20th Sunday after Trinity + Matthew 22:1-14 + October 2, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn # 239 Come, Thou Almighty King
Collect for the 20th Sunday after Trinity
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
Grace and Peace be unto You from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) “The Kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son.” What is this blessed union which God the Father, the King of all things, arranges for His Only-Begotten Son? It is the incarnation. God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity, He who in the beginning “was with God and was God” (John 1:1), “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The incarnation of the Only-Begotten Son of God is a true marriage of two different things, for in the incarnation God becomes man yet remains fully God. As an earthly marriage takes two people and unites them into one flesh, so the incarnation unites the divine nature with human nature in the mystery of the ages. God prepares this blessed union for His Son so that, becoming enfleshed, the Son of God might be made like us in all things and live a fully human life. The incarnation is the heart of the gospel. It is what makes the gospel good news. The gospel message is that Christ has died to atone for the sins of the entire world, so that all who repent of their sins and believe that Christ’s death atones for their sins have the forgiveness of all their sins. The incarnation, the blessed union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ make the gospel possible. God cannot suffer or die. Man cannot atone for the sins of his neighbor, let alone his own sins. Therefore the Only-Begotten Son unites with human flesh and becomes fully man so that He was able to suffer “for us in the flesh” (1 Peter 4:1). His human nature is able to suffer and die. His divine nature, being united to His human nature, makes it possible for that death to atone for the sins of the entire world and all its inhabitants. So it is not a mere man who has died for your sins, but God in human flesh who has suffered for your sins died to atone for them.
2) This is the marriage, the union, which the Father then invites all people to attend, for the King “send out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding.” We see this call taking place, not once, not twice, but continually throughout history. The Jews were initially called to witness this blessed marriage of God and Man, “and they were not willing to come.” So throughout the four gospels we see the Jews rejecting Jesus Himself, stopping up their ears to His teaching, and despising His mercy. But the Lord demonstrates His mercy in that He continued to call His people to the union of His Son so that they might enjoy all the benefits of that union. He calls them tenderly. His invitation is meant to lure them to this marriage, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” He offers them all the blessings of the wedding. The fruits of this union between God and Man in Christ Jesus are everlasting righteousness, the forgiveness of all one’s sins, and eternal innocence and bliss. Yet the Jews despise the invitation. “They made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm another to his business.” We see this rejection of the gospel of Christ in every age of the world, Jesus day was no different from ours. Today we see countless people put all sorts of work into their earthly homes but who give no thought whatsoever to their heavenly home. Today we see many who diligently work for a comfortable life in this world, all the while neglecting their eternal comfort which comes through the regular hearing and studying the Word.
3) While many neglect the invitation to this blessed union of God and man in Christ, others take a more violent approach. Jesus says, “The rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” So the Jews treated the prophets and apostles spitefully, shamefully, ending their lives, just as they did the Lord Himself. Today preachers aren’t generally murdered, but many are treated spitefully, deprived of their living from the Word, or ignored or passed by thoughtlessly. The heavenly Father has but one response to both kinds of people who reject the invitation of the gospel, whether through neglect or violence, and that is punishment. Jesus says, “When the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” We see that this happened quite literally to the Jews in 70 AD when the Romans razed Jerusalem and her temple to the ground, just as Jesus has said it would happen. So God’s wrath today remains on all who reject the Gospel and all who despise it, think little of it, and treat it with disdain and disregard.
4) But again God shows His graciousness. After being rejected, after having his servants seized, mistreated, even killed, the king does not retract his invitation. He will have a full banquet hall in spite of the rejection of so many. He commands his servants again, “Go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.” He could have easily retracted his invitation but he does not let the unworthy, those who refuse the invitation, ruin in for all mankind. We see this in the book of Acts, that when the Jews reject the gospel and Paul, he turns to the gentiles because the banquet hall must be filled! God the Father wants all men to experience the blessings of the incarnation. This much is true because He says through St. Paul that He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He does not desire the death of sinners but that they turn from their sins and have live through faith in the Gospel. Paul tells us this in Acts 17:30 when he says that God “now commands all men everywhere to repent,” that is, to put off their sins, to sorrow over their sins, and seek to be rid of them. The gospel invitation still goes out today, to those who are considered by the world to be both good and bad, for the gospel is not simply for those who have religious inclinations or upbringings, it is for all mankind, since Christ has died for the sins of the entire world. In the parable, the servants gather many in to the banquet hall to enjoy the blessings of the union of the king’s Son. So it is in every age of the world. It is true that many, most in fact, reject the gospel and consider themselves unworthy of everlasting life and the forgiveness of all their sins. But in every age there are many who, by the power of the Holy Spirt, repent of their sins and believe the gospel and enjoy all the blessings the enfleshed Son of God earned for us in His sinless life and by His innocent death.
5) At the conclusion of the parable something odd happens. The king sees a man in the banquet hall who is not wearing a wedding garment. We might be tempted to look at this through our modern experience and scratch our heads at the king’s unwillingness to tolerate someone who isn’t dressed appropriately. But it is important to remember that the king would have furnished his guests each with a wedding garment. That was ancient near eastern custom. It also makes sense from the text. The king asks the man, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” If it were simply that the man didn’t own a wedding garment wouldn’t he have said so? Also, since the king commanded his servants to fill up his banquet hall with anyone off the street, it makes sense that he would provide such people with a garment since they were not prepared for the wedding. This shows the king’s graciousness yet again, in that what God requires of us He provides for us. The wedding garment is Christ Himself, and faith is how we “wear” Christ. St. Paul tells us in Romans 13:14 to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Galatians 3:27 he writes, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” meaning that in baptism you have been clothed with Christ so that you possess all that He has and wear Him like a garment. Paul also says in Colossians 3:10 that we are to “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” The garment required for entry into the wedding in Christ, and we wear Christ, we put Him on, by faith, that is, by believing His gospel and trusting His Word.
6) Christ is the wedding union and all the blessings of that union. Christ is the garment of righteousness we wear which covers all our sins. Christ is the one who graciously gives us this garment since we poor sinners cannot provide it for ourselves. Christ the wedding. Christ the garment. Christ the giver of everything that is needed for our salvation. Let not, as thethose unworthy men in the parable, forsake the Lord’s invitation because of farm and business, that is, the things of this life and its pleasures. Let us not, as the Jews, close our ears to even the slightest bit to the invitation God sends out in the promise of the Gospel. What He says to His guests He says to you each day, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” He lays before you again today all the blessings of the wedding. He covers you His righteousness. He gives you His blessedness. He offers you His innocence from every sin. This is the fruit of that blessed union between God and Man, that our Lord Jesus Christ has won for you and gives you today once again. Amen
May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hears and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.