Text: Matthew 22:1-14
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning in our gospel reading Jesus gives us two very solemn warnings in the parable of the wedding feast. They are warnings that we all ought to take to heart. Beyond those warnings, however, Jesus is also telling us a beautiful fundamental truth about God our Father. Each of these needs to be considered in turn.
First let’s talk about the warnings. In this parable that Jesus tells there is a father who is giving a wedding feast for his son. This father also happens to be a king. That means that this is no ordinary, run of the mill, wedding. This is a royal wedding. It might not quite live up to the big royal wedding a few years ago in England, but that event might help give you some idea what is going on here. It’s a big wedding.
As Jesus tells the parable the big day is here. It is now time for the wedding feast. The king sends out his servants to gather in the guests who have been invited. They had all received invitations, but now they need to be told that everything is ready. It is time for them to come to the feast. So servants go out to bring in the guests, but something strange happens. The guests won’t come to the feast. For some reason they simply refuse to come to the wedding.
The king is baffled by this. Why won’t the guests come to the wedding? Who would reject the invitation of a king like that? Who would turn down such a marvelous banquet? There has to be some kind of misunderstanding. So the king sends out the servants again (different ones this time just in case that might help) to bring the invited guests in for the feast.
Like the servants before them, these servants go out to bring the guests in. “Everything is ready,” they say, “The dinner is prepared. The finest animals the king owns have been slaughtered, prepared, and cooked. A truly remarkable feast is waiting for you. Come.” But again, the guests who have been invited refuse to come in. Jesus says that they “paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized the servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”
Understandably, the king is angry. Not only have those who were invited to the feast killed the king’s servants (as if that were not bad enough on its own!) but they also continue to refuse to come to his feast. The king has laid this generous offer before them inviting them into his own home to feast with him and celebrate with him the marriage of his son, but they could not care less. So, in response to what his wicked and rebellious subjects have done, the king sends out his army to punish and destroy those who killed his servants and those who refused to come to the feast that he had prepared.
This is the first warning for you and me today: Do not spurn, reject, or shun the generous invitation of the Lord your God. The king in the story is God. God has invited us to His feast, the marriage feast of His Son, the eternal feast in heaven. He has invited us to that same feast and continues to call us, but our sinful hearts are inclined to decline the invitation. Instead, we become preoccupied with other things.
Notice in the parable what the people who rejected the invitation were doing. Aside from the ones who killed the king’s servants, the others were all just too busy to come. Some went off to their farms, Jesus said, and others to their businesses. Farms and business are not bad things, but these other things, day to day life things, seemed more important to them than heeding the king’s call to come to the feast. So the question falls to us, what stands between us and the Lord’s call to come to His feast? Is life too busy? Are other things more important right now? Would we let such trivial things come between us and the great feast that the Lord our God has prepared for us? That would be foolishness. That is warning #1.
Now warning #2. After the first list of guests all refuse to come to the feast the king sends out his servants for a third time. This time he sends them out to the street corners, the gates of the city, the highways and the byways, to bring in everyone that they can find. They catch the attention of random strangers walking by and they invite them in to the marvelous banquet that is ready and waiting. These guests, the ones who were not invited originally, they do come. They gladly come to the feast that the king has prepared. Never in their wildest dreams did they ever think that they would be invited to a celebration like this! Who in their right mind could decline an invitation like that! The wedding hall is filled with guests.
The king, after all of these guests have been brought in from the highways and street corners, comes down to check on how they are all doing and see this motely crowd that has gathered in his banquet hall. But as he looks at the crowd one man stands out from the rest. None of them are wearing the latest fashions, none of them have the kind of fine clothing that the king’s original guests likely would have had if they had bothered to come, all of these people came in from the street, but this one man is different. His clothing is terrible. He is filthy. He didn’t even bother to change into something clean before he came to the feast. The king might have even had clothing ready for these unexpected guests to change into, good wedding clothes, but this guy didn’t bother getting changed. He didn’t think it mattered. To make matters worse, when the king confronts him about it this man has nothing to say. He doesn’t even say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me” or offer to go change. He just stands there. So the king has him thrown out of the wedding feast.
This is the second warning for you and me today: Do not abuse the generosity of the Lord your God who has invited you to His wedding banquet. Let me be perfectly clear about this, this part of the story is not about clothing and what we wear. It is about our lives and how we live. This man understood the generosity of the king and assumed that generosity meant that he did not need to change out of his filthy clothes. We know of our Lord’s generosity as well, His forgiveness that has no end, His steadfast love the endures forever, that generosity and that forgiveness and that love is not an excuse, however, to not change out of the filthy, dirty, sinful rags of our lives and be transformed into the people of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s forgiveness for us, His love for us, is not an excuse to keep on living in sin. We are called to live a new life, to put our wedding clothes on. To put on the new clothes that God provides. To do anything less would be to abuse and take advantage of God’s generosity and love. That is warning #2.
The warnings we hear in this parable are strongly worded. The king’s reaction to the people who do not come to his banquet and the way he casts out the man who entered the feast without wedding clothes might seem harsh and heavy handed. Maybe it seems that God in this parable is just and angry king who hands out punishment after punishment. But there is more going on here than just warnings and punishments.
The most important part of this parable is generous invitation that the king continues to extend time after time to everyone who will listen. After the invited guests refuse his first invitation the king invites them again. The king desperately wants his guests to come enjoy his feast. Then, when those original guests refuse and demonstrate by their actions that they have no love for the king at all, the king flings his doors wide open to everyone and anyone. The good and the bad, Jesus says. Everyone is welcome in the marriage feast that the king is throwing for his son.
This constant, repeated generous invitation is what we learn about God our Father in this story. He invites time and time again. He calls time and time again. He does not desire the death of any sinner. He does not want anyone to be left outside the wedding feast. He come again and again to each and every one of us with the simple invitation to come into his wedding feast.
This invitation, the Father’s invitation for us to come to His feast, is the whole reason that Jesus came into the world. Jesus came into this world to be our invitation into the feast. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, the “bad” people of His day. He ate with Pharisees and religious teachers, the “good” people of His day. He eats with you and me, just as we are, when we gather at His table and eat and drink His body and blood. He came to bring us into the feast. And then, when the world (you and I included) demonstrated most clearly that we had no interest in His offer, when He was sent to be crucified, when He was treated Him shamefully and when He was killed, He was in fact making a place for us at the feast. Covering us with His own blood so that we would have wedding garments (garments provided by Jesus himself, not something we bought or brought from home), so that we would be fully prepared for the feast in the kingdom of God that will have no end.
This generosity, the generosity of a loving, forgiving king who reaches out again and again to lost sinners like us is the real meaning of this story. This king is your King. He is your God. And in His steadfast love He is reaching out to you today with His love and forgiveness for the sake of our Lord Jesus. Thanks be to God in Jesus name. Amen.