In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So it turns out that when the King sent His servants to the vineyard to collect the fruit from the tenant farmers, He really just wanted to invite them to a party. He went to get some grapes to make some really good wine, and He wanted some animals from His flocks for the feast. But all those farmers could see was that He was coming to take something from them. They thought the King was a hard man, who harvested where He did not sow. That He was going to make them do all the work, and then come and take the fruit of their labor. So when they see the servants coming, they beat some and stone others and kill others. And then the King says—absurdly, after everything that has happened—“I will send them My Son; surely they will respect Him and hear Him.” But the person listening to the parable knows what’s coming: the farmers say, “This is the heir to the vineyard. He’s going to take everything from us. Let’s kill Him and get the inheritance.” Which makes no sense, but that never stopped people before. So they kill the Son and throw Him outside the vineyard.
But now the Son has been raised from the dead. He is alive and no one can ever kill Him again. And the King is having a wedding feast for His Son, who was dead and is alive. And so He sends out some more slaves to call those who had been invited. He had sent out “save the date” cards—not a particular date, but He wanted them to know it was coming, that His Son was getting married. So He sends out the slaves, and they call those who had been invited. But they don’t want to come. Which makes no sense. They knew it was coming. The King is having a feast. It’s free! No gifts required! You get to eat and drink and celebrate for free. Why would you not want to come? But they don’t. So the King sends out more servants. He reminds them: “Make sure you tell them that the feast is ready. The wine is good, and the fattened calves and bulls have been slaughtered. It’s all ready. Make sure you tell them.” So the slaves go out, and they get two responses. The first response is one of apathy. They hear the invitation, but they pay it no mind. They ignore it. And they just go back to doing what they were doing before. They go back to their businesses and their fields, and their lives as usual. The second response is open and active opposition to the servants. Which makes even less sense than not wanting to go. You don’t want to have a good feast? Fine. But why are they mad about it? Why do they seize the servants, mock and insult them, and kill them? They’re inviting you to a party! It makes no sense. But that’s what they do. Then the King sends His army to kill those murderers and burn their city. It seems a little disproportionate. But the fact is that there is no life outside the party of the King. There is no choice between one life and the life of the King. The Son is, very literally, the life of this party, and there is no life outside this party. “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way” (Psalm 2:12).
But the King isn’t done. He’s not going to have an empty hall for His Son’s wedding. So He tells His servants to go out again. He says, “Those who were invited were not worthy.” Why? Simply because they refused His invitation. That is the only thing that made them unworthy to come. But the King is going to have a house-full. So the slaves go out again. And they go into every street, every road, every thoroughfare, and every alley, and they bring in whomever they can find, whoever will come. Good, bad, in-between, doesn’t matter. Bring them in. The house and the feast must be full. So they go, and they bring in as many as will come. They are all filling up the hall, reclining for the feast. Ready to eat and drink and celebrate with the King and His Son at the wedding feast. And then the King comes in to start the feast, and He sees this one guy. This one guy, standing by the door. And the King walks over and calls him what Jesus calls Judas and what the Lord of the vineyard called the worker complaining about his pay—remember?— He says, “Hey buddy; hey pal. How did you get in here without a wedding garment?” It’s a little unclear what it is the guy’s supposed to be wearing. Some people think that maybe rich people gave their guests a wedding garment. But it doesn’t say that. Either way, this guy isn’t wearing what he should have worn, and because of that, he shows that he has no respect for the King or for His Son. He does exactly what those previously invited did: they scorn the King’s invitation, treat it as if it doesn’t matter, as if the Son is not really the Son. They refuse to bow the knee or confess with their mouths. They do not recognize the King as king and the Son as son. The man is silent; he refuses to confess the Name of the Son. And the King has him bound hand and foot and thrown outside, into the outside darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is not sorrow. This weeping is not regret, or repentance. When people gnash their teeth in the Scriptures, it is not out of sorrow, it is out of anger and hatred. Those gnashing their teeth hate the King and His Son, and their hatred goes on forever. Many are called, but few are chosen.
But the call keeps going out. It goes out today. The invitation goes out to those do not want to come. It goes out to those who think the King just wants something from them. That He wants to take away everything that they’ve worked so hard to get, when all He really wants is to throw a party. The invitation goes out to those who couldn’t care less, who ignore the invitation and go back to life as they know it. They go back to their businesses and their fields, and everything else that fills out their list of things to do. They don’t have any time for this feasting nonsense. They’ve got better things to do. The invitation goes out to those who mock and insult, to those who cut off heads and threaten violence against the servants of the King. The invitation goes out to those who outward appear to be part of the chosen, who actually are inside the King’s House. But in their hearts, they refuse to bend the knee and confess the Name. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way. But: Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him! Blessed are those who are called, chosen, justified, and glorified. Blessed is the one who comes in to the House of the King, not because they have any right to be there, but simply because the King invited them. The invitation goes out again and again and again, day by day, week by week, year by year, generation by generation, until the wedding hall is full. Until the King comes in and the feast begins. Until the party starts with the sound of many waters and the sound of thunder: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give Him what is due Him: to acknowledge His Son. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”–for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
It turns out that the guests are actually the Bride. And this feast is for you. Who are these? The elder asks St. John. John says, “You know.” And he says, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation of this world, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Their robes are their righteous deeds, after they have been washed clean in the blood. Blessed are all who have been invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Blessed are you, taking refuge in the Son. Blessed are you, whom God has chosen in His Son Christ, even before the foundation of the world. Come in! Everything is prepared. The feast is ready.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 10/11/14