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Trinity 20 – Matthew 9:1-8

by pastorjuhl ~ October 18th, 2012

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

            The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing. That verse from Psalm 145 is how Luther’s Small Catechism teaches us to give thanks for a meal. The verse may also be applied to how we receive God’s grace, His undeserved love toward sinners.

The parable of the wedding feast is told twice in the Gospels: once here in Matthew and again in Luke chapter 14. Luke’s recording of the parable focuses on God’s grace in the father’s allowance of those in the highways and hedges to be welcomed to the feast. We heard that telling of the parable way back in mid-June. This time we hear the same parable told a different way. There’s a bite to this version of the wedding feast. God’s grace is still there. Grace is still the main thing about the parable. The tone of the parable has changed.

There’s an aura of judgment around this parable. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees, two of his most bitter adversaries. Consider the telling of the parable a spit wad. Jesus takes His blowgun, chews a piece of paper, and spits the wad right at the back of the ears of the Pharisees and Sadducees. His aim is true. If any group of people have refused to receive God’s grace it’s these two groups. They have allowed their reason and their senses to displace the clear Word of God and His righteous reckoning of sinners.

How can grace and judgment coexist in a parable? How can they not coexist in a parable? The thing about grace is that it knows no limits or boundaries. God is lavish, even reckless with His undeserved love for sinners. The father who throws the wedding feast for his son is the perfect model for our heavenly Father. He provides everything for a lavish feast to celebrate his son’s nuptials. The invitations are sent. All those invited only need show up and receive the best of food and drink.

But they would not come. The father sends 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.”

But they paid no attention. That’s a polite way to say those invited did not give a damn. They find ways to occupy themselves in order not to be present for the wedding feast. Some of the servants are seized, treated shamefully, and killed. What a way to RSVP to a wedding feast!

It’s easy to see those whom we know whose names are associated with this congregation in this parable. The invitation to dine on the Gifts Christ gives remains open for them, but they pay no attention to it. All kinds of reasons are given. Perhaps you have made a few excuses on their behalf. Perhaps you have made these excuses your own from time to time. Miss Manners would take her ruler and smack your fingers if you didn’t properly respond to an invitation for a wedding feast in the “real world”. Yet your heavenly Father has the finest of banquets prepared for you here. You have a standing invitation but often make sport of it. After all, there’s always next week…or the week after.

How foolish of you to treat God’s invitation to His wedding feast with skepticism. Nevertheless, that’s how sinners often treat God’s grace. His grace is too good to be true. There has to be a catch to forgiveness of sins. Jesus has to add the fine print somewhere. It’s not possible to receive something for nothing!

It IS possible because our heavenly Father made it so in His Word. The prophet Isaiah says in the Old Testament reading: My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your way and my thoughts than your thoughts. Our Father promised to crush the head of the serpent by the Seed of the woman. His plan of rescue includes you and the whole world. However, Jesus ends the parable with the auspicious words for many are called, but few are chosen.

Our Lord’s words do not mean that God has assigned many people for damnation. He has done no such thing! Many are called. The invitation is for all! Few are chosen. Precious few will actually receive this invitation and attend the wedding feast. There are those who attend the wedding feast, but still wonder if this whole grace thing is a scam. Only God knows who these people are. Nevertheless, there are weeds among the wheat. We see this in the man bound hand and foot and cast out of the wedding feast. He was not wearing a wedding garment. He still trusted in his own reason and strength. Again, only God knows who these people are. He will take care of them in His way on Judgment Day.

Take care how you receive the invitation to the wedding feast. The Lord says through Isaiah, 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; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. His covenant is one that God makes and keeps. All you do is receive what God promises in His everlasting covenant. That is how grace works. God does it all. You receive what He gives.

Grace is like visiting a used car lot with only $250 in your pocket. A glance around the lot shows that you can’t afford to buy a car. You start to walk away but the salesman approaches you and whispers, “Come around to the back of the lot. The boss has something for you.” You follow him to the backside of the lot where a brand-new, Candy Apple Red Porsche sports car sits. The salesman says, “It’s for you compliments of the boss. Enjoy your new ride!”

That’s grace. No strings attached. Something for nothing. Something awesome for nothing. The problem with sinners when it comes to grace is that we want to kick the tires. We demand the hood to be opened in order to see whether there’s an engine in there. We hop up and down on the bumpers to check the shocks and struts. We ask to take the car to a mechanic in order to let him check it out.

The proper response of the salesman to this behavior is to bind you hand and foot and kick you off the lot…permanently! The proper response of the father hosting the wedding feast of his son to the man without a wedding garment, the man who thinks he belongs there on his own terms, is to ask the man to be bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

God’s grace is for dead people, people who are so dead they cannot help themselves out of their situation. God’s grace is pure gift. Our heavenly Father gives us His only-begotten Son as the perfect, innocent sin offering for the world. Jesus Christ suffers the death we deserve. He reckons you righteous before the Father’s eyes. Gift given. Many are called. You respond either by not paying any attention; by thinking you can give God a hand in the matter, or by saying Amen and receiving the gift. The first two responses are not God’s working. They are your rejection. The third response is one that comes from faith created through the Word of God; the Word of the Father Who desires all to come to the eternal Wedding Feast. Amen means gift received. Amen means plop your body in the leather seat of that new Porsche and drive it off the lot with no strings attached. Few are chosen.

Blessed are those few, for they receive the finest of food and drink! They receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He opens His hand and satisfies your desire: eternity with the Bridegroom. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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

1 Response to Trinity 20 – Matthew 9:1-8

  1. Charles James

    Thanks for the sermon – the example of the car salesman is vivid and illustrates that grace is not earned but given freely for our eternal salvation. Pray for me that I may continue responding to God’s gift of grace. May God bless your ministry and open the hearts of those to whom you announce his Word.

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