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I don’t know about you but sometimes it gets to me. The never ending war, the disease upon disease, the natural disasters that turn lives upside down in a moment, the suffering, the faithlessness of many, and my own faithlessness. And the people with cancer on our prayer list keeps getting longer.
I know that Jesus warned us that as time goes on, things will go from bad to worse. “Nation against nation, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, a father against his own children and brother against brother…” And false Christs and many led astray…” (Mark 13)
But sometimes it gets to me. What's it all coming to? Where it’s all headed?
But then today, we hear a word that tells us what it’s all coming to. And, I tell you, it’s like a lightening bolt from heaven that shatters the darkness. The shutters are suddenly raised and the curtain is torn open, and the view is clear, and we see our destiny. And we ‘LIFT UP OUR HEARTS.’
“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. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 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 the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”
This is amazing.
• Despite all appearances to the contrary;
• despite the sin that permeates every little nook and cranny of this world and our own life, and the lies and broken promises and disappointment and failure;
the end is glorious. The final future is BRIGHT. There is reason for HOPE. I must PERSERVE. GOD HAS WORKED ALL THINGS FOR GOOD FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.
Today, the Holy Spirit takes us right to that dividing line that marks the END OF THE OLD, and the beginning of THE NEW. And it's just the kind of encouragement we need.
And people of God,
• who have borne their crosses in faith,
• who have lived trusting in what is not seen,
• who have believed contrary to appearances,
• who have hoped when everything seemed utterly hopeless except for the promise of God whose Word never fails,
are overwhelmed with relief and joy.
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Just like was saw last Sunday, once again Jesus picks up right where Isaiah left off 700 years earlier. “And AGAIN, Jesus spoke to them in parables saying …
• There’s a lot of grace in that little word “again.”
“…the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son…” This is the same ‘messianic banquet’ that Isaiah bill-boarded before our eyes.
But there’s a problem here. Isaiah made it very clear that this mountaintop feast is for ALL PEOPLES.
“And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over ALL PEOPLES, the veil that is spread over ALL NATIONS.” There's enough rich food and well aged wine for the whole world to eat and drink – from the first man Adam to the last person on earth.
This is how wide and high and deep the love of God is. This is how ALL-SUFFICIENT the sacrifice of Christ is.
• “For I have no pleasure in the death of ANYONE, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (Ez. 18:23).
• “The Lord is… patient toward you, not wishing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
But not ALL are saved. EVERYONE is not interested in coming. Some are actually put off by the whole thing.
“…He sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME.” It doesn’t make any sense. It's crazy, I know. But there it is. And it’s true. And we know it. And we know it in our own family members and loved ones and friends and co-workers – and ourselves.
“AGAIN, he sent other servants.” There’s a lot of grace in that little word, ‘AGAIN.’
‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner…”
Just think about the preparations that go into a successful wedding banquet. Maybe you know from your own wedding, maybe it was for a son or daughter’s wedding. There’s the hall that must be reserved – WITH A DEPOST. A menu prepared and food ordered – WITH A DEPOSIT. The invitations go out and the number of meals are ordered to match the number of replies. YOUV’E GOT A LOT INVESTED IN THIS THING.
And then the big day comes, and there are ‘NOW SHOWS.’ WHICH YOU’VE PAID FOR ANYWAY. YOU’VE PAID THE PRICE WHETHER THEY SHOWED OR NOT.
And when you see them later you say, ‘where were you?’ And they say, ‘I was busy.’ ‘Something else came up.’ ‘I had to paint the house.’ ‘There was a sale at Kohls.’ ‘My car needed an oil change.’ Which really means, ‘I just wasn’t interested.’ ‘Your joy is not my joy.’
In Jesus’ day, there was no refrigeration. Once the animals were slaughtered and the food prepared, it had to be eaten. So when the steaks were on the grill and the lobsters in the pot, the announcement would go out that ‘THE TIME HAS FULLY COME.’ “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”
But, “they paid no attention.”
The very next day, as He looks down from the Mount of Olives over the city of Jerusalem, it got to Him. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often I would have gathered your children together, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING.” (Mat.23:37)
What does this mean that “they paid no attention…?” And they “were not willing”?
What else could it mean but that were busy with life and the farm and the job, and who knows what else, but it was all more important.
• The call went out, the banquet is ready, ‘come.’ But they were neither hunger nor thirsty for the food and drink being served.
Maybe, they thought that they were doing a pretty good job of balancing “God and Mammon.” But then when it actually came down to the call to leave everything behind and ‘COME TO ME,’ they realized that lord Mammon had more control over their lives than they thought and they just couldn’t let go.
But of course, this is not really about wedding receptions and banquets. This is about the Kingdom of Heaven, where the King is God the Father and His Son is Jesus Christ and YOU ARE THE BRIDE OF CHRIST.
• And He has laid down His life for you.
• He paid the full price for your redemption.
• He spent it all on you because He wants you.
“But they paid no attention.”
But for others, the reaction is the opposite of apathy. “And the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.” John the Baptist is beheaded. Stephen is stoned. James was thrown down from the Temple and stoned, Peter was crucified. Paul was beheaded. John was exiled to a penal colony.
And still this day, men and women are persecuted and martyred, simply because they want to invite EVERYONE to the banquet where death is swallowed up and tears are wiped away FOREVER.
It's crazy. It makes no sense, I know. But the devil and the world and our sinful nature have so blinded us that the invitation to heaven is regarded as an insult. And the message of the gospel is considered an offense.
“The king was angry and he sent troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” The wrath of God is real and He is to be feared. Rejection OF God leads to rejection BY God. “The one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:9)
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.” No one is worthy apart from faith.
“Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. And those servants went out in to the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
• Despite all the rejections, the resistance, the opposition, THE WEDDING HALL WAS FILLED.
• Despite the high court rulings and the increasing secularization, the apathy and the rejection of the Word of God as the only rule and norm for faith and life,
THE WEDDING HALL WAS FILLED.
And it is still being filled, even as the servants are still being sent “TO ALL NATIONS,” inviting EVERYONE they find, to come to the banquet.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD. Which leaves enough room to be sure to include you and me. It is only faith in the promises of God that makes a person worthy. And it’s only rejection of the same that makes a person unworthy, no matter how good or bad he might be.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ Don’t be fooled by that word ‘friend.’ When Judas led the band of soldiers to Jesus and kissed him, Jesus said, “friend, do what you came to do.” (Mat. 26:50).
A hypocrite fooled the greeters at the door. He looked like he belonged. He played the part well. Everyone thought he was worthy because he was a good person.
“’Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” No repentance. No confession. No “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His only Son… And in the Holy Spirit…”
An older hymnal includes this ancient prayer in the preparation for Holy Communion, “Strip off from us the spotted garments of our flesh and our own righteousness, and adorn us with the garments of the righteousness that Thou has purchased with Thy blood.”
St. John looks in on this wedding banquet from his apocalyptic perch. And one of the elders addressed him, saying, “Who are these, CLOTHED IN WHITE ROBES, and from where have they come?” And then he answers his own question. “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“ They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat…
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:13-17)
Everything has been prepared. The Lamb has been sacrificed and all of your sins have been atoned for in His blood.
You have been clothed in the wedding garment. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:24).
Don’t take it off! Don’t try to cover it up with your own righteousness. It is Christ alone who makes you worthy.
And don’t get discouraged by current events or your own sin. The day is surely coming when, even in your grave, you will hear the invitation, “everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” And we will fly out of our graves and take our seat at the LAMBS HIGH FEAST.
And “then the end of all the war.” “Gone the pleading, gone the cry, gone the sighing, gone the dying…Only Thee, only Thee.”
Yet even now, “everything is ready.” And even now, the cry goes out, “Come to the wedding feast.” “Take and eat.” “Take and drink.” It’s a foretaste of the feast to come.