Invited, Clothed, and Fed

Matthew 22:1-14, Isaiah 25:6-9

Video, Proper 23A: 18th Sunday After Pentecost

lessons-parables-matthew-22-invitation-wedding-feast.jpg.crop_displayRejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. Dear invited guests of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ:

You don’t want to miss this grand celebration! It is the King’s gathering and all the work is done! Everything is in ready for you! He wants you there! Just come!

The wedding within the parable of the wedding feast is vastly different from our culture. Then weddings were arranged by the men, the king throwing the wedding party for his son. Also, these feasts were more than just for an evening but rather a week long. But you see what happens with men running a party, the finest meats and wine are the only details necessary. “Rich food full of marrow and aged wine well refined.”

As Jesus’ words fall on your ears today, notice that He did not say “the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a wedding feast”. Rather He said, “the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. You see, the kingdom of heaven is not found in spiritual abstractions. It is found in God the King, and in the Son of God in the flesh. 

This parable begins where the last one ended – with God doing all the positive verbs!  He gave and He sent and He called and He invited and He prepared.  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 would not come … 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 first gave a general invitation and then a second invitation when the time was right. He sent his servants to call (now) those who were invited (previously). Their response is clear – they would not come. The language implies not just saying no once, but rather a repeated and continuing rejection. “They were not wanting to come!” Their response is heavy with accusation of our own natural inclination. They were not wanting to come!

They paid no attention, either to the invitation or to the servants. One went off to his farm to work, another to his business. Some actually seized the servants and beat them up and even killed them. And these were the invited guests! Remember now, they had a place the feast. The king had invited them; he was expecting them, he had prepared for them. The King wants them to come! He desires them to have the joy of His eternal feast! He seeks a rebellious people with repeated invitations. Ever the gracious host, the King sends out servants to explain further how thoroughly the preparations have been made. His description echoes Isaiah’s feast – rich food full of marrow – aged wine well refined – served on the Mountain of the Lord. ‘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.’ You would think that the combination of an invitation and a personal reminder, not to mention lots of free food and drink would cause people to drop whatever they were doing and come running to the feast.

Who could say no? Well anyone, really if they were not wanting to come. In fact, if someone is not wanting to come any old excuse will do. So they paid no attention and went off, one to watch the football game and another to sleep in and another to clean house and another to go out for brunch and another to catch up on some studies and another to meditate on their feelings. Or, as Jesus expressed it one went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

Even good things, friends, family, work and business, can be used by our hearts to reject God’s invitation. Normal occupations become sinister when they are preoccupations. We can easily make idols of the work of our hands and the activities of our lives. We can be so busy making a living and enjoying earthly things that we fail to fear, love, and trust in God above all things and receive God’s new life in Christ. The sin of misplaced priorities tempts every one of us to reject God’s invitation!

The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Here ends the first half of Jesus’ parable. Those who had been called of old and invited by God’s prophets, as the last parable said they threw the Son out of the vineyard and killed Him. As a result they were themselves destroyed. Jerusalem itself was burned in 70AD by Rome. Dear Christians, it is human pride to think God’s invitation will never end. Ignore it, neglect it, and it can be taken away.

In preaching on this text Dr. Martin Luther said that the world does not give a rip about God’s word – they snore away at the sermon – amble off to the marketplace – the ale houses – the amusement park. He said that man is too cocksure with other interests to attend the banquet. He called attention to Greece that once had God’s Word but despised it and was then filled with the devil’s rubbish. Today we might look to modern day Germany and France and England. Once those nations had millions of Christians confessing the faith! Now they are largely secular and pagan and scornful of the cross, whereby the Son of God takes us as His Bride. Statistics in our nation indicate a similar death-ward drift.

You will notice a pattern in Jesus’ parables. The unforgiving servant is condemned even though he is forgiven at first. The invited guests become enemies even though they have a place a the table. And it’s all their own fault. They refused the king’s goodness and so they get the king’s wrath. Turn away from the Gospel, and all that’s left is the Law with its attendant outer darkness and gnashing of teeth. The servants extend the King’s invitation and the wedding hall is packed with guests. A motley crew unexpected for a king, the poor and lowly, the looked down upon, tax collectors, the sick and dying, brought in from the highways and byways and the King takes care of everything.

As goes the custom of such weddings in Jesus’ time, the King even gives each guest a wedding garment to wear – no expense is spared. Whoever receives His invitation and comes to the wedding receives clothing, food and drink. Isaiah expressed it this way in our Introit – I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness. St. Paul expressed it this way in his letter to the Galatians, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ (Gal 3:27).

Yet, when the King surveys the wedding hall, one man has refused the wedding garment. This is not a matter of poverty. The King generously furnishes clothing for all. Now the translation we have says the man was “speechless.” But what it actually says is that the man was silent. Speechless now implies he was stunned at getting caught, kind of like a wedding crasher. Silent suggests that he refuses to even acknowledge the king’s presence much less talk to him. As in most of these parable, what should the man have said? That’s right, “I’m sorry. I confess my sin, I repent. Please forgive me.” That always works in this kingdom. But instead he refuses to speak to the king and insists on being at the feast on his own terms. And that proves to be a damning choice. No dress of self-chosen or fabricated works can stand in God’s eternal presence. God has a chilling word for the one who approaches everlasting life with the motto, “I’ll do it my way”. They may talk a good line here, but not there. There they are silenced!

Dear friends, the King is still inviting! He has called me here to continue saying, “Come to the wedding feast of the Son!” And to this, Jesus adds the summary clincher: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The called many are all who have heard the great good news: Christ has died, Christ has risen. The feast is ready. Come to the feast. The chosen few are those who in faith are gathered at the marriage Supper of the Lamb in His kingdom, who are clothed with the wedding garment of His righteousness in Holy Baptism. The King wants you! Everything is ready. There is nothing for you to do but receive His provision.

For the many who are not worthy to be called or chosen, thanks be to God that He bound one man hand and foot and cast Him into outer darkness.  As the Father reviewed the guest list on that Holy Day – in looked to everyone as if this one Man was naked.  He hung their – disrobed – in open shame – outside the walls of Jerusalem.  The Father saw this man clothed with the filthy garments of the sin of the world – wearing the worst of what you and I are and do as well.  He put on even our damnable reluctance to respond to the wedding invitation with full joy and confidence!

“Bind him hand and foot” – commanded the King – and spikes were driven through hand and foot with cruel efficiency!  “Cast him into the outer darkness – commanded the King – in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  And He was cast out of the presence of the love of God – forsaken – suffering the punishment of the damned in hell – for you!

Now there are wedding garments for all!  In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).   Now there are wedding garments for you and His holy feast for you.  Dear Christians, the King is still inviting!  He continues saying, “Come to the wedding feast of My Son!”  He wants you at the Son’s feast not just as His guest but as the very Bride of Christ Himself. United to Him you are virgin-pure.

To be included is by God’s grace, His gift to you. To be excluded is entirely your doing, your refusal, your turning away. He will compel you, lavish His gifts upon you, put the wedding suit on you, seat you at His table and feed you. But he won’t force you to stay. The guests at this table are free, they are not imprisoned. Luther again quipped that the doors of the church swing in both directions so that those who wish to come to feast may come, and those who wish to leave can leave. But be careful. The alternative to the wedding feast is outer darkness, and weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

Everything is ready – come to the feast!  Dear beautiful Bride – you do not want to miss this joyful, celebration!  You do not want your family or friends or those from other lands to miss this eternal feast so invite everyone you know.

Everything is ready – come to the feast! 
Today He offers you a foretaste of the eternal Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  By His Word the bread is so rich it bears the body of the Son of God.  The wine is so well-aged that in and with it is the blood of the eternal Lamb – for you!  It is so well-refined that with it the Host serves you the forgiveness of sins!

When the day of salvation began you were a nobody – just like me – out there somewhere – a commoner on the byways.  But now the King has given you a name – His Name – dripping wet with His grace!   Now His clothing covers you!  Now His food fills and completes you!  Everything is ready – come to the feast!

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. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples…he will swallow up death forever; 

You are invited. You are clothed. The feast is ready. Come.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice, Amen

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