Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 10-15-23 “ The Banquet” 

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Matthew 22:1-14; Exodus 32:1-14; Philippians 4:1-9

The parable we heard from Matthew 22 tells us a lot concerning the marriage practices in Jewish society’s during Jesus’ time. These practices might seem strange to us, but to understand the parable and its message, and even some important parts of Jesus’ message, we must be aware of them.   

In Jewish society, the groom’s parents usually initiated the marriage contract. The bride and groom would meet, perhaps for the first time, when this contract was signed. Right after the agreement, the couple was considered married even when they would be apart until the actual time of the ceremony. The bride would remain with her parents, and the groom would leave to prepare the place where they were going to live, their home. Do you remember Jesus’ words to His disciples, “I will go to prepare a place for you?” He got these words from the context of this commitment between a bride and a groom.

The time for the preparation of the ceremony depended on how big or small the house the groom was going to build.  When the home was ready, the groom would return for his bride without any notice. The bride had to be ready at every moment. Do you remember the parable of the ten virgins? The marriage ceremony would then take place, and the wedding banquet would follow. This is the part of the marriage process that our parable is talking about today.

The wedding banquet was one of the happiest occasions in Jewish life and could last for up to a week. In his parable this morning, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet that a king had prepared for his son. Many people were invited, but when the banquet time came, when the food was ready, and the tables set, those who were invited refused to come.

There is another Jewish tradition from those times mentioned by Jesus in this parable, the host provided a dress for all the guests.  When a great king would put on a feast, he would not only provide all the food, but he would also give the necessary garments to wear at the feast. In this case in particular, all the people in the banquet were from ordinary walks of life; their clothing was not appropriate for this grand occasion. The dress of a wedding was an essential addition to the feast’s dignity. Therefore, they had to wear the garments according to the event.

Jesus was using this parable to teach a lesson to the chief priests and Pharisees in the temple who were rejecting Him. Jesus said that this parable is like a picture of “the kingdom of heaven,” a kingdom that His Father has given Him. The ‘king’ in Jesus’ parable represents His heavenly Father, and Jesus Himself is the ‘bridegroom. The first ‘invited guests’ are His covenant people, Israel.

This parable illustrates how Jesus came and presented Himself to them as the Messiah; and how they rejected Him. The people who were found along the streets, those brought into the wedding feast to take the place of the first guests, are the Gentiles that God has now gracefully and mercifully invited in.

What is the message of this parable for us today? I believe this parable talks to us about God’s patience and righteousness. 

According to the parable, an announcement was made before the king sent his servants. People knew that the wedding day was coming. However, when that day came, and the servants were sent out to bring in the guests, they were unwilling to come. This rejection was a great insult to the king! It would have been interpreted as an act of rebellion against him and the honor of his son! However, the king was patient. He sent out his servants again; this time almost begging them, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready; Come to the wedding.” This time the people did not merely express unwillingness to come. They ‘paid no attention’ to it. Some ‘went off,” Matthew says, to attend things they thought were more important, like working on their farm, or taking care of their businesses. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and even killed them.

This parable is still relevant for our time. As in the parable, many people have been invited to come and receive Jesus as their Savior, and they have rejected the invitation; they have closed their hearts and have presented different excuses for not coming to the Lord’s feast. However, Jesus has not stopped inviting; He has not given up on them, even when they are busy in worldly business. Time and time again, Jesus sends his servants asking them to come and be part of His son’s wedding banquet, even more, the invitation is to be his bride.  

The parable says that the king came in to see the guests, and he noticed a man who was not dressed in wedding clothes. And in the context of this tradition is almost sure that he was offered or even given one. The king asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Instead of taking the opportunity to say, “please tell me how and where I can get a wedding garment, or give a moment, I will dress with it, so I can enjoy your offer to attend the feast of your son!” However, he did not. He said nothing. He presumed to enjoy the benefits of the feast while, at the same time, refusing to wear the garment the king provided. As a result, the king ordered to tie his hands and feet and throw him into the darkness, where -as Jesus says-, “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Just as the king provided wedding garments for his guests, God provides salvation for humankind. Our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and unless we have it, we will miss the wedding feast. Listen to Paul in Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” What a dress! compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience and above all these virtues put on love.

The Pharisees who heard this parable could not understand, that, to be in good standing with God, they had to take off their self-righteousness cloth, which was their own deeds, and accept God’s grace and put on this new garment.

The Parable of the Wedding Feast is also a warning to us to make sure we trust on God the Provider of our salvation, and not on our good works or religious service and practice. Remember is not about us and what we have done is about God and what He has done in us and for us. When we come before God, let us wear the cloth he has provided for us compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. When we are part of God’s people, our old self must give way to the new self, God has provided for us. That new self is the garments that God wants us to wear in the celebration of His kingdom. Therefore, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24, “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

This parable of the banquet reminds me of a pastor in New York. He shared with us that he had been Christian his whole life; however, it was a time when he left the church and, according to him, he tried to enjoy the world, but he could not, because when he was celebrating with his friends, he felt out of place. When he was in church because of that broken relationship he had with Jesus, he also felt out of place. He was wearing the wrong cloth, and he could not enjoy the king’s celebration of the kingdom.      

The dress Jesus wants us to wear is not a dress we wear outside, but inside. Jesus’s dress does not make us looks outside but makes looks good through the deeds that come from the inside. Let us remove our old cloth and dress ourselves with God’s cloth.    

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