Matthew 22:1-14 (18th Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 23—Series A)
“Come to the Feast”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
October 12, 2014
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 22:
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 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.”‘ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 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. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Everywhere in the palace there is the hustle and bustle of attendants and servants alike. There isn’t a whole lot of time left and there is so much to prepare and to make ready. The tables must be set perfectly—plates, cups, forks, knives laid out with military precision. “Quick, double check the spacing between the bread plate and that goblet!” “That chair, make it square with the table!” Candles are in their stands, perfectly straight. Napkins are folded meticulously. The silverware shines. The china sparkles. The crystal glasses reflect the light from the chandeliers. Nothing can be amiss. This is the wedding feast for the crown prince!
Meanwhile, the kitchen is as busy as or more so than the banquet hall. Appetizers, main courses, rolls and breads, desserts all being prepared to exquisite perfection. No expense has been spared. The finest portions of meat are to be served. The best wine will fill the goblets. Nothing of average quality will do for this banquet. The food is all better than the best. This is the wedding feast of the crown prince!
The invitations had been sent to all the “who’s who” in the kingdom. The King has personalized each invitation. At the right time, when everything is prepared for His son’s wedding feast, the King sends his servants to call those who were invited to the banquet hall in the palace. But, how strange! They do not want to come.
Who on earth would not want to come to a free banquet? Who wouldn’t want to come to the King’s palace and dine with him in regal splendor, eating the best of meats and the choicest of wines?
The King makes another attempt to those who were invited. He doesn’t give up on them despite their rejection of his invitation. He sent other servants with this message, “Look! I have prepared my meal, my oxen and the fatted calves have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the feast!” Look how the King has done everything, made everything ready, at very high cost to himself! And now, the King’s invitation was ignored by some who had “more important” things to do on their farm or at their place of business. Others got so angry over this gracious invitation that they grabbed the King’s servants, mistreated them, and killed them!
This is outrageous! This is unheard of! What kind of people would ignore this invitation, and who would dare mistreat and kill the King’s servants because they were inviting them to a feast? It doesn’t make any sense! And really, neither does what the King proceeds to do. After summarily destroying those murderers and burning their city, the King sends his servants out again with invitations to anyone and everyone they could find! The King instructed his servants to go out and pick up guests from the highways and byways, regardless of whether they were good or bad. How great was the King’s desire that the banquet hall be filled with guests for his Son’s wedding feast! The King even supplied, free of charge, the fancy wedding robes appropriate for the occasion so that everyone was properly dressed for the wedding feast of the crown prince.
This is certainly a strange Kingdom in which we find ourselves. As things started out, it all made sense. It was a world that we could understand, one where things work the way we are used to them working. But then, all of a sudden, we come to realize that we are not in our world. We’re not in a Kingdom we are used to. That’s because we suddenly find ourselves in God’s Kingdom. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a King, who made a wedding feast for His Son.”
God the King invites everyone to His Son’s feast. Unfortunately, some refuse the invitation and so fail to enjoy its richness. The people of Israel inexplicably refused to come to the banquet prepared for them. They mistreated God’s messengers—the prophets—and killed them. God in His grace, did not become disillusioned and abandon the project when these first guests invited scuttled His plans. He insisted that His house be filled with guests, because God wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4) God did not discriminate; He instructed His servants to pick up guests from anywhere and everywhere. It didn’t matter if they were bad or good. He supplied the clothes for the occasion and graciously came around to talk with His guests who were present.
When it comes to our salvation, all is of God: the idea, the food, the preparations, the invitations, and even the garments. All we have to do is come and enjoy. And yet, so many refuse.
By our very nature we do not have true fear, love, and trust in God. We are at odds with Him, His enemies. God calls and invites to His Kingdom banquet through His Word. As sinful people, we naturally have contempt for His invitation, His Word, and we do not want to come to the wedding feast. Left to ourselves, we despise the Word and resist and persist in resisting the Holy Spirit who wants to exercise His power in us and be effective through the Word. (FC:SD XI.40) Because of our human sinfulness, few respond to the Word of God’s invitation to salvation. Others receive the Word with joy, but after fall away, only to despise, revile, and ridicule it. (Luke 8:13)
But this does not stop God from calling and inviting people through His Word to the wedding feast of salvation. The crown prince left His heavenly throne to become fully human, yet without sin. On behalf of all people of every time and place, Jesus, the crown prince Himself, allowed Himself to be placed on the “throne” of the cross. There He took upon Himself our sins, our unrighteousness, our rebellions against God. Jesus suffered the wrath of the King against His enemies even though He is the royal Son. In exchange for our sins, Jesus gave us His righteousness through the forgiveness of sins. The Word of God pictures this righteousness before the King which Jesus won for us through the forgiveness of sins as a robe. Isaiah 61:10, “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, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” We read in Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment.”
God the King, through the very death and resurrection of His only Son, prepared a heavenly feast for us before Him. In Holy Baptism, as He did this morning with Hunter, the Lord gives us the proper clothing to wear before His royal, holy presence—the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers our sin and makes us right to stand before God without fear. Because we who are baptized into Christ are covered in the forgiving love and mercy of Christ, we will never be cast out of the heavenly feast into the outer darkness of condemnation. God the Father has clothed us in the garments of His own Son and so we will join Him at His eternal banquet table.
God, our King, has done everything necessary for us and for our eternal salvation. He has called and invited us to His heavenly feast through His Word and His Sacrament of Baptism. In faith we have received the gifts of Christ’s cross and resurrection—forgiveness and eternal life. We are clothed with Jesus’ very garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness. In Christ, you and I are made acceptable to God our Father. In Holy Communion, Jesus gives us His real body and blood, with the bread and wine, as a foretaste, a preview, of the eternal banquet to come where we will be together with the Lord—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—dining in His presence with all the saints who lived by faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Look forward, then, to the great day when Jesus Christ comes again and, as the heavenly bridegroom, leads us, His bride, covered in the robes of His righteousness, into the banquet hall in the palace of God the King! On that day, as Isaiah promised in the Old Testament reading, there will be “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) But that will be just the beginning of the heavenly banquet that will never end. So rejoice! God has made everything ready for your salvation. Come and enjoy the feast! Amen.