Sunday, October 11, 2015
Homily for The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 20)
Matthew 22:1-14; Ephesians 5:15-21; Isaiah 55:1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The parables of our Lord are often simple on the surface, complex and even confounding in the details, and yet again simple in their final meaning. Today’s Parable of the Wedding Banquet is no exception. In this parable the invited become the uninvited and the uninvited become the invited – even notorious bad people, you know, sinners. But, then, even amongst the newly invited, no one gets in without the proper wedding attire. In fact, one such soul among the newly invited was found not wearing the king’s provided wedding garment and he was bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness where there is only weeping and the gnashing of teeth, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Therefore, what are we to make of this our Lord’s Parable of the Wedding Banquet? What does He want you to learn and to know and to believe as a result of hearing it?
To answer those questions it is necessary to wrestle with those difficult aspects of the parable: Who were the invited? How does one get oneself uninvited? How does one get invited if one were not invited in the first place? What about the wedding garment? How do you get one, and how do you keep it? And, just what is so offensive about not having one that it merits so harsh a penalty as being bound and cast into the outer darkness where there is only weeping and the gnashing of teeth? Yes, these are the questions we must answer, for they constitute the heart of the parable and Jesus’ teaching.
First, Jesus was speaking to His opponents, to the chief priests and the Pharisees who did not believe in Him. Jesus often spoke to willful unbelievers in parables because, “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” That is to say, they see and hear well enough – they have functioning eyes and ears; they are not blind or deaf – and yet they willfully close their eyes to Jesus’ signs and miracles, and they willfully stop their ears so that do not hear His Word rightly and believe. They represent the invited that make excuses to not follow their Lord because they worship the false gods and idols of mammon, worldly wealth, material goods, the esteem of men, and the passions and desires of the flesh. The Lord Jesus was sent to them in fulfillment of the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to Moses and the David, their forefathers. However, they rejected their Messiah, their Christ, and their God as a sacrifice to their false gods and idols, as a sacrifice to Satan, for there is no other God but the Holy Trinity.
How does one get oneself uninvited? You get yourself uninvited by willfully resisting the Holy Spirit, by willful and intentional unbelief, and by rejecting the LORD’s gift of mercy and forgiveness in unrepentance, unbelief, and in idolatry. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Indeed, all are called, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” and He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” In Jesus, the LORD has made it possible for all men to be saved. Everyone who has ever lived, who lives, and who ever will live has been purchased and redeemed and ransomed and atoned for in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection – everyone! But, only those who believe and trust in Him will be saved.
Because not everyone knows this wonderful and gracious truth about Jesus, the LORD has sent the Gospel invitation out into the whole world, “to the main roads” and “to the highways and the hedges.” He tells His ministers to “invite to the wedding feast as many as you find,” without condition, both good and bad, for Jesus has redeemed them all. This is the Gospel in its fullness and sweetness. There is nothing that is required – not good works, not piety, not holiness, and not even faith – for even faith will be given as a free and gracious, perfect and holy gift. That’s some invitation! The point is this: Everything is prepared! The invitation is just as Isaiah prophesied: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Do you get it? Do you comprehend how incredibly, wondrously gracious is the LORD’s invitation? Would you even consider rejecting His invitation? Sadly, tragically, so very, very many will and do. And, those of you who have accepted the invitation, beware that you do not consider the LORD’s grace and mercy lightly. Do not take it for granted. For, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Therefore, “Be sober-minded; be watchful.” “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.” And, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
For, even those who are invited can become uninvited, and even those who are in can make themselves to be out. There was one man at the wedding banquet in Jesus’ parable who, presumably, had been out and had been made to be in. He was one of those who received the invitation after those who were invited rejected it. He was one of those on the “main roads” and the “highways and the hedges.” Graciously, by the LORD’s abundant mercy, he became one of the invited, and there he was at the great wedding banquet sitting with the others at the Master’s banquet table. But, there was a problem. He wasn’t wearing the proper wedding attire. Now, this doesn’t mean that he was poorly dressed, but that he had refused to wear the wedding garment that the LORD had provided. You see, in Jesus’ day, such a festive event as the wedding of a king’s son would have meant pulling out all the stops, even the king providing the proper wedding attire for the invited guests at his son’s wedding. To refuse to wear the provided garment would be a grave offense to the king and to his son, the bridegroom. It would have been a dishonor and disrespect of the highest order. Such a rebellious and disrespectful guest would surely expect to be cast out of the banquet, if not arrested, imprisoned, or worse. This is why Jesus uses this image, of a rebellious and disrespectful invited wedding guest who refused to wear the provided wedding garment. The man is bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
Many who are invited and who receive the invitation and come to the feast refuse to wear the LORD’s provided wedding garment. Huh? What garment is that, you ask? The LORD’s provided wedding garment is none other than the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, which covers all your sins and makes you holy to stand before the King, the LORD, in His holiness. Can you imagine the gall of refusing the innocent, righteous, holiness of Jesus’s blood and feigning to stand before the LORD Almighty in your own clothing with your own works and merit? The Prophet Isaiah says that even the very best you have to offer are but filthy rags before the LORD. Not to mention that the LORD’s garment comes at the dear and precious cost of His only-begotten Son. What a low-life, filthy, ingrate you would have to be to presume such a thing. What a rebellious, disrespectful clod of dirt you would have to be to insinuate that Jesus’ death was not sufficient, or that you could offer a better work, or that your sins are not so bad as to require anything more than what you can muster. Then God’s sacrifice was unnecessary. Jesus’ death and blood were insufficient. This is what is implied by those who think they can bring anything of merit before the LORD. This is what is suggested by those think that they cooperate with the LORD in their justification. On the Last Day – for, that’s what this parable is really all about – on the Last Day, their rebellious, disrespectful, unbelief and idolatry will be exposed for all the world to see. On the Last Day, they will be bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, because they will know without a doubt, all will know without a doubt, that they rejected the LORD’s gracious invitation to put their trust completely and solely in Him for their life and salvation. They will know that the reason they are suffering in darkness instead of feasting in light is because of their willful rejection of Jesus and their unbelief. They will know that it is their own damned fault.
But you, you are not like those who have no hope. No, you have entered the banquet hall having washed your filthy garments and made them white in the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ. You have received the proper wedding garment, a gift of the King and LORD of heaven and earth and of the entire universe and whatever, if anything, lies beyond it. You were not on the A-list, but you are still the recipients of the LORD’s gracious invitation. He sent His ministers to the main roads and to the highways and the hedges to find you, to call you, to invite you, to clothe you, and to welcome you into His banquet hall. You received the LORD’s wedding garment when you were baptized and washed clean in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And you eat and drink in His banquet hall a foretaste of the Great Feast that is yet to come in heaven, the feast of Christ’s victory over sin, and death, and Satan. This food will preserve and keep you until our Bridegroom returns. And, you will keep your wedding garment spotless and sure through contrition over your sin and repentance, receiving the LORD’s gracious absolution again and again and again. You will be saved in the banquet hall of the Church from the darkness and the weeping and gnashing of teeth outside, just as Noah and his family were saved in the ark from the destroying flood waters upon which they floated to safety in a new land and world.
You are invited, and you are clothed, and you are fed and nourished, protected and kept in Jesus Christ. Therefore, you may be a messenger to others of the LORD’s gracious invitation, that His banquet hall may be full. Go, and tell this Good News. Go, and live this Good News in word and in deed. Go, and give and love and forgive like you have nothing to lose, for you truly have nothing to lose. All is yours. Nothing is withheld. Everything is a gracious gift of the LORD, and you are the LORD’s appointed stewards of His gifts. You buy bread without money and drink wine without cost. You have the Lord’s life within you, and plenty to spare. Spend it, share it, to the glory of God.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.