In Matthew 22, Jesus is relating a parable about the kingdom of God. In this instance, He relates it to a wedding feast thrown by the king on behalf of his son. Everything is made ready, but the guests are no longer interested in coming. So the king commands his servants to just bring anyone, even to the point of inviting them in off the streets.
While the parable is primarily directed at the Jewish religious elite, those who had invitations to the enter the kingdom but have now found other things they rather do, Jesus often works on more than one level at a time. As good readers of the Bible, our first question when reading a parable should always be, “Where is Jesus?” Jesus doesn’t need to take a lot of time telling us about ourselves. That’s the sort of thing we can figure out on our own. What is forever out of our reach is knowledge of God. If we are to know about God, He must reveal Himself to us, and that’s what Jesus does.
In this case, the easy connection to make is that Jesus is the son, or rather Son, and His Father is the king. Jesus is the bridegroom at the wedding feast, an idea that is further reinforced elsewhere in Scripture, such as in Ephesians 5. There, St. Paul tells us that marriage between a husband and wife is meant to mirror Christ’s relationship to the Church. We also have the scene in Revelation 19 that describes a marriage feast/victory celebration where Jesus, the bridegroom, receives His bride, the Church. That gives us quite a bit to go on, but it also leads us to some further ideas that are worth exploring.
When we look at our life in the church today, we find the place where we meet Christ is another feast, in this case we’re talking about Communion. We come up to the altar to meet our bridegroom who is waiting for us. Where Jesus goes, the kingdom of God also goes. This tells us how and where we find the kingdom and also that we are invited to be there.
If we keep reading in Matthew 22, we then find someone who came to the wedding without proper attire. It sounds a bit odd, since everyone was invited, but somehow this man gets it wrong. There aren’t a lot of clues within the text itself to explain what is going on here, but when viewed from the perspective of Communion, this issue makes much more sense.
We know Communion means entering into God’s presence, something none of us are fit to do. The only way we are able to be there without fear is if God makes us worthy to do so. That means God has to find a way to make it work. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” If marriage relates to Christ and the Church, then it is Christ, the bridegroom, who makes the Church, the bride, worthy of being there. How does He do this? “By the washing of water with the word,” something we also know as baptism. We can also draw on St. Paul’s comment in Galatians 3, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
It is Christ Himself who makes you worthy to share in the feast of His Body and Blood and He does so by washing you and making you clean in baptism. This tells us what baptism’s purpose is: to prepare you to come to the feast. Whether you think of it in terms of being a guest or as the bride, either way, the feast is the place to be. This is where the celebration happens. This is what you are invited to. Christ wants you there and Christ is the only one who can make you worthy to be there, so that’s what He does.