Sermon on Matthew 22:1-14
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
October 25, 2020
||Grace, mercy and peace be yours in abundance! Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters, fellow "invitees" to God's wedding banquet. Yes, wedding banquets…not something we're seeing a lot of these days. But the one Jesus is talking about today is a special one; in fact, it's THE wedding banquet. The celebration of his marriage to his bride, the Church; that is, to all of us. As we today prepare to celebrate the coming End Times, and the second Advent of our King, let's make sure we're dressed appropriately. Who will come to the Son’s wedding banquet? And will they be wearing the right garments?
The king sends his messengers to tell his people to come. He tells his people that everything is complete. Now, what does this mean? Recall in our study of other parables in the past few weeks that it is not fitting or wise to try to find a real-world equivalent to each and every element of Jesus' parables. Rather, we search for the point. The point of this parable is that God will gather to heaven those he chooses, and those who are gathered in had better be wearing the right clothing.
To make this happen, God our King has made all the preparations: he made the universe, and you; he made a plan to deal with mankind's sins; he told us about that plan—that he would send a Savior for us; he sent that Savior, his own Son; that Son, Jesus, lived a perfect life, died an innocent death, then rose from the grave and ascended to rule the universe of his Father; they sent forth the Spirit, to give us faith to believe all these things; finally, he will send his angels to gather us into heaven. Everything is most certainly complete, my friends.
But then his people refuse, and violently reject his messengers, abusing and killing them. Such rejection, violence and hatred was experienced by his Old Testament prophets, the Apostles, and we, who came after them. And so God will give to those who arrogantly refuse his invitation the punishment that they deserve, death, and invite others: people from all walks of life, and nothing special about them; frankly, just beggars, no more deserving of the King's invitation than any others. We are such beggars, and we respond, and come to the banquet, because we know the worth of he who calls us. It is that Spirit-given faith that creates in us the desire to respond to that call.
But woe to us if we come bearing the same kind of arrogance displayed by they who rejected God's earlier messengers. Woe to us if we come to his banquet proudly dressed in our own clothes. This is a warning, friends, against works righteousness—the pride held by so many, Christian or not, that they have by their outwardly pious deeds somehow earned heaven! God warned us through his prophet Isaiah what he thinks of that clothing, those works of man we think are such fine garments—filthy rags!
Such prideful Pharisees will not be allowed to attend the banquet. When confronted by the King, they will stand speechless, unable to explain why they come dressed in rags. So, too, will those who think their efforts have been "good enough," and those who seek to come in on some kind of "grading curve," because "surely, I'm not as bad as that guy!" They will all be bound and cast into the outer darkness, that empty place we call hell, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth; weeping, because they will know what they have lost; gnashing of teeth, because in their eternal jealousy and anguish, they will still believe they deserve heaven, that this is so unfair! Such is the reward for those who reject the completed preparations of the king, and the wedding garments he supplies.
For these preparations, and these garments, are nothing less than the saving work of Jesus Christ and the gospel message that teaches, changes hearts, and creates faith. Rejoice, dear Christian! Your God has done everything for you; everything you need to hear and answer his heavenward call has been done, completely and perfectly, by your God! It is his death on the cross that God the Father accepts as the punishment for your sins, so they are washed away, and you, as every other sinner that has ever lived, are declared "not guilty" for the sake of Jesus. It is his perfect life that covers you like a pristine white robe. These are your wedding clothes—the blood and death, the life and merits of Jesus Christ—the appropriate attire for the bride of Christ, for the one who comes to attend the wedding feast of God's Son.
All this is yours because your gracious King has called you, for one reason only: he loves you, and he wants you to be by his side in heaven.
As for those glorious vestments: you wear them even now! As you live in this world and share the love of Christ with your neighbor, your life itself is a beacon of beauty, shining with Christ's light. Your good works, your gentle and loving speech—and yes, even a rebuke can and ought to be gentle and loving—these things and more are the means by which the Spirit opens doors, so you may witness about sin, grace and salvation to others, that they, too, may put on the righteous robes of Christ and answer the King's invitation to come to the heavenly feast.
Who will come to the Son’s wedding banquet? All those who believe. And will they be wearing the right garments? Yes, because through faith, they have been clothed with Christ. Amen.
May the Lord of peace give you peace, at all times, and in every way. Amen.
The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage VersionTM (EHVTM) copyright © 2016 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved.
Lectionary listings from Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal © 1993 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.