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SERMON: The Parable of The Wedding Feast -- 'Decliners And Recliners,' A 'Gospel Sandwich,' And Those 'Dressed For The Wedding' (Matthew 22:1-14)

Two edifying resources I found over the weekend in regards to Matthew 22:1-14 help us to properly understand The Parable of The Wedding Feast.

The Parable of The Wedding Feast 
Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV) 1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Now that the stage has been set with the Word of God, let's take a quick look at those two resources I mentioned.

The first is from Pastor Charles Henrickson in a sermon titled "Decliners And Recliners" that was published at Steadfast Lutherans.

One of the things I always love about his sermons is his remarkable gift for putting things into layman's terms for the rest of us without watering down the Word to be "more relevant" let's say.

Do you ever get an invitation to an event -- a party, say -- and they ask you to RSVP? So you check your calendar, and you see you’ve got a schedule conflict, and so you’ve got to decline the invitation. There’s something more important going on that day -- you’ve got to work, or a family obligation -- just something that’s a higher priority to you than going to that party. 
But now say you’ve gotten an invitation to a party, and it’s from someone who you know throws the best parties around -- fabulous dinner parties, with the best food, the finest wine, gifts for the guests, top-notch all the way. The host is a generous and gracious host, known for his hospitality. So you check your calendar, and you’ve got nothing else going on that day. Or maybe you do have a couple of things going on, but this invitation far outweighs them. You’ll move the other things around, in order to make this party. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity, a real can’t-miss event. Why, you’d be a fool to turn down this invitation! And so you RSVP “yes,” and you go, and it’s great, even better than you imagined. XXX Well, today you’ll hear about an invitation you have received, and it’s the best one you’ll ever get. It’s an invitation to a real feast. Fabulous stuff. One of a kind. Can’t miss. This is one you definitely don’t want to decline. Instead, nothing could be better or more important than to be seated at this banquet. And so our theme this morning: “Decliners and Recliners.”

That's the introduction to Pastor Henrickson's sermon and it gives you an idea of the message that he was attempting to emphasize stemming from the Matthew 22 passage.

Don't get the wrong idea and think that this is a message that promotes the false teaching of "Decision Theology" though. Hardly! Be sure to read the rest of that sermon from beginning to end to help clarify things.

As my my Lutheran Study Bible notes...

(Matthew 22:1-14) Isaiah 25:6-9 compares the messianic age to a great feast hosted by God. That imagery, along with Jesus' self-identification as the Bridegroom in Matthew 9:15, makes it plain that in the parable the father represents God and Jesus is the Bridegroom. Though God earnestly invites all to His Son's feast, some refuse to accept His invitation and so fail to enjoy its richness. Coming from a long line of believers does not guarantee anyone a place in God's kingdom. Ingratitude and presumption ever threaten to lead us away. Though we in no way deserve mercy, the Gospel earnestly invites us to come and join the Lord in His eternal heavenly banquet. "The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God's foreknowledge, but the perverse human will. The human will rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Spirit, which God offers it through the call. It resists the Holy Spirit, who wants to be effective, and who works through the Word" (FC SD XI 41). In Matthew 22:13, Jesus is not talking about an earthly party but about salvation. The exclusion and punishment is a description of hell. Many of those called in God's kingdom miss out because they refuse to respond to the invitation properly -- in faith. "This does not mean that God is unwilling to save everybody. But the reason some are not saved is as follows: They do not listen to God's Word at all" (FC Ep XI 12). Heavenly Father, thank You for preparing a table before us in the presence of our enemies and graciously calling us to dwell in Your house forever. Amen.

Sure, there are far too many preachers and teachers in Christianity today who will try to entice you to attend the Wedding Feast by telling you that you can eat all the "Gospel Sandwiches" you want, but as we've just seen, the Gospel Sandwiches will always leave you hungry if not also cause severe food poisoning too.

That's not the kind of food that the Lord wants to feed His sheep with at the Wedding Feast for His Son! No, instead, He prefers to feed you with His Son's body and blood, shed for you through His death on the cross for your sins so that through His death and resurrection you would receive the forgiveness of your sins! It's His body and His blood that are the main course at this Wedding Feast since Jesus Christ is the "living water" (John 4).

Now, if you'd like to spend some time digging a little deeper into this Parable of The Wedding Feast, then please consider using the following sermon notes/questions from Pastor Joshua Schneider.

1. Parable built on OT picture, here of heaven. King= Father; Son= Jesus; Invited Guests = Jews/Jesus’ original audience; wedding feast = end times celebration of Jesus joined to His bride, the church (foreshadowed in Is. 25:6-9); Wedding hall = kingdom of God/church; Abuse/rejection/murder of servants = reaction of Jews to prophets/Jesus.

2. What kind of incredible honor it was to be invited to the King’s Son’s wedding? Royal feast, spared no expense, finest food and everything prepared. Only come, enjoy and celebrate my son’s wedding with me! What an insult to refuse the invitation? Imagine being given the exclusive invitation to the wedding of the President’s child, and you said you couldn’t come. Made some excuse about needing to clean your yard or do your chores. Had to work late. Seems unimaginable enough by itself, such an insult. How much unimaginably worse if one were to abuse and murder the messengers? Yet this is just what happened when it came to God’s invitation. Invited many times by the prophets. Abuse, insult, excuses, death.

3. But also portrays the response people presently give to God’s invitation—ridicule, excuses, indifference, better things to do. World today is distracted endlessly by amusements and things and work and a million other things that turn our attention away from God.

4. King’s response reflects specific historical judgments: first time in OT when Babylonians destroyed the Temple & Jerusalem. 2nd time was yet to come, 40 years after Jesus, as He prophesied the Romans destroyed the 2nd Temple and Jerusalem again. How should we expect to be repaid if we despise such an honor and invitation?

5. Weddings from casual to elaborately formal, always are an occasion for careful choice in clothing. Surprise in parable, that a guest is thrown out for not having a wedding garment. Where was he supposed to get it? All the guests came in from the highways and roads.

6. Ancient custom that the host provided wedding garments for all the guests. Isaiah 61:10 comes at the end of a chapter praising what God will do when the Messiah (Jesus) will arrive and bring the year of the Lord’s favor. In verse ten it proclaims, “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.” God provides the garments of salvation, the wedding clothes to wear at His banquet. All the invited guests would be offered the wedding garment. So the offense of this man who was thrown out, was that he wore his own clothes, instead of the celebratory wedding garment. Outer darkness = sufferings of hell. He was unworthy because He did not wear the appointed wedding garment.

7. How to get a “wedding garment”? God provides it, not us. Garment of salvation = robe of righteousness. The only pure garment, pure robe of innocence is that which Jesus won for us. What does that mean? Covering of perfect innocence—perfect life, sacrificial death for sin.

8. What’s the best we had to wear? What are our “own clothes”? Isaiah 64:5-6 says “Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” Notice, it’s not our sinful deeds that are like filthy rags, but it’s our righteous deeds(!) that are like a polluted garment. Stunning to us, but the hard realization that the best “clothes” we have to wear are still filthy rags. Dirty and full of holes. That’s because our sin and guilt covers us with stains and spots and blemishes. Our spotty obedience to God’s law is filled with gaps and holes. We can’t even begin to approach the perfection that God demands. James 2:10 reads: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it”. If you want to be measured by the standard of the law, dressed in your own righteousness, then no part of the law can be left undone, not even the least part of it.

9. The scandal or offense then, is to be given Christ’s righteousness to wear, a gift for all those who are invited to His wedding banquet, but to refuse and choose to wear your own dirty rags instead. That is to reject the covering of Jesus’ innocence for your sin, and expect to be presentable to God on account of your own righteousness instead. That is to stand before God in the rags of your sins, when He offers you the beautiful clean garments of salvation. If that is the case, we have no one but ourselves to blame for being thrown out of the banquet. It’s to stand on what you have done, instead of what Christ has done, when you face the judgment.

10. And we will have no excuse. We will be speechless. So why would anyone choose their own filthy rags instead of Christ’s clean robe? Why would you choose your far-from-perfect record instead of His spotless one? Just like the “comfortable” feeling of that old worn pair of jeans that you can’t seem to throw away, sin gets pretty comfortable on us. We like our sin, and the short term pleasure it gives. We don’t want the change, to leave our pet sins behind. We don’t like the idea of “owing” someone something, getting it totally free without our work or obligation. Whatever reasons, none of them will provide a legitimate excuse before God if we come to Him believing in our own goodness, our own satisfaction with our self-selected clothes. If we have rejected His freely given garment, if we are not dressed in that baptismal garment of Jesus’ perfect righteousness, we’ll be cast out of the celebration.

11. But if we are in our sins and rags, if we have stained and spotted our garments, we are to take them to Him, be washed in the forgiveness of His blood, and have the crimson garments turned white as snow. We are to wash our robes and make them white in the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Ephesians 5 describes how Jesus presents the church for Himself at this great wedding feast. “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” As Christ dresses His bride, the Church, He dresses you wedding guests, with garments not your own, with righteousness, purity and holiness that is not your own, but given to you by the costly sacrifice of His life on the cross, and delivered in the washing of the water with the word, in your baptism. He has washed away any stains, spots, or wrinkles and has made you clean. Joyfully dress in His righteousness each day, as we worship together and await the final arrival of His heavenly kingdom, where the feasting that we have begun now in the Lord’s Supper will be fulfilled in the arrival of Christ our Bridegroom, when the full and eternal wedding banquet is revealed!

Sermon Talking Points 
Read past sermons at: http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com 
Listen to audio at: http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com 

1. Identify who and what the main characters and events of the parable represent. How does Isaiah 25:6-9 shape the view of God’s “wedding feast?” Where else is this wedding imagery significant in the Bible? Matthew 25:1-13; Ephesians 5; Hosea

2. Reflect on the incredible honor to be invited to the wedding banquet of the King’s Son, and how foolish it is to despise that invitation for trivial or mundane reasons. How outrageous is it to scoff at His message? Acts 13:41; 2 Peter 3:3-7

3. When was the nation of Israel punished by armies and its city destroyed, for disregarding God’s invitation and abusing and killing the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles? 2 Chronicles 36:15-21; Matthew 24

4. What was the basis for the unworthiness of the guests who were first invited? Acts 13:46, and 13:26-52.

5. What was the basis for the unworthiness of the guest who was thrown out? Where could he have been expected to get a wedding garment? Isaiah 61:10; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 3:18. By contrast, what are we wearing if we keep our own “garments”? Isaiah 64:6; Jude 24; Revelation 3:4-5. Who cleanses us to give a clean garment? Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 7:13-14.

6. For those who remain in the wedding hall after the final judgment, and celebrate the wedding feast, what is their cry of thanksgiving? Isaiah 25:9. What is there to look forward to? Isaiah 26:6-8

Sorry, I know that's a lot to chew on and digest, but I've just heard so many bad sermons on this Parable of The Wedding Feast in the past that it was exhilarating to finally find some faithful preaching on it. I hope you found it all to be as edifying as I did.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). How can you know if you are one of the "chosen" spoken of in this verse? Look to your Baptism and look to Christ crucified FOR YOU!

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

1 comment

  1. This is an EXCELLENT follow-up on this Parable from Pastor Donavon Riley...


    Grace And Peace,


Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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