Trinity 20, 2023
Matthew 22: 1-14
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Let me ask you some penetrating questions. Do you have a pet sin? Only you know what it is. It’s that one you want to get rid of, but like a stray cat keeps coming back. But instead of slamming the door on it, we feed it and give it opportunity to come back. It might be lust and a wandering eye. It might be jealousy or discontent. It might be a biting tongue. It might be impatience. It might be a hot temper.
Whatever it is, pet sins are dangerous because we become so familiar with them that they no longer arouse our conscience. Especially in light of our “pet” sins, we need to hear this lesson. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we consider this day the main thrust of this lesson:
Whoever will stand before God must be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ and trust only in His merit.
- Those invited must wear the garment supplied at this wedding while God’s wrath abides on all who desire to be “saved” by works.
- God invites all people to his feast, but His wrath abides on those who reject.
Lesson one: God invites all people to his feast, but His wrath abides on those who reject.
In the analogy, the “King” is God while the feast or the dinner is God’s precious Word of forgiveness in Christ crucified and risen. It is clear from the analogy that all the people were invited to the wedding feast, “He sent His servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding.” The Jews were God’s chosen people. The invitation was carried out to the people in the analogy not only once but twice. God came to His people by way of the prophets, not once, not twice. but many times. The patience of God is well documented in the pages of Old Testament canon.
God’s invitation now covers not only the Jews, but all nations. What a comfort to know that the invitation to come to the eternal feast of Jesus applies to all sinners, not just those who can offer proof of a good and faithful life. As St. Paul also writes, “God would have all men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
However, while the invitation is for all, not everyone is inclined to send in their RSVP. In the face of the invitation, we learn that the people in the analogy “refused to come.” Even after sending a second set of messengers, we hear, “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” The people who were called made light of the invitation.
The point Jesus made to the Jews should have been obvious. They allowed the fleeting concerns of this life to pull them away from the one thing needful, the hearing of God’s word to bring them to daily repentance. According to the analogy, many merely went their own way.
In other words, they continued on in their sins with no thought of repentance. One went to his farm. He was so preoccupied with his work that the thought of attending the feast was not even worthy of his attention. Another simply went to his “merchandise,” as the KJV words it. The making of money so completely predominated this one’s life that this feast was not even worthy of his smallest attention. These distractions only serve to illustrate a few of the distractions that can pull us away from the precious feast of Word and Sacrament. The question we must set before our conscience is this, “What distractions keep you from reading and feasting daily on God’s Word?”
In the analogy, the “rest” took the servants, “shamefully mistreated them and murdered them.” Again, the leaders of the church understood the point Jesus made. God had sent prophets to call the Jews to repentance. They had either not listened to them or listened and then murdered them. The final murder culminated in the murder of Jesus.
Earlier I asked, “Do you have a pet sin? Now I will ask, “Do you have a pet sin so deeply entrenched in your heart that you are willing to protect it, not so much by physically murdering God’s servants, but by coddling it and ignoring God’s plea to repent?”
The urgency and seriousness of all of this comes through the analogy of the King, “The King became angry. He sent His soldiers, killed those murderers, and burned their city.” The analogy of our Savior clearly underscores God’s anger against those who reject His feast of grace. God has prepared His dinner in Christ Jesus. The invitation is out. Everything is ready. Listen to your Good Shepherd, the King of your soul, ”Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest.” Come to His feast. Fill your troubled conscience with His sweet forgiveness and eternal life. He bids you come in spite of your sin and filthiness.
If you are wrestling with a pet sin or simply troubled because of a sinful life, note well the words of our Savior, “Now go where the highways leave the city, and invite everyone you find to the wedding. Those servants went out on the highways and brought in all the people they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
Those on the highway were the riff-raff, the people who lived “outside” the boundaries and walls of the city. These are the ones the servants were commanded to bring in. Do you find yourself living outside the boundaries and wall of God’s Law? No matter where you find yourself, take heart in these words for they are Gospel, “And the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Their “goodness” or “badness” was not the issue. All people were accepted to the feast.
Lesson two: Those invited must wear the garment supplied at this wedding while God’s wrath abides on all who desire to be “saved” by works.
However, there is another lesson we learn from today’s Gospel: Those invited must wear the garment supplied at this wedding. Jesus continues the analogy with these words, “When the king came in to observe the guests, he saw a man there without a wedding garment. He asked him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? The man could not say a thing.”
Apparently, the wedding host often provided the guests with the proper apparel. Certainly, it was considered the height of disrespect to appear at a wedding feast simply dressed in everyday clothing. One man tried to blend in without bothering to change. When confronted with this obvious disrespect, the man could not answer. There was no excuse. He was caught red-handed in his absolute disrespect for the king and his feast.
The warning for us is not always that obvious. We know full well that we cannot save ourselves by our own goodness or purity. As Lutherans, our “watchword” is “justification by faith.” But what we have trouble with is repentance. We want God to accept us with our pet sins. Instead of putting them away once and for all as God’s Word directs us, we often put our pet sins in a drawer hidden from the eyes of others but close at hand for us to access when we want them.
The real truth is that our lives of coddling our pet sins, while thinking we are not all that bad, stink TO HIGH HEAVEN. Isaiah put it best when he wrote, “All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” But the real challenge to our lives come to us in the words of our Savior, “Then the king told the servants, ‘Tie him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness where he will weep and grind his teeth.’” In the “outer darkness,” bound hand and foot, outside the protection of the city walls, this man would be at the mercy of thieves, robbers, murderers, perverts, wild animals and the elements.
So it is with those who wish to fit themselves with their own goodness in a spiritual sense. So it is with you and I who do not see our sins as all that serious and damaging. As I said, it finally comes down to a problem of repentance.
Each week, we confess our sins in thought, word and deed, but do we really consider ourselves worthy of being cast into the outer darkness of hell? There we are at the mercy of Satan. That is no mercy at all. That is the point our Savior makes. His final warning should strike at the very depth of our heart, “Yes, many are invited, but few are chosen.”
As in the analogy of our Savior, the old garments must be cast aside for the wedding garment. Each day, you must challenge and defeat the idea that your pet sins are not that bad. That can only come with a daily review of the Law. But how many of us pick up our Catechisms each evening to evaluate our day’s events in the light of Luther’s explanations? Must we not all hang our heads in utter shame?
The theme of my sermon this morning is “Whoever will stand before God must be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ and trust only in His merit.” As I said earlier, apparently it was the Oriental custom for the host to supply the guests with a wedding garment. In the Great Feast of salvation, God has provided us with His garment. It is the garment of the holy life and sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.
We need not stand in a long line in hopes that we might receive this garment. And we need not stand before Him on Judgment Day in our own filthy rags. God has made His wedding garment available through the abundant waters of Holy Baptism, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
When Jesus concludes with the words, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” he means to say that our sins are serious, but so is unbelief. The call of our Savior to feast on His forgiveness stands in direct opposition to our sins and weakness of faith. He bids you to come whether your life has been well within the city gates of His holy Law or well outside the walls of His commands in abject rebellion.
Your Savior bids you to bring your pet sins and lay them at the door of His grace. He bids you to put on the garment each and every day which He has provided through His life and blood. He bids you to come to the Feast of His Holy Supper again this morning taste of His bread and elixir of eternal life. Come for all things are now ready. Jesus tells each of you, “Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” Go in the peace which God has bound up in the holy life and innocent blood of Jesus. A-men.
Soli Deo Gloria