Do you like to go to weddings? You may go to some next year or even this year yet, or you may not. But you like to go. You like to get all dressed up. You love the meal and the dancing and music, the conversation and being with family and friends. You hopefully even enjoy the Service that comes before it; that really is the most important part.
Today’s Gospel speaks of a wedding. But it isn’t just any wedding, and it isn’t the nicest story. It’s not the storybook wedding young girls dream of. A king’s son is getting married and he invites everybody. So far so good! But then nobody comes! That’s the stuff nightmares are made of. It never happens. It’s inconceivable. But that’s exactly what happened with this wedding at first. All the invited guests had to be replaced.
We are now learning about the struggle we Christians have with Satan, who wants us to not dine with Christ. Our Lord preached today’s Gospel on Holy Tuesday. St. Matthew tells us the leaders of the Jews rudely asked Him how He had any authority to teach the people. They were mad because His Word did not agree with their teaching; they wanted Him to conform Himself to their desires. He refused to play their game. He silenced them because they refused to answer where St. John the Baptist got His authority to teach. John had gotten it from Christ his God, the One they were now challenging – and they knew they couldn’t admit it.
He then preached to those men 3 parables. In the first one He told of a man with 2 sons. The first one said he wouldn’t work but then did, whereas the second son said he would work but then didn’t. He told them they were the second son and the ones they considered filth were the first son, Those people were repenting of their sins and trusted in God for forgiveness, but they rejected the Messiah.
Then He told them the parable of the tenants. God the Father gave His people Israel a vineyard to tend. But the leaders of the people killed His prophets. Finally He sent His Son, but they crucified Him outside the camp. They wanted the vineyard to be theirs forever. They wanted to be their own gods. And He even forced those men to confess what God was going to do to them: put them to a miserable end and give the vineyard to the Gentiles, for they would produce the fruits of repentance.
Then comes today’s parable. A king invited lots of people to his son’s wedding feast. He gave them lots of time to get ready to show up. But when he sent out the summons to them that it was time, everything was ready, they refused. Some just wouldn’t come, while others beat them up and even killed them. So the king destroyed them and sent his servants out everywhere to bring people in to fill up his feast.
Jesus is retelling the previous parable. This time He may have been preaching to the crowds, but the message is the same. The marriage feast is given by no ordinary dad, not even the Roman Caesar. The father of the groom is God the Father. The Son is Christ Jesus Himself. The feast is prepared because He offered Himself up on The Cross for our salvation. The feast is here: where you hear His Word and receive His Sacrament. It is preparing you for the eternal feast in heaven on that day when He returns to judge the quick and the dead. But the invited people rejected it. The leaders of the Jews imprisoned the Apostles and even killed Christians. So did Rome. But the armies of the same Rome were sent by God to destroy Jerusalem.
So God sent His servants the Apostles out to preach the Gospel wherever they went, in every land. Eventually the apostolic doctrine came to you. You have been brought to the wedding feast of The Lamb. Baptized into His Name most holy, you have heard His call and come to eat with God. The Holy Spirit worked faith in your heart and brought you here. You have come because you recognize that nothing is more important than what happens here. Nothing. Nothing the world has to offer, not work or play, not family or friends, is more important than eternity with Christ our God. That is what you prepare for today. He rose from the dead on a Sunday, so you prepare every Sunday to rise from the dead too.
The king walked into his banquet. He wanted to see everyone. He wanted to observe them, to “people watch.” And he saw something that disturbed him. Somebody wasn’t wearing the right clothes! Grooms put their groomsmen in tuxes and brides put their bridesmaids in fancy dresses. The mothers buy new dresses, and everyone puts on their Sunday best. Nobody better show up in a T-shirt and shorts! In Jesus’ day, all the guests were provided something to wear when they arrived. But the king was sure he saw somebody not dressed right. This guy either refused to put it on or more likely took it off once he was in.
That’s a big problem. If you show up at a wedding underdressed, I might tell you you’re not taking marriage seriously as the holy estate that it is. If you got into a wedding in those days without wearing the prescribed clothing, they’d think you were disrespecting the host and his hospitality. That’s a huge problem in that culture. So of course he got thrown out of the wedding feast! He didn’t deserve to be there!
God gave you wedding clothes to wear. When you were baptized you probably wore a fancy white dress. The historic practice is to only put it on once you are baptized. I suppose that’s where the white robes the youth confirmands wear come from. St. Paul says that those who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. They wear His righteousness. They wear the salvation and forgiveness He won for them when He died. They wear the eternal life He gained for us when He rose. They have been cleansed from all their sins and serve Him with a quiet mind.
So for somebody to take off the wedding garment is a big deal. That’s taking off baptism. That’s rejecting Christ and His forgiveness. It’s saying you don’t want His Blood to get you into heaven. It’s saying, “I want to do it myself” or “I don’t want anything to do with heaven.” It’s saying, “God isn’t important to me, isn’t what I want in my life.” And that’s why he got thrown out of the marriage. He didn’t want to be there. He was given what he wanted: the eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth. And that’s what those who reject Christ’s salvation receive.
In this life we struggle with Satan. He wants us to think other things are more important than Christ. He wants us to cast off the wedding garment of salvation and accept his hellish embrace. Reject Him, with Christ’s help. He has won the victory over the devil. He gives you that victory here. He reinforces it in you. Here you feast on His preached Word and on His Body and Blood. Here you attend the wedding feast of wedding feasts. All the others are supposed to be reflections of this one. This is the one you don’t want to miss. This is the one that leads you to eternity.