Dressed For The Feast

St. Matthew 22:1-14

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 22:11  “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  How can the Kingdom of God be like a king who sends soldiers to destroy and burn?  How can the kingdom of God be like a king who throws a man into the outer darkness because he has no wedding garment on?  How can the kingdom of heaven at the same time be like a wedding reception?  How can the kingdom of God be a place of joy when misery is described!?  How can such punishment be a part of God’s kingdom when such joy is to be found there?

Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Garment reminds us that those who reject God’s invitation of salvation and those who come without being dressed properly will be cast away from the Lord, for He has no use for those who despise Him and His grace.  On the other hand, there is the beautiful and majestic picture that Isaiah gives us: that the Lord invites us to come and to feast.  He invites those who have sinned and turned away to cling to Him and return to Him in repentance and know that their sins have been forgiven.

Or to put it another way: for those who don’t think they are sinners and have no use for the Lord’s gracious feast of salvation, there is nothing but despair and death and eternal punishment.  But those who are sinners, those who cannot save themselves, those who have no hope of earning such an invitation, they are brought into Christ’s kingdom and made a part of this eternal celebration.

The King sends His servants out to tell people: “The feast is prepared!”  Those servants who have gone out are the holy prophets of the Old Testament who continually called God’s people to repentance and faith in His promises.  They are also the preachers who call us to repentance and faith.  The feast that is prepared is the feast of salvation.  Jesus is the lamb, the fattened calf that is slaughtered for our celebration.  It is the feast prepared the day our Lord gave His life into death on the cross for the sins of the world.  The Wedding Feast of God’s Son is the feast of salvation given on the day that our Lord meets with His Bride, the Church.  It is the banquet in which the Son of God is main course, who gives us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink.  It is this feast of which we have a foretaste in the Holy Supper of our Lord.

Folks, you are invited. You have been brought to the feast; you have been invited to Christ’s kingdom and church.  He has invited you, the good and the bad, all who are sinners and unworthy to be here.  We don’t have to earn our place.  We don’t have to get the right religion or the right piety or some kind of special holiness.  All is prepared by the Lord Himself.  He offers His Son as the sacrifice.  His Son gives Himself as the main course.

And yet the Son is also the Bridegroom for whom the Feast is given.  You don’t have to cook or clean or get your life straightened out in order to be in attendance at this feast.  The Lord has brought you here to celebrate with Him the marriage feast of His Son, your Savior.

But hear the Lord’s warning.  Some people despised that invitation; some just ignored the call of “Supper’s ready.”   And some slapped the messengers around and then killed them.  So the King will show them!  He will muster his army and march them off to kill those murderers and burn their city!

There is a prophecy being made by Jesus here.  For centuries, the Lord sent His prophets to remind His people that their Savior was coming and to turn from following their false gods.  But when that time finally came, rather than welcoming their Savior, they crucified Him.  And even when He had been raised from the dead, those people still persecuted and killed the apostles who preached Christ.

What was the result of their rejection?  In the year AD 70, the Romans came and wiped Jerusalem off the map.  Oh, it’s there today, but can there be any greater insult to the Jewish people than that a Muslim mosque sits where their temple used to be?  This is a warning, dear Christians, of what happens to those whom the Lord graciously invites but despise His invitation and want nothing to do with Him.

So the Lord sends the invitation to the whole world.  Christ’s apostles carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  Now everyone is dragged to the wedding reception.  Everyone, whether bad or good, is brought into the Lord’s church.  The Gospel is preached around the world.  YOU have been brought to the Son’s wedding feast.

Now, it was tradition for the father of the groom, who was hosting the wedding, to provide everyone with a special robe to wear during the wedding feast.  That garment marked you as one who was truly invited to the feast (and not a “wedding crasher!”) and who had received an invitation.

You, brothers and sisters in Christ, have been brought to Christ’s wedding feast.  In the waters of Holy Baptism, you have been given the wedding garment.  You have been, as St. Paul says, “clothed with Christ” (Gal. 3:27).  To be baptized is to be covered with Jesus.  And it’s only that robe of Christ’s righteousness that allows you to show up for the wedding feast as an invited guest!

In this feast, what do you get?  You have the never-ending banquet of Jesus’ body and blood.  You have the wedding toast raised to sins forgiven, to which we shout not, “Here, here!” but “Amen!”  Here, in the church, you have Isaiah’s invitation to come buy and eat without money!

Wouldn’t you love to go to King Soopers or Sprouts and come out with two or three carts full of groceries for FREE?  But that is exactly what our Lord gives us in His church: forgiveness of sins, life and salvation for FREE!  You don’t have to earn it.  You don’t have to pay for it.  There aren’t any strings attached.  There aren’t any conditions.  There aren’t any qualifications.  He has accomplished your salvation on Calvary.  He brings you into His church to receive and enjoy His salvation.  He prepares you for the Last Day when the final and eternal Wedding Feast begins.  There’s nothing for you to do but live in it, enjoy it, receive it, revel in it, rejoice in it!

When we are baptized, we are brought into the Lord’s kingdom and given a wedding garment.  But here was a man at the wedding who wasn’t wearing one.  Why not?  We are not told; I guess he took it off.  There’s no reason he shouldn’t have had one on.  But he didn’t.  And when the King asks why he doesn’t have one, he has no answer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ: the Lord gives us everything!  Only in our sinfulness would we cast off our wedding garments and say, “No thanks, I don’t want to be dressed with Jesus!”  Here is our repentance: In our stubborn sinfulness we would much rather hang onto it and deny it or try to take care of it ourselves.

Who is the one without a wedding garment on the Last Day?  It’s anyone who says to Jesus, “No thank you, I don’t want my baptism.  I’m not a sinner.  I’m fine.  Don’t need YOUR wedding garment.”  The church is full of people who have been brought in but they refuse to wear their wedding garment.  They want to be members of the church

but they don’t want to learn God’s Word, receive the Sacrament often, confess their sins and trust in Jesus.  On the Last Day, the Lord will ask them about all this, and they will have nothing to say.  They will have no words to use.  They will have no confession to make.

That is our repentance, brothers and sisters.  Here is a warning from Jesus NOT to toss off the wedding garment that we have been given.  Here is a warning from Jesus that what damns us is not our sins but that they aren’t covered by Him!  You already have the clothes!  The wedding garment is already yours!  Don’t ever take it off and throw it away!  Rather rejoice to stand before your heavenly Father dressed to the nines in the robe of Jesus!  His feast.  His robe.  It’s all yours!

So come to the feast!  Everything is ready!  The Lord has it all prepared.  Come and eat and drink without cost!  Come and receive Jesus and the forgiveness of sins!  Come and celebrate that we are the Bride of Christ.  And come and receive all this with no strings attached.  It’s already yours!  You’ve been given the invitation.  You’ve been brought to the Wedding Feast of Christ!  Rejoice!  The King wants you here!  After all, you are the very Bride that His Son has taken for Himself!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.