Hovering this morning over Jesus’ parable in the opening verses of Matthew 22. Chilling, if you chew on it for a bit.
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son . . . ”
(Matthew 22:2 ESV)
The big idea?
“Many are called, but few are chosen.”
(Matthew 22:14 ESV)
The chilling part? How close one can get to the king and to his son, even seated at a table in the wedding hall, and still not participate in the wedding feast. And that because he has no wedding garment.
The story is simple. A king is giving a wedding feast for his son. He sends out a general call to those on the guest list — I’m thinking kind of like sending invitations in the mail, or for more modern sensibilities, a group e-mail or text — but no one RSVPs. So, he sends out other messengers to present more personal, face to face, invitations.
The response? Some of the invitees “paid no attention” deeming their daily lives of more importance than accepting the king’s invitation — they couldn’t afford the time to attend the son’s wedding feast. Others though, were quite offended. Something in the invite that didn’t sit right with them. So, they treated the king’s servants “shamelessly”, even killing some of them. The kings response to their response? “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”
But the wedding for his son was gonna happen — with or without the initial guest list. And so, he sends out more servants to go out to the population at large, those traveling on “the main roads”, and graciously invites all who would come, “both bad and good.” The king was determined to fill the wedding hall with guests, and he would make the necessary provision to ensure it happened.
By this time we’re picking up what Jesus was laying down. The king is the Father. The son? Well, he’s the Son. The first set of people to be invited to celebrate the Son are the Jews. But they, by and large, were either disinterested, too busy, or became offended and antagonistic towards the invitation. And so, the invitation goes out beyond the Jews, to “the main roads”, the regions of the Gentiles, the realm of those once considered outside the king’s realm. And not just to the “good” Gentiles, but to the “bad” as well. All were invited. All were welcome. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Okay, this is where it get’s really interesting.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”
(Matthew 22:11-13 ESV)
A respondent to the invitation. In the wedding hall. Seated at a table. Dancing shoes on. Napkin tucked in under his chin. Thinking he was ready to party and chow down. And the king looks at him and sees no wedding garment. And he’s expelled. How close can you get without crossing the finish line? Chilling!
He didn’t need to rent a tux. Wasn’t left to himself to work wonders with his wardrobe. Apparently ancient practice was that wedding garments would be provided. But to show up without a wedding garment would mean being shown the door to “the outer darkness.”
And I think of those who may be preparing for the Son’s feast but are still dressed only in the filthy rags of their own imagined righteousness (Isa. 64:6). Those talking the talk, even seemingly walking the walk, but have never donned the garment made available to them by the Father, through the Son. A garment of His provision alone, no boasting in self. A garment perfectly suited for a kingdom wedding, because it’s perfection is the King’s perfection. It’s worth, His worth. Ours is to respond to the invitation and, by faith alone, put on the wedding garment — believing in the finished work of Calvary’s cross and the reality of an empty tomb.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
(Isaiah 61:10 ESV)
A robe of righteousness. Provided through the Father’s great love. Comprised of the Son’s unimpeachable righteousness. A garment fit for a wedding feast to end all wedding feasts.
That’s chilling too. But in a different, really good way.
What a magnificent garment. What marvelous grace. To God be the glory.