to be bad, or rather the soil to be bad. It is no matter what is sown in the soil; it is all bad. God is now inviting souls to partake of what He has provided. He is not asking them to bring anything with them. The king is not asking them to bring their own supper with them. It would have been insulting his majesty for anyone to come with his own supper at the door. But there is one thing which they must have; it is the " wedding-garment "-Christ's righteousness. But suppose these poor people had said, I cannot come; I am so poorly clothed; or refused to take the wedding-garment. This would not do: there must be a wedding-garment for a wedding-supper. It does not signify whether one is rich and in costly apparel, or poor and in rags; each must have on the wedding-garment. Nothing suits God's house but the garment that suits the wedding which is going on there.
This dealing of God has displaced the principle of seeking fruit, which had been tried. God tried it by His own means and in every way, and has set it aside, because of the fruitlessness of the plant. And any that attempt to be accepted on this ground are denying that God has tried it and set it aside. The thing in this parable is, that the condemnation depended not on anything in the person, but in the rejection of the invitation that was given. Christ first sent to the Jews (His friends) to invite them to the kingdom. Then He dies, and is raised again. He then sends again, saying, " All things are ready, come unto the marriage." They rejected the invitation; and as for his servants, they slew them. So now, if any are rejecting the gospel of Christ, it is the same thing as if they had crucified God's Son. God is saying to you, "All things are ready." My dinner is ready; " my oxen and my fatlings are killed;"—Christ has died, and is risen again. There is not a thing to be done. All is ready; and yet it is shown that men prefer their five yoke of oxen to the gift of the only-begotten Son of God. God thus presses on the conscience of the men: " My oxen and my fatlings are killed; come unto the marriage. But they made light of it; and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandize," &c. God says by His servants, The supper is ready, all things are prepared-and then, not come on a certain day to supper; but, because Jesus is dead and risen, God has accomplished for Himself all things for His own glory in the perfect and finished work of Christ. The command is there- fore, " Go ye into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage." He does not count how many; but only turns back to see one thing. The guests have sat down at the table: but have they on the wedding-garment? Have you put on Christ? What a folly if you have not He has sought you: have you on therefore the garment that suits the house? That suits the heart of the king who made the wedding? That suits the wedding-glory of the Lord Jesus? Unless He is met in this, He is met with insult in His own house. If the glory of God in Christ is not the thing in your heart, you have not understood what God is about. You have not got God's thoughts in bringing you there. It is for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ; and if you have not apprehended this, you have not apprehended the object of God, nor believed the truth of God in your soul. It is a wedding, and how have you forced yourself into God's house, not having God's thoughts, not having put on the wedding-garment that God has provided for the marriage of His Son? But suppose you have not got on this garment. What is there you have not, which you may not get this moment-freely get in Christ?
Everyone that is at the marriage adds so much to the glory of the feast-so much more to the honor of Him who made the marriage for His Son. Has your pride been brought down, so that your soul has submitted to Christ? If so, you have submitted to an accomplished salvation.
When the guest is seated at the table, he is happy and secure in the enjoyment of what He who had provided the feast had called him in to partake of. And God is satisfied in beholding him who has put on the Lord Jesus Christ as his righteousness. It does become us to honor the Lord Jesus Christ in all our ways; but the fruits of the Spirit are-what? " Love, joy, peace:" the first fruits, those nearest to the source, are love, joy, and peace, as the soul rests on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. All setting up of fruits, apart from this, is the rejection of Christ, and is contrary to His glory.