The Banquet: 4 March 2015

Marten de Vos’ painting shows Christ’s first miracle. When the wine ran out at a wedding at which Jesus and his mother were guests, he changed the water into the finest wine – a perfect theme for the Tavern-Keepers’ altar in the Antwerp Cathedral. The wedding reception is set in an attractive Renaissance interior with a table full of fine food and expensive crockery, and festively dressed guests. Vos tries, nevertheless, to evoke a biblical atmosphere – several guests wear turbans, the bridegroom has a laurel crown and some of the servants’ costumes are vaguely Roman.

Matt 22 8 ‘Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.

Gal 2 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Had Jesus preached only story-less sermons, his truths might have been lost in drab lecture. But by weaving tales around weddings and winepresses, he could not only bring wisdom within reach of the unlearned, he could silence the self-righteous with simple truth. Take, for example, this story about the kind of clothes that should be worn to weddings. Jesus speaks about a wedding garment so splendid, God deemed it the only one worthy to be worn to the great banquet of the kingdom. This garment was called grace. Many tried to pass the gatekeepers of that banquet inappropriately dressed.

What, though, of that great banquet still to come? Some will come dressed in the garments of self-esteem. Others will dress in glitzy garments of showbiz. Some will wear camouflage. Many will wear the look-alike uniforms of conformity. Some will dress mod in the latest theological fad. Others will clad themselves in denominational heritage. Many will come dressed in the robes of serious philosophy. Still others will come dressed in the garments of broad-mindedness.  Others will impress with the formal wear of reputation.

But those who are admitted to the marriage supper of the Lamb will be clad in grace. This lovely outfit will not be a self-made garment. They did not pay for it, for it cannot be purchased.  They came to Jesus in the tatters of their sinful life and were restored. Then they were dressed in the clean white garments of his justification.

Lord, you took all my righteousness— which was as filthy rags—and clothed me in the bright new robes of God’s acceptance. For this I fall on my knees before you and adore you for bending so low to rescue me.