Sermon for Trinity 20 - Matthew 22:1-14 - October 5, 2014

The kingdom of heaven is like a marriage that a king arranges for his son. The King’s son is our Lord Jesus Christ. His bride is the church, whom He purchased and cleansed with His own blood as St. Paul expounds in Ephesians 5. In this kingdom He daily and richly forgives sins. In this kingdom, in this marriage to the heavenly Bridegroom, life is bestowed on those who are spiritually dead. In this kingdom, the Bridegroom takes all that is wretched, wicked, and wrong with His bride and gives to her His perfect righteousness, which He earned by His perfect obedience to God the Father and the Divine Law throughout the days of His humiliation. This marriage is marvelous. The Bride brings nothing with her yet receives everything she needs to be perfect, spotless, and holy bride of her beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is because the Father has prepared so rich a marriage that He sends messengers out to proclaim it and call those who He had invited. The Lord “desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) The King wants His wedding hall full. He wants to share the blessings of the marriage with all His subjects. He wants all His creation to benefit from these nuptials.

His messengers are his servants throughout the ages, prophets in the Old Testament, Apostles, Bishops and Pastors in the New. In every age their task is the same: to call those invited to the wedding feast of the kingdom of God. But response is lacking. “They were not willing to come,” Jesus says. No great reason. These in the parable just did not want to attend the marriage. They wanting nothing to do with it. They thought they didn’t need the benefits of the marriage between Christ and His church. They cared not the forgiveness of their sins because their sins were comfortable to them. They cared not for live everlasting because they were intoxicated with the cares and pleasures of this life. They cared not for the blessings of peace with God and a quiet mind, that is, a clean conscience, because they had suppressed their conscience and did not want to come to terms with their wickedness and admit their guilt, that they truly needed what the King offered in this marriage. So they were not willing to come. But the King persists in His loving call through His prophets and pastors. “Tell those who are invited, See I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” The king persists in calling His subjects because He truly wants them to benefit from the marriage of His Son.

“But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.” And so we see this is true of the Jews and unbelievers of every age. The things of this world are too precious to the sinful flesh. “Farm and business are too important because if we stop attending to farm and business for only a moment we could lose everything, and why lose everything for things we can’t even see and things we don’t feel we need.” Others make light of the Gospel invitation to believe in Christ and be a part of the kingdom of heaven through faith, thinking that these are the things of childhood myth and story. We see this in the pages of Scripture concerning the Jews. We see it also in the pages of history. And we see this in our day, in our own workplaces, and sadly in our own families. Many are called, but most want nothing to do with the Gospel and the kingdom.

Then there are those who are so offended by Christ and His marriage to the church, there are those that are so averse to this teaching of the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ that they must silence the invitation. Jesus says, “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” The blood of the prophets, apostles, saints and martyrs pools into this singular source. Recalcitrant sinners hate the Gospel. They do not like to be told that they are sinners who cannot be reformed but must be regenerated all together. They do not warm to the teaching that their righteousness deeds “are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) So they treat prophets and pastors shamefully, running them out of their pulpits, depriving them of their livelihoods, and thus sentence them to death. This still happens all the time today, which is why we support the work of The Augustana Ministerium. That group exists to give financial aid to confessional Lutheran pastors whose calls are unscripturally terminated and to help those whose congregations want to starve them out of their pulpit. We like to think that the church is above that sort of thing these days but it is not. What has been from the beginning is now and ever shall be until the world is made new by Christ’s return. For the Jews then and the false Christians now who treat Christ’s messengers with such disdain and vitriol there is only one path left from the king to take. Being furious and their rejection, “he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” The Gospel is how God wants to bring people into His kingdom. If the invitation is rejected, what is really being rejected is God Himself.

The second part of this parable deals with us Christians, those who do not reject the Gospel and Christ outright. The second part of the parable is for those who accept the invitation to the marriage feast and it serves as a warning lest we drift away from the Faith. For we are those on the highways, the good and the bad in the eyes of the world, who are gathered by the Gospel invitation. The Jews, having rejected the Gospel, cast themselves aside as God’s people, so the Lord turns to the Gentiles to invite them to the wedding of Christ to His church. Among this number there is a guest who is not wearing his wedding garment. This is a terrible offense. This is not as we think of it today. Today when a man is invited to a wedding He must go rent a tuxedo or have His best suit dry-cleaned and pressed. But in Jesus’ day the host provided the wedding garment. It would be as if a wedding invitation today read, “Black Tie Required: Host Will Provide Black Tie Attire.” Arriving at the wedding hall, the King’s son would be handing out wedding garments to the guests. Another benefit of the King! He provides clothing so that everyone can enjoy the festive setting. But there is a man who does not proceed to the changing room. He does not care for the wedding garment. What he does with it we’re not told. It doesn’t matter. He’s not wearing it and the king notices. The underdressed man knows that he is required to wear the garment because when he is asked he is speechless. There is no excuse for not wearing the wedding garment, especially because it was graciously given to him when he entered the hall. There is nothing left for him but to be bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Such is the fate of every Christian who is really a hypocrite. This man represents those who accept the wedding invitation, those who believe the Gospel with great joy, but who do not continue in it and persevere in faith. He signifies those who go to church without true faith, who receive the sacrament outwardly but in the impenitence receive it to the detriment. This man signifies those who appear to be Christian but are Christin in name only. The wedding garment is Christ’s righteousness. The garment is Christ Himself really. St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” He is a garment we are to wear each day of our lives. Isaiah tells Judah to rejoice “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10) When we are baptized, Christ gives us His own righteousness as a garment. All of the righteousness which He earned during His earthly life by His perfect obedience to the Law, He gives to us so that His righteousness is credited and imputed to us. When we daily sin we are to repent of those sins and return to the promises that God makes to us in Holy Baptism, and by continual faith in those promises we take off the garment of the sinful flesh and we ‘put on Christ.’ Christ’s righteousness is the wedding garment, for when we wear Christ’s works, when we put on His robe of righteousness, we are accounted holy and just and righteous, spotless and without blemish before the throne of God. We gain everything that is His and He takes away everything that is ours, our false righteousness, our sham good works, the guilt of our sin as well as our sinful “best” intentions for self-improvement and self-reformation. Daily repentance of sin and confidence in the Gospel is returning to baptism and putting Christ back on, attiring ourselves in Him and Him alone.

Christ’s warning is clear. Do not only appear to be doing this. The author of Hebrews reminds us, “We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1) The Christian can, and sometimes does, become the hypocrite who remains in the church, outwardly speaking, but inwardly as drifted away from faith in Christ and good works. Christ’s exhortation to the faithful is: keep wearing your wedding garment. Do not cast it aside for the pleasures of this world, for the securities of this life, or for any other reason. Christ warns us how many are called by the Gospel but few are chosen. Few believe in our day and age. Only a few do not harden their hearts to the work of the Holy Ghost through God’s Means of Grace, Christ’s Word and Sacraments. But the call still goes forth to believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. For those who do not harden their hearts, for those who do not judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life, the marriage of the Lamb and His church goes on. And though we fall through sin, our Lord keeps extending His gospel call to us while we still yet live. He is a good and gracious King. He has prepared a good and gracious feast and wants to benefit us by that feast and marriage, which is Christ and all His heavenly blessings, everlasting life through the forgiveness of sins. Wear your wedding garment. Put on Christ daily for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Amen.

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