Trinity 20 – October 8th and 9th, 2016 – Matthew 22:1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
The people of Jesus' day, the Jewish folks, had always been looking towards a feast. Not just any feast, but the feast of salvation and victory and life and joy. It's how the Old Testament works. Adam and Eve fall by eating the wrong thing – but God in His mercy provides rescue, gives His children good things to eat. So yes, Adam would work the field and grow crops by the sweat of his brow, but one day – the feast would come. One day there'd be Eden restored – in fact, Eden surpassed – a feast beyond anything that mankind had ever seen.
In the meantime, the people of God would often get in trouble, but God would deliver them through food. When they were slaves, trapped in Egypt, God rescued them from the hand of Pharaoh – and how? While the Egyptians were hit by the 10th plague, the death of the first born, the Jewish people sat in their houses and had a hasty feast. There was the blood of the lamb on the door, and there was the Lamb – roasted quickly. And they had to eat not in comfort, but fully dressed with their staff in their hand because they were going to have to get up and go when Pharaoh finally let God's people go. A feast – but a hurried one, a meager one. It was the feast that they celebrated yearly in remembrance of God's deliverance – in fact, at the time of our Gospel lesson, Jesus in the temple during holy week, the week leading up to the Passover celebration. And so, there Jesus is, speaking to people looking forward to the Passover feast, but also the greater feast, the feast of all time in the Kingdom of God. To these folks, Jesus speaks 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. There it is. This is the feast that we've all been waiting for. Not the mere passover meal of lamb and bread and bitter herbs, but God's Kingdom will be like unto a great feast, a royal feast – a King sparing no expense to throw a party for his son and bride. It won't just be the party of the year, or of the decade – it will be the party of all time! It's what we've all supposed to have been waiting for. The great and free and everlasting feast. And the call goes out – the feast is ready! And... crickets. Wah-wah-waaaa. The folks who know, the folks who should have been eagerly looking for this feast – nothing.
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.” Maybe they just forgot. Maybe they forgot how wondrous this is going to be. It's not a cold-cut sandwich spread. It's not even that nice family chicken or lamb dinner. This is oxen and calves, the fatted ones even. It's the top of the top folks! Come! Come to the wedding feast and rejoice and celebrate and just have fun! 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. Nope. They wouldn't come. Some just blew the King off – doesn't that just sound like a bad idea, blowing the King off? But anyway, they blow him off, head back not to something better, not even to a different party... but back to the farm, back to the business. Sorry, King – I'd rather stare at the back end of my oxen plowing a field than eat yours; sorry King – I'd rather go build a table than sit and feast at yours. Those were just the foolish ones, but it gets worse. There are scoffers and mockers – folks who mock and manhandle the servants, even killing them. Well, you don't mess with the King. The King was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burnt their city. Could've had a feast – instead, your city in flames. Way to go. Bad choice.
But now, what is our king to do? 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.” Alright, just head on out there, and whoever you come across, whatever they may be – invite them. Tell them of the feast. It doesn't matter whether they are rich or poor, popular or scorned – red or yellow or black or white – bring them all in. Let's pack this party and get it going. 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. Both bad and good. Doesn't matter, let's get the party going. So the servants pack them in, get them all seated, and we're ready to go. But there was one more problem.
But when the King came in to look at the wedding 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 – for many are called, but few are chosen. Well, that escalated quickly. Actually – not really. The custom at the time would be at a royal feast, the king would deck you out royally. Think of it like a themed kid's birthday party – where you walk in and they hand you themed hats – and you go to the party and you wear that little pointy paper hat because that's what we do at the party. Well, this guy's not wearing his wedding garment – he's too cool for school – he's too “good” to wear the royal robes the King gave him. You know what he is. He's a spoilsport. And he was speechless – it wasn't a mistake, it wasn't that he hadn't gotten one – just nope – I want to do my own thing, I don't want to be lame like you folks. And so out you go – no spoilsports at this party – and then the feast begins. Many had been called here, but only a few finally made it to the feast. So what of that – let's eat.
The folks standing in the Temple that day would have known what they were hearing. Jesus, in this parable sums up the history of the Old Testament. Over and over God reminds people of His great feast through His prophets – reminds them of the coming of the Messiah and Salvation. And over and over again the prophets are treated shamefully. Moses is constantly disobeyed and aggravated. The judges are routinely forgotten. Even Samuel, the greatest of the judges, gets put out to pasture and ignored by Saul. And then when God gives Israel an earthly King, as they so wanted, they reject the line of David, and there's rebellion. And then prophets come, and they preach, and they are mocked, beaten, rejected, dragged into exile... and finally, the city of Jerusalem is burned. And all the prophets had called out, “return to God, come and wait on His deliverance, wait on His feast.” Isaiah cried out, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Seek the Lord while He may be found.” Come, come to the feast – seek the Lord while He's here jumping up and down saying, “I'm over here, come to the feast.” And they didn't. And there was destruction.
There is reproof and warning here. Don't reject Me, Christ says, as your fathers rejected me and were destroyed. And yet, by the end of this very week, they will have seized Christ, and treated Him shamefully, and killed him. No more of this! We want to hear no more of this, we are going to do our own thing, we will dance to our own tune, and to hell with what God wants to give us! Oh well. To think that by pouting you would stop God's Kingdom from coming. To think you are going to prevent God almighty from doing what He wants to. Kill the Son – oh well, look at this, He is raised on the third day, and He ascended into Heaven, and when He comes back all the dead will be raised and there will be the everlasting feast of the Lamb, the feast of victory – and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
But in the mean time - “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” Folks, it's not an accident that at the end of Matthew Jesus tells the disciples - “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, Baptizing them.” That was intentional. He did that on purpose. And here we are in the parable – the invitation has gone out throughout the world, even to strange and exotic places like Herscher. There is forgiveness and salvation in Christ Jesus – He has died and risen and your sins are forgiven. Because of him and in Him you will have everlasting life – simply believe. Come, be baptized into Christ, clothed in the robes of His royal righteousness. Have a foretaste of His feast – see that you are indeed forgiven, that you are joined to Christ – this is His Body, this is His Blood -shed for you for the remission of all of your sin.
Yet, there was one word of warning at the end of that parable. All of us here – we are here, we are worthy, we are chosen and elected – in Christ. In Holy Baptism. We come to this place with trust in the fact that Jesus is righteous and good – not trust in ourselves. And know what Satan will do. He'll try to get to us blow this feast off – to just go back to our business and stuff and ignore the feast. That's not good. Or, more insidiously, he'll try to stroke our ego, tell us that we are here because we're just that good – unlike those bad people over there. Nope – not the way this works. There's not a person in this town, in this county, in this world who shouldn't be in here. And all of us – here not on our own merits, but solely because of Christ. Remember that. See what he has done for you. Fight down your sin, fight down your pride. Confess it all, and rather receive the good things God gives you, because it is His joy to bring you gifts. Walk wisely – that is know your own sin and strive against it, but more importantly, know Christ Jesus who has richly defeated death and won forgiveness for your sin, so that you have everlasting life. Rejoice in the gifts He gives you, now and forever more – for you are called to the everlasting feast, and you are chosen in Christ for everlasting joy and life. You were chosen indeed, In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.