“My song is love unknown, / My Savior’s love to me, / Love to the loveless shown / That they might lovely be. / Oh, who am I / That for my sake / My Lord should take / Frail flesh and die?” (LSB 430:1).
That’s the song we sing today in humble and faithful anticipation of our Lord—and—that’s the song we’ll sing forever at the wedding feast of Jesus Christ.
The wedding feast we’re invited to and part of.
Faith sings the love of God in Jesus Christ, but the man without a wedding garment is speechless.
He has nothing to say, because—before the king—only faith can be confessed—and—apart from faith in Jesus Christ, you are unworthy and will be cast out.
That you would know all this—that you would know God’s great love for you, and sing it—Jesus tells this parable.
I’m going to explain the parable, but—when you hear it—hear it as though it tells the entire biblical story of salvation—from Genesis to Revelation.
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”
The King is our Father in heaven.
His Son is the Lord, Jesus Christ.
The wedding feast is heaven—the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Usually, using the image of a wedding, we would expect to hear of the bride, but in this parable, the bride isn’t mentioned—only the guests, those who’ll share in the feast with the Son.
“[Then, the king] sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast…”
And this is the kingdom of heaven: God bringing Christ and His creation together to rejoice.
“…but they would not come.”
This is not yet our generation. The time before Noah, perhaps. But—as we sang it a few minutes ago:
Men made strange, and none the longed-for Christ would know.
“[So the king] sent 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 and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them”
This is not yet our generation either.
This is the time of the prophets, perhaps; regardless, God caused His invitation to the feast to go out, and some paid no attention, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.
Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, [but you would not]” (Matthew 23:37).
Then “Crucify!” Is all their breath, And for His death they thirst and cry.
“[Then] the king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”
That might surprise us, but the point is—we are without excuse.
When applying the Law, no one is righteous, no not one (cf. Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3).
“Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
The whole city is guilty, so the whole city is destroyed.
They killed the prophets. They killed the Christ, because they took Him for a prophet.
A murderer they save, The prince of Life they slay.
In the verses immediately before today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus says to the chief priests, the elders, and the Pharisees: “‘Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to dust.’ Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet” (Matthew 21:43-46).
“Do you not see all these things?” Jesus says. “Truly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (cf. Matthew 24:2).
Yet cheerful He To suffering goes That He His foes From thence might free.
“Then [the king] said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good.”
This is what St. Paul means when he writes that salvation was unto the Jews first and then the Greek, that is, the Gentiles, the non-Jews.
The kingdom of God was taken from the Pharisees and all hard-hearted Jews and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
So the kings servants, then and now, gather all whom they find, both bad and good.
That’s the wheat and the tares which grow together until harvest, and at the time of harvest, the king says to his servants: “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn” (cf. Matthew 13:24-30).
“[And now] the wedding hall [is] filled with guests.”
And there we sit—here we sit—singing the love of God made known to us, until He returns.
And He will return.
From the perspective of God looking back at what He’s done, according to the parable, Jesus says:
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (cf. Matthew 22:2-13).
The wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ we put on in Holy Baptism.
It’s the full and faithful armor of God—what the Christian wears that’s been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.
It is, in fact, given to all who believe.
The man is speechless, because he has no faith, because he does not believe.
And so, he’s bound, hand and foot, and cast into hell.
The king sees the heart of man—that is, God does—and God is not mocked.
He promises to prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies so that your victory—the victory and love of God—would be complete.
Earlier, we sang a song of love unknown, of God’s love, unknowable unless it is revealed, poured out, and given and shed.
Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.
Oh, who am I? That for my sake my Lord shall take frail flesh and die?
Who am I? And who are you? That the love of God is shown to and for us all in the death of the Son of God?
Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast” (Matthew 22:2-3).
This is the kingdom of heaven: God bringing Bride and Groom, Christ and His Church together to rejoice.
That’s the song we sing today in humble and faithful anticipation of our Lord—and—that’s the song we’ll sing forever at the wedding feast we’re invited to and part of.
So—“Here might [we] stay and sing, / No story so divine! / Never was love, dear King, / Never was grief like Thine. / This is my friend, / In whose sweet praise / I all my days / Could gladly spend” (LSB 430:7).
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 20 Sermon, 2021
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt