The video of today’s church service at Cleveland Drive Presbyterian Church is available here. I’m dressed in a robe :). You can also find the prepared text of today’s sermon below. If you watch the video, you will see that there were a few times that I veered away from the prepared text. Text that is in strikethrough is part of a point that wasn’t said until later. Words that are underlined were the fill-in-the-blanks in the bulletin. The memory verse was, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Thus we did this responsively at different points. May you be blessed as you reflect on this message: “Dressed for the Occasion.” I need to say the word “dressed” a few more times for the search engines, so here is dressed and dressed and for good measure: dressed.
Church culture is increasingly casual today. Unfortunately many people feel like they can’t win with what they wear to church. Some get looks if they dress up; some get looks if they dress casual; some get looks either way. Believe it or not, some young people would prefer to dress up but conform to the pressure to dress casual. Others prefer to dress casual but conform to the pressure to put on their Sunday finest. Some are constrained by what they can afford to buy. Many wear whatever they want – if they want to dress up they do and if they want to dress casual they do. The culture of the casual has started to make some inroads in wedding feasts too but by and large the bride and groom and the wedding party are still expected to wear fine apparel – even dresses and tuxedos. It is also common to spend huge amounts of money on wedding feasts – to have the best meals in the best halls with the best entertainment. In our culture it is the father of the bride who often is expected to spend like a king. It is also expected that those who are invited and RSVP yes will actually attend. However, if you are a wedding guest today you usually have to buy your own gown, rent your own tux, or whatever it is that you are expected to wear in order to be dressed for the occasion. In the parable those invited to the feast would have already RSVPed yes and the king had wedding garments available. Moreover, it was not just anyone inviting the guests – it was their king! Attending the wedding of the king’s son is a great honor. How the people responded to this gracious invitation should shock you:
God invites many to the wedding feast for His Son who refuse to come.
Israel’s religious leadership were invited but wouldn’t come. The Heavenly King sent His servants the prophets but Israel’s religious leadership would not come. This was a huge insult, but God gave them a second chance. Again, he sent other servants, this time telling them how wonderful the meal looks and that everything is ready. Some paid no attention and went off – one to his farm and another to his business. They didn’t have legitimate excuses. The rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. This is how the religious leadership of Israel had treated the prophets and how they would treat early Christians who gave them a second chance. Some of the priests and Pharisees paid no attention to the summons and some seized, shamefully treated, and killed the messengers. This parable echoes the previous one in this description. Therefore in the parable the king sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Likewise, about forty years after Jesus told this parable God sent the Roman Army as his soldiers to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. The priests and the Pharisees then are an example of the saying that ends our passage: “for many are called but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14). They had received the invitation, they had said that they were going, but when the time came they did not go into the king’s wedding hall for the feast but instead insulted the king and rebelled against Him. These were the respectable members of society. These were the people that everyone would have thought are worthy. But the king said they were not worthy. These were people who thought of themselves as God’s chosen people. And they did indeed hear the call and RSVP. But many of those who were called at first were not really God’s chosen for they did not repent and believe in Jesus. If they were truly God’s chosen people then they would have repented and believed in Jesus. As it turned out, those who were the real chosen people were less respectable Jewish people—some of whom were bad tax collectors and prostitutes—who heard the call and repented and believed.
The ways that the priests and Pharisees reacted to the invitation are responses the King’s servants may still get today. His servants are seized, treated shamefully, and killed by Islamic radicals and by some governments around the world. Far more common is the reaction that Jesus mentioned first: “they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.” Some are simply too busy with their work to pay attention to the king’s servants and come to eat at the feast. Their excuses resemble those that some give for not coming to church services. Like the Pharisees, some may even be respectable members of society who have accepted the invitation and said they would go but then refused to go when the feast was prepared. After all, two parables before this one is a parable where a man has two sons and he asked them to work in the vineyard and one said that he wouldn’t and then he did and the other said that he would and he didn’t. Jesus then asked, “Which one of the two did the will of his father?” And when they answered correctly, Jesus said that tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before them. The unrepentant and unbelieving reactions of the priests and Pharisees again remind us—if we needed any reminders—that “for many are called but few are chosen.” (Nevertheless, notice what happens when many are called but few are chosen: others are called. There is justice or wrath for those called but who do not repent and believe in Jesus, yet there is grace for others. The king was angry and sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city, then the same king tells his servants to go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. He doesn’t want an empty wedding hall. So just like we would go out and invite many to follow Christ and come to church with us the servants go out to the roads and have to find those who will believe them when they say, ‘the king is giving a wedding feast for his son and you are invited.’ But not everyone they convinced to go into the wedding hall belonged there. Indeed…)
Not everyone who comes to the wedding feast gets to stay [but only those who put on Christ and His righteousness].
Judas Iscariot is a type for those who come to the wedding feast but don’t get to stay. The other eleven disciples did get to enjoy the wedding feast for the Son of God. They were joined by prostitutes, tax collectors, and Gentiles. The wedding hall was filled with guests, both bad and good. Those originally invited—the priests and Pharisees—had refused to come. So the new servants and wedding guests included the twelve, the prostitutes and tax collectors who had repented at the preaching of John, and other Jews and Gentiles who repented at the preaching of Jesus or would repent at the preaching of His apostles. The king’s servants supplied the people with wedding garments as they went into the feast but there is one there at the feast not wearing a wedding garment. The king asked, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” But the man was speechless. So in language typical for hell the king says to 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.” Judas Iscariot got to come to the foretaste of that banquet and dip his hand in the dish with Jesus, but he didn’t get to stay. Jesus would tell Judas, “Friend, do what you came to do” (Matt 26:50) and after it was all said and done the man ended up committing suicide. Thus Judas Iscariot was a type of those who were invited to the wedding feast but refused to wear a wedding garment. “For many are called but few are chosen.” (Indeed, not everyone who comes to the wedding feast gets to stay today. It matters not whether they are bad or good, but whether they have on a wedding garment. Only those who are dressed for the occasion get to stay for the wedding feast.)
Now we are not actually talking about clothes [but about putting on Christ and His righteousness]. We are not talking about attending church in tuxedos for men and gowns for women. We are not talking about men wearing suits and women wearing dresses rather than tshirts and jeans. To be dressed for the occasion isn’t to be wearing the right clothes to church but those who are dressed for the occasion will bear the fruits of repentance and believe in Jesus. Some modern day Pharisees think that their own clothing, if you will, is pretty good, and they don’t need to change. But Jesus tells the three parables in Matthew 21-22 showing how the kingdom of God was being taken away from the priests and Pharisees and given to those who will bear the fruits of repentance and believe in Jesus. It was not being given to everyone who showed up to the wedding feast even if they didn’t put on Christ and His righteousness. To put on the wedding garment is to put on Christ and His righteousness. And those who put on Christ and His righteousness will bear fruit. Yes “for many are called but few are chosen.” Therefore, the true chosen people now are those wearing the wedding garments He supplies. Thanks be to God. Amen.