I have a son who is married, and I have two daughters who are not married. I don’t know if either of them will get married, but if they do, I know I will have to have that conversation about the wedding banquet – like what I might be able to contribute to provide for food and drink and entertainment and for how many people to provide all those things for. I am quite confident that the suggestion of one of my personal favorites of macaroni and cheese with good beef hot dogs will not be accepted with any degree of gratitude. However, even though I hopefully can afford more than that, what we are talking about in a much more important way in today’s Lesson from St. Matthew’s Gospel is A Wedding Banquet That Only God Can Afford. I pray we can see that what God provides – and for how many people he provides it – will lead us to accept his invitation with complete and total gratitude, since God’s banquet will not just make for a time of great fun and enjoyment on earth for all of us as we worship our Lord together, but also an eternity of awesome rejoicing in heaven that is the most important thing that any person on this earth could ever look forward to.
If you were here in person last week or online, you may realize that in many ways this parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22 is an extension of the parable of the tenant farmers in the vineyard which Pastor Free preached about last week from Matthew 21. It’s just that this parable becomes a little more intense, because last week during the last week of his life Jesus made it clear to his Jewish leader enemies that they deserved to come to a wretched end for how they treated the prophets who spoke about Jesus and for how they were now treating the Son of God himself. Today Jesus actually talks about that wretched end – destroying those murderers, burning their city, and throwing people outside into eternal darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. In other words, while the Lord is loving and patient and wants every single person in the world to come to faith in the forgiving love of Jesus, there is a time when that patience will come to an end. And that, indeed, is a warning for this world and for every single one of us. That’s what makes this banquet that only God can afford to give a banquet that we in no way can afford to miss.
That’s why it so important for us – and for all people — to reply to the God’s invitation. This is where it might be helpful to make a distinction. There are many people who don’t know about Jesus, people who may truly have no understanding of what people who believe in Jesus believe about Jesus, people we so dearly want to get the invitation to. But there are also many other people who don’t believe in Jesus, but who do know at least the concept of Jesus very, very well. They understand there are a millions and millions of people in the world who by their profession, at least, say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who rose from the dead after dying on a cross to remove the guilt of every sin committed by every sinner.
Many know that concept, but for many reasons they don’t believe it’s true, or they don’t believe they need it, or they don’t believe it is important enough or worth their time enough to really worry about it all that much. They are like the ones in the parable who received invitations to come to the king’s wedding banquet for his son, but whose reply was to simply say no or to pay no attention to it or to feel their daily business or their jobs were more important than the business of knowing what was going to happen after they died. Some of those many people are so against the message – the message that the sinful people we all are need the sinless Savior that Christ is — that they even do the kinds of things Jesus talks about here, when he says that some of those invited to the banquet seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. There is nothing new about that, and there is nothing that will keep that kind of persecution from happening in the future. It is one of the many things that shows how demonic the prince of demons is – the devil who seeks to devour as many people as he can by leading them not to care about – or not to care enough about — the wedding banquet that only God can afford to give.
But the devil’s diabolicalness even goes beyond that. Even for people who are among those who profess faith in Christianity, even for us in this wonderful congregation, there is the constant temptation to be like the man in the parable who did not want to wear the wedding clothes which the giver of the banquet provided. He thought he could get in on his own terms, perhaps thinking that just being there at the banquet – just being a church member — just saying he was a Christian without being a believer in Christ – perhaps thinking that all that was good enough, without realizing or wanting to realize that the only way you can stay among the people of God is to be a person of God.
And how does a person become that and stay that – a person of God? Well, we just sang about it: “Jesus your blood and righteousness, my beauty are, my glorious dress.” The wedding garment that allows us to eat at God’s wedding banquet is Jesus himself. The wedding garment is the blood he shed to pay for my sin. The wedding garment is the holiness he accomplished to take the place of my not being holy on any day of my life. The reason the wedding banquet is a banquet that only God can afford to give is because only Jesus Christ has the spiritual wealth to provide the payment price of an innocent death and a perfect life for every single person of the world, including you and me. That is why the wedding banquet that only God can afford to give and the wedding banquet that we can’t afford to miss is something that by continuing to cling to the Christ we never have to worry about missing. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we never have to be afraid that we will thrown outside the banquet hall, no matter how weak or uncertain we may sometimes feel.
That is why the king who gave the banquet kept giving out the invitations to everyone his servants could reach. He wanted people to enjoy his oxen and his fattened cattle – the best he had to offer. Yes, that is why our Lord keeps giving invitations to us to keep coming to his banquet, since he knows how weak and uncertain we can often feel, and to keep inviting others who without it will waste away. He wants us – and he wants them — to enjoy the best he has to offer – his one and only holy, sinless Son.
And that is also why God keeps reminding us there is nothing we need to do to get the banquet ready. “Everything is ready,” the king said, “Come to the wedding banquet.” The Bible message is ready. You don’t have to make anything up to say what God has said or to figure out some secret code to understand it. Your baptism is ready. You don’t have to worry that your daily sins have removed its eternal power. All of us who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ, God says. In the midst of all kinds of change, that doesn’t change. We are wearing our baptism every single day. Your Lord’s Supper is ready. You don’t have to worry about needing to intellectually determine how Christ’s body and blood are present with some bread and wine, or how this sacrament can possibly give you the forgiveness of sins which Jesus promises it does. Just keep remembering what God promises it does. “Take eat; take drink… This is my body, this is my blood, given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Hearing the Word, remembering your baptism, partaking of the Lord’s Supper. That is replying to the wedding invitation of the King. That is wearing the right clothes provided by the King. That is realizing that we bring nothing to the banquet table, because this is a banquet, whose even tiniest morsels, only our loving holy God can afford to provide.
Macaroni and cheese and good beef hot dogs may or may not sound appetizing to you or worthy of a joyful banquet, but what has to sound absolutely wonderful to all of us is a God so loving and so faithful and so determined to keep reminding us that there is no better food that could possibly be given us than the food that fills our souls with the promise that through the priceless life and death of Jesus Christ we are wearing the clothes that mean by faith in Jesus we are already at the wedding banquet right now – a banquet that will just get all that much better – yes, all that perfectly much better — on that day when it will no longer be by faith and we actually get to see Jesus sitting at the table with us. Thankfully cost was no object to God at all when it came to letting us look forward to something we could never dream of affording on our own. And thank God that by clinging to the priceless blood of Jesus there is no need for us to ever have to worry about missing out on the wedding banquet we can’t afford to miss. Let’s do whatever we can to invite some more, so they won’t miss out, either. Amen.