22. October 2023
Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Jesus is preaching to His Holy Week audience. At this point, they are sharply divided: those who loved Jesus and hung on His every Word and believed in Him, and those who hated Jesus, despised His words and refused to believe in Him. The tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners believed. The Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, elders, scribes, and lawyers refused to believe. It’s black and white, good vs. evil, us vs. them.
That’s how Jesus judges—sheep and goats, wheat and tares, wise and foolish, hardworking and lazy. It is binary, either saved or not, righteous or not, heaven or hell. It is Jesus who judges, and then not until He comes again. We apply what we anticipate on the Last Day but here and now. Discernment becomes judgment. We apply binary value judgments to everything rather than distinguishing between this and that, even down the silly and absurd. Whoever is not for the Packers is against them. Or, more seriously, if you disagree with the truth, you are evil.
Ultimately, we force ourselves and others to take sides in everything. Yet, even Pontius Pilate recognized the futility of this kind of thinking. When faced with an impossible choice, he threw up his hands and exclaimed, “What is truth?” You don’t have to make everything a binary choice. Sometimes, you can’t know what is good, right, and true. That’s what sin has done to the world and how it affects your conscience. We’re faced with decisions, often requiring moral judgment, but we can’t untangle the truth to arrive at a good and not evil course of action. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.
Those who want to control and manipulate you insist on being arbiters of truth. They insist that you choose sides and, in so doing, demonize the others. If you’re not for lockdowns, you just want to kill grandma. If you do not support mandates, you don’t love your neighbor. If you support that political candidate, you’re a fascist Nazi. Or if you support that one, you’re a socialist or Commie. You’re a Putin shill if you don’t support our involvement in the war in Ukraine. If you don’t support Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, you’re a Hamas terrorist. Have you picked sides, made moral judgments, and defined good vs. evil in your mind?
Of course, we must make moral choices. For the sake of love for neighbor, we must. But our morality is always corrupted by this sinful world and our sinful hearts. Our consciences are not free but are affected by what others will think of us, what we think about ourselves, and what others tell us to think. We desperately want to be on the right and not the wrong side, good and not evil, righteous and unrighteous. We think we can make those decisions intuitively, naturally, and with our observations and information. But we are easily deceived, misled, propagandized, manipulated, and ultimately, the truth is not in us.
With this in mind, we understand why Jesus’s calling and choosing of the tax collectors, whores, and sinners is offensive. These all have made terrible life decisions. They’ve hurt and harmed those they supposedly love. They’re liars and believe lies. In contrast, the most righteous are the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, elders, scribes, and lawyers. They’ve done it all and more according to the Law. Their conscience is clear. Their choices are virtuous. They are moral and upstanding members of society. But Jesus wants us to learn and know that being good, right, and true as man sees is deceiving. God doesn’t see as we see but looks upon the heart. He looks past external morality into the conscience to see where these actions, words, and thoughts come from. God doesn’t judge as we judge but instead looks for fear, love, and trust in Him. Only what is done in faith in Jesus and covered by the blood of Jesus can ever be good, right, and true.
So consider the parable again. The king is God the Father, and His Son is Jesus. The wedding is the gracious proclamation of the Holy Gospel. Christ Himself is the food of this wedding, for He is given to us in the Gospel. The wedding feast is that He redeemed us from the power of the devil, death, sin, and hell by His suffering and death. The wedding is now ready, and Jesus sent His servant John the Baptist to call sinners to repentance for the forgiveness of sins: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Apostles likewise went out to those who had the Scriptures and should have been prepared for the coming of Jesus, yet they refused to come.
Yet, the LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He never sends just once. More faithful pastors and preachers went to those invited to tell them that Christ had come. As the Apostle preached, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7). But of the many called, few heed the invitation. Some are preoccupied with worldly things. Others hate the ministers of the Gospel. The world is constantly enticing Christians away from the wedding supper with trinkets that catch the eye and delight the flesh and in no way nourish either body or soul. The devil is constantly stirring up hatred toward the Gospel to match his hatred of Jesus. He entices you to bristle or lash out at the pastor when he says something you don’t like, despite the fact it is the Word of the LORD. And there are those who, by all appearances, are Christians but who don’t have faith in Christ. They come to church but don’t pay attention, fail to study, pray, commit the Word to heart, and walk out the door, forgetting everything they heard.
As the Chronicler sternly warned, “The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, until there was no remedy” (1 Chr 36:15-16). So, will God treat those who prefer the world and the devil over His Son. He gives a feast for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation and gives it freely. There is nothing more dangerous than rejecting this (Gal 6:7). The only way to be saved is to be clothed in Christ, wrapped up in the wedding garment of faith, not sewed together by works, but the free gift of God.
The only difference between those who are “chosen” and those who are not is the chosen believe the call. And that faith is not their own work either. Instead, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). That Word of Christ is the Gospel, the call, and the invitation to the wedding feast. If you are concerned that you are not one of the elect, know that the chosen are chosen through the call of the Gospel. Reject worldliness, any hostility to the Word, and the distractions from the Word because of your sinful flesh. Come, eat, and drink at Christ’s wedding feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb, where your heart is cleansed, your troubled consciences comforted, and the calling and election made sure.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin