The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Matthew 22:1 “And Jesus answered and spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 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.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ 10 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. 11 But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.’” (NASB)
This morning’s parable is the third parable in a series of parables of three all spoken in the temple on the Monday after Palm Sunday. Each told as a judgment against the religious leaders of the day (and in every generation) and as a warning and comfort to Christians everywhere.
This parable starts in the same way as the two previous ones. “The kingdom of heaven is like” in this case, it is like “a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son.” Again the players in the parable are easily identified. The king in this parable is God the Father. The wedding feast is being held for the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, and His Bride the Church.
In last Sunday’s parable, the Parable of the Owner of the Vineyard, the owner sent servants and his son to collect what was owed; namely faith and faithfulness on the part of the tenants.
In this morning’s parable the king sends his servants to invite certain people to the feast so that he can give them something; a feast in the parable, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
The king “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, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.”
Again easy enough to pin the bad guys here. Those who were unwilling to come to the wedding feast were the vast majority of the Jews of the Old Testament and the current leaders in the temple. But the parable applies to every person who has the Gospel spoken to them, which is defined in the Scripture as “the call,” (14 “For many are called, but few are chosen”), but who instead to ignore and/or reject the king’s invitation and go about their own business. Some are so angry they kill the servants, that is the prophets and preachers who were sent to them.
From Moses to John the Baptist the prophets were sent out to proclaim the Law and Gospel. Time and time again, the prophets were sent by God the Father to invite the children of Israel to trust Him and His promises, to live in His goodness, and to inherit eternal life. But they were unwilling to come. They did not believe and live as the children God had created them to be.
Then as now, the pleasures and selfishness of this life, the temptations set before them by the peoples around them, and the variety of gods to be worshiped was more appealing to them. This parable Jesus summarizes the entire history of the prophets and the Old Testament church, Israel.
In the parable the king is hosting and paying for everything associated with wedding feast. He provides everything at great cost to Himself. His only begotten Son has given Himself and won for Himself His Bride, who is holy and blameless in the sight of God the Father. The guests don’t pay a thing. They are not expected to earn their seat at the banquet. They are just expected to come and receive what the king gives to them. So it is suppose to be in the church. That’s the fundamental difference in the kind of church services offered by different groups. One group focuses on what we have to say, do, sing, and give. The other focuses primarily on what God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are giving and doing for us. That is the German word that some of us are found of using, Gottesdienst, Divine Service. He provides everything in this feast we call the church service. We bring nothing of value. He gives and we receive in humility and thankfulness.
And this wedding feast in the parable, well it isn’t your run of the mill $9.99 a plate dinner with a cash bar. This is a formal affair and a lavish feast. The king tells his servants to “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.”
Everything is taken care of. All that is expected of the guests is that they enjoy the gifts of the king, to be happy for the Bride and the Groom, and appreciative of the king’s generosity. Yet those who hear the call to the feast reject the gifts of the king.
When the whole thing is put into the form of a parable it sounds outrageous. We can see rejection, unbelief, and unfaithfulness clearly when we look at these three parables. The Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Owner of the Vineyeard, and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.
It is easy to see in the parables. We just don’t think that parables like these are an accurate description of what we see going on around us or even our conduct when we are called to believe and trust.
Yet the pastor, the called and ordained servant of the King, is sent to congregations that are suppose to be filled with God’s children who come to church to receive. The pastor invites the people to hear the Word, to be baptized, to have their children baptized, and to raise the family in the church in order to receive the gifts of God in the Word and Sacrament ministry.
This invitation to receive God’s love, grace, and the forgiveness of sins goes out week after week and what happens? Most ignore the invitation. Some refuse it. Others wage war against it because they don’t want to hear that what they are going is sinful and wrong.
There’s an old and often repeated axiom for situations like this. An attack upon the king’s servant is an attack upon the king. What did the king do in the parable? “The king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.”
In light of the rejection of the first group, the king instructs the servant to “Go …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.”
Jesus is saying the same thing here that He said at the end of Parables of the Two Sons and the Owner of the Vineyard. At the end of the parable of the Two Sons, Jesus told the religious leaders, “For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him.”
At the end of last week’s parable Jesus told them, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.”
In this parable the king fills the banquet hall with the rabble from the streets, people of low estate, sinners who come to the wedding feast, the Divine Service and receive that which the King has to dispense.
These people from the highways and byways are not the kind of people who you’d normally find eating with the king. Yet, they are rounded up and brought to the feast anyway and the king takes care of everything, including and especially their wardrobe.
As was the custom of the day, the king gives each guest a wedding garment to wear. The people at this feast are going to look like royalty. They are going to be made to look like people how belong there. Whoever receives His invitation and comes to the wedding receives clothing, food, drink, and a place to sit. It is all by the king’s doing.
But when the king looked over the hall, he saw one man who wasn’t wearing the wedding clothes that had been given to him. While accepting the king’s invitation, he not only demonstrates disrespect toward the occasion, he thinks that the king ought to accept him as he is on his own terms. In the language of the Law and the Gospel, he is dressed in his own good works. This man thinks he is entitled to a seat at the table. He and his clothes are good enough.
“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.”
As an authorized slave of the King, I have been sent to announcement to you to announce that you have been invited to the wedding feast. Over my 25 years here I have invited many to the Nave and Sanctuary of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Many have been called by me and all the other faithful pastors who preach and teach. But fewer and fewer are coming.
Yet, you are here, in God’s house, at His banquet feast. This feast like all great feasts has different courses for you to enjoy and receive. The preached Word. The Word poured on you in the waters of Holy Baptism. The Word in the readings and liturgy. The Word sung in the hymns. The Word spoken to you in confession and absolution, and the eating of the richest meal on earth at this Altar.
When the Lord invites a person to the wedding feast of His Son and His Son’s bride, He makes you fit for the occasion. By His Word, He gives you the faith to believe. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Rom. 10:7.
In Holy Baptism, He clothed you with Christ and His righteousness (Gal. 3:27 “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”) We have been clothed with Christ and have been called to the feast.
By His Holy Supper, the wedding feast, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit keeps you fed and nourished until the marriage feast of the Lamb in heaven. Holy Communion is but a foretaste of the feast to come.
Rev. 3:4 ‘But you have a few people . . . who have not soiled their garments; they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life.”
This morning, you’re all dressed up. You were the rightesous robe befitting the children of God – – the Robe whose name is Christ – the husband to one Bride, the Church.
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Many do not come. When the Word of invitation is spoken, many push it away. Many slander the Word. Many persecute the Word. Why? Why would anyone reject God’s gracious call of salvation and life? There are many reasons (not that any of them are good reasons) – pride, worry, fear. Some are offended that the King only sent a mere slave to speak the invitation. Of course, all reasons boil down to the sinful nature that cannot stand the Gospel, and finds many excuses to reject it. Thus many people show contempt for the Word of the King.