Matthew 22:11-12 (New International Version)
11"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless.
I have a recurring dream. It's Sunday morning, I'm leading worship--I have no clue which songs we are singing. I try to quickly pull something together--but--never good at thinking quickly on my feet-- it's no good. As I fumble and drop sheets of song lyrics, I look out at the faces looking back at me and I know they know--I'm not prepared. I am always relieved to wake up and find that it was just a dream--but the feeling of panic and embarrassment isn't so easy to shake!
The aroma of roasting beef, mingled with exotic spices, fills the banquet hall, tantalizing the guests who have gathered for the celebration. Servants carry trays laden with luscious grapes, pomegranates and figs, circulating among those gathered for this special feast--a wedding feast. Music--rhythmic and celebratory--blends with the murmur of voices as the guests anticipate with curiosity, the arrival of the guests of honour--the king's son and his bride.
The king arrives first, and mingles with the guests. He stops in front of a man, aghast. The guest is not dressed appropriately, and the king graciously asks him, "Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?"
I can empathize with the man in this story. The Bible says that he was speechless. His worst nightmare was unfolding. He was not prepared.
Strangely, in the story that Jesus told, all of the guests had been gathered from the streets because the invited guests all refused to come for various reasons. I wonder who could have been dressed properly on such short notice!
The story goes on--the servants are commanded by the king to tie the man hand and feet and to throw him out into the darkness. It ends with Jesus saying that "Many are invited, but few are chosen."
So--the Invited Guests did not come--and those that did come--quickly gathered from the streets-- had to meet a certain dress code. What was all of this about?
The metaphor of a wedding feast describes the Kingdom of Heaven. The original guests could be the Jewish people, or perhaps the religious people--the ones you would expect to be at this wedding feast. Others, surprised perhaps at finding themselves unexpectedly invited to this feast, still needed a wedding garment.
Throughout the gospels and the epistles, the metaphor of clothes is used to refer to attributes or character qualities that we "put on," but it is clear that no clothing is adequate to stand before the King but that of Christ's righteousness.
Nothing that we try to "put on" before God will do--his searching gaze will see through any attempts at self justification. He has, after all, provided his guests with everything they need, even a wedding garment.
It's our choice--putting on Jesus--or being found speechless.
Galatians 3:27 (New International Version)
27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.