Sunday, October 12, 2008

Proper 23 - Matthew 22:1-14

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Celebrating our 170th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

October 12, 2008
Proper 23
Matthew 22:1-14
You’re invited!

Almighty God, source of every blessing, your generous goodness comes to us anew every day. By the work of your Spirit, lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience.”

Matthew gives us two parables in our Gospel Lesson for today. The first deals with a king [God] who is giving a banquet for his son [Jesus]. He sends out his servants (the prophets) to tell the invited ones (Israel) that all is ready. Instead of coming, these invitees make excuses and kill the king’s servants. The angry king destroys the invitees. The servants are then sent out to invite all, good and bad, to the feast so that the wedding hall is filled. The point? If Israel refuses to come to Christ, they will be replaced by Gentiles.

In the second parable an import application is made. If the guests have just come from the streets, how could they have a wedding garment? When the king sees a man without a wedding garment, he is thrown out. The point is that it may be too easy to enter the kingdom. There is a requirement: a wedding garment. What is that garment? It is the garment of Faith and the cloak of Righteousness.

Introduction: God extends an invitation to his banquet for his Son. He expects a response — an RSVP — “Please respond!” It is His party. He provides all of the food and entertainment. He asks us only to respond, to come. When we realize what a wonderful thing it is to be at the feast, it seems unbelievable that not all would respond positively and immediately. The parable in this lesson shows the possible reactions people can give to the invitation to a banquet.

Outline: How shall you respond?

1. The rejecting — vv. 3, 5 (Response is “no”).

God invites us not to a lunch, a snack, or to a supper. It is a feast, a banquet. This implies both quantity and quality of food. It is not a meal of hamburgers and potato chips. The feast consists of the finest foods available: shrimp cocktail, filet mignon, lobster tails, Cornish hens, frog legs, and so on. It is food only a king could afford or provide. This is a metaphor of what bountiful gifts God offers His people.

It is a wedding reception in terms of a banquet. For one thing, it is a royal wedding; the king’s son is married. This is the social event of the year which will be attended by all the dignitaries, people who are somebody — top officials, prominent leaders of society. It is an honor to be invited to a fellowship with the “greats” of this world. Moreover, a wedding feast is a happy time — music, dancing, acts of entertainment. Everyone is talking, laughing, joking, and having a good time. Jesus here teaches that this is what it is to belong to the kingdom of God.

This is an invitation. It signifies that the king considers those invited to be people of importance and acceptable to him. The king wants you. You are in His favor. The invitation; “Come” implies also that it is voluntary.

This invitation can be rejected. God does not force us to come to His kingdom. No pressure is placed on us to come. In this parable we see the patience of God. When the invited guests do not respond the first time, God extends a second invitation and pleads with them to come because He had everything ready for the feast.

Why do some reject such a gracious invitation? They reject for they fail to see the advantage of being a part of the family of faith – thus they are missing. They fail to acknowledge Him as the source of every blessing. They are happy to exist in this life without God active in their lives. Yet He remains the source of every blessing in our lives whether we acknowledge Him or not. Every gift, every blessing, every mercy comes from His mighty and sustaining hand.

They refuse to give thanks for His benefits. The benefits He gives us as members of His family are three – forgiveness, live, salvation. If some are missing they do not have these. They have not experienced them. Instead they experience guilt, remorse, regret.

They fail to express thanks in willing obedience. They live instead unto themselves. They traverse through life following their own agendas and plans. They live as if they are the center of their own world. They exist only for themselves.

Theses are the ones who refuse to come to the banquet. Yet there are those who will come but only on their own terms. When the invited guests declined the invitation, the king (God) opens the gates to one and all. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry is urged to come. This resulted in having both good and bad people at the feast. This produces a problem. Can a holy God tolerate bad people in his kingdom?

Matthew adds another parable to serve as a corrective. God cannot tolerate or compromise with sin. At the judgment, God comes and finds one without a wedding garment. He is thrown out. The wedding garment was not a festive one, but rather it was a newly washed, unsoiled garment. It symbolized righteousness.

2. The rejoicing — v. 10 (Response is “yes”) They respond to the invitation. They come and like the first group they attempt to enter on their own terms – refusing to wear the robes required for such a feast the Master has planned.

The Robe of righteousness is that righteousness which Christ has won for us. It is the blood of Jesus Christ who became both the curse and the cure for our sin. The Father now only sees us only through the holy merits of Jesus Christ. This merit or work of Christ is what brings us into a right relationship with Jesus Christ. Not our own efforts not our own attempts to be pious and good. Not my co-operation with God or even our faith. We stand in a right relationship with Jesus Christ because of God’s free grace and favor. We stand on God’s grace alone, through faith alone, declared to us in His Word alone.

The Robe of faith accepts and appropriates the robes of righteousness. Jesus declares us as His own. This is why the central symbol and message of the Christian faith is the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul encourages us, “I determine to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Faith puts its focus on all that Jesus has won for us and rests on His merits alone. Grace alone, the Word alone, faith alone, Christ alone.

It is a robe of righteousness which is given to those who have faith in Christ. He is our righteousness, and we are in the kingdom because faith puts on Christ. We are then worthy to be in God’s holy presence, because we are clothed with the perfection of Christ.

Conclusion: The parable concludes with the maxim: Many are called and few are chosen. Many are called to enter the kingdom, but few are chosen because they do not have the necessary qualifications. We need the robe of righteousness – the righteousness of Christ. This robe covers the filthy rags of sin, and God now sees only the holy merits of Christ. We need the robe of faith – faith accepts and appreciates the robe of righteousness. Faith in Christ puts on Christ.

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