Ps. 23; Isa. 25:6-9; Phil. 4:4-13; Mt. 22:1-14; Introit: Isa. 61:10.
Garments, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (v. 10).
Our Introit is Israel’s response to “the year of the Lord’s favor” proclaimed by Jesus in Nazareth (Isa. 61:2a; Lk. 4:19). Instead Jesus’ hometown synagogue drove him away to a cliff over-looking the city’s garbage and dumb him over (vv. 28, 29). These responses so contrast giving pause to consider Israel’s true identity.
Today, Jesus teaches in Jerusalem’s temple; the High Priests and elders had determined to kill him (Jn. 11:53; Mt. 21:46). Jesus’ final lesson, the Wedding Feast parable, to his would-be murderers, warns of rejecting God’s invitation in his time of Jubilee.
The Wedding parable speaks of two kingdoms; God’s kingdom that invites receiving Jesus’ kingdom of heaven. In his kingdom, Jesus judges which guests are “worthily” attired of his festival.
Both kingdoms make the same point; the Father’s wrath toward old Israel rejecting his invitation to his Son’s wedding, “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city” (22:7). By God’s decree Israel at the hands of Rome in 70 AD., its temple, cultus, and nation status, ceased.
Earlier Jesus’ taught about his kingdom in “Field” parables, his word sown to produce grain for gathering into one loaf. After Jesus cleansed the temple of sacrificial animals, the outraged chief priests and elders demanded he explain his authority. In these last hours Jesus’ cross and death were manifest imminent.
Now Jesus would respond to enemies by “Vineyard” parables (Mt. 21:28-45; see 20:1-16 introducing); concluded by today’s Wedding Feast parable (22:1-14).
These Vineyard parables urge Israel and its religious establishment to put-on garments of gladness at the Son’s coming into his kingdom; warning those without joy at what God was doing for his people, that their outcome would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 13).
Jesus shortly, would institute his Holy Supper, the church’s present reality of his kingdom; foretaste of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, “On [Zion] the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine… And… he will swallow up death forever; and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away…” Of Jesus’ reign, Isaiah exhorts, “Behold, this is our God in Whom we hoped, let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isa. 25:6-9).
In the Wedding parable; the Lord in the NT comes upon a man without celebratory robes, betokening the King’s and his bride’s unmerited righteousness (61:10). We have seen these persons in the “visible church”: “weeds along-side wheat”; “bad and good fish” in the dragnet of her preaching; and those offended by God equality, inviting bad and good, Jew and Gentile, and early and late arrivals (Mt. 22:10).
Jesus is judge, receiving his joyous attendee and casting out those “unworthy” of his nuptials. In the NT these are the same as the Father who judged Israel for shaming his Son. Jesus explains, “[T]he Son… [does] only what he sees the Father doing” (Jn. 10:19b).
The shaming of God in his Vineyard is by degrees: a) despising the Son’s salvation by grace through faith; b) having other desires than God above all else; or worse, c) yawning ambivalence toward so great a salvation in Christ.
High Priests and Pharisees hated Jesus with authority inherent in Sonship, “[W]hen the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’” (Mt. 21:38).
Some reject God’s wedding invitation, preferring the blandishments of worldly affairs, “[The invitees] paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business…” (22:5a).
But most insulting, condescending, and unkind of the Lord’s nuptial are from those possessed of ennui toward unmerited salvation by grace alone. These are described as, “the rest [who] seized [God’s] servants [bearers of the apostolic invitation], treated them shamefully, and killed them.” (v. 6).
Pastors are sent into Jesus’ kingdom for delivery of word and sacraments, revealing and sustaining the Father’s love. Today’s parable suggests that “worthiness” for attending the Wedding Feast is receiving the things of heaven in anticipation and joy.
One must prayerfully examine the myriad of reasons that avoids the joy of congregational life; some legitimate; on the other hand do we sometimes the rebuff the kingdom for ambivalence toward so great a salvation? The baptismal life is not static; it daily challenges!
Christian freedom permits exercising a desirous heart for the gospel’s hospitality and fellowship. In this communal desire the church experiences her essential dignity; love and union with the Lord.
From the world’s perspective the church appears the least of associations; still she is not merely a human collective; her identity and beauty is in the Name of her Betrothed, married into God’s character and love.
Christ does not pursue his bride on account of her own beauty; rather he searches out hidden, unlovely, abandoned, and dirt covered men and women to bestow his righteousness.
In the Garden, Adam and Eve willfully partook of forbidden fruit. Several things resulted: no doubt they soiled themselves from ingestion, loathsome in sight and smell.
To hide the shame, they sought covering; from a plant leaf. Their once “free will” was now captive to sin, what Luther called, “The Bondage of The Will”. Instead of a lovely covering, we inherit a “veil… of death” (Isa. 25:7, 8a).
God graciously came, with a better garment; flesh from a blooded animal for life (“psuche”), prophetic of Life (“zoe”) in the flesh and blood life of the man Jesus Christ.
The righteousness of Christ’s death is “bride price”; gift bestowed on his church, making her “lovely” (Phil. 4:8e). So adorned Jesus presents her to the Father, his desired bride “without spot or wrinkle… holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).
Baptism instantiates into us the righteousness of our King reflected in our wedding apparel; exulting with Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Amen.