Sunday, October 15, 2023

Matthew 22:1-14; The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost; October 15, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
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. 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.” ’ 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. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 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. “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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”” (Matthew 22:1–14, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

It’s a bloody mess, this wedding feast. The invited guests don’t want to come. They have other work that is more important. They kill the messengers. The king, understandably, is very angry, he kills them all and burns their city. After his gracious invitation, they responded with indifference and violence. He returns it in kind. But he isn’t done. The slain are not worthy of the feast, he has prepared everything for a joyous occasion. They rejected him, his son the bridegroom, his rule, and his kindness. But, everything is ready. The feast must proceed. So, he sends his messengers to the open road to invite everyone they can find. The servants did just that and brought in a new crowd of people. And the wedding hall was filled with folks, “both good and bad.”

Then this parable takes an interesting turn. The king came to look over the newly gathered guests. A man was there with no wedding garment. We might think that the man had an excuse. After all he was brought in from the highway. He wouldn’t have time to go home and dress for the party. But in those days, the special wedding clothes were provided by the host. He was in common street cloths, not fit for the celebration. He has dishonored the bridegroom, by his refusal to wear what was provided. He too is met with violence. He is tied up and cast out.

Jesus can hardly be accused of subtly in this parable. In fact, he has piled it on. According to St. Matthew, Jesus is teaching in the temple, in full hearing of the Scribes and Pharisees. When he gets to the line,
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.” (Matthew 22:5–6, ESV)
I imagine him lifting his eyes and looking directly at the religious leaders for “and killed them.”

This is the third parable in a row where Jesus is talking directly to them. The first about the two sons, the first who says he will do what is asked and doesn’t. The second who says he won’t and then does it anyway. The second parable is the one about the owner of a vineyard who the tenants react with violence and kill the heir. After that one, Matthew tells us,
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.” (Matthew 21:45, ESV)
It is rather obvious; Jesus is accusing them of murder. They would have arrested Jesus, but the crowds prevented it. And after this parable about the King’s wedding fest, they try to trap Jesus into speaking against paying taxes to Caesar. They will stop at nothing to get rid of Jesus. They want the Romans to do their dirty work.

I would remind people who see Jesus as an always loving, non-confrontational, itinerant preacher, Jesus was not only controversial, but he was confrontational. It was not above Jesus to bind cords together and beat people with them. That’s what he did when he drove the money changers out of the temple. Here he seems to be deliberately provoking the religious leaders to act against him. They do, and when they get the chance, with the help of the Romans, Jesus is nailed to a cross. I think they full well knew Jesus was the promised messiah. But he was not the one they wanted. He didn’t hold them up as examples of goodness and law keeping. Instead, he attacked them and rightly accused them of being hypocrites and murderers. Their response to God was, “Try again.”

As we look at this parable, what does it say to us? I had a seminary professor (Dr. Gibbs) who told us that our congregations are not the Pharisees. What he means is that they rejected Christ, but those gathered around Word and Sacrament do not. Well, this is a Kingdom parable. That means it tells us something about the Kingdom of God. Jesus says,
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,” (Matthew 22:2, ESV)
The kingdom of heaven is like a wedding feast. We see this feast in our Old Testament reading for today.
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 25:6, ESV)
It’s a glorious celebration. The best food will be offered. “Rich food” Isaiah says. It’s a celebration of Jesus and all that he has done for us. Specifically, death is defeated. “Death is swallowed up forever.” He puts an end to all mourning. He puts and end to the “reproach of his people.” That means he removes their sin. If ever there was a cause for celebration, this is it. It is what the Kingdom of God is all about.

But there is more. After being rejected, the King offers the kingdom to everyone. Even the “good and bad.” If it were not so, we would be out. He gathers his people from the far corners of the earth. And the wedding hall is full.

The parable of the seeds tells us about this. The reckless farmer spreads the seed of the Word everywhere without regard to how it will be received. Rocky ground, the path, shallow soil. But some fall on good ground and produce fruit. God is gracious in his offer to join the kingdom. But not all will receive it.

Our parable goes even further. God provides what we need to be there. A wonderful wedding garment. As I said before, the guest who refused to wear it is cast out. That is a rejection of Christ. Jesus knit the wedding garment with his own blood. He bound it together with the cords of his righteous life. The gown is the robe of the righteousness of Christ. He shed his blood on the cross for our forgiveness. He exchanges our filthy rags with his own robe of the perfect life he lived. It is provided without anything we do to earn it. We are invited. We show up. The robe is given, and we are forgiven. When God looks at us then, he sees Jesus. He sees a glorious robe that covers all our sins. That’s why the man who refused to wear it is cast out. God sees his sin, his filthy rags. He in essence is saying, “I don’t need a new robe. My clothes are good enough.” Martin Luther explains the rejection.
“The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God’s foreknowledge, but the perverse human will. The human will rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Spirit, which God offers it through the call. It resists the Holy Spirit, who wants to be effective, and who works through the Word” (FC SD XI 41).
For us, who are in the kingdom, this is telling. Our task, like the king’s servants, is to offer the invitation, through the Word. We are to proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sinful people, to people everywhere. We are not to regard the rejection. We should expect it (hopefully without violence!) We are fighting against the perverse human will. But it isn’t our fight. That fight belongs to God, the Holy Spirit, who works through the Word.

In a little bit we will be discussing the gifts that God has given us here to do just that (afterwards we’ll have a feast!). We have the Word, Christ himself, present with us. This Word is the means by which the Spirit works. We have the sacraments, Holy Baptism, and the Holy Supper. The Holy Spirit also works through these. If we are proclaiming the truth of Scripture, if we are administering the sacraments according to Christ’s command, we are doing all that is necessary. If we are meeting regularly to receive his gifts, we are doing all that is necessary. If we are working individually in this community to show God’s love and forgiveness, we are doing all that is necessary.

But with God there is always more. We have this property, graciously given to us for his use. How will we use it to increase what God does here through the Holy Spirit? How will we use it to further teach God’s Word about Jesus? Well, those are the questions we will ask ourselves. And with his grace accomplish what he has set before us. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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