Can you imagine a wedding without some type of wedding reception or feast? The two just seem to go together like a hand in a glove.
In ancient times, Jewish weddings always included a festive celebration. These celebrations could last for several days … and there was never a lack of eating and drinking.
Marital imagery runs deep in the Scriptures, ands this isn’t just because Jesus performed His first miracle by turning water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana. Over and over again, the relationship between God and His people is depicted in marital terms. God is the Husband and His people are His Bride. Consider, for example, tonight’s reading from Isaiah, where God’s prophet speaks these words: “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).
Or consider the word of the Lord in Isaiah 54: “For your Maker is your husband, and the Lord of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God” (vv. 5-6).
So it should come as no surprise that when the people of Israel turned to other gods, it was as though they had committed adultery against God. It was spiritual infidelity. In many places, the Lord likens their attachment to idols to the lust of an adulterer. As it is written in Hosea 4:15: “Though you play the whore, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty.”
This helps us to understand what God means when He says: “I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God …” (Exodus 20:5). His jealousy is the jealousy of a husband who expects his Bride to “forsake all others” and remain united to Him alone. And it gives us a picture of just how serious of a sin it is to break the covenant that God has established between Himself and His people.
Marital imagery is not limited just to the Old Testament. We see this in the New Testament as well. Jesus is the Bridegroom, and the Church is His Bride. Marriage itself is to be a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Husbands should love the wives “as Christ loved the Church” and wives are to “submit in everything to their husbands” as the Church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Not only is God’s relationship with His people described in marital terms, but salvation itself is likened to a wedding feast, as we heard in the parable that Jesus relates in the Gospel lesson. “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come” (Matthew 22:2-3)
The parable reminds us that God has prepared a grand banquet for those who believe and are baptized into Christ. To “come to the wedding feast” is to participate in the end-times salvation of God – salvation that He prepared for you at great cost to Himself. The price for this great banquet of salvation was the blood of His dear Son, who was offered up into death for sinners on Calvary.
As the betrothed Bride of Christ, we look forward with longing eyes to that day when Christ will come again to gather us to Himself. God’s Word teaches us to look forward to that day when we will sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – seeing our Lord face-to-face. Every wedding has its wedding feast, and it is no different with he marriage of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, to His holy Bride, the Church.
The best part about this wedding feast is that it will have no end! In the wedding hall of heaven, there will be no end to the joy that is ours in Christ Jesus. But you should not think of this wedding banquet as something far off in the distant future. You should not think of this nuptial feast only in terms of a “not yet.” Already now, in the salutary gift of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives you a foretaste of that eternal wedding feast to come. Already now, as Christians gather at the Lord’s Table, you receive the body and blood of your crucified and risen husband, Jesus Christ.
The great Communion hymn Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness drives this point home with these words of verse two: “Hasten as a bride to meet Him, And with loving rev’rence greet Him. For with words of life immortal He is knocking at Your portal. Open wide the gates before Him, Saying, as you there adore Him: Grant, Lord, that I now receive You, That I nevermore will leave You” (LSB 536:2).
You “hasten a bride to meet Him” when you approach the altar with eager hearts. And the words of His Testament are truly words of life immortal: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In faith, you “open wide the gates” of your hearts to adore and receive Him. And He is with you always, to the very close of the age.
In this Blessed Supper, prepared by the Lord Himself, we truly participate in the “marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.” Since our Lord and husband, Jesus Christ, graciously invites us to this wedding feast, let there be no excuse making, like those invited guests in the parable who refused to come. Excuses are not pleasing to the Lord, nor are they fitting for those who are members of Christ’s body.
Let there instead be joy and thanksgiving, for the Bridegroom has given His body and shed His precious blood for you, His Bride. And in your Baptism, you have received the proper wedding garment of faith, which makes you fit partakers of this joyous feast. You have been cleansed, as St. Paul explains, by the “washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26). In Christ, you stand before the Father holy and blameless as Paul also tells us, “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). As you receive this nuptial feast, may your hearts be gladdened in the presence of your heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Note: This sermon has been adapted from The Salutary Gift, a sermon series published by Concordia Publishing House.