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LSB Proper 23A Sermon – Matthew 22:1-14

October 14, 2014

October 12, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“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.’”

“It’s the can’t-miss event of the year.” That statement is uttered with some frequency. Stores use it to promote sales. Television corporations use it to get people to tune in for a particular episode, usually during sweeps week. It’s also used to describe social events: the Vanity Fair party at the Oscars, the Rolling Stone party at the Super Bowl, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington. These events are seen as significant or exclusive. The sponsors want people to attend them. Receiving an invitation to one of these events is seen as a confirmation of one’s status or a true privilege.

Jesus uses that concept when speaking about the kingdom of heaven to the chief priests and Pharisees in Jerusalem’s Temple. But when Jesus speaks about “the can’t-miss event,” there are individuals who are determined to miss it: “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.’” Jesus’ parable establishes the fact that an event is being held, but it also mentions that the invited guests have no desire to attend it.

In the parable, Jesus notes that this refusal happens several times: “Again [the king] 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.’’ 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.” Such a response is a social director’s nightmare. It’s even worse when the host is a monarch of the people who wishes to share his generosity with his subjects.

The response of the invited guests who do not desire to come reveals what they think about their host. They do not want to be associated with the king and his son. They do not consider this event to be of greater importance than their occupations, since they go to work on the farm or in the shop instead of attending the banquet. Even worse, the individuals who mistreat and kill the servants who are calling them to come to the wedding feast show their hatred for their king.

Jesus’ parable is an allegory about the broken relationship that Israel has with the LORD. The LORD had made a great promise about a banquet to be held: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” Isaiah’s prophecy foretold the actions that the LORD would perform at the end of time, the fulfillment of all His covenant promises. This was meant to be enjoyed by those who would place their trust in Him and His work. These are the people whom Isaiah describes: “It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’”

But throughout Israel’s history, many would not come despite the LORD’s invitation sent to them through His prophets of old. That did not change when the LORD set in motion the actions that would fulfill this great promise. The “wedding feast for his son” that the king plans and provides is rooted in what Jesus would do. The Messiah had come. The LORD’s Son was present in the world. He was there to inaugurate the era when the LORD’s promised salvation would be established for the peoples. “The covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations” was to be lifted. The invited guests—those who had the covenant made with them from of old—were summoned to take part in the festivities.

The rejection of Jesus by the chief priests and Pharisees was how they declined the invitation that the LORD sent to them. It would be repeated when the same chief priests and Pharisees would treat the LORD’s servants shamefully and kill them, as was seen in the persecution and martyrdom of the apostles who proclaimed the death and resurrection of the king’s son. So what does the LORD do to such people? How does He take such rejection? Not well: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” And in that statement, the events of Jerusalem’s siege and destruction were foretold.

But the king is determined to have people at his son’s wedding feast. That was made clear in Jesus’ parable: “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.” Jesus foretells what would take place after His death and resurrection. People would be welcomed into the salvation that the LORD prepared as they received the preaching about Jesus’ work for their redemption. They would be summoned to share in the forgiveness, life, and salvation that He provides. They would be clothed in the baptismal garment of His righteousness and be sat at the tables. Individuals who never thought they could be part of “the can’t-miss event of all time” would become honored guests.

That is Jesus’ way of describing the Church’s work in the world. Servants go out with the invitation: “The LORD has acted to remedy your situation. You are meant to share in the benefits that the LORD is freely giving to all who will heed His words. Let me explain how this is meant for you, even though you may not have heard about it before. Your sin has been atoned for by the self-giving sacrifice of His Son. Your death will be overcome as you participate in Jesus’ resurrection. Come and be an active participant in the way of life that Jesus has established. There is no fee to pay. All is provided for you. The tables are filling, but there is still room reserved for you. The dinner is about to begin, so follow me to the banquet hall.” All who hear and believe this invitation are brought to their place that the LORD has prepared for them.

This is what the king in Jesus’ parable desires to happen for you. That is His good and gracious will. You are made part of the kingdom of heaven and given a place at the banquet when you believe His holy word that speaks about His work for your salvation and you lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. This is result of the Holy Spirit’s work in you—the calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying of people that He does in the world.

But Jesus’ parable includes warnings for you. First, it shows you what rejection of this invitation causes. Those people who were originally invited to the wedding banquet do not get to participate in it at all. Remember, these were the ones whom Jesus described: “They would not come… They paid no attention…. They seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.” The king says about them: “The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.” If that is how the LORD speaks of those who were the first names on the guest list, do not think that He won’t say the same about the new invitees who act the same way. Paying no attention to the invitation or finding other things to prevent your following it is just as problematic now as it was when Jesus spoke the parable. Those who despise preaching and the LORD’s Word, who do not hold it sacred and don’t gladly hear and learn it are well on their way to the same result as the first invitees.

Second, the parable ended with an interesting situation involving one of the people who decided to enter the wedding hall, but not in the way that the king desired: “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.’” This statement by the king illustrates how seriously he enforces the invitation that he issues. The same invitation that called people to the wedding feast spoke about how to get there. The servants would make this clear to the invitees. That is why he asks the question to the man who had no wedding garment.

This is also a warning. The LORD has stated what He was going to do. He has prepared the feast as He said. He has the promise spoken for all to hear: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” This promise is tied to the work that the LORD’s Incarnate Son has done.  In Jesus there is life and resurrection. Through those actions, salvation is accomplished for you. But that great benefit is not found in another. Being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus is how you have entry into the wedding banquet. That is the garment that you need. Without it, there is no participation in the feast. For those who don’t place their trust in Jesus’ work of redemption that He accomplished as the LORD sent Him cannot say about the LORD: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

But here is the great comfort and consolation for you. These warnings have been spoken so that you can hear and understand them. None of it has been kept secret. Even more important, the invitation has been delivered to you. You are called by the LORD’s servants. You are summoned to take a place at the table that the LORD prepares for you in the presence of your enemies. You are given the opportunity to have the LORD’s goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life and to dwell in the LORD’s house forever.

On this day when you hear about “the can’t-miss event of all time,” you are provided the chance to have everything set aright for your full participation in it. Even now, the death and resurrection of Jesus for your salvation are set in front of you. The details of the divine invitation read out for you to hear again. You are even given the opportunity to have a practice run at attending the great feast by participating in the Lord’s Supper. The prayer offered will be answered: “Gathered in the name and the remembrance of Jesus, we beg You, O Lord, to forgive, renew, and strengthen us with Your Word and Spirit. Grant us faithfully to eat His body and drink His blood as He bids us do in His own testament. Gather us together, we pray, from the ends of the earth to celebrate with all the faithful the marriage fast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.”

Your response reveals what you think about your Host. You want to be associated with the LORD and His Son Jesus. You consider this event to be of greater importance than the other things that can occupy your time. You show your love for the LORD by listening to the servants whom He sends. You show your trust placed in the LORD and the salvation that He provides for you in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Your spot is reserved at the wedding banquet. The LORD will welcome you in as His gathered guests. That is the great news that goes out to the world and to you on this day.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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