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The Story of the Wedding Garment

“And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:1-14)

As Jesus continued to teach in the Temple, He discerned that a spirit was present that could only be characterized by hatred, and hostility. Nothing was said, but something was felt, for an attitude emanated from some of the people. The antagonistic spirit was bound up in the hearts of certain chief priests and elders of the people (21:23). These were the Religious Leaders of Israel, but they were opposed to the ministry, and to the Man, Jesus Christ.

The Lord knew this. The Lord knew who His enemies were, because human nature is not very good at hiding feelings. There is body language, and there are slips of the tongue. Even worse there is the cold sound of silence, as people barely speak to one another. It was not a question that Jesus answered, but an attitude.

In His response, the Lord did nothing to lessen the hostility that others felt towards Him, and for good reason. There comes a point in some things, when individuals must either destroy those who stand for righteousness, or else repent, by embracing the truth, and being different. Such a moment had arrived for the Religious Leaders, as the Lord revealed in a parable.

Jesus told the story of a certain king, which made a royal marriage feast on behalf of His Son. What a joyous occasion it was meant to be. As was the custom of the ancient world, a general invitation was given. Later, a special messenger was sent, declaring the exact hour for coming together.

To the king’s astonishment, the invited guests made light of the royal invitation. It was not that the people jeered, or laughed at the wedding. They simply had other priorities. One guest went to attend to his farm. Another person went to his place of business. These were legitimate concerns, except that they overshadowed other responsibilities.

The king’s messengers did not know what to do. How could they return to the palace without guests? With a greater sense of urgency, the messengers began to plead with the people, as they remembered their instructions. “Behold,” they cried. “The king has prepared the noon day meal. He has killed the fatted ox. All things are ready: come unto the marriage feast.”

But the people had already given their answer, and did not want to be bothered any more by the messengers. Some began to treat the servants in a spiteful manner. Perhaps, by accusing them of terrible things. “You are trying to control our lives,” they said. “You are making us feel guilty,” others declared. “You are too demanding,” some whispered. “Just leave us alone!” they all shouted.

Cruel thoughts, and unkind words, generated the raw emotion of anger. Suddenly, the king’s messengers were seized, beaten, and killed. No king, and no messenger, was going to tell these lawless citizens what they ought to do. If the people thought they were justified in their actions, the king did not. In fact, his own righteous anger was aroused, and then expressed with a greater act of judgment, for he sent forth his armies, and destroyed the murders, and burned up their city.

Perhaps there was a dramatic pause at this point by Jesus, as He spoke His parable in the Temple. Those who were spiritually discerning, considered the meaning of this first division of the story, and they understood.

The King is God the Father. His Son is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The general call had gone out to bid all of Israel to come to the spiritual banquet of love. It was a direct call from God, to the Jews of Israel, by way of the prophets, who are called the servants of the King.

But the Jews rejected the prophets. Some of them were treated in a spiteful manner. Others were killed. No matter how many gospel messengers were sent with the good news of redeeming love, the response of rejection was the same. The people felt so secure in life, that their spiritual duties were secondary to a devout religious life. They had a city to live in, and what a magnificent city Jerusalem was during the days of Christ. Herod the Great had invested untold wealth in building splendid structures. The Holy Temple was especially impressive.

While Israel had a form of godliness, there was no vital relationship with the Living God. The evidence for this was manifested in many ways.

The people were being exploited for financial gain, by the selling of sacrifices at inflated

prices.

The Pharisees were putting new burdens on the people that went beyond the Law of God.

The apostles were being rejected, as they proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom.

There was religion, without reality. People went through religious duties, but with no understanding of what they were doing, and with no delight in the things of God.

There was an ignorance of the Law, so that many truths were being distorted or denied. The Sadducees were denying the reality of angels, and the resurrection of the dead. They did not accept all of the Old Testament to be the Word of God.

Finally, the people would not come to Christ. In John 5:40, Jesus said, “You will not come to me.”

In light of all of this, what should God do as King? He had shown great patience. He had demonstrated tremendous restraint, but it was not to last. According to Christ, the day was coming when God’s grace would be extended no longer. The day was coming when God’s love would cease to flow. The day was coming when divine wrath would explode, and people would learn that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

History records that the Day of Judgment came. It was the period of the great tribulation, of AD 70. Titus, the son of the emperor Vespasian (AD 69-79), conquered the city of Jerusalem. Over 1 million people perished through disease, death, starvation, pestilence, and even cannibalism. When it was all over, Jerusalem ceased to function as a political unit, until 1948.

As the people considered the symbolic interpretation of the first part of the parable, Jesus continued with the narrative, to declare that the will of the king was not to be frustrated simply because some had rejected the gracious invitation. It was the king’s will that the wedding hall be filled with guest, and so it would be.

Calling other servants, the king instructed them to go out into the highways, and as many as were found were to be invited to the marriage. The deed was done, and before long the wedding was filled with guests. The spiritual application of this second part was understandable. God is the sovereign ruler of the universe. What He has decreed, no man can frustrate. “God rules in the kingdom of men,” said Nebuchadnezzar. When Israel turned away from the Lord, and spurned His gracious invitations, God turned to the Gentiles, and invited them to the joys of the kingdom.

The invitation to the Gentiles was unexpected by them. For many years it had been taught, that salvation was of the Jews. The Messiah was going to come to Israel. The Law and the Prophets had only been given to the chosen people of Palestine.

But wait. What is it that heaven sees? The prophets have been persecuted. The people of God are worshipping other gods. The Messiah is not wanted. Gentiles? Do you want Him? And the Gentiles said, “YES! We need a Savior. We are weary of our sins!”

As the call to the Gentiles was unexpected, so it was universal. The rich were called, as well as the poor. The famous and the infamous were called. The educated and the ignorant were invited. What a royal feast the Gentiles were invited to. There was, and is, forgiveness of sin, no condemnation, fellowship with the true God, the gift of eternal life, a hope of a future resurrection, and the promise of heaven.

At the royal banquet there was, and is, a God who cares, the privilege of prayer, the fellowship of the saints, a Bible to read, and study, and enjoy, a church people to love, and to be loved by, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. The delights of the kingdom of heaven are almost too much. At the royal banquet there is to be love, laughter, fullness, and fellowship, and it is all because of free grace!

The second part of the parable ended, and the third part began, as Jesus spoke of the observation of the king, regarding his guest. Because of the general call to the banquet, many people were not present. But there was one guest that caught the king’s attention, because of something he did not have on. The person was not wearing a wedding garment. All the other guests had on the proper clothing, except this one. The question is, “Why not?” “Why was one person not properly clothed?”

The answer is found in realizing that the person of concern made a deliberate decision to reject the king’s provisions. According to verse 4, all things were ready, including the proper clothing for those who had nothing to wear because of the haste in which they were summoned. The king had adequate resources, which he made available, but the guest refused to put on the wedding garments. Perhaps he felt he had good reasons for rejecting the proper clothing, but it was still wrong. In spiritual terms, God the Father has provided all things, in order for there to be fellowship with Himself.

Still, it is possible for people to come into God’s presence not properly dressed, spiritually. When this is discovered, three things happen.

First, there is a divine challenge to improper conduct (22:12).

“Friend, how comest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? Did I not make full provision for you? Why have you rejected my offers of free grace?”

Of course there was no answer. The guest was speechless, as all people will be who try to offer to God some rationale for rejecting Christ as Lord and Saviour, and doing what is wrong. They will be made speechless.

The word for “speechless,” is an interesting word.

It is the same word used of muzzling an ox 1 Tim. 5:18.

It was used by Christ in addressing the demon in Mark 1:25.

It was shouted by the Lord when He rebuked the wind and spoke to the waves in Mark 4:39.

Second, those not properly clothed will be bound (22:13). As Satan is bound, so are his children, so that they will stop hurting the Saviour, and the saints.

Then third, those who do not have on the proper wedding garment will be cast into outer darkness. The reference is to hell, the place that Jesus spoke about more often than He did of heaven (cf. Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). Hell is described in the Bible as

a place of torment,
a place of unquenchable fire,
a place which is eternal,
a place without hope,
a place of darkness,
a place where the soul does not die,
and a place where people are punished, not purified.

We might not like the concept of hell.

We might wish that all people, and all angels, will ultimately be redeemed, but that is something that neither the Bible, nor the historic church has ever taught officially.

There is a heaven, and there is a hell.
There is eternal life, and there is eternal death.
There is a blessed hope for all who believe in Christ, and there is a certain judgment for all who do not believe.

The way to heaven, is to put on Christ.

The way to heaven, is to put on the wedding garment of the righteousness of another.

The alternative, is to be cast into outer darkness where there is gnashing of teeth.

In closing His parable, Jesus said to the people in the Temple,

“Many are called, but few are chosen.”

With these words, the Lord taught, that in the final analysis, salvation is not a human accomplishment, or decision, but the free gift of God’s sovereign grace (Luke 12:32; Jer. Jn. 6:39; Eph. 1:4). The questions that the heart must answer are these: “Am I the object of God’s grace?” “Have I heard the gospel invitation?” “Have I responded?” “Have I put on Christ?”

As the servants of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven, you and I have the privilege of calling others to the marriage supper, for the great invitation is still being offered today. “The Spirit and the Bride say come. And let him that heareth say, come. And him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

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