- Today’s lesson, the parable of the wedding banquet, is about invitation—God’s invitation. I suppose you could say that it is about God’s gospel invitation. It’s not really about a command, but an offer—come to the wedding feast. In the catechism we learned about God’s invitation under the Third Article of the Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” We really don’t come to him. We can’t. On our own, we wouldn’t have a clue who God is or what he wants or what he promises. We do have some knowledge from nature that there is a God. Conscience tells us that God wants what is right, and we know we’ve fallen short of perfection—but that’s all we know. So God gives us his invitation. He gives us a promise. Here is forgiveness. Here is a Savior.
- I was thinking about this, and wondered what was the first invitation from God in the Bible? To Adam and Eve God gave a command and an opportunity, and later he gave them a promise. To Noah God gave a command and later gave a promise never again to send a flood. To Abraham God gave an invitation. “Leave your family and your city and go to a land I will show you. I am your shield and your great reward.” Without the invitation, Abraham had no knowledge of who God was or what he would give. With the invitation Abraham also had a promise—and that was what worked in his heart to become faith.
- I think that has to be the biggest problem with that idea that you have to make your decision for Christ—Billy Graham used to always say that. Without the invitation, we’re powerless to choose God or come to him. The invitation has the power to create faith in it. If we make a decision for Christ or pray for him to come into our hearts, he’s already there. His Spirit has already been doing his work in us.
- But there’s a dark side to this—because of human nature, there always is—and that’s what this parable is about. Human nature—because the flesh is always thinking about self—What’s in it for me? What can I get out of this? –self serving and self-loving at the expense of everything else— our broken human nature (flesh) resists God’s invitation. We want to be our own bosses. We have our own idea of what we think is good or what we want to do, and we resist. That’s what this parable is about.
- First, the king sent out his servants to summon those who were invited to the wedding banquet, but they didn’t want to come. He sent messengers again and described the banquet. Some people found other things to do. Others reacted to the invitation with hostility and violence, killing the messengers. Why would they do that? Well this is a parable. Jesus is talking about an invitation that’s much more important than a wedding invitation. The parallel in reality is God’s invitation for people to be his people and live as his people. This invitation came through the Old Testament prophets, from John the Baptist and from Jesus himself. Repent. Turn away from evil. Look at the blessings God offers. God forgives. God has good things for you. Some of the prophets were killed. Elijah lived with constant threats from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. John the Baptist gave warnings, called people to repentance, and pointed the people to Jesus as the Lamb of God who brings forgiveness, and Herod didn’t like the call to repentance and John was beheaded. Jesus gave many invitations—looking at all his preaching, he gave more invitations than commands. “Come to me and I will give you rest.” “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry. Whoever comes to me will never be thirsty.’ “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” And Jesus met the worst resistance of all. In our study of John we read how he paced himself, going to Jerusalem, and then retreating, and then going back so that he could do as much as he could until the right time.
- Why did people reject Jesus and his invitation? The Pharisees rejected Jesus because they thought they didn’t need a Savior. “We’re righteous on our own.” They wanted to be the teachers of Israel and have crowds following them. Why do people reject Jesus and his invitation now? Because Jesus’ invitation is a call away from something. He has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). People reject the invitation because they like their darkness (John 3:19). “I like my hate, my anger, my lust, my greed, my selfishness. I’m comfortable with my life. Why should I change it?” Because Jesus has something better. Light instead of darkness. Love instead of hate. Fulfillment instead of selfish desires that can never be filled.
- So, just as the king in the parable sends his servants to the streets and highways to bring in anyone who will come, Jesus turned to “tax collectors and sinners,”—people who knew how empty their lives were and were ready to be filled. They knew where self-love and self-service had gotten them and they were ready for renewal.
- The invitation is for you and for me—yes, even though we are here, we have that constant invitation because the world and our flesh are always inviting, too—trying to draw us back to the darkness. So Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” “Come to the feast, to the table I spread before you, to your overflowing cup, dwell in my house forever.”
- It’s hard to let go of the world. It’s hard to let go of self. And that’s really a response to God’s invitation, too. That’s the part at the end of the parable. In our time, the bride and groom and their closest friends wear the special clothing. Then it must have been the custom for guests to wear special clothing that was provided. Somebody comes in wearing his own old clothes into the wedding banquet. “I’m at the banquet, but I’m bringing in my own thing.” “I’m in God’s banquet hall, but I’m bringing in the darkness of the world with me.” That’s not what God is inviting us to.
- That’s what our opening hymn was all about. The word order is kind of strange because it is poetry: “Jesus, your blood and righteousness / My beauty are, my glorious dress.” If it wasn’t poetry, we’d put “are” at the beginning of the line. “Jesus, your blood and righteousness are my beauty and my clothing of glory.” In God’s kingdom, we wear Christ’s righteousness. Like a wedding garment given to us, the holiness of Jesus covers our sin. Just as God has called us and chosen us to be his own, he also clothes us and makes us holy and blameless in his sight. God’s call is also God’s gift. As we live our Christian lives, whatever we are, it’s all God’s work. When we arrive at his heavenly wedding banquet—that is all God’s doing, too. Some resist and lose it all. For the rest, because we have our human flesh and live in the world, it’s always a struggle between faith and doubt, light and darkness. But God continues his work on us and in us. He continues to give us his invitation. “The feast is ready!”
God Calls, Chooses and Clothes Us