Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Pentecost 17

Sermon for Pentecost 17

Augustana, 2011

Sorry, no audio this week.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is the Gospel for today, the parable of the wedding feast.

This is the second of the parables Jesus tells to the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  Remember, this is Passion Week.  The teaching of Jesus is coming to its culmination.  If last Sunday’s parable about the wicked tenants exposed the religious leaders neglect of their God-given duty, this parable condemns Israel as a whole and their contempt of God’s grace.

The kingdom of heaven is like this.  The kingdom has already dawned; invitations to the banquet have gone out and are being refused.  This wedding banquet is obviously the great messianic banquet which Isaiah had described long ago.  The king’s son is clearly Messiah.  The prospective guests to a major feast were invited in advance and then notified when the feast was ready, but these guests persistently refuse to come.  The kingdom of heaven is like this, the king not only graciously invites them again, even after their stubborn refusal but tries to entice them by describing the quality of the feast.  But those invited stay away for routine and selfish reasons.  They profoundly insult the king, whose invitation is both an honor and a command, and they insult the marriage, a time for special joy for the king and his Son and bride.  Those who didn’t even bother with a  flimsy excuse laid hands on the king’s servants, treated them shamefully and killed them.  They had no respect for the king and no fear of him.

Today, we are far removed from responding to royal summons.  We have to stretch the imagination to see why rejecting the king’s summon would be viewed as such an open act of disloyalty and rebellion.  But the king was angry and sent a detachment of troops to deal with such violent and treacherous subjects.  They were destroyed and their city was burned.  This is reminiscent of Old Testament style retribution and this kind of judgment is tinged with what will happen on judgment day.

This is certainly now no ordinary wedding feast.  The king sends his servants to the street corners, probably the crossroads where they would find many people.  There they invite all and succeed in drawing in all kinds of people, “both good and bad” (v. 10).  I think the best way to read this is that Jesus accepts those people that the Jewish rulers would regard as bad people.  Regardless of whether one is good or bad, there is appropriate attire for this wedding feast.  There is a nice note in the new Lutheran Study Bible that explains this a bit, “Israelites expected invited guests to wear festive wedding garments, which the host could provide. Thus, this fellow’s failure to dress in appropriate clothing, which was freely given to him, offends the host.”  He is tied and thrown outside into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This parable is a simple allegory.  The king is our heavenly Father.  The bridegroom is His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  The bride is the Christian Church, we and the whole world, in so far as we believe.  The wedding is the last day.

God sent his servants the prophets to invite the guests to the wedding.   Those originally invited did not come.  This is important because Jesus teaches this parable during Holy Week.  He has been arguing with the religious leadership of Israel since His entry into Jerusalem.  This parable is further indictment of their rejection of Him as Messiah of God Most High.  Remember not all the Jews rejected Jesus, many became His first disciples.  Jesus is at odds with the religious leadership in Jerusalem.  And before we get too comfortable, we could just as well understand the Apostles to be in the same role as the prophets.  If any will not listen to them, even though they are invited, they will not take part in the wedding feast.  And what a magnificent feast it is that the king has prepared, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”  (Mt 22:4)

There are many who not here this morning who have not heeded the invitation to the feast today.  The see not the table prepared as a foretaste of the feast to come and do not desire to taste and see that the Lord is good.  However, I cannot preach to them.  I can only preach to you.  And so my question to you this morning is not, “Have you heeded the invitation?”  But do we not also risk paying little attention to this invitation and concentrate instead on the farm, on the business, or rather on the “busy-ness” of our lives rather than on the one thing needful?  Think about the role many people place on family today.  Family does need to be a priority but not at the expense of the one thing needful.  For too many, family has been elevated well beyond anything godly.  It is neither wrong to be in business, nor is it wrong to be engaged in any God-pleasing vocation nor it is wrong to love family.  It is wrong to allow those concerns to turn our attention away from the invitation of our king to come to the wedding feast.  Sunday is not a workday, if you can help it.  Sunday is not family day.  Sunday is the Lord’s day.

The second risk we run is accepting the invitation to the feast arriving but not dressing in the wedding garment.  Many of you, I’m sure have heard that it was common for hosts to provide the wedding garments for guests.  If this is case, it makes a wonderful picture of the garment with which the king has clothed us, the garment of the righteousness of God which covers all our sin.  Our king himself gives us that garment in Holy Baptism.  It’s part of the baptismal rite.  “The pastor may place a white garment on the newly baptized while saying: ‘Receive this white garment to show that you have been clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all your sin.  So shall you stand without fear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the inheritance prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”  We dare not think to approach God with our own religiosity, with our own righteousness.  It does not match what is required.  When it comes to the kingdom of heaven, there is no room for the one who sings the old song, “I did it my way.”

Jesus tells this parable to set up His pithy little conclusion at the end.  “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  All are called, but some refuse to come, and others who do come refuse to submit to the norms of the kingdom and are therefore not chosen. Those who remain are called “chosen” the elect.  This is a brief description of what we call the doctrine of election which is also found in other places in the New Testament.  The Jews of Jesus day could say, “All Israelites have a share in the world to come.” (Sanh. 10:1, Carson, 553), but Jesus rejects such a view.  The Gospel invitation goes far and wide, but not everyone who hears it is one of God’s elect.

Jesus tells this parable not to afflict those who are terrified that they may not be included in the kingdom of heaven.  Those who rest securely in the merit of Jesus’ cross as the payment for sin and as the ultimate in fulfilling the Law of God know, by faith, they are elect.  He tells this parable to afflict the comfortable, those who trust in their own religiosity and ultimately in themselves and who need so substitute, who need no Savior from sin.

Would you pray with me?  “Heavenly Father, we thank you for the mercy you show to us in Jesus Christ that you have called us to your holy mountain, to dine with you at the great banquet of your Son.  We thank you that by dining even here and now we are assured we will dine with You forever for there is but one table and one feast, just as there is one Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we are invited.  Lord God, let us not only be clothed with Christ’s righteousness but let us dine on the rich feast you have prepared that we might eat even life, salvation and the forgiveness of sins.  We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



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