Without a wedding garment

Matthew 22:11-14
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
12 “So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
13 “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Have you ever had one of those dreams when you seem to be going about your everyday routine only to find you forgot to put on your pants that day? You know, the kind of dream in which you are mortified to find that you are not prepared to face the day? I think psychoanalysts have a field day with those dreams, showing as they do our insecurities and anxieties. We’re afraid of not being ready to face others, afraid of making fools of ourselves. We’ve all had those dreams, those fears, and depending on the importance of the occasion coming up, they just get worse. If we’re about to face a normal day, such dreams may come and go without too much ado. But if we are about to meet someone important or give an important presentation, then the dreams may terrify us–possibly to the point of inaction. I know that such fear has gripped me pretty strongly when I am about to talk to someone new. It’s stage fright, pure and simple, and we all know what it feels like.

Now imagine that you’ve been invited to a really important banquet, a huge wedding celebration for the son of a celebrity or a king–and you didn’t dress for the occasion. But this is not that anxiety nightmare we mentioned above. You see, it’s not so much that you FORGOT to dress, more that you refuse to dress any differently on any given day of the week.

“Big wedding? Who cares? The king invited me, so he’ll just have to take me as I am. I’ll dress however I like.”

And then the kings sees you in your everyday attire, and he says to you, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” Ummm, well, uh,…

When the king himself asks why we didn’t dress appropriately, all our bravado goes out the window. It’s one thing to get uppity with the king’s servants and say the king will have to accept us just as we are, but it’s quite another thing to face our own ruler and have HIM confront our insolence.

And insolence it is, too! It’s not like we haven’t been TOLD we were invited to a wedding. It’s not like we didn’t KNOW that the occasion called for special dress, that we were to be on our best behavior. It’s not that we didn’t realize that WE were the ones being honored as much as the king’s newly-wed son. And yet here we come, waltzing on into the palace in our street clothes, just as if this were the most normal day of our lives. But this is NOT a normal day. The king NEVER invites commoners to the palace, much less asks them to celebrate the wedding of his son. And we have the GALL to throw that honor back in the king’s face by not wearing our best attire. Of course the king is going to get angry!

“I gave you the honor of inviting you to my son’s wedding, and you treat it like another day at the pub, another day of hanging out with your friends? Do you think so little of me or my son? Don’t you think the occasion calls for even a little propriety, a little honor?”

We are speechless, embarrassed, and, let’s be honest, chagrined. We regret our rash decision, and we truly have no defense. We KNEW what the event was, we knew what was expected of us, and yet we did nothing. We dishonored the king AND his son AND the bride.

“Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Suddenly, it’s too late. We knew what we were doing, and now the king is making us face the consequences of our actions. We are to be tossed out into the unforgiving darkness, ejected from the palace along with all the other trash. We did not honor the king, did not show that we felt he or his son were worthy, and so we are judged unworthy ourselves. We go from honored guest to street trash in nothing flat–all because we were insolent and rebellious.

As Jesus says, that is what the kingdom of God is like. (Matthew 22:2-14) God had sent invitations to the Jews to come and bring guests, and yet they refused Him, rejected His Son, ignored His call to righteousness and repentance. So God invited everyone else. The offer of salvation through Jesus Christ has been offered to all tribes and tongues and nations. We’ve all been invited to the banquet in honor of the Son and His bride.

We have all been told what the occasion is–our eternal salvation–and we know what we are to wear–repentance and faith. (Mark 1:15) And yet there are many who will still refuse to “dress” appropriately. They don’t care who has invited them or what the occasion is, and they simply refuse to live their lives any differently. And then the King Himself will confront them about their rebellion and their refusal to honor His Son, and there will be no time for excuses. Truly, once we have heard the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, there is no excuse for not repenting of our sins and believing in Him. There’s no excuse for continuing to dress our lives the way we always have, rather than clothing ourselves in Christ’s righteousness.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Despite God’s longsuffering mercy, there will be some who do not come to repentance, and those people will perish. It really is that simple. The invitation to change our lives has gone out, and we dare not ignore the honor that has been granted us. As the Psalmist says, the King of heaven “is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Psalms 103:8) But His mercy will not save us if we refuse His grace. We will show up to the judgment clothed in all our own unrighteousness and sin, and He will ask us, “Why didn’t you clothe yourself in the glory of My Son?” It will be too late to answer, too late to dash out and try again.

Hebrews 9:27-28
27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

The invitation is only offered once, and the opportunity to clothe ourselves in salvation only lasts so long as we live. Once we have shuffled off this mortal coil, then we will be judged.

Ecclesiastes 12:14
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

God will not just look at our outer clothing–the works we seem to do, the way we seem to talk–but also the inner parts of our hearts. As David said to his son Solomon:

1 Chronicles 28:9
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.”

God will look at the way we clothe our hearts, too. All our good works and good words won’t mean much if we have not clothed ourselves in love and mercy and humility and faith. We have to take the honor of God’s invitation seriously, or He will see the intent of our hearts and He will know we do not truly honor Him.

Instead of cowering in a corner because we have not dressed ourselves in faith and repentance, let us instead seek out the King to let Him know we love and honor Him and His Son. Let us shake hands with the Almighty and thank Him for the invitation to the great banquet of salvation, thank Him for His mercy in not treating us as we deserved. Let us thank Him for the gracious gift of the clothing of righteousness–clothing we ourselves could not ever afford, but which He provided free of charge through the blood of His precious Son. Let us seek out the Son and tell Him how worthy He is of all honor and praise and glory. Let us be among the few who are chosen to stay and participate in the eternal celebration of the union of Christ and His bride, the church. When the King comes around to see us at last, if we are not clothed in the salvation of Jesus Christ, the consequences would be far worse than our worst nightmare. But if we ARE dressed in His righteousness, then the consequences will be far better than our wildest dreams. Therefore, let us put on the “wedding garment” of our union with Jesus Christ, and join in the celebration that is to come.

Holy Lord God, we thank You for the opportunity to come to the celebration, to join in the worship and honor of which You alone are worthy. I will admit, Father, that I have not always clothed myself in Your salvation, but, Lord, I do seek You and I do wish to wear this white robe You have offered. This wedding garment is strange to me, but I know that, through Your Holy Spirit, I will become more comfortable with it. Help me, Lord, to be clothed in Your righteousness, so that in the last day I can enter Your courts and give You all the glory that is Your due. Amen.


About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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