19th Sunday after Pentecost
October 15, 2017
“Come to the Feast!”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Gospel lesson read earlier from Matthew 22.
My dear friends,
So, I hope you were here last weekend, because that will really help you with today’s Gospel lesson. Last week Jesus told the Parable of the (Wicked) Tenants which was a swipe at the religious leadership of the day. On the heels of that parable, Jesus tells another parable – the Parable of the Wedding Feast. Good idea? Must be, but tensions are already high and the hatred of Jesus by the religious leaders is increasing. Last week we found out the leaders want Jesus arrested. In 22:15, after this wedding feast parable, the leaders seek even new ways to trap Jesus in His words so that He can be arrested like they want.
But Jesus isn’t finished yet. He tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven; It’s as if Jesus were speaking from the perspective of Judgment Day and looking back over the history of God’s people. He likens it to a king (God the Father), who prepared a wedding banquet (eternal life in heaven). And God’s kingdom on earth is compared to all that happens in between. The king sends his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet (the Old Testament people of God) to tell them that all was ready and that they should now come. But they refused. Just like in last week’s Gospel, when the wicked tenants in the vineyard refused to hand over the fruits of the harvest, so now these invitees refused to come to the banquet.
But the king didn’t give up. He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ps 86:15). The king sends some more servants and says to them, “Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner” (v 4). Give them more details; there is rich food, aged wine, the best of meats, and the finest of wines. Everything is prepared to perfection! Come to my wedding banquet! Nevertheless, again—even after this second summons—the guests in our parable refused.
This time their refusal was varied: in some cases, plausible and seemingly polite; in others, violent and crass. One went to his field; another went to his business. Those were the polite ones. Still others who were invited seized the servants, roughed them up, and killed them! Is there any doubt that many of God’s prophets, apostles, and preachers have been treated the same throughout the centuries? And it’s still happening today in many parts of the world.
So the king was enraged. Time had run out on his mercy and grace. Now remember, the king is the Lord Almighty. And there is such a thing as God’s righteous anger. And He sent his army to destroy those murderers. Meanwhile, the king’s banquet hall was not yet filled. His grace and generosity are still available for others. So he turns his attention to a new group of people (which will include both Jews and Gentiles). The king tells his servants to go to into the roads and invite anyone they ford—”both bad and good,” and so finally the banquet hall was filled.
But the parable isn’t over. When the king came in to see his guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper wedding garment. Now it’s not that this man was merely poor and being discriminated against for his lack of a fancy garment. No, this man had apparently refused to put on the robe provided by the king for each of his guests. There is some evidence that 1st century wedding feast hosts provided garments that were clean and didn’t smell! Makes sense, right? And so this man’s refusal was an insult to the king. It was as if this man were saying, “I’ll do it my way!” But the king said, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (v 12). And the man had nothing to say. There was no excuse, so the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.” Yikes!
Jesus is speaking in this parable not only to the religious leaders of Israel but also to you and me. And rather than hearing this as dusty history about the Jewish people, we are to ask ourselves, “Me? It’s about me? Really?” Yes…you…really.
Are you the one who has been invited by the Lord to His eternal banquet but you prefer being out in the field instead? Are you the one who prefers his earthly business to eternal life in heaven? Are you the one whose mind is on earthly things causing you to neglect or ignore eternal things? “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2). “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:33).
How many say, “Of course, I believe in God! Of course, I’m a Christian!” And yet the society we want so much to fit into keeps openly rejecting the King’s invitation and teaches us to do the same. Just think of the assault on Christ and his Word that’s escalating in our land: legalized abortion, the diminishment of marriage and the re-definition of family. And the list goes on and on.
And even if we sit right here week after week, this parable still challenges us to ask ourselves, “Have I put on the wedding garment? Am I here on God’s terms or my own? Am I seeking to have a share in God’s eternal banquet in the way that he wants me to, by faith alone, solely on the merits of his Son, Jesus Christ, who died for my sins? Or am I seeking to wear my own clothes, to earn my way into the banquet, to be dressed in how nice a person I am or how hard I try or how well I keep the principles for Christian living?
There is only one way to be found at the end of the age, at the end of your life, and even today and every day. It is to be found in the banquet hall—in the kingdom of heaven—having heeded his invitation. And it is to be found wearing the robe of Christ’s righteousness, by virtue of believing in Jesus Christ and him crucified for your sins. And all this God offers to give you for the sake of his only Son, who gave his life so that his righteousness could be yours. All your materialism, your earthly-mindedness, your choosing the ways of this world rather than the kingdom of God—it’s all paid for, covered up by the robe of Christ’s righteousness, which he first gave you in Holy Baptism.
This is the day the Lord has made! He has prepared a table for you! Today your Savior kindly calls, COME TO THE FEAST! As broken and lonely and weary and worried as you are, come to the feast! Put on Christ’s robe of righteousness. Find strength for today and hope for tomorrow in this amazing feast for you! Rejoice and be glad in his salvation…YOUR salvation! Come, for the feast is ready, for you.