GRACE MERCY AND PEACE are Yours this day from GOD our Father through our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
The servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS. AMEN.
MANY ARE CALLED, says Jesus, but few are chosen. It’s a hard truth – and a sad reality that stares us in the face in this parable.
As we read this parable of Jesus, the question each of us is left with is the difficult question as to whether we are rightly clothed to be at the feast.
It is clear that we have, indeed, been called. We have, each one of us, been gathered from the highways and byways of this life and the world. We have been brought into the one, holy, Christian and apostolic church. We have come to this place, here, right now, to partake of the sumptuous feast that Christ Jesus spreads before us – the rich foods of forgiveness – life – salvation – as we incline our ears and hear God’s Word as we eat and drink His body and his blood and as we are reminded of the precious refreshment of our baptism where we were washed and made clean for the feast.
There are those who have refused the King’s gracious invitation. The word has gone out, “COME! ALL IS PREPARED!” declares the King. But tthey go to their business or their farm. They go to their daily life. Some even shamefully treat the Lord’s servants and His the very people who deliver the Lord’s earnest invitation people because their conscience is pricked and their rebellion against the Lord’s goodness turns violent.
We see this happening today, just as it has happened in the past. When Jesus speaks this parable, He is trying to warn the Pharisees who were seeking to arrest Him and kill Him. He wanted them to see the danger they placed themselves in as they rejected Him.
And Jesus clearly teaches that God will, indeed, take His vengeance upon those who thumb their nose at Him by rejecting His gracious invitation. He will repay those who beat and injure and kill His messengers and disciples. We’ve seen it in history when He used the Roman army to destroy Jerusalem for their shameful treatment of Jesus and His apostles. And there is no doubt that God continues to use the flow of history, the rise and fall of nations, violent weather and all the rest in order to keep us mindful of what will come He sends the hosts of heaven separate the wheat from the chaff at the end of time.
All those who treat the invitation of our Lord with apathy and all those who shameful treatment of the Lord’s servants will suffer the same fate. He will send His troops and destroy their cities. He will take from them everything that they prize – their farms, their businesses, their leisure, their youth, and they will be left with nothing because they stubbornly refused when the King sent forth His gracious invitation, saying, “Come, the feast is prepared, come, the banquet is ready, Come to the wedding feast!”
Yet, we must be careful here. Because we must emphasize the fact that He truly desires that they come. He wants all people to take Him up on his invitation. He calls to all – from everywhere – to come and eat – as the prophet Isaiah says, “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. … Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!”
It is not because HE does not desire them to come, but because THEY REFUSE – because they reject – and because the panic of their conscience leads them to kill the messengers.
Therefore, we must take heed of ourselves. We must be on our guard that we do not become like them. Instead, we must be careful to do as Isaiah instructs: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that the LORD may have compassion on him, and to our God, for HE WILL abundantly pardon.”
We are, in our text, warned to guard against our own complacency. We must not think that our place at the feast is assured simply because the Lord’s servants have obeyed and brought us in. In our text, Jesus identifies the fact that even among the number of those who are brought into the wedding hall, there are those who are not dressed for the occasion.
Yes, it is RIGHT that we are here. The King of the Universe has extended his invitation. His servants have brought us to this place. Here we sit – as He has instructed, “COME to the feast!” But even as we are here, we must ask the question, are we properly dressed?
As the Lord speaks, here, He is talking about the visible Christian Church on earth. The whole number of those who identify themselves with Jesus. All those who make the claim to be citizens of His kingdom and heirs of heaven.
Certainly, they have not rejected the invitation. They have been called to. The Lord’s messengers have gathered them from the highways and byways. The King has offered to them food from His table and mercy and grace from the His hand. They dip their hand into the bowl and partake of His food.
But like Judas, the betrayer, who dipped his hand into the bowl with our Lord, they are not rightly dressed for the occasion.
Of course, we are not here talking about our real, physical attire. Our Lord is not concerned with the wardrobe choice you made when you looked in your closet to get dressed for church.
It’s true that those who understand and appreciate the grace that God delivers into our ears and the worth of the food He delivers into our mouths at this altar take seriously their presence here. If we knew and understood, we might be led to give as much attention THIS as we would if we were summoned to Buckingham Palace or were given an invitation to dine at the White House no matter who sat in the oval office. But fashions and outward customs change and differ with time and circumstance. The Lord knows that outward adornment can indicate pride in ourselves just as well as it can indicate respect for our host.
And so, no, our physical clothing is not in view in our text.
But nevertheless, the Lord expects us to be properly dressed. And the clothing He requires is humility and faith. Those who come humbly acknowledging that they are in no way worthy to be in the King’s presence; and those who believe and trust that it is only through the work of Christ Jesus that we are made worthy to be participants in this banquet are those whom the king accepts.
That is to say, we are here ONLY because the King, Himself has invited us and made it possible for us to come.
And it a lack of humility and faith – lack of understanding of our place in this world as fallen creatures in need of the mercy and grace of our loving and merciful creator that our Lord warns against in this parable.
Those reject the invitation and keep themselves absent from the feast, do so because they don’t realize or understand this.
Some may acknowledge it with their lips, but they prove by their behavior that they don’t comprehend that their business doesn’t flourish because of their own hard work or their own ingenuity or their own dedication. Their business flourishes because through the work of their hands, God is being gracious to them and supplying them with what they need.
And because they don’t rightly know their need for mercy and forgiveness, they don’t realize the great and precious gifts He presents to them in the feast. They don’t understand that what God invites them to do here is to receive in their ears and their mouths the precious gifts that deliver forgiveness, life and salvation.
Likewise, those who absent themselves thinking the short time spent here will make or break the harvest don’t realize that it is here that they partake of the blessings won by Christ on Calvary just as they don’t comprehend that He is the very Lord who makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on their crops in their field.
Ultimately, those who hear the invitation and refuse to come, esteem themselves and their work too highly. This was true of the Pharisees and leaders in Jesus day – just as it is true today among all who reject the Gospel and ignore God’s invitation. They falsely believe that they are in charge of their own destiny and that THEIR works earn for them God’s grace and favor.
When such unbelief is fully formed and entrenched in the heart, a person stops their ears and will often violently reject the reality that they are creatures. They convince themselves they have no need for God to be gracious and merciful to them – they lash out and seek to destroy the message of God’s mercy and grace.
And so they will never receive it – not because God does not want to give it to them – not because His offer was somehow not for them – but because they have turned their hearts and their minds against Him and refused and rejected His offer of forgiveness – so all that is left for them is His wrath and fury and anger – because they reject and refuse to receive anything else.
But it is no different for those who hear the invitation and do come to the feast, but come for some other reason than to receive the mercy and grace of the King; For example – those who would use their church membership or affiliation to make political inroads – those who would claim that they can be a Christian and promote and support what the Scriptures reject and condemn or arrogantly reject the idea that their life and behavior requires God’s forgiveness. Likewise – those who would infiltrate the church in order to simply enhance their standing in society or somehow help their business relationships or otherwise cash in on the good will of those who fear and love God. Seeing them as a consituency to win over rather than brothers and sisters receiving God’s grace and forgiveness.
That there are such people in the Christian church on earth today cannot and must not be denied. It will always be so until the day of our Lord’s return. Just look at the words of the Jesus, “Those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good.”
But the bad will not remain forever. They will be found out for who they are, and the Lord will deal with them. He will send His attendants to those rogues and He will instruct His servants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
What is for us is to know, and understand – what is for us to trust and believe that it is not our worth that caused us to be invited, we are not here because we are more holy, more righteous, or in any way better than any other. We are here because it is the King’s desire to give His gifts to us.
Our God has called and gathered us solely because of His own desire to be gracious and merciful to us. It is not because we deserve it. It is not because we have earned it.
Those who come seeking His grace and and His mercy – those who come knowing their unworthiness and look for Him to give them the righteousness and blessings, the forgiveness, the life and the salvation that He desires to give – ARE rightly dressed for the feast.
As Luther says of the Lord’s Supper, “He is worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’”
Therefore, do not be alarmed that the church on earth seems small. Do not be alarmed when rogues enter who clearly seek something other than what God desires to give. The Lord will deal with them, in His time and in His way.
In the same way, do not be alarmed when they cause trouble and conflict, trial and strife within the visible church of God. In as much as in us lies, we should still seek to live at peace with all under the Lordship of Jesus abiding by His Word. Yes, doing so will always be met with resistance and push back in this world, because, as our Lord says, many are called, but few are chosen.
But the Lord is merciful and gracious. He knows who is His. He has called you and gathered you here to be merciful and gracious to you. To deliver to you His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation.
Therefore, “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. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live;”
In the NAME of Jesus. AMEN.