The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 15, 2023
A Story of Foolish Rejection!
1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12’Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
13“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever declined an invitation only to regret it later? When I was serving in Seattle I had a number of members who told me that they had an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of companies such as Microsoft or Starbucks— but they declined. It didn’t take them long to regret that decision. Maybe you get an invitation to an event that didn’t seem to be interesting to you, so you decline. Then you find out from other people how wonderful it was. As you look back on the invitations you have declined only to regret it later on, how does it make you feel? Do you feel angry? Do you feel sad? Do you feel foolish?
There are other invitations which we know we would be foolish to reject such as: an invitation to join a friend on their vacation to your favorite location— free of charge; an invitation to attend a football game where your favorite team is playing their biggest rival; or an invitation to go backstage and meet your favorite musical group. Now how do you feel? Excited? Thankful?
Today as we conclude our sermon series entitled Jesus, Tell Us a Story! we are going to focus on the most glorious invitation of all! It is God’s invitation to enjoy His heavenly banquet! We’ll study this portion of Scripture under the theme: A Story of Foolish Rejection!
Once again Matthew takes us back to the Tuesday of Holy Week. When the chief priests and the elders of the people refused to take to heart Jesus’ Parable of the Two Sons, Jesus told them a parable that was even more powerful and even more pointed— the Parable of the Tenants. Since Jesus knew that the Parable of the Tenants made the chief priests and the elders of the people so mad that they “looked for a way to arrest him” (Matthew 21:46), Jesus told them one last parable, one last story, to try to help them see that they needed to repent of their sins. He told them the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. This parable centered on something that was easy to understand by everyone there in the Temple— including the religious leaders of God’s people. Look at verses 1-5 of our text. Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off— one to his field, another to his business.”
This parable, this earthly story with a heavenly meaning, was once again very familiar to the people who were there in the Temple of the Lord. The invitation that the Lord God proclaimed to His Chosen People through His servant Isaiah, the invitation we heard in our Old Testament lesson for today (Isaiah 25:6-9), was kind of like an ancient version of a “Save the Date” card. The Lord described for His people in a beautiful symbolic way that He was preparing a “feast” for them. Jesus describes this “feast” as a “wedding banquet.” There was nothing that God’s people had to do. The Lord assures them that He is preparing for them “a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines”( Isaiah 25:6).
This is a picture of the “feast of salvation” that our King, the Lord our God, has prepared for us! It is a “feast” that begins here on this earth and continues/culminates in heaven above. Through the Person and the work of Jesus the Christ everything that was necessary for us to enjoy the “wedding banquet of the Son” has been meticulously prepared. Through the powerful message of the Gospel God has not only extended His gracious invitation to us, but He has placed that invitation into our hand and said, “This is for you! Everything is ready! Come and enjoy the wedding banquet!”
Unfortunately, like the invited guests here in Jesus’ parable we have the ability to foolishly reject God’s gracious invitation. Why would anyone do something so foolish? Jesus highlights two reasons. The first reason is found in His words, “But they paid no attention and went off— one to his field, another to his business.” These two invited guests foolishly rejected the invitation they were given because they were too immersed in their own earthly pursuits. The farmer rejects the invitation because he has to earn a living and that means he has work that needs to get done. The businessman rejects the invitation because he has a career to build. Both men are just too busy to take the time to sit down and enjoy a banquet.
Here is where we would do well to stop and remember: Every single Sunday our King invites us to come to His house and enjoy a “feast of rich food for all peoples”— the spiritual food of His holy Word and His holy Supper. Do we joyfully accept His invitation? Or do we foolishly reject His invitation and say, “I’m sorry Lord. I just don’t have the time. I am so busy right now— but I will try to make it another time.” We need to be very careful that we do not fall into the rut that is described in Jesus’ words, “But they paid no attention and went off— one to his field, another to his business.”
The second reason that Jesus gives for foolishly rejecting God’s invitation to His glorious feast centers on— hatred. Jesus says, “The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.” While these words were directed at the unrepentant hearts of the chief priests and the elders of the people who were there in the Temple, there are many many people right down to this very day who foolishly follow in their footsteps. Think of all the people who reject Jesus as the true Son of God and this world’s only Savior from sin. Think of all the people who reject the message of the cross (Pointing to the cross) because they think it is foolishness. Think of all the people who reject you when you try to share the Truth of the Bible with them. Yes, my friends, it is not difficult to see indifference and hatred toward God right down to this very day.
Verse seven reminds us of why the writer to the Hebrews says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Verse seven states, “The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” Here Jesus is warning the chief priests and the elders of the people that for those who foolishly reject God’s gracious invitation to His feast, for those who foolishly murder God’s servants— whether it be the prophets, the apostles, or the Son Himself— there will be a day of reckoning. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. is a direct fulfillment of this verse. But just as the destruction of Jerusalem was a precursor to the final judgment that will take place at the end of the age, so also this verse pictures the wrath of God that can come down at any time on those who persistently, repeatedly, and foolishly reject His gracious invitation.
The King, however, is not deterred is He! Look at verses 8-10. Jesus’ story continues, “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
The King’s grace is so amazing, the King’s desire to celebrate with His guests is so great that He says to His servants, “Go! Go to the highways and the byways! Go to the city streets and the country roads! Go to everyone you can find both ‘good and bad’ and invite them to my wedding feast!”
These words of the King easily remind us of the command, the commission, that Jesus has given to us: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Like the servants in Jesus’ parable we have the privilege of proclaiming to as many people as we can, “There still is room! Come and enjoy the feast of salvation that God has prepared for you!” We don’t discriminate against anyone. We don’t try to judge between the “good” and the “bad.” Since Jesus loved everyone enough to suffer and die to completely pay for all of their sins we invite everyone to come to the feast— trusting that God Himself will separate the “good” from the “bad,” the “sheep” from the “goats.”
That is the truth that is brought out very clearly in the closing portion of our text. Look at verses 11-14. Jesus says, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
We all know that when we attend someone’s wedding we want to wear our very best clothes. We might even go out and buy new clothes— just for the wedding! The people in Jesus’ day didn’t have that luxury. That’s why it was very common for the host to provide “wedding clothes” for the guests to wear. And when we stop to remember that this was a king who was hosting a wedding banquet for his son and when we stop to remember that these guests did not receive a “Save the Date” card well in advance of the wedding feast, it is very easy to understand why the guests were provided with “wedding clothes” to wear.
What we are not told, what we do not understand is why this particular guest foolishly rejected the offer to wear “wedding clothes.” The height of his foolishness is seen in his response to the king’s question, “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” His response? He knew that he did not have an excuse. He knew that he didn’t even have an acceptable reason. That’s why Jesus says, “The man was speechless.” The result of his foolishness was swift: He was tied hand and foot and thrown out of the wedding banquet.
The application of this part of Jesus’ parable, Jesus’ story, is this: God Himself not only invites us to come to the wedding feast of His Son— our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ— but God Himself gives to us— as a free gift— the “wedding clothes” that we need to be a guest at this wedding feast! The “wedding clothes” that we need are none other than the robe of righteousness that Jesus secured for us on the cross of Calvary’s hill, the robe of righteousness that God the Holy Spirit gave to us when we were baptized in the Name of the Triune God (See Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 7:14), the robe of righteousness that God Himself washes clean of every spot and every stain every time we receive His holy Supper!
Tragically there are people right down to this very day who insult the King by foolishly rejecting the “wedding clothes” that He freely provides to them. Their own self-centered pride leads them to think that they can enjoy the King’s “wedding banquet” wearing their own garment— a garment that is stitched together with their own good works, a garment that is soiled by their own feelings of self-worth, a garment that is torn and tattered by the foolish decision to live their life in whatever way they choose! Anyone and everyone who finds themselves standing in front of the King of kings wearing anything other than the robe of righteousness Christ won for them will hear the King say to them, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
Jesus’ story of foolish rejection, also known as the Parable of the Wedding Banquet serves as both a comfort and a warning to us. The warning comes in the realization that we do not want to foolishly reject God’s invitation to come here to His house and enjoy the rich spiritual food that He freely provides to us in His holy Word and His holy Supper. Repeatedly refusing this invitation because we are “too busy” or because we have “better things to do” could result in forfeiting our spot at the heavenly banquet that God has graciously prepared for us.
The comfort we receive from Jesus’ parable, Jesus’ story, is found in the amazing grace of the King. He freely prepares a “feast of rich food,” a “wedding banquet” the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine, and then He offers it to us as an absolutely free gift. And if there have been times in our life when we have foolishly rejected that invitation, our King is still there with His arms held out to us saying, “All is forgiven. Come and enjoy the wedding banquet I have prepared for you!” What a wonderful reason to lift up our eyes to the cross and say:
To God be the glory!