There is so much that we are not allowed to do at the moment to enrich our lives. The pandemic stops us sharing coffee, sitting near each other, tasting the wine from our common cup, singing and most of all partying.
All these things, plus dancing take place at wedding banquets.
Today’s’ parable of the wedding feast reminds us that our heavenly Father invites us to a joyful celebration, a banquet, a wedding reception where he lays on the best of everything for his guests.
Wedding receptions are celebrations of God’ goodness, of his great love, of the family we are meant to be and of community. Two families are brought together and made one through the marriage of the bride and groom.
Jesus continues speaking to the chief priests and Pharisees, but the imagery he uses moves from the comparison of the Kingdom of Heaven with a vineyard to the imagery of feasting.
Again, the imagery is familiar in the Old Testament. We meet it in Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” and primarily in the passage we have just read, Isaiah 25 which begins with a communal hymn of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance from tyrants continues with a description of a universal banquet hosted by God “on this mountain,” on Mount Zion, where the temple stood. God is faithful and steadfast. He will deliver his people from the tyrant, Babylon, just as he will deliver us from the pandemic. He is a refuge for the poor and needy, just as he is the one we run to now in our time of need.
In the previous chapter, Isaiah 24, God was seen inaugurating divine reign on Mount Zion, attended by elders who saw God’s glory. Seventy elders were invited with Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons to see the God of Israel on Mount Sinai, and to eat and drink in God’s presence, just before the stone tablets containing the commandments were given to Moses.
Jesus, the bridegroom, who invites us into a marriage relationship with himself, invites us to feast with him on Mount Zion where God prepares this banquet not only for the leaders, or for the chosen people, but for “all peoples” and “all nations.”
Here it is God who plans and serves the menu, described as very rich food and wine.
Mourning clothes are no longer needed, since the people are comforted. As they eat, God victoriously “swallows” both the shrouds and death itself and wipes tears from all faces.
Jesus always invites his enemies as well as his friends to feast with him. In his last supper he invited Judas knowing he was going to betray him.
The chief priests and Pharisees were welcome even though they had been trying to engineer his death for a long time.
There is continuity between this parable and last week’s story of the wicked tenants. In both slaves are sent out, in the one to collect the harvest and in the parable of the wedding feast to call those invited to the banquet.
Even though the father of the groom, the King, had prepared the best calves and got the meal ready, his guests did not come.
Being invited to a wedding feast is a privilege. The parents of the happy couple spend a lot of money and take long time preparing. The feasting went on for a week during a Middle Eastern wedding and gallons of wine would be drunk
The invited guests however make light of the invitation. Their responses are rude, making light of all the King has done for them.
They did what a lot of us do when invited to feast on Christ through having a living relationship with him.
Instead of enjoying what is best and good, they went away, one to his farm and another to his business while the rest maltreated and killed the slaves.
They either ignored the invitation or angrily responded with violence.
The majority of people are thankfully non violent. In this country, except for the new atheists, most people just ignore and give the church a wide berth. In much of the world today however, Christians are persecuted and killed, especially if they give God’ invitation to others and invite them to become Christians.
Understandably the King was enraged and sent out troops to destroy the murderers and burn their city.
This is strange. These people are the King’s citizens so presumably he is destroying his own city.
The chief priests and Pharisees did not accept God’s invitation, the King’s Son was crucified and Jerusalem, the city of the great King as it is called in the psalms was soon to be destroyed.
Strangely, the King sent out his slaves again, while the city burnt, this time to invite anyone they could find who would come.
They invited all, good and bad so that the wedding hall was full of guests.
God is not a respecter of persons. All, every race, gender and class of people are invited, Jew and Gentile alike.
It is of great importance, however that we respond to the invitation. Our salvation and deliverance depends on it.
Since our heavenly Father and King invites us to a party, our worship should be times of rejoicing and enjoying his presence. Post pandemic let’s enjoy, music, dance and feasting more often together as we celebrate who we are in Christ.
The party in the story was in full swing when the King arrived. He notices a man who wasn’t wearing the right robe. The guests had been plucked off the streets so they wouldn’t have had a chance to find one. Their robes would have been provided by the host, a common practice in Middle Eastern weddings.
The robe may refer to the robe of righteousness we are given when we repent of our sins and come to Christ, the robe placed upon us by our heavenly father which compare with the royal robe placed on the prodigal son when he returned to his father’s love.
This guest was clearly not joining in with the rest of the guests so he is bound, and thrown out into outer darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The only way of entering the wedding celebration is by invitation to celebrate the marriage of the King’s Son. We can only enter the Kingdom of heaven through Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us on the cross.
Isaiah 62 talks about Jerusalem no longer being forsaken and of her land being married to the Lord. The chief priests and elders knew they were set apart to be God’s holy bride but had failed to reflect his glory.
Ephesians 5 tells us that wedding celebrations are a picture of the marriage of Christ to his church and Revelation 19 reminds us that we will, one day, enjoy the marriage feast of the lamb who was slain for us in heaven. Jesus showed his love for us by dying on the cross so that our sin could be covered by his love.
Through our hospitality and worship of God today we reflect the feast we will one day enjoy.
One day soon our worship will look more like a celebration. Until then let us accept God’s invitation of love to become united with his Son and rejoice with the angels in heaven within our hearts.