- Forms | Resources
- About Us
- Give / Donate
Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
March 12, 2023
Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
So, this parable is harsh. There’s no getting around that and I’m not even going to try to pretend that it isn’t. But like the rest of the parables Jesus tells, there’s more to it than what’s on the surface. There’s historical stuff that was going on with Jesus at the time all this happened – which was during Holy Week.
And there was also stuff going on at the time Matthew wrote his gospel, which was sometime between the years 80 and 90. So, roughly 50-60 years after the events of Holy Week.
When we talked about this parable in Bible study last week, lots of questions came up. One of them being, “Pastor, what does this mean?” And I said, “I’ll answer that on Sunday.” And here we are, and I do have an interpretation to offer on this parable.
And I will say that mine is not the only interpretation. There are others, including ones that promote anti-Semitism. And that isn’t what this parable is about. Jesus was not anti-Semitic, and neither was Matthew.
The people in Matthew’s faith community weren’t direct witnesses of Jesus. Many of them were Jewish, and they’d been taught Jesus’ way of living and being, but they weren’t alive at the same time he was. So, in the course of their lives, their faith community had been taking shape from within the Jewish faith community.
But by the time Matthew’s gospel was written, they were having to figure out who they were as a faith community apart from the Jewish community they’d grown up in. The practices and beliefs of the Jesus-followers had developed enough that the two communities had begun to grow apart.
So, the Jesus-followers were feeling alone and isolated. And they needed guidance and also reassurance for how they were living and what they believed. Because not only were there tensions between their community and the Jewish community, there were also tensions between the Jewish community and the Roman occupiers.
So, there was a lot going on. And what we read today parallels what Jesus experienced during his last week and what Matthew’s community experienced later on.
This parable is told on Tuesday of what we call Holy Week. We’ve jumped ahead a little bit in the timeline of the story. Jesus has entered Jerusalem for the last time and the last supper, betrayal, trial, and crucifixion will happen soon. And Jesus knows what’s coming.
And when he tells this parable, tension is increasing between him and the religious leaders over the source and nature of his authority. And that tension will continue to build throughout the week, and Jesus brings that out here. He doesn’t tell this parable to try and make everybody get along, he tells it to prove a point.
He had been telling the religious leaders over and over again who he was, where he came from, why he came. And they either didn’t believe him, or they didn’t like his answer. Either way, they didn’t accept what he’d been telling them. And Jesus was reaching his limit with them.
But also with that, and with the way Matthew tells this story, Jesus communicates a sense of urgency to his followers about how to live. In other words, what Jesus says here is that it isn’t enough to simply say, “Yep – I believe Jesus is who he says he is.” It isn’t about just showing up to the banquet.
It’s also about receiving his invitation to life-changing and heart-changing transformation. It’s about showing up at the banquet and also putting on the robe – putting on the life that he calls us to and living it every day. Actually living the values of God’s kingdom.
Part of what the religious leaders struggled with when it came to who Jesus was, was the radical inclusiveness of his teachings and ministry. Looking at it from our perspective, it’s easy to cast judgment on the leaders and wonder why they wanted things to be so exclusive.
They were concerned about honor and shame, about who the “right people” and the “wrong people” were. And they didn’t want to be associated with the “wrong people”. It was the culture they lived in; it was that simple.
And ours isn’t really that different. There are people we don’t want to be associated with for whatever reason. There are people we don’t want to talk to or be in the same room with because, somehow, they’re the wrong type of person.
But think about who God is, who Jesus is. Think about the guest list they would put together for a party. Would you want to show up to a party where God was putting together the guest list? Who would be the “right people” and the “wrong people” on that list? Whose name would you look at and say, “Really?? They’re invited?”
What this parable teaches us is that it’s about more than just being invited. It’s about being transformed – showing up, doing the work of God, and being continually transformed through that way of living. Being someone who is truly willing to change their heart and mind and live deeply into the kingdom’s values.
It’s about remembering that we’re clothed in Christ – and that we have been since our baptism. It’s about remembering the responsibility that comes with that.
We hear this echoed in Colossians 3. It reads: as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has complaint against another, forgive each other… Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
These “kingdom values” change lives. That’s what scared the religious leaders in Jesus’ time – and it still scares people today because it’s so in opposition to the way the world works.
But to people who are often on the outside, these values offer reassurance that God does include them. And to people who are on the inside – whatever that means – they help them remember what’s truly important.
We sometimes downplay the effect that living our faith has on others. But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness – any of those kingdom values – you know how much it means, and how much of an impact it has.
None of this is to say that God is out killing people because they don’t put on Christ. But to accept the invitation and then not conform our life to the gospel – to not conform to the values of God’s kingdom – leads to weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When we’re not loving God, or not loving our neighbors as ourselves, we feel bound up. We can’t be, or live fully into, who God calls us to be. Who Jesus invites us to be.
The man in the parable accepted the invitation of the gospel but refused to conform his life to it. That’s why he got tossed out of the banquet.
But remember who God is. If the man were willing to put on the robe – to be transformed by the gospel – he’d be able to come back in.
The good news in this parable is that God invites all – the good and the bad – because God is a God of expansive love and radical inclusiveness. And the invitation is extended over and over again because living this way is a process.
We first accept the invitation, then we put on the kingdom values and learn what it means to live them. And then we become servants ourselves and extend the invitation to others and bring them into the feast.
We will find ourselves inviting people we never thought we would – even sitting at the table next to them. Because it’s an invitation to transform our hearts and our world with the values of God. Thanks be to God! Amen.
 Colossians 3:12-14