Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity - Mt 22:1-14


Trinity 20

                                                                            Mt 22:1-14



          Imagine the following scenario.  You are invited to the wedding of significant person in your community – a person of great influence and wealth.  The wedding is going to held in a large church.  The wedding reception will take place at a very upscale country club setting.  This is sure to be a very classy affair done with great taste and no expense spared.

          So how would you choose to dress in order to attend the wedding and the reception that follows?  Common sense tells us that we would need to dress well, and not in our normal everyday attire. We would need to dress in a way that was fitting for the occasion.

          Now imagine that you have attended the wedding and are at the wedding reception. There you see a man who is wearing cut off jeans and a tank top with the logo of a heavy metal band. What is your reaction to seeing this? Probably it is something along the lines of, “What in the world was that guy thinking when he got dressed?”  After all he is wearing something that is completely inappropriate for the occasion and setting.  In truth, dressing like that for this occasion doesn’t show much respect.

          I want you to keep this image in mind as we consider our Gospel lesson today, and walk our way through the parable that Jesus tells.  It will help provide the key to understanding what happens at the end.

          Our text takes place during Holy Week as Jesus interacts with the Jewish religious leaders who are trying to trip him up and find some reason to bring accusations against him.  This is the third of three parables that Jesus tells which are aimed at these religious leaders.

          Our Lord begins by 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.”  As you have heard from this pulpit many times in the past, the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” is simply a Jewish way of saying “kingdom of God.” And the kingdom of God in Jesus’ preaching is the reign of God that had arrived in Jesus and his ministry.

          A king giving a wedding feast for his son was a very big deal. This was the kind of event in which not only was it an honor to be included, but there was the expectation that those invited would attend.  People showed by their respect and obedience to the king by attending.  However, in this case something shocking happened: the people were unwilling to come.

          So the king sent out 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.”  The king again invited the people to come to the wedding feast.  He described how had prepared a lavish banquet.  Remember, meat like this was not a staple of the diet in the Mediterranean world. So the opportunity to have this kind of food was tasty luxury.

          However, the people paid no attention. Some went off to their own affairs.  Other even seized the king’s servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.  This behavior was truly shocking.  No one would act this way toward a king. And the king’s reaction in the parable is equally dramatic.  Jesus says, “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” 

          It’s not hard to understand the meaning of the parable thus far. The king is God, and the Son is Jesus.  God the Father had sent Jesus to his people Israel as the Messiah.  He was the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel in the Old Testament.  In Jesus, the kingdom of heaven – the reign of God had arrived.  However, the leaders had rejected Jesus, and they certainly had not encouraged people to believe in him.  In fact already in chapter twelve of the Gospel we learn, “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.”

          The city that is destroyed in the parable certainly refers to Jerusalem, which happened in 70 A.D. as the Romans responded to the Jewish revolt. In Jesus’ ministry and that of his apostles, the Gospel had been offered to the nation.  Just as the Scriptures describe salvation as a great feast, God had offered this in Christ. But the leaders and the majority of the people had rejected Jesus.  In fact, the leaders would get their way.  They would use trumped up charges to get the Romans to execute Jesus on a cross.

          Jesus’ death on the cross came as no surprise to him.  Our Lord had said just as they were about to enter Jerusalem for the last time, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”  Jesus Christ went to Jerusalem to die.  He went to die as the atoning sacrifice that has won forgiveness for you.  And then on Easter, God raised him from the dead as he defeated death.  Jesus brought the reign of God as he won the forgiveness of sins and began the resurrection that we will receive on the Last Day.

          God was acting in his grace and mercy to give salvation.  In the second half of the parable Jesus says about the king, “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.”

          The first guests had shown that they were not worthy by the way they had shamefully insulted the king and his son.  But the king would not have his wedding feast be empty. And so he sent out his servants to gather in all. They brought in both the bad and the good. This is a reminder that God’s grace and mercy knows no bounds. 

Though probably this describes the initial ongoing work to proclaim the Gospel to the descendants of Abraham, we can’t overlook the fact that we were later addons to the guest list of the feast of salvation. As Gentiles, we had no claim to God’s covenant with Israel. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says of the cup at the Last Supper, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  By Jesus’ death and resurrection we have been included in the new covenant. Each time we receive the Sacrament of the Altar we receive the assurance and guarantee that we are indeed part of God’s forgiven people.

By their very nature, Jesus parables often contain features that we would call hyperbole – features that are “over the top,” and grab our attention.  In this parable, people have the audacity to reject the king’s invitation, and even kill his servants. The king then responds by sending his army to destroy the city.

But at the end of the parable our Lord includes something that just seems odd.  Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “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.’”

A man is invited to the wedding.  Then he is condemned and thrown out because he isn’t wearing a wedding garment.  Now there is no evidence that guests were provided with a wedding garment by their host.  In fact, there wasn’t any such thing as a “wedding garment.”  Instead, what people wore to a wedding was a normal clean festive garment.  The man had not bothered to put on appropriate clothing you should wear to a wedding banquet.  Think back to the man at beginning of the sermon who showed up in cut offs and a heavy metal tank top.  This action was an insult to the king and his son, and it ties the man to the previous people who were condemned by the king – the people who showed themselves not to be worthy.

In Matthew’s Gospel, being “worthy” is defined by how a person stands in relation to Jesus.  When Jesus sent out the apostles in chapter ten to proclaim the kingdom of God that has arrived in Christ, a town or village was defined as worthy if they received and accepted the message.

Everything about our life is defined by Jesus Christ – it is defined by faith in the Lord and how we act because of this.  In chapter sixteen, Jesus had asked disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” After they reported the various answers such as, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets, he asked them the really important question: “But who do you say that I am?” 

Jesus addresses that same question to us through the Gospel. In faith we confess, “You are our Lord, who died for our sins and rose from the dead.” But just because we confess this today, doesn’t mean that we will confess it tomorrow or next year.  And just because we say these words, doesn’t mean that we act in ways that demonstrate the truth of this faith.

In the parable, the man was at the wedding banquet.  But the way he had dressed did not show respect toward the king and his son.  His actions showed that he was not worthy.  The experience of the man warns us that we cannot take Jesus for granted.  First, we must continue to be believe in him as our crucified and risen Lord. And second, this faith must determine the way we live.

Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Jesus’ words call us to repentance, for there have been times we put other people and things ahead of Christ.  His words draw us to his gifts of the Means of Grace.  For there the crucified and risen Lord gives us the forgiveness that he won. There the Spirit strengthens us in faith so that we can confess Jesus as Lord both in what we say, and in what we do.  Jesus words lead us to see our daily life as the setting in which we confess him as Lord by the way we live. 

God has called you to faith through the Gospel.  You have received the reign of God which arrived in Jesus Christ. Through faith and baptism you are forgiven because of Jesus’ death and resurrection for you.  God has graciously invited you to the feast of salvation.  So that we may continue to confess Jesus as Lord both in what we say and what we do, there is nothing better for us to do than to now come to the foretaste of this feast in the Sacrament of the Altar.  Here Jesus gives you his true body and blood, given and shed for you. Here you receive forgiveness.  Here you receive assurance that you are part of God’s people.  Here you receive food for the new man so that you can confess Jesus as Lord each day in what you say and do.  














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