Trinity 20 – October 21st, 2007 – Matthew 22:1-14
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
The air is finally getting a bit more chill – the days are shorter and shorter – and we in the Church are approaching the end of the Church Year. Advent and a new year will soon be upon us, but for now, as the End of the Church Year approaches, we hear Christ teach us with parables which warn about the end of times, what we need to know and remember so that we are prepared for the last days. And so it is fitting that we look at this parable this morning. Christ has just entered Jerusalem, and He knows what is coming, so He again warns those who would ignore His Words of what the cost will be of forsaking God's Word. Listen.
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again, he sent other servants saying, 'Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and 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. This is the first part of the parable, and the people in Jesus day would have known this for what it was – a history of the people of Israel. Here the people of Israel were – God's chosen people, the people whom God had declared to be His people – the people that would proclaim to the rest of the world the glories that God would do in redeeming the world, the people from whom the very Messiah would come. To be an Israelite meant you were to be ready for God's Kingdom to come, for the Messiah to crush the head of Satan as was promised to Adam and Eve – to wait to see all nations blessed through Him as was promised to Abraham. And. . . many just didn't care. How often the people of Israel fell away. . . where only a small remnant remains. Indeed, many thought that living the mundane, day to day things of life was far more important than spending any time or attention on God. Indeed, Israel would even stone the prophets, kill the ones sent to them. And God even burned Jerusalem to the ground – the Babylonians came and wreaked havoc and chaos. And it was all happening again in Jesus day. Once again, especially now that Christ was here – the same thing. Rather than desiring to hear the Word, people doubted. Even miracles done by Christ were mocked – He casts out demons by Belezebub. Indeed, as Jesus speaks this men are plotting to put Him to death. A sad story – and it ends with God having Jerusalem once again destroyed – burned to the ground in 70 AD by the Romans.
But Jesus does not just warn the stubborn doubters here. Then He said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Again, another warning – this time not to the people who ignored Christ, but to the very people who heard, who listened to Him. There was a warning to these folks as well. They have been invited, God has called them – but what would they do with His invitation. Imagine for a second that you have been invited to a fine party – a wonderful celebration – dinner at the governor's house. A great a wonderful thing – something none of us here would earn. How would you respond? Would you at least try to clean up a bit, or would you show up in shorts and a ratty t-shirt, or maybe jeans still with the muck of the field on them? If you showed up in gritty dress – it would be a grave insult, and you'd probably get kicked out.
Here is what Jesus warns those who listened to Him. You have been invited to the Kingdom of God – you have been called into God's presence. Recognize what a blessing this is, and don't take it for granted, don't treat it as a common thing. What Christ does changes the world, and you don't get to simply plug on as you were – repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, turn away from your sin. And some don't. Some who are invited say “alright, way to be Jesus” and then just shrug along. They fall away – they are like those seeds that take root quickly but are burned up by the heat of the sun – they are like the son who says, “Yes, I will” and then does nothing. And that is the way of damnation – and many fell away.
So then, how does this apply to us here? I would hope you would see it, but let's spell it out. We are in the same situation. Many of us have been raised knowing God's Word, part of God's people from the days of our youth – Baptized and covered with Christ's Righteousness – given the wedding garments we need for the heavenly feast to come. Some of us were invited later, called simply by God's mercy to be here amongst His people in His house – invited to His feast here at His altar for the forgiveness of our sin. But there is a danger that lurks for us. The danger of indifference. The danger of neglect. The danger of breaking the 3rd commandment. Remember the Sabbath day. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching or His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. What do we see in the parable but people despising the Word of God? The king invites you to His feast! Eh. . . I'll pass. The king invites you to his feast, here are your garments – eh, I'll just keep on what I had on, thanks. It's a despising of the Word that is warned against. The folks of Jesus day – some of them ignored the Word of God and despised it. Likewise today, is not the temptation to despise the Word present? But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business. The more things change, the more they stay the same. While the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. Oh, of course the people who preach the Word of God are never treated disrespectfully today. . . the more things change. That's the warning.
So what is to be done? What is the right response to Jesus’ Words? Remember who you are. Hear again who is invited to the feast – And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. What defines you as a Christian isn't you – isn't how good you are. You aren't made ready for Christ by what you do. Your actions are to be a response to God's love – your actions are never the cause of God's love. Rather – what are you? A guest – one invited, one called. Ponder this – God Almighty has called you into His kingdom, called you to His feast. And He has provided for you all that you need to be at this feast. You have your wedding garment – you received it at your Baptism where you were washed clean by water and the Word – where you were prepared for heaven. Hear the description of heaven that John gives – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes. . . then one of the elders addressed me saying, 'Who are these, clothed in white robes, and where have they come from?' I said to him, 'Sir, you know.' And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Washed in the Blood of the Lamb – those who live, those who see their lives in light of what Christ has done. The ones who as Isaiah says come with no money yet eat – the ones who are abundantly pardoned by God. That's how we live – as Christ's forgiven. That's how we are prepared for heaven – by receiving again and again Christ's forgiveness – by remaining in our Baptism – by continuing to be whom God made us to be in the waters of holy Baptism. That's how we live – coming to Christ's own table and receiving the Blood of the Lamb to make us whole, to keep us clothed in Christ and looking no where else. Simply receive what God has done, remain in His Word and continue to delight in the forgiveness He gives us. That is what God desires for you, that is what He calls you to, that is why He sees to it that His Word is still proclaimed to you even here and now – that you might not forsake the gift of life He has given you, and rather that you might remain in the 1 true faith unto life everlasting.
The dangers remain the same – for we will always be tempted to abandon the Word – to crave the things of life more than we do the Word of the God. The excuses we face and fight against are the same ones our grandparents fought, and the same their grandparents fought. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever – and He continues to provide for you forgiveness and life – He has invited you to His feast and given you the garments of His righteousness – washed in His blood shed upon the Cross for you. And so as we face these evil days, with all the temptations that there are – we remain who Christ has made us to be – His own forgiven people, and we delight in His forgiveness. God preserve us from all temptations that would have us despise His Word. Amen.