“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” (Matthew 22:2)
A foundational institution of God is marriage. Within marriage the institution of the Church is also subsumed. Luther identified Adam as the first pastor, to whom was given the word of law and gospel to share, and Eve was the first congregation given to hear that Word of God. Note also that the first bride was built from the side of Adam, and now the Church through the water and blood of the pierced side of the New Adam is built. In his gospel, John records the same Greek word for Christ’s pierced side as that used in the LXX for the side of Adam. In his first epistle John then references this by writing, This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood [5:6]. Christ came to each of us by the water and the blood in our Baptism, creating His bride, the Church.
In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable about the marriage feast for the king’s son. Interestingly in His previous parable Jesus speaks of the vineyard owner’s son being cast out of the vineyard and killed. Indeed, this is the same son! By the death of God’s Son, salvation is procured for His bride, the Church. But how can this bride rejoice when her husband has died? She rejoices because to secure her eternal salvation He rises from the dead. Now the feast of salvation is prepared, and those attending this wedding feast can be recognized as individual members of the Church.
Why a feast? God has always linked literal food both to communion with Him and to godly celebration. In the Garden of Eden there was the Tree of Life, from which the food of life and certainly godly rejoicing were linked. Yes, it was literal food, but also sacramental food in that it conveyed something beyond earthly nutrition. Uniquely the Old Testament peace offering sacrifice was always eaten in a celebrative communion feast. In connection with the peace offerings offered at the Tabernacle, God would direct, …you and your households shall eat and rejoice (Dt 12:7). Thus when a Jewish home had a celebration they would (whenever possible) “invite God” by dining on a peace offering. Appropriately the meat of a Jewish wedding feast, especially for those in proximity to the Jewish Temple, would have been from a peace offering.
The wedding feast has already begun. Though we find in the visible church hypocrites who fail to trust in Christ’s robe of righteousness, nonetheless we who have been made clean by the water and blood of Christ are privileged to join in Christ’s wedding feast every time we gather to eat of His body and blood. Here we eat literal food (bread and wine), but consistent with God’s working through the centuries we partake of sacramental food, the food of forgiveness and immortality! We eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life, that tree being the cross and that fruit being Christ himself. We eat of the ultimate peace offering, celebrating peace with God via communion in the flesh and blood of Jesus. Though we eat the Wedding Feast with an attitude of repentance, we also appropriately eat with joyful celebration. No wonder we call it “celebrating” the Lord’s Supper, and the man who leads it is called the “celebrant”.
Finally we who are members of Christ’s body, His bride, will get to celebrate the marriage feast when there will be no more sin and no more monstrous results of sin. In the final book of Holy Writ we not only encounter the reestablished right to eat of the Tree of Life, but we encounter the eternal marriage feast: Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. She was given clothing of fine linen, bright and pure…Then the angel told me to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” [19:7-9].Yes, eat in this life of the marriage supper of the Lamb, the marriage feast of the New Adam; then eat and celebrate the wedding feast most wondrously into eternity.