10/11/20 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 22: 1-14

There are many misconceptions about Eternal Life. Mainly, what will it be like? What will we see, what will we do. What will it mean to be in God’s presence forever? I suppose some of the confusion comes from ourselves, because we all have different ideas of what we think paradise ought to be like like. 

I remember when I was in Sunday School, we had this very discussion. A girl in my class imagined out loud that Eternal would be full of flowers and cute animals. It was what you might expect an elementary girl to say. I remember thinking that, as an elementary boy, her description of eternal life sounded quite boring and lame. I can specifically remember thinking, that to me, that it would be a place where I could play Mario Kart on Nintendo 64 all the time, with no time limits or chores or bedtimes.

So often we talk about eternal life in terms of our own imagination and desire, and since our desires are naturally corrupted by sin, no wonder there is so much confusion. As sinners, we naturally desire heaven to fulfill our greatest wants, regardless if God is even in the picture.

If we, the Church, would just read God’s word on the subject, we would receive clear answers. We did earlier in our readings. Now, the scriptures give some various images, sometimes it describes  a new Eternal Holy City of Jerusalem, other times a new Garden of Eden. But common throughout the scriptures is that eternal life will be a celebration feast.

Hear again from Isaiah 25 regarding Eternal Life:

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

In eternity, all of God’s people are invited up to his Holy Mountain, no longer can only Moses or select priest enter into God’s presence. We’re all invited to dwell with our God, and he will provide us with the finest food and drink. 

Now, keep in mind, we live in a time of prosperity. We take food for granted, more often than not we can and do overeat. Hunger still exists today, but very few of us really know it. 

It would have been very different in Jesus’ time regarding what the common person could afford to eat and drink. Specifically, the Jews dedicated much of their livestock to sacrifice, especially the choicest and tastiest portions. To participate in a feast was a big deal. 

Even for us today, there’s a difference between filling up on a fast food, and enjoying a finely cooked dinner. Last night, Kati’s parents took us out to the Revery Restaurant here in Greenwood to celebrate her birthday. It was an awesome meal, a reminder that as much as I love to cook at home, there’s a big difference between my skills and that of a professional chef. A fine meal with family and friends brings great joy to our hearts. Everything else in the world melts away, and there is only the joy of that intimate occasion.

This is how eternal life is described to us. A celebration feast, and it’s of the greatest kind of celebration. What are we celebrating? The text tells us:

7 [And] He will swallow up on this mountain

    the covering that is cast over all peoples,

    the veil that is spread over all nations.

8     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 from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.

Eternal life means no more death. It is defeated, because our Lord Jesus has come. He is the groom who has come to redeem us, his Church, to be his bride. He has paid the price to redeem, he faced death on our behalf. Jesus swallowed up death. They pounded nails into his limbs, they pierced his side, and he was laid into the mouth of a tomb. But death did not consume our Lord. And because Jesus swallowed up death, he promises that whatever tomb or grave we are laid in, we too will rise out of it to attend this feast. 


Now just days before Jesus would face this death, which would give us all a ticket to the eternal feast, he was challenged by the Pharisees. What authority did he have to speak and teach like he did? And so he told them many parables based on the Old Testament to prove his authority. We heard the parable he gave of the Wedding Feast, an image which speaks to this same feast we heard about from Isaiah. Jesus said: 

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come

This is the same feast described in Isaiah. Only, those who were invited, had no interest in coming. How could you not want to attend the feast celebrating the end of death? But that is exactly what many of the Jews were doing when they rejected Jesus as the Messiah, as the Son that God the Father gave a feast for.

This is really a story of God’s people from the beginning. He offers them salvation, but many reject it. So he sends more servants, more prophets, more messengers to remind them what he has to offer them, but many have no regard for it. In the parable, it said that some who were invited were too busy tending to earthly matters, running their farm, chasing their career,  etc. It’s not hard for us to fill in the blank of how we today can be distracted from what God offers us by earthly matters.

 But some weren’t just too busy to care, some even persecuted God’s messengers who brought the invitations to the feast. The Church and God’s faithful servants have received persecution from the beginning of time, and we can witness it happening today and now.

How does the King in the parable act? He is furious with those who have rejected his invitation. There will be judgement against them, any who have knowingly received the invitation and tossed it aside. This is especially directed at the Pharisees, the religious leaders, and the Jews in general as his chosen people. But it’s a warning that all who receive an invitation should heed.

Many have rejected the invitation, but God doesn’t just cancel the feast out of anger towards those who skip it. The wonderful feast is prepared, and so, he will invite anyone he can to attend, whether they be Jew or Gentile. The king said in the parable. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Our God will have anyone into his feast that would come and enjoy it. Both Good and bad it said! This isn’t about who you are, it is about what is offered to you. The feast celebrating his Son, celebrating his victory over death itself. Who wouldn’t want to attend? It is free for anyone who will simply open their hands and receive it. 

But there is a proper preparation required to attend the feast. You don’t just wear anything to a wedding reception, you ought to dress appropriately to show reverence and respect for the occasion. When some tried to enter the feast in the parable without the proper wedding garment, the king threw them out into the darkness, never to enjoy this feast. Many are called, which is to say, all are called to come attend, but few are chosen and allowed to enter. 


So what is the wedding garment for us Christians today? We might be tempted to say a pure heart, good intentions, works of love, etc. But remember who all were invited: It said all were invited, both bad and good. It is not about who we are, because even those who we might consider to be the best among us are still sinful, selfish, and unworthy to attend of our own merit. 

The wedding garment we need is Christ himself, and specifically, when we are Baptized into Christ. St. Paul says in Galatians 3: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. We put Christ’s righteousness on, and as sinful and dirty as we are inside of ourselves, God sees us as white and clean because of Jesus’ death on our behalf. Similarly, Revelation tells us Blessed are those who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

All are invited to the wedding feast of Eternal life. Everyone, even the worst people we know. But we can only enter through Jesus Christ, there is no other way, truth, or life that will lead us up to God’s Holy Mountain. Rejoice in your Baptism, that you are clothed in Christ and are properly equipped to attend the eternal feast. Until that time, rejoice in the Lord’s Supper: Christ’s Body offered to us as manna that will sustain us through the wilderness of this sinful world. 

As we prayed in Psalm 23 earlier, our Shepherd will lead us through this valley of death, even through the darkest times, until he lays out the feast before us, where we dwell in his house forever.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.