Text: Matthew 22:1-14
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My father-in-law is extremely blessed. A wonderful wife and 5 children who are all strong believers and followers of Christ. His children all found wonderful spouses if I do say so myself. All are raising their families in the fear and love of the Lord. He’s blessed. But there is one thing that I don’t envy about my father-in-law. All 5 of those children, 1 boy and 4 girls, all got married within a span of 3 and half years. And the weddings of all 4 girls were in a 36-month time frame. None of them were over the top weddings like some we hear about today. But still, it was a major commitment of time and resources. Having 4 girls myself, I wonder how I’ll handle that situation should it play out the same way for us.
I’m reminded of Steve Martin’s character in Father of the Bride. He does everything he can to cut the cost of his daughter’s upcoming wedding. He tries on the old tuxedo he outgrew long ago. He offers to be the chef at a backyard barbecue reception and tries to slash the guest list down to the bare minimum. And even uses his elementary school aged son as a valet parking attendant. Unlike that father of the bride, the king in Jesus’ parable sends out invitations for the wedding of his son and he has no plans to spare any expense. No one is crossed off the list. This is a banquet that no one would want to miss. He says,
“COME TO THE FEAST! YOU’RE INVITED!”
The wedding feast is ready, but the question is, “Are we?” For modern weddings, we send out save the date notices. This king did the same. He alerted everyone to the big event that was coming up. The date is set, the wedding hall has been made ready, and the food is prepared. It’s going to be an over-the-top affair. It’s a royal wedding after all. The servants are sent out to deliver the news that everything is ready. But many who were invited aren’t. All the work has been done, but no one comes. And you can sense the king’s frustration at the downright rude reception that his invitation receives. This must be the way modern parents feel when they send out wedding invitations and guests don’t even show the courtesy to at least RSVP. So, the servants are sent out again, but no one pays attention to them.
Whatever ready looks like, these invited guests are certainly not it. One went off to his farm and another to his business. With their actions they say, “We’re too busy. We’ve got to work.” Sound familiar? Today our excuses might sound a little more sophisticated, but it all comes down to the same thing. “Too busy.” But with what? Busy with what the world deems important. Busy with what we’d rather be doing. Too busy to enjoy the invitation to the most lavish feast that’s ever been prepared. A Christian woman once wrote a letter to a family she was acquainted with and in the letter she mentioned some of the activities she was involved with at church. In the letter of response, the family said, “Going to church is not one of our hobbies.” Those who don’t understand the joy of being a part of a church family, the celebration and feast that occurs every time we gather, can view involvement as just another hobby among all the others we’re involved in. And one among many can make us indifferent to the gracious invitation we have to celebrate with the King of Kings.
But some of the guests in the parable weren’t just indifferent, they were indignant and outright hostile toward the invitation and those who delivered it. The text tells us they, “seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.” And the king does what you’d expect him to do. He responds harshly and swiftly to those who have outright disdain for his gracious invitation. But then he does something utterly unexpected. He’s got a wedding feast prepared after all, so the invitation goes out again. This time to everyone. And this time the hall is filled with guests, as many as the king’s servants could find. And the king does everything he can to see that all of them, both good and bad as the parable states, are ready.
In ancient Israel it was commonplace for there to be special attire required to attend a wedding. But those wedding garments would have been supplied by the host. The king would have been prepared to supply for every guest what they needed to be ready for the feast he had prepared. Even so, as he looks out over the assembled group, he notices that not everyone is ready. In the midst of this lavish feast and royal celebration, there’s one who’s not dressed for the occasion. When confronted with the fact that he’s refused the clothing the king has offered him, the man has no explanation for his actions. “He was speechless.” Many were called. In fact, all were called. But this one was not ready. Which begs the question of us, the hearers of this parable, “Are we ready for the wedding feast?”
God is the King, and He invites everyone to the marriage feast of His Son, Jesus Christ. And it’s His death on the cross that earned a seat at the feast for every person who’s ever lived. God’s Word is clear when it tells us throughout the whole story of salvation that Jesus has won heaven for you! You’re invited to the feast! Still, there are many who will ignore the invitiation. “Too busy,” they’ll say. Of course, our daily work, and whatever else we’re involved in, are not bad on their own. But it becomes and an issue when anything else is chosen over and above the wedding feast of God’s Son. We pray that in the end too busy to accept the invitation is not what defines us and our future.
Others will accept God’s invitation, but only one their own terms, not the Host’s. They plan to clothe themselves in their own deeds, their own fervent prayers, their good name, or whatever else they believe will earn their place at the table. And when asked why they’re not clothed in the robe of righteousness won for them by Christ on the cross, they’ll have nothing to say. They too will be speechless. But in His grace and mercy, the king extends the invitation, filling His hall with rejoicing. In Baptism, He provides the garments of righteousness we wear into eternity. With this in mind, we can boldly say that yes, we are ready for the feast.
And a feast it is. And a feast it will be. As someone who values a great meal, it’s been fun to explore all the possibilities Naomi and I have to really have a feast when we’re away tonight. It doesn’t happen often, so we’re looking forward to it. In our fast-food age, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate the full meaning of a feast, where participants take time to enjoy exquisite food and drink. Just looking through the Door County Dining Guide has been a fun activity of imagining what we might enjoy and it reminded me of a film I was introduced to in seminary. It’s a 1987 Danish movie called Babette’s Feast. And in it, two women, Martina and Philippa, named after the reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, are now elderly, leading simple lives, having foregone the romance and adventure of their youth. Babette is a former five-star chef from Paris who has served these women as a cook and housekeeper for fourteen years. She’s long since given in to their simple lifestyle, allowing them to teach her how to make the bland fish soup they’d eat nearly every day. But Babette changes their lives forever when she uses her winnings from a contest to prepare an amazing French feast for the sisters and the leaders of their religious community. What happens as a result is remarkable. Feasting and generosity actually transform lives as Babette gives thanks for all God’s gracious gifts of creation by sacrificing all she had so that this community could rejoice at this feast of finest food and drink.
The banquet to which God invites you includes the best of meats and the finest of wines and it has that kind of life-changing power for you. Both in the here and now, and for all eternity. Whenever we have the opportunity to gather, you’re invited to our Lord’s Table, to receive the life giving and life changing body and blood of Christ. And if this feast weren’t enough, you’re promised the marriage feast of the Lamb in heaven. You’re invited! Given a special invitation by the Host Himself, who also ensures that you’re ready. And this feast has no cost to you. The price has already been paid. Simply put on the robe of righteousness Christ won for you. And come to the feast. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.