Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost

Who let you in?

Matthew 22:9-14

October 12, 2014

A few years ago there was a movie called "The Wedding Crashers." It was about two guys who would crash wedding receptions for the free party. The danger, if caught, was being asked to leave, thrown out or even arrested for trespassing. Today's Gospel reading is about a wedding crasher. Although he managed to crash the party, he is discovered and thrown out.

The parable is divided into two parts. The first section describes those who were initially invited. In typical wedding fashion, the invitations have been sent out early so those invited can save the date. It says that the king even sent out his servants on the day of the wedding to tell those who had been invited to come. Much to the surprise of the king and the servants, those originally invited refused. They offered what seem to be pretty lame excuses. In fact, some seem so enraged that they were reminded of the wedding that they mistreated and even killed some of the servants. The king took revenge on these evil people and proceeded to invite others in their place.

Now, we come to the second part of the parable. "Who let you in?" This is difficult because we wonder how the guy has crashed the wedding feast. How did he get in? How did he get past the security people at the main gate? Where did he come from? We're not told.

Matthew 22:9-14 Then he 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. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

"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.' For many are called, but few are chosen."

Was he an invited guest who didn't get the message about the proper dress attire? Is it possible that he was not really invited but heard about the party and decided to crash it. Did he discover the right passwords that would let him in? Did he lose himself in a large group as they entered? Maybe the most likely scenario is that he crashed the party by climbing the wall rather than entering through the gate.

This is not a parable about dress codes. The problem with this guy is not his improper dress attire but that he possesses the wrong kind of righteousness. This is all about being spiritually unclean because you want to crash the gates of heaven on your own terms. If you ask a typical person on the street why they should go to heaven, what will they tell you? The most common response is something like: "well, I've tried to live a good life," or "I'm a good person." Since we're never as "good" as we want everyone else to think we are, just how far is your appeal to goodness going to get you? Are you as good as God expects and demands? No!

Just as the wedding crasher has sought to enter the party on his own terms, in the same way, most people think they can enter heaven. They will enter on their own terms. After all, they look in the mirror, see their reflection and ask, "what's not to like?" That's how most of us would qualify our entry into the heavenly banquet. "How could God not like me? Of, sure, I've got a flaw or two, but surely they're not bad enough to keep me out." Then, the comparison game begins. You try to compare yourself to some really bad person or someone whose behavior is always more questionable than yours. But, do you ever compare yourself to people who you think have a better track record than you? Probably not.

Where does that leave you? God's Law really does demand perfection. A score of 99.9%, while truly impressive in the eyes of the world, is still a failing grade. The Law commands that we are to love the Lord with ALL your heart, with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength. Each demands 100% compliance. Then, if you've succeeded at that the next requirement is that you love your neighbor as yourself. That means everyone else, as much as you love yourself. How are you doing?

Each one of us is in bad shape. No sinner has fulfilled the Law of God to perfection. It's impossible. Our cause is hopeless. God knows this. Therefore, God has given us one hope to cling to. It is the hope revealed in His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus came to die on the cross for the sin of the world. He took our punishment and endured the very pain of hell itself for us. All He asks is that we believe. As the hymn verse states: "nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling."

Jesus makes some very hard statements about entry into His wedding banquet."I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." The entry to heaven, Jesus tells us, is by invitation. That invitation states that it is by grace through faith that we will share the joy of the wedding feast. Although there are wedding crashers who would try to storm the gates of heaven or scale the walls, in the end, they will be revealed and thrown out.

The good news is that you don't have to force your way in. The invitation is yours already: signed, sealed and delivered by grace. You don't need to try to impress God with your righteousness. He has given you the wedding garment of His righteousness. So, you're invited. Throw off the dirty worldly rags you've been wearing, put on the new garment and join the wedding banquet. In Christ all things are created new and we rejoice with that He has invited us to share in the joys of the Kingdom.

The parable ends with the admonition that although many are called, few are chosen. The invitation is extended into the world. Yet, of the large number of invitations that are extended, only a few respond. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that those who respond to the wedding invitation will enjoy eternal forgiveness and love. With the invitation comes the gift which is yours now in time and forever in eternity in the wedding feast of the Lamb that will have no end. Amen.


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December
12/28/2014
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11/23/2014
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10/05/2014
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09/28/2014
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08/24/2014
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