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Grace in Action (St. Matthew 22.1-14)

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

“Grace in Action”

St. Matthew 22.1-14
14 October 2018

Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor           

+ In the Name of Jesus +

“And answering Jesus again spoke in a parable to them, saying… The Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who made a wedding for his son…” (Mt 22:1-2, my translation)

The wonderful union arranged is that the Father sent His Son into the world to become one with humanity, to save the world. He did so without hesitation, too – without waiting for His love for the creation to be reciprocated in any way. God’s Son became man for your sake, for Israel’s sake, for the world’s sake. “Who for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

This is such an act of holy, unexplainable grace from God, such an act of undeserved love, the very thing that had to happen to bring about our salvation from sin, death, and devil, that when we confess this union, this arranged marriage of the King for His Son, with the words “…and was made man…” in the Nicene Creed, we bow our heads or bow the knee. Next to our Lord’s Word that “This is my body… this is my blood… given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” – this confession of our Lord’s incarnation in the Creed is perhaps the most profound and sacred and heavenly thing we utter in this service, surely the Cherubim and Seraphim and the heavenly host also bow. Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and stand with fear and trembling, says the hymn.

To live in the Kingdom of heaven is to live by faith in the Son of God and Son of Man, who married His bride the Church and gave Himself up for her, to produce her spotless and pure before His heavenly Father. To live in the Kingdom of heaven is to live by the grace of God alone.

God’s grace is persistent. The servants that the king sends out are the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament. They are abused, mistreated, and even killed. Those who persecute the prophets are the leaders of God’s holy nation of Israel. Their city, Jerusalem, was destroyed as Jesus warned it would be.

God’s prophets were ignored and despised. God kept sending them. The prophets were murdered. God kept sending them. God sent His only Son – and the Son sent out the apostles, knowing that the world would despise and hate them even as it hated Him and His Word. All but one of the apostles died as martyrs, the one died a natural death but endured much persecution, all were witnesses to the truth of salvation from Christ alone, by grace alone, received by faith alone, truth the world hates as it wishes to worship itself. Men keep dying for this truth. God keeps sending men to preach His Gospel. God never gives up on bringing His Holy Gospel to those who need it.

You might be tempted to think that that person to whom you have confessed the faith and invited to church, and who has never shown any interest, is beyond God’s help. But what do we know? Are we the authors of faith or is God? God watched as prophet after prophet, apostle after apostle, preacher after preacher, was ignored, mocked, persecuted and killed. God did not stop sending preachers. His gospel has never been silenced. Never in the history of the human race has the gospel of Christ not been proclaimed. God won’t be quiet. His grace is persistent. He urges sinners to repent and when they abuse His messengers, He sends His messengers to other sinners urging them to repent. But He keeps on sending them. He keeps calling out to those who trust in themselves to set aside their false faith. (Para. borrowed from Rev. Rolf Preus, Trinity 20 Sermon, 2004, christforus.org)

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. (Mt. 22:8–10; ESV)

The Lord, in His mercy, continues to call, over and over again, those who do not deserve to be called. He calls those along the highway to the banquet. He calls us out of the darkness and death of our sin. He calls those who do not ask or seek. He calls evangelists such as St. Luke, whose feast day is this Thursday. He calls the gentiles. He calls those who were once far off. And, in His continued mercy, He calls you. He sends you His Word of gracious invitation, His gentle and yet urgent call to repent and believe the Gospel. All of this He does, only out of His divine, fatherly goodness, and apart from any merit or worthiness in any of us. This is God’s persistent grace.

That is God’s nature. To love. He is love. This undeserved love seeks out an object to love, and not because the object elicits love from Him. He just simply loves. That love caused the Son’s incarnation. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” (Jn. 3.16)

Sending His Son forth into the world – arranging this wondrous marriage between God and Man – is the grace of God. Jesus, the Word made flesh, says the Gospel, is “full of grace and truth”. There is yet more to God’s grace. It is not just that the Son was made man. The full grace and complete truth is that the incarnate Son of God lived and died for us men and for our salvation.

“…And was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”

You have a holy brother in the flesh, one with you in blood and flesh. Even more, He chooses to be numbered among sinners, even with those who do not receive Him, chooses to be numbered with you, even in your frailty and weakness. He chooses to receive, by God’s imputation, the sin of all sinners. He cannot commit sin, God’s Son is holy and perfect and righteous and innocent. But He can and does bear sin.

When the innocent God-Man who lived a life without sin bears all sin of all sinners, God’s righteousness is fulfilled in man. Jesus does what the Father requires of us all. He does for you what you cannot do for yourselves. He offers in your stead the life of obedience that all owe to God. The nature of God’s grace is that God covers up all your sin by clothing you in the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself. God arranges the wedding, sets the feast in order, provides the wedding garment of righteousness, and all freely, out of His love for you and for every sinner.

This parable is at the last a warning that God’s grace is necessary. The man who rejects Christ’s righteousness, who rejects Holy Baptism, the work of the Holy Spirit, in the Communion of Saints, the blessed forgiveness of sins, that man will be cast out into hell – where there is no forgiveness of sins, where the regret and sorrow of sin is suffered eternally – where weeping and gnashing of teeth cannot wipe out sin and its consequences.

God is so persistent in bringing His grace to sinners because they need it. God gives this great gift of love in the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ for sinners because they need it. You need to wear the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness. Without Jesus and His righteousness, you deserve to be cast out into the outer darkness of hell. It is what your sins deserve.

But the Kingdom of heaven is like this King who gives His Son in marriage, that whosoever believeth in Him, that is, attends to His marriage feast, and wears His marriage garment, should not perish, but have everlasting life, should not receive what is deserved, but what God’s grace has given.

For the Father looks upon you, even now, as baptized brothers of His Son, and sees not a guilty sinner, but sees instead the willing and holy obedience of Jesus, sees the sacrifice of Calvary’s cross that cancels all guilt, sees the wedding garment of holiness and righteousness won at the cross and bestowed by His Son in Holy Baptism.

Come, chosen of God in Jesus Christ, and celebrate this marriage feast with pure joy. “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready,” says the Lord once again from His altar, “Come to the wedding feast.” You do not have to wait until you get to heaven. Here, you sing and make melody in your hearts with the very songs of heaven, always giving thanks to God the Father in the name of your Lord Jesus Christ, along with the saints and angels and believers of all times and places. Having listened diligently to the Word of God, come, eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Is. 55.2)

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +

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