And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables, and said,…
The priests and elders having left in a rage (see Mark 12:12), Jesus continued his discourse, addressing the people. This parable brings before us the invitation of the gospel, first to the Jew, and then also to the Gentile. Consider -
I. THE INVITATION SPECIAL TO THE JEW.
1. The blessings of the gospel are presented under the similitude of a marriage feast.
(1) Under this similitude also the blessings of the everlasting covenant are presented in the prophets (see Song of Solomon 5:1; Isaiah 62:5). Marriage is the highest emblem of that union which constitutes heaven. There goodness and truth in perfection are united. Heaven must be in a man before a man can be in heaven.
(2) The feast is royal. It is made by the King, viz. of the heavens; for the kingdom of the heavens is the subject of the parable. If a royal banquet in this world is the occasion of a nation's joy, the banquet of the King of heaven is a joy to the great universe.
(3) It is the marriage feast for the King's Son. Christ is the Bridegroom. The Church is the bride. The season of the banquet is the gospel day, commencing upon thin earth but ending in the heavens (see Matthew 9:15; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:7-9).
2. Prophets and apostles are the King's messengers.
(1) They are called his "bond servants." Bond service to God is the noblest freedom. The more absolute this service, the more glorious the freedom.
(2) They came to those who were bidden. The Jews were the people elected from among the nations to be the people of the covenant, and every way specially the favoured of the Lord. To them also the gospel came in the first instance.
(3) The old prophets made the gospel law to emanate from Jerusalem (see Isaiah 2:3; Jeremiah 31:31-34). The message of John Baptist and of the seventy disciples was to them that "the kingdom of the heavens was at hand." The commission to the apostles after the Day of Pentecost was, "Tell them that are bidden, Behold, I have made ready my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready.
(4) They came to the bidden with entreaty. They urged the will of God, the need of man, the richness of the bounty, the quality of the guests, the blessedness inconceivable to follow.
3. But the favoured people proved themselves unworthy.
(1) For they made light" of the invitation. "Considerations which should have the mightiest power upon the spirits of men may still signify less and less, when those to whom they come continue long under the gospel and the gospel is hidden to them. 'If you cannot speak to me of something greater than heaven and hell, eternal blessedness and eternal misery, you move not me; for these things I have heard of and made light of long ago'" (Howe). The soft, idle, voluptuous people, who think only of quietly enjoying life, conveniences, riches, private pleasures, and public diversions, make light of the gospel invitation.
(2) "They went their ways, one to his own farm," equivalent to "immovable goods," viz. deluded by a false security; "another to his merchandise," equivalent to "movable goods," viz. lured by desire of gain. "His farm," equivalent to "what he has;" "his merchandise," equivalent to "what he desires to have." How many perish by misusing lawful things!
(3) "And the rest laid hold on his servants, and entreated them shamefully, and killed them." These are the openly unjust and violent, the outrageously wicked, sinners by profession.
(4) Note: Worthiness consists in accepting the gospel invitation; unworthiness, in refusing it (see Acts 13:46). He only is worthy to be a disciple who is willing to lift the cross (see Matthew 10:37, 38).
4. They are punished accordingly.
(1) The murderers were destroyed. The Romans were God's armies sent in his wrath to destroy them. The Assyrian armies were the rod of his anger against Ephraim (see Isaiah 10:5). The Medes and Persians were the armies of God's wrath against Babylon (see Isaiah 13:4, 5). The angels of famine, pestilence, and war are his armies which he sent against Israel by the Romans (cf. 1 Kings 22:19).
(2) Their city was burnt. What an anticipation of the destruction of Jerusalem is here (cf. Ezekiel 16:41; Luke 13:33, 34)!
II. THE INVITATION GENERAL TO THE WORLD.
1. The messengers are the same.
(1) The prophets anticipated the calling of the Gentiles (cf. Deuteronomy 32:21; Romans 10:19; Isaiah 65:1; Romans 10:20; Hosea 2:23; Romans 9:26).
(2) The apostles, accordingly, when the Jews refused their invitation, carried the gospel to the Gentiles (cf. Romans 11:11, 12; Ephesians 3:8). These were the people found by the King's messengers in the "partings of the highways" (ver. 9).
(3) Divine benevolence is even enlarged by human perversity. "Where sin abounded grace doth superabound."
2. But they had better success.
(1) All sorts, "bad and good," were invited, and all sorts came in. As an invitation to a king's banquet would astonish a wayfarer, so did the invitation of the gospel come as a surprise to the Gentiles (see Acts 17:19, 20; Romans 10:20).
(2) The visible Church is a mixture of hypocrites and unbelievers in amongst the genuine saints. It is the floor where the bad and good wheats are mingled (Matthew 3:12). It is the field where the bastard wheat and true grain grow together (Matthew 13:26, 27). The net which collects bad fish and good (Matthew 13:48). The house in which the wise and, foolish are found (Matthew 25:1). The fold in which are the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:33).
(3) For this imperfect state of things there is no present help. The minister's commission is to call all. The King alone can infallibly distinguish between the bad and the good.
3. A royal inspection will determine the true.
(1) The King will behold the guests. This survey will take place at the last judgment. God takes particular notice of those who profess his religion (see Song of Solomon 7:12; Revelation 2:1, 2). Those who are worthy he will then approve and welcome.
(2) He will see who has not on the festal garment. The garment which distinguishes the good is worn upon the heart. It is therefore invisible to the minister, but visible to the King. As the festal robe constituted meetness for the feast, so is the garment here spoken of the complete meetness for heaven. The "fine linen is the righteousness of the saints," so imputed and imparted; for unless imparted as well as imputed the wearers could not be "saints" or holy ones.
(3) He will search the reasons: "Friend, how camest thou in hither?" etc. (ver. 12). Why art thou willing to receive the King's bounty, but not to comply with the King's conditions? Garments are provided. Not to wear one is a mark of contempt towards the King. The filthy rags of self-righteousness cannot be tolerated in heaven.
(4) The most presumptuous will be speechless in the presence of the King. Into speechlessness must all objections to the gospel be ultimately resolved.
4. Fearful will be the punishment of the wicked.
(1) "Bind him hand and foot." Restraint will be laid upon the works and ways of sinners in perdition. Satan also will be bound with a great chain in the bottomless pit. It is punishment to the wicked to be restrained from doing mischief.
(2) "Cast him out into the outer darkness." From the brilliantly lighted banqueting hall. What a contrast from the brightness of heaven's glory to the darkness of bell's misery! Joy and pride converted into sorrow and shame.
(3) "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Useless regrets; remorse; despair.
(4) "Many are called, but few chosen." Many hear; few believe. Many are in the visible Churches, few of them at the same time in the invisible Church. You are among the many called: are you also among the few chosen? Exclusion is for neglect. - J.A.M.
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