The Fifth Sunday of Easter

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” … from the Revelation to St. John the Divine, 19:1,4-9

You will notice that this reading from the Revelation to St. John the Divine is filled with images of marriage. Listen to these words: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”

And these: “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

The second one you have heard me say every Sunday as I present the Holy Sacrament to you. “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sin of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Who is the Lamb? Jesus. And why is he called the Lamb? To understand this you must recall the Passover. In the 10th chapter of the Exodus, we find that Moses has been pleading with Pharaoh to let LORD’s people go, and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not.

Plagues fell on the people, and still Pharaoh would not. The LORD then planned the last plague that he knew would work so well that the Egyptians would throw out the people of Israel. All of the first born in the land would die.

The LORD gave Moses a specific plan that involved slaughtering a lamb, and painting the door posts and lintel with its blood so that the Spirit would pass over that house. That lamb was the sacrifice that ensured the safety of the people.

Every year that event is recalled, and the priests would sacrifice many lambs in the temple for the atonement of the people.

St. Paul wrote to the Hebrews:

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.”

Jesus put a stop to that with one sacrifice. He became the ultimate Passover Lamb, the one sacrifice for all time that need not be repeated. So we call Jesus the Lamb of God.

In the Revelation we heard of the marriage supper of the Lamb. Jesus is the groom, and the church is his bride, and we all are the Church. In many of Jesus’ parables he spoke to the people in the terms of marriage. He was trying to tell them two things, one that God the Father loves them desperately, and that the bride will become part of his family.

In Jewish custom, the father is the head of his household and family. His sons will be expected to find a bride and bring her home to add to the family. In those days families stayed together. When a son found a girl he wanted to marry, he had to make an agreement with her father, and promise that he would take care of her. This is called the betrothal. The son would then return home, and proceed to build a room for his bride onto his father’s house.

In the Gospel according to St. John, chapter 14, Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

In the marriage custom of the day, when the groom had finished the new room, after about one year, he went back to his betrothed, and brought her to his home. Jesus is telling us that he will come back for us, too. And we don’t know when that will be.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus told them that the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who are waiting for the groom’s return. Five will not be prepared and will be asleep when he comes, and five will be ready and will join him at the wedding banquet, and the doors will shut. Those who were not ready will not be joining them.

Jesus uses this custom to explain how it will be at his return. Some of us will not be ready, and will miss his coming. Others will be ready, and will be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he warns them that the doors will be shut in this instance as well.

The bride will be clothed in fine linen, bright and pure. We know that none of us will be bright and pure on that day, for we are beset by our sins, but we will be washed in the blood of the Lamb, clothed in white robes.

In chapter 7 of the Revelation, the elder says, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

By the action of Jesus, becoming the sacrificial Lamb, shedding his blood for us, we are washed clean. In the Holy Eucharist we recall Jesus who said, “This is my body given for you,” and “This is my blood shed for you.”

Will we be ready for the Lord’s return? Will we be washed in the blood of the Lamb? I do hope so, and I pray that all of us will be. In the Gospel today, Jesus gives us our marching orders, and if we follow them, we will see him again.

Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Amen.

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