Sermon on Matthew 22:1-14

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

In a few weeks, the weekend of October 24th and 25th, we are planning on reopening the Sanctuary for worship.  A set of procedures have been carefully put together to help us stay safe.  You can find the procedures in your newsletter, on the website on the front page, or you can call the office and request a copy.

One of the precautions we are taking is a mask requirement.  We will require every person who enters the building to wear a mask throughout their entire time they are in the building.  The only exception will be myself while I am leading worship and preaching from the altar.  There will be plenty of distance between me and the first row, and this will allow for lip reading, as I know a few members already do this.

If you forget your mask, one will be provided.  If you come with only a face shield, we will ask that you also wear a mask.  If you have a health concern that prevents you from wearing a mask, we respectfully ask you to stay home and participate online.

If you are wearing your mask below your nose, you will be asked to cover your face fully or you will be invited to leave. 

If you refuse to wear a mask, you will be asked to stay in your car and tune to 90.3 FM where you can hear the service on the radio.

If you do not want to follow the procedures, you will be bound hand and foot and cast out into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Well, Saturday night it could be outer darkness.  Sunday morning, it will be too bright.

These procedures will be very helpful for us to follow, so we can continue worshipping indoors throughout the winter.  And I tossed in that little phrase from our Gospel reading, because what I’ve been saying isn’t just an announcement.  Hopefully, it will help you better understand the parable Jesus told.

We’ve been following the Gospel according to Matthew, and the last few weeks we have seen a number of parables.  Each parable made a clear connection to the Church, what God is doing in and through the Church, and how Jesus is the key to unlocking the meaning.

The parable of the Wedding Feast is a different type of parable.  We are getting a glimpse of how everything works in the world from the beginning to the end.  There is quite a lot in this parable.  At the same time, it delivers a simple, Gospel message.

Let’s break it down…

2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son…” 

This is cause for celebration!  The son is married and the father, or king, is proud!

“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.”

Okay...some explaining.

A parable is not something that is literal.  It is a story, metaphor, or even a familiar idea used to explain a difficult topic.  The difficult topic spoken here is of The Kingdom of Heaven.  So who is who?

The servants are the ones who were sent to share the good news and invite others to come to the feast.  To be more specific, the servants are the prophets who have been sent to proclaim the Kingdom.

Notice how they are treated.  Those invited would not come, paid no attention and went on with what they were doing, and others seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

From God’s perspective, this is the Old Testament in a nutshell.  Prophets were sent time and again.  Yet, they were told no, ignored, put in prison, thrown in a lion’s den, stoned, called crazy, and killed. One can only imagine what the Pharisees and teachers of the law were thinking when they heard Jesus speaking this parable.

But Jesus continues…

“7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”

There is debate on what Jesus is referencing here.  This could be Jesus referring back to when Assyria ransacked the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. and when Babylon finished off the southern kingdom of Judah in 587 B.C.  This could be a prophecy for when the Romans came in 70 A.D. and destroyed the temple.  Or it could point to something else.

What we can understand from this, is that the king is very angry and paused the celebration in order to deal with the ones he originally developed a relationship with.

This may not even be the weirdest part.  The king sends invites to everyone no matter their background.  And when it came time to feast, there was someone in the banquet hall without a wedding garment.

There are customs in those days in other cultures that would have wedding garments on hand for someone to borrow if they were to arrive without wedding garments.  However, we need not focus on the fact that he had no wedding garments on.  This person could have just been following the crowd, walked into the wrong house, heard some noise and walked towards it.

This is a generous king who will go to whatever length to fill the hall for this grand celebration.  The mistake was not in this person being found without wedding garments.  The mistake was in his response, or really lack of response.  To quote, “And he was speechless.”  

Not a word was said when he was addressed by the king.  No excuse.  No begging or pleading.  No, “I did not know.”  Nothing.  This person’s silence speaks volumes!  And his consequence is not as bad as we may think.

Here is where Jesus is the key to unlocking this parable and answering a few questions that come to the forefront.

  • Why did this man deserve the consequence of being tossed into the outer darkness?
  • What is the outer darkness?
  • Why is there weeping and gnashing of teeth?  For that matter, what is gnashing of teeth?
  • What is the appropriate wedding garment the king was looking for, and why did this man not have it on?

Jesus has been preaching all along that He is the way, the truth, and the life.  That nobody comes to the Father except through Him.  That Jesus is the light of the world.  That you must be reborn, repent of your sins, believe in Him, and on and on.

So, the invitation that has been sent by those servants (i.e. prophets), since the very beginning of creation, is to believe in God.  The invitation is into a relationship with our creator.  This is what God spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This is the message spoken by Isaiah and the prophets.  This is the message that was extended first to an individual group of people who rejected it, and then extended to anyone who will believe.

This wedding feast is the feast of all time.  The grandest wedding ever.  The marriage between Jesus, the groom, and his bride, the Church.  The marriage feast is what we have been given a foretaste of in the meal of Holy Communion.  The wedding garment we are given is already given you, that is if you have been baptized.  For in those waters with His word, you were baptized into the family of God, washed as white as snow, cleansed for all eternity, and wrapped in the very garment the king is looking for at his wedding feast.

This man who stood there silent before the king was not baptized or cleansed by the blood of the lamb.  Instead, he stood there in his own righteousness, not the righteousness of Christ.  The righteousness that Jesus has given to all who believe and are baptized is His very own.  

It was Jesus who lived the perfect, obedient life.  There on the cross, Jesus substituted His life for ours as He took the wrath of God we so justly deserve.  And His resurrection sealed the fate for all who believe and are baptized.  I say this, just as St. Paul said it in Romans 6:3-4, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

This newness of life is the regeneration, the rebirth given by means of Holy Baptism.  We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, which is the wedding garment that is needed for the wedding feast.

The man without a wedding garment, stood there in his own righteousness, which is as “filthy rags” as said in Isaiah 64:6.  This will not do.  So the king approaches the man, who stays silent.  Any answer would have been better than this.  Any answer would have opened the conversation to a relationship, to a possible chance of him staying at the feast.

Very similar to when Jesus stood silent before Pilate.  Pilate begged for an answer, and told Jesus that he had the power to rectify Jesus.  What Pilate didn’t know was that Jesus was going through this to give life to all who believe.  Because Jesus is the only one who saves.

But this man in the parable, who stood silent, ignored the one person who truly can and does make all things right, God.  There was nothing the man could have said to justify himself.  But he was face to face with the one who justified him.  His silence rejected the king, which means he faces the consequences of his choices/sins.

He was bound hand and foot and tossed into the outer darkness, separation from God.  And there in that darkness there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Weeping, we understand.  Gnashing of teeth is a Hebraic phrase to describe anger. This is the natural consequence when left in our own sins.

But the point of this parable is not the consequences said in the end.  The point of the parable is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  The Kingdom of Heaven is open and available to all people.  The way in is already given you in Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection.  By means of Holy Baptism, you are accepted.  Not by anything you can do, but by grace given you.

And, as a baptized child of God, you can invite others to this heavenly banquet.  An invitation to believe in the God who saves.  Who has already prepared the feast and gives a foretaste of the feast to come through His body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion.