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Trinity 20 – Matthew 22:1-14

by pastorjuhl ~ November 3rd, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast. The king sends out servants to call those who were invited to the wedding. It’s easy to believe why Jesus says; many are called when you hear that many of those invited would not come to the wedding. Some of those invited even killed the servants the king sent!

What is difficult for many Christians to believe is the second half of Jesus’ words that end this parable in Matthew chapter 22. Many are called is easy to understand. What about the phrase few are chosen? Does this mean that God has elected only some to eternal bliss and others to eternal damnation? Holy Scripture never says that. So how do you get past the fact that many are called to the wedding, but few are chosen to enter the wedding? What does Jesus mean by casting out the man who came to the wedding without a wedding garment? Do I have a wedding garment? How can I stand before God? How will I be accepted by Him if I don’t know what is a wedding garment?

The Lord’s parable puts three questions before you today. The first question is, “What is the wedding garment?” The answer has two parts. First, the wedding garment is not the filthy robe of the flesh. King David sings in Psalm 5: The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. It is not possible for you to stand before God clothed the way you are in sin and death. Your mother bore you in sin. The sin of Adam and Eve clings to you as it clings to all those born of man and woman.

The wedding garment also is not the garment of your own righteousness. The prophet Isaiah writes these familiar words: we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Wearing your own righteousness before God smells like excrement to Him. No one looks good wearing clothes that look – and smell – like human waste. That’s how your righteousness outside of Jesus Christ looks – and smells – to God Almighty.

The wedding garment is Christ’s righteousness. It is bespoke, perfectly fitted just for you. Christ’s righteousness that clothes you is the most holy obedience, the bitter suffering and death, and the perfect merit of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Savior. Only Jesus satisfied the Law and has earned for you eternal salvation. Christ obedience alone is the loveliest ornament. As it is in here on earth, so shall it be in heaven. God has His highest pleasure and joy in His only-begotten Son’s righteousness clothing you (Tileman Heßusius).

It’s impossible for you to appear before God on Judgment Day without the wedding garment of Jesus’ merit on your behalf. Jesus tells Thomas on the night before Jesus was crucified; I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Saint Peter confesses before the religious rulers of the Jews, the same people who sent Jesus to the cross, nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. When you are clothed with the wedding garment, God accepts you as His precious child. What our heavenly Father says about Jesus when He was baptized, He also says about you: this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

So how do you get one of these wedding garments? You can’t buy it at Carson’s. It is impossible for you to buy this or even bargain for it at a second-hand store. Saint Paul explains why in 1 Corinthians chapter two when he says, the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Perhaps this is why so many people who heed the call to the wedding banquet enter without a wedding garment. They don’t understand why they have to dress in the way the king wants them to dress. In these days of “casual Fridays” when dressing up for anything is out of style, it’s easy to understand why some do not want to wear a wedding garment. No one should tell me how to dress. I’ll wear what I want.

If this is how you wish to attend the king’s wedding feast, be prepared to hear, Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment? Like the man in our blessed Lord’s parable, you will be speechless. The natural man cannot understand why.

God Himself must put the wedding garment on you. The prophet Isaiah says, [God] has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. It’s hard for men to understand Isaiah’s words here because men usually don’t need help getting dressed for their wedding day. Married women grasp the prophet’s words much better. A bride needs all the help she can get on her wedding day. She has a gown not to spoil, and a veil that must be placed just so in order not to ruin her hairstyle and make-up. Her jewelry must be put on carefully. Being waited on hand and foot while you dress for your wedding day is a privilege not soon forgotten.

If brides don’t forget how beautiful they look on their wedding day; if brides remember all the help they received to make themselves the very picture of purity and joy for their husband and their Lord; then how come you don’t consider the garment of incorruption given you at your baptism something more beautiful than diamonds, pearls, taffeta, silk, and satin?

The merit of Christ’s blood and righteousness must be put on you. God bestows your wedding garment in the Word of the Gospel, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” He puts on your wedding garment in baptism, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. He puts on your wedding garment in the Lord’s Supper, for this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Through these Means of Grace, you apprehend the benefits of Christ’s triumph over Satan and death because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God…. Therefore…a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

When you are clothed with Christ’s righteousness, you also rejoice in it in faith. You cannot help but give thanks to God for what He has done for you. You put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. The wedding garment is not just to be worn when you attend the foretaste of the wedding feast to come when Jesus returns to make all things new. The wedding garment is worn every day in order to show the world Who clothed you in His Son’s merit.

Saint Paul writes in Colossians chapter three, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. As a bride is adorned in clothing that shows her love for her earthly and heavenly bridegroom, so are you clothed in the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wearing the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness declares what you prayed in today’s Introit: The Lord is righteous in all He has done to us, for we have not obeyed His commandments. Glorify Your Name, O Lord; and deal with us according to Your great mercy. In His great mercy, He has clothed you in Christ. You are properly dressed for the wedding feast here on earth and hereafter in eternity.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

(I am indebted to an outline from the 1891 edition of “Homiletik” for much of this sermon. The preachers of old still speak to us today in profound ways that teach middle-aged dogs like me new tricks. Soli Deo Gloria!)

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