Pentecost 19 – the Universal Banquet

Title:Pentecost 19 – the Universal Banquet

The texts today speak of a universal banquet. Only those who exclude themselves are left out. The people of ancient Israel were on their way out of the banquet through their fashioning of idols.

Isaiah 25 is a hymn of thanksgiving praising God for his redeeming acts (verses 1-5) is followed by vision of the eschatological banquet to which ‘all peoples’ are invited. All who come to the banquet will find fullness of life. Death will be swallowed up (a dramatic reversal for death is frequently portrayed as swallowing up people and God will wipe away the tears from all faces.

The 23rd Psalm has God preparing a banquet in the presence of enemies, a reference to ancient desert wisdom where a strong leader prepares a meal for those quarrelling in the hope of averting war. Only those who exclude themselves are left out.

In the Epistle, Paul exhorts the Christian community to seek peace and unity in the Lord. Above all he urges them to rejoice. Even in their suffering, they can rejoice because the Lord is near. The Christian life is grounded in thanksgiving for what God has done in Christ.

Matthew’s gospel contains the third parable in Jesus’ reply to the question of his authority (21:23-27). The first (21:28-32), the Parable of the Two Sons dealt with the rejection of John’s ministry. The second, Parable of the Tenant (21:33-46) dealt with the rejection of his own ministry. This parable deals with the rejection of the ministry of the disciples and the dire consequences for Israel and Jerusalem.

Matthew is writing his Gospel in order to offer comfort, assurance, guidance, exhortation, and encouragement to a fledgling community of early believers, largely Jewish, who are caught up in a fierce sibling rivalry with their former community members even as they are trying to fit in to the new reality of Roman domination.

A decade or so after the destruction of the Temple, both the synagogue and this congregation (that was likely originally part of the synagogue but no longer) are struggling mightily and, in that context, both are making an all-out pitch for the allegiance of their members (and former members).

The parables of the two sons, the wicked tenants, and the king who gave a marriage feast exhibit a progression from John the Baptist to the rejection of Jesus and punishment of those who rejected him through the final judgment, when those without a wedding garment will be cast out.

Matthew describes Jesus as telling a string of parables that more or less depict God’s rejection of those who have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah, even going so far as to describe the destruction of the Temple as God’s righteous judgment.

The target is the legitimacy of the Jewish leadership. They all expose Matthew’s ideology of the true Israel demonstrating the claims of the Pharisees to be false and those of the church true Who is who ? We recognize the king as God. The king’s son was Jesus. The first guests are those who are hostile to Jesus – the Jewish leaders; the one without the wedding robe represents those who do not count the cost in becoming disciples.

God’s servants were the prophets of Israel and the Christian missionaries

The first part of the parable narrates jumps off immediately from the opening lines: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who had a banquet for his son". This is the first and last time that the son is mentioned. Throughout the rest of the parable until verse 10, the one who acts is the king, the servants and the invited guests.

Invitations are sent to the chosen invitees, but few respond, and some even mistreat and kill the servants (slaves) of the king giving the banquet. God has invited all into relationship with God but few respond–some laugh, some seem to busy, and some react violently. So therefore God has gone out and invited everyone off of the streets and fill the hall with guests. God has opened the invitation to everyone!

Yet one guest gets in without wearing a wedding robe, and he is thrown out. God has extended this invitation into relationship to all people–but some think just because the invitation was sent, they don’t need to change their lives.

In Matthew Isaiah’s promise is fulfilled in Jesus, – through Jesus all are invited to the banquet feast of the Kingdom. But the invitation must be accepted. As a wedding guest is expected to dress appropriately, so with the guest at the banquet of which Holy Communion is a foretaste: and as Paul reminds us the appropriate dress for the Christian is to be clothed with love.

In the Gospel we have the same principle of self-exclusion. The lack of adequate preparation on the part of the guest that comes without the proper attire to the wedding banquet should be seen in that light. God invites all, we have the opportunity to go to the feast but our own actions set us apart and against that universal call.

It is only us who excludes ourselves from the feast. In the upper room feast for his disciples

"Only one of the disciples, Judas, is not wearing that metaphorical wedding robe, like the man in today’s gospel who gets cast into the outer darkness.

"But Jesus doesn’t cast Judas out.

"Judas chooses to cast himself out, leaving the table to betray Jesus to the authorities. And Jesus lets him go. "