Trinity 20 – October 17th, 2010 – Matthew 22:1-14
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Once again this morning, we are approaching the end of the Church year, and so we hear warnings, admonishments from our Lord about how we could fall away, how we might take this precious gift of faith in Christ Jesus that we have received and then just toss it away. For that is what the Parable of the Wedding Feast is – it is warning us of the temptations that will come, temptations that would try to destroy us. Christ Jesus our Lord explains this to us in this parable.
“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.” First things first – whenever you hear this phrase, “the kingdom of heaven” – this is setting you up for a discussion of how God works. This is about how the Triune God brings salvation through Christ Jesus. So here we are, talking about salvation – and we see a marriage feast. This is Gospel. Done, completed, it is finished and the tomb is empty Gospel. Over and over the Scriptures give us the image of Christ and the Church being a Husband and His Bride – it’s even how the book of Revelation ends. This idea of the Wedding Feast is the completion, the fulfillment of all things. Christ has won salvation, He has won for Himself His own Bride and washed her, made her spotless – the strife is over, the battle done, and all that remains is the everlasting and eternal party in the New Heavens and the New Earth. If we used some of the other services in the hymnal, we would sing on occasion “This is the feast of victory for our God.” That’s what we are talking about – this is triumphant language. The feast is on.
And so the master sends servants to call those who were invited to the feast. Now, this is neat too. The word for “invited” is related to the word for Church in Greek. To be in the Church, to be a member of the Church is to be one who has already been invited by God to the wedding feast. Indeed, do you in the Church not know the salvation that Christ Jesus has won for you, that He has forgiven your sins, that you are washed and cleaned and heaven awaits you? And what do we do here, each and every Sunday? We are gathered by Christ – called to this place to gather and celebrate the mini-feast – the foretaste of the feast to come – to have that brief, refreshing glimpse of the joys and peace of heaven now in the word of forgiveness proclaimed, to recieve the Supper where here on Earth we get Christ Jesus Himself dwelling with us, we get what we will have always and forever in heaven. This is describing us – the Church, our Church.
There is one problem. “But they would not come.” A familiar problem. It’s hard to say much here – because there is a danger in preaching on this – because this isn’t just a time where we who happen to be here this morning get to sit around on our self-righteous backsides and think we are all awesome because we crawled out of bed this morning – this is warning to us here too. Listen. “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.” This isn’t an opportunity for us to pride ourselves on our Church attendance, because right away, the master points to how He has prepared and done everything. Likewise, in the Church, Christ Jesus has done everything for you, He’s done it all, so any thought of “oh, how great I am for coming to Church” is wrong and of the devil because it takes our focus off of Christ. Remember, Satan will always try to take your focus off of this service, this feast that goes on here – whether it is by skipping, or by trying to focus you more on yourself than upon Christ and what He has done. “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.” Even as Christ jumps up and down saying, “Look at the forgiveness I have won for you,” you will be tempted to ignore this. You will be tempted to think that you have better things to do – more profit in the work of this life. Or there is this part about seizing the servants. So, what’s going on here? Well, ever been tempted to complain about how the pastor is boring, the dull service that isn’t what I want, I’m not being entertained? The idea behind that phrase “treated them shamefully” is literally “were prideful with them.” Cannot we in our pride sit in judgment on what happens here? If I annoy one of you, won’t Satan tempt you to not come here anymore? Eh, so you think I’m a jerk who picks out lousy hymns and just isn’t as cool as you are – you probably are right – does that change the truth that Christ Jesus here gives you His own Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins? And this is the temptation, that we place other things – our work, our rest, our wants and desires ahead of the wedding feast of Christ Jesus. That temptation is always there – be aware of it, and struggle against it. Why? “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murders and burned their city.” God does not like the disdaining of His gifts, the ignoring of His salvation in Christ Jesus.
And then we move on in the parable. “Then he said to his servants, ‘go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’” 6 chapters later we hear, “Go therefore into all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”. You see the connection? God’s mercy endures forever, and He will always seek, always call more and more people to the Kingdom, make them part of His family through Baptism. In fact, you probably can even think of Baptism as the wedding itself – because where does Christ join Himself to you, where does He wash you and make you part of His Bride, the Church? Baptism. Alright, keep on inviting, keep on Baptizing, keep on bring more people into the Church and bring them to the wedding feast. Again, just a beautiful image of utter and pure Gospel – God still calls people through the Word – even calling us.
Then we hit another snag. Not only will Satan try to make people ignore Church, He will try to corrupt those who are in the Church. Listen. “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.’” So what is going on here? This really hits again to how you view yourself, to Baptism, to forgiveness. A common image of forgiveness is to be clothed by Christ’s righteous – to be covered by His forgiveness. This is true from the beginning of the Scriptures to the end. This is what clothing does in the bible – it covers guilt and shame. Adam and Eve sin, Adam and Eve are naked – and what does God do? He covers them with animal skin clothing, because their own plan for covering themselves was kind of lacking. Even at the end – behold a host arrayed in white – these are those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. This is forgiveness talk – this is Baptismal talk. As a Christian, you are here, you are worthy and able to be in this place only because you are forgiven. This is why the first thing we say here is the Invocation – In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – we are here as those who are Baptized, those who have been covered by Christ Jesus and His forgiveness. This is the only reason any of us could stand here before God.
And what do we see in the parable? A man who doesn’t have his wedding garment. And the king is confused – how did you get in here? Everyone whom I invite has his wedding garment, how are you here? Guy doesn’t have anything to say. He must have pitched it, thought the garment wasn’t good, thought he didn’t need it. Bad things result. Likewise, this is how Satan will tempt you, you who are here, who are baptized, who are part of the Church… Satan will tempt you into thinking that you don’t need your Baptism, that you don’t need Jesus’ forgiveness, that you are fine enough and good enough and all this forgiveness stuff is well… if not a total waste of time, just something that those other people one pew over really need, but not you so much. You cannot be and remain in the Church if you despise the forgiveness of your sins – because this is what the Church is all about. Everything that happens here in this place, what we hear, what we say, what we sing, what we eat, is designed to focus us upon Christ Jesus, to give us His forgiveness, to give us His life. Don’t disdain this – either by flat out ignoring it or by thinking it’s beneath you – thinking, “oh, I understand all that forgiveness stuff, Pastor, now just tell me some practical advice for my life.” If you think you just need some practical advice or a pep talk, you don’t understand, because if you were righteous and perfect, you wouldn’t be needing any advice or pep talk in the first place, so that must mean that the real problem is sin, and you need forgiveness. Do not let pride lead you away, lead you to despise what your Lord gives you here.
Because, dear friends, it truly is all done. All things indeed are now prepared. The Lamb who was slain has risen victorious for you, and He has begun His reign. Right now, our Lord is seated at the right hand of the Father, and right now, He comes to bring you the forgiveness of sins in His own Body and Blood, given and shed for you. Right now He comes to you in His Supper, declaring you forgiven, judging you righteous and holy for His sake – the same thing He’s going to do on the last day when He comes back and declares you to be among the living, the living in Christ. You get joy and forgiveness and confidence, confidence that you can stand in the face of all things, even the end of the world and the last day because you are Christ’s – united to Him in Baptism, forgiven, invited to the eternal wedding feast with a place prepared for you. All this our God has done for you. Rejoice in this always. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +