COME TO THE FEAST
Talking about heavenly realities to people whose intellect is darkened by sin, is like talking to a wall! So as the end of our Lord's earthly ministry drew ever closer, His teaching became more pointed. Today's parable is an example. It is about a wedding feast, but the parable is shocking! It had to be considering the hard hearts it was designed to penetrate. Everyone who heard the Lord that day understood that to be invited to the Royal Wedding was the honor of a lifetime, and in any event the king's invitation must be respected. But in the Lord's story the king's good graces are snubbed! They are brazenly rejected. It is the highest possible outrage! Now the war is on!
They also understood that the nation of Israel is the invited guest. By pure grace God chose her out of all the nations on earth to be His Bride. He showered grace, knowledge and every blessing upon her, but she spurned Him again and again. Yet He was not put off. Instead, He sent generation after generation of prophets to call her to the wedding feast that He was preparing in the coming Christ, in which Israel would not only be the honored guest, but would be the very bride, but true to form Israel rejected these men as well. She treated them shamefully and in an attempt to silence God, silenced them, some by ridicule, others by apathy and some by the sword. Still the voices would not stop! To each new generation the LORD called with greater clarity as the Great Day drew ever closer.
Finally when the Bridegroom appeared to display His great love for Israel, her rejection became hardened and final. She continued to reject the King's Son and to go about life as if the Light of the World was not now dwelling amongst her. As a result God rejected the Jewish people. He took the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law, the worship and the promises away from them, and from that day forward people would become sons of Abraham, not by circumcision, but by faith in Jesus Christ!
By including this particular parable in his Gospel Matthew explains the situation to the Jewish converts of his day, and at the same time confirms God's ongoing grace towards the Gentiles, who are the riff-raff in the Lord's parable. They, along with the remnant of believing Jews, are given access to the God they never sought, and by pure grace are clothed by Him in the wedding garments of Christ's own righteousness.
Whereas in the Old Testament He called the people of Israel to be His Bride, now He calls all men irrespective of their moral condition be it good or bad. Those who are good need the righteousness of Christ because the world likes them, and says: this is a good man, this is a good woman, people imagine that they are righteous before God. However God does not use the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles" (GAAP) of the world. What man calls good is a candle, but what God calls good is the sun, and the candle's tiny light means nothing in the presence of the sun. Those who are bad also need God's righteousness, they need to be dressed in the wedding garment that is Christ. Sin is not a laughing matter, not for unbelievers or for believers. Hardened sinners don't care what God might say about their behavior, they have tuned Him out, denied His existence or re-imaged Him into something more manageable. Others who have a scant knowledge of holy Scripture might give God's will passing thought, but Christians are ever aware that sin is crouching at their door, and that the satan desires to sift them like wheat and rob them of all joy and peace in Christ, and make them twice the sons of hell. No wonder the Lord commanded us to pray: deliver us from evil.
The only item remaining to understand the parable is the necessity of the wedding garment. Clothed in it we are made pure and holy. We are fortified and sanctified. All imperfection which sin stirs in our bodies, minds, souls, spirits, thoughts, words, deeds, desires and intentions, are all rectified by Jesus! In Christ we become invincible and immortal, just like the Lord who gained all these things for us by His death and resurrection. St. Paul writes, "for as many as have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ." Nothing on earth is more desirable or ennobling than that.
On the other hand, everyone who rejects this Christ, His church, His Word, His Gospel, His sacraments, prayers, creeds, people and customs is likewise rejected from the wedding feast. He is thrown into outer darkness, and is doomed to an eternity of weeping and gnashing of teeth. For the Christian weeping endures but only for a night, joy always comes in the morning. For the one who doesn't believe, the tears never cease. Gnashing of teeth indicates horrendous pain, only there is no bullet to bite, or rye-whiskey to dull the pain in the "outer darkness" of hell.
Does such a description make you afraid? It should, because even though we are members of the household of faith we still have a Sinful Nature. It is utterly foolish, it has no desire to know or understand God or His Word or His Ways. It wants to learn nothing except what might put money in its pocket, or a tingle up its spine. It lives for wine and song, but not the Lord's holy wine, or the Lord's holy Feast celebrated within these four walls every Sunday. The message of the Lord's parable, directed to saint and sinner alike is this: Repent! Change your mind. Turn from your sins. Confess them. Leave them behind at the altar and receive the Wedding Garment of absolution, a clean slate, a new life and a new beginning from Him whose mercies are new each day.
Come to the Feast. The sacrifice is complete, Jesus was given for your sins on the cross. He died, and was buried, and raised again to life on the third day, never to die again.
Come to the Feast! Hear the glad tidings which are sung, spoken, confessed, preached and prayed in the church on the firstborn on the first Day of the New Creation.
Come to the Feast! Come to the altar! Not to give your heart to Jesus, as people like to say, but so that in Holy Communion Jesus, the resurrected, ascended and returning Lord, might give His heart to You. For you are His holy Bride who by virtue of His Perfect Sacrifice are now without spot, wrinkle or blemish.
Come to the Feast! He is the holy and perfect Husband who will never hurt you, harm you, reject or grieve you, but rather the One who will wipe every tear from your eye, every care from your heart, and will love you with Perfect Love. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras