Authority to Command, Judge, Forgive and Bless
October 18, 2023 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler
Matthew 22, 1-14 ~ Authority to Command, Judge, Forgive and Bless. (Congregation Copy)
20th Pentecost, Proper 23-A – 10-15-2023 – Christ Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio
And again, Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son Matthew 24:1-2
In the name of the Father and of the (X) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear beloved of the Lord:
Today’s Gospel continues the conversation that began when the high priests and elders asked Jesus about His authority (i.e., His authority to command and judge as well as to forgive and bless). (Matt. 21:23ff) It is Tuesday of Holy Week. Jesus continued to use parables as He teaches. This time, the parable focuses our attention on the king and the king’s determination to provide a great celebration for his invited guests. The traditions of first-century royal weddings are quite different from our modern traditions. So, imagine a first century Jewish wedding and find yourself sitting in your assigned seat at the festive table.
The noticeable significant difference is the emphasis on the provisions the king makes for his guests. To be invited to the wedding festivities’ means you have been chosen due to the king’s royal grace and mercy bestowed upon you. When this king holds a royal wedding, he not only provides lodging and food for his guests, he also provided wedding clothes for them as well.
What does this parable teach us today? Ever since Adam and Eve destroyed their marriage feast in Eden through their willful disobedience of God’s KINGLY command, our Heavenly Father prepared a redemption for mankind. From the very beginning, God’s own Adam and Eve and all their progeny have resisted God’s gracious invitation to celebrate God’s forgiveness and deliverance for sinners. The invitation of God to the wedding feast of His Son to the Church, His Bride, in Jesus’ parable account repeats an oft told tale. We can read in the Old Testament the ways God’s people rejected the prophets. God’s chosen people sent the prophets to prison, drove them out of their homes, and put them to death; we rightly condemn such activity. We learn of the original twelve apostles, only John died of old age. All the others died martyrs’ deaths. We wonder at such cruelty and once again, condemn it. It is quite easy to point a finger of condemnation at people who lived long ago and far away, but what about you and me? What does Jesus say to us today?
You are gathered in the King’s wedding hall right now. The smallest chapel — the largest cathedral — they are places where God comes to be with His people. This is the place of the wedding feast of the Lamb that John described in Revelation. “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord, our God the Almighty reigns. 7Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:6–9)
The man who refused to wear the king’s clothes is also a warning to you and me. The king condemned him because he refused the king’s clothes. How are we dressed?
Imagine what this man did to get into the wedding hall without the right clothes. When he arrived, the servants of the king came to him and offered to clean him up. They offered him clothing that was the right style for the feast. They wanted to give him everything he needed to fully enjoy the wedding banquet of the king. The servants offered it all, yet he refused. He insisted on doing things his way instead of the king’s way. He entered the wedding hall but rejected the gifts of the king.
God has removed from you the filthy fashion of sin and clothed you in the heavenly style — the robes of Christ’s righteousness. Hear the words that the Lord gave to Isaiah. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
The righteousness of Christ is an expensive fabric. Jesus bought this unique cloth with His holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death. When Jesus shed His precious blood on the cross, He washed away your sin and covered you with the righteousness of His holy life. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is the only clothing that is elegant enough for eternal life. It is the only fabric that you can wear to the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Sadly, Jesus teaches that there are those who reject the cloak of heaven. They insist on wearing their own clothes — clothes of arrogance, narcissism, self-righteousness, adultery, hatred, and so forth. The old sinful man insists that he is good enough. He has no sin. He does not need the heavenly robe of the righteousness of Christ. His style is fine. “Besides,” the old sinful nature will say, “A loving god doesn’t really send people to hell.”
But Jesus tells it differently. The party crasher may have been able to fool the servants, but the servants are not the ultimate judge. We all must stand before Jesus when He comes to judge the earth. There is but one verdict for those who trust themselves and refuse the clothing of the righteousness of Christ. “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22:13) Those who reject Christ, reject salvation. Those who in any way depend on their own efforts for even the smallest fraction of their salvation will meet the king and He will order them out of the wedding hall.
The king said to his servants, “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” (Matthew 22:8–9) It is a different story for these. The Holy Spirit works through His precious gifts to bring them to the wedding hall and washes away all their sins. He covers them with the righteousness of Christ — the righteousness won on Calvary’s Cross. The day will come when they, like Christ, will rise from the dead and enter the wedding feast of the Lamb. There they will receive the fulfillment of today’s Old Testament lesson:
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:6–8) They will rejoice at the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb.
Today the feast is set before you. We are standing in the banquet hall. Here we share the foretaste of the feast to come. Everyone who hears and believes the Word of salvation is invited. The wedding garment is available, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ (Romans 6:3). Take care to wear the garment of salvation. Let the good news of the gift of forgiveness and of the love of God for you guide your thoughts, humble your hearts, and shape your actions. Your sins have been forgiven because of Jesus. Repent and believe. Examine yourselves daily, whether you are in the faith, and cling to Christ in His Word and in His Sacrament. For many are called — all of humanity, in fact, — but few are chosen. Stand fast as one who is called — and chosen!
In the name of the Father and of the (X) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.