Caught Without a Wedding Garment

Matthew 22:10-14

So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

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

 

It was the custom in Jesus’ time for the king to give wedding garments to the guests at his wedding. Similar customs continued to fairly recent times. Think of a nineteenth century royal dinner party where the host gives dinner jackets to his guests.

In this parable, the invited guests refuse to come, so guests are brought in from the “highways and byways.” According to custom, each would be given a wedding garment upon his arrival. However, one refused to wear his wedding garment. Why not? Was he too proud? Too ashamed? Did he feel unworthy of the honor? We are not told.

Throughout Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers, the wedding garment is seen as the white purity of baptism in which our sins are forgiven, our guilt is purged, and our souls are made “white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) For an unstated reason, one guest refused to accept God’s forgiveness.

I have seen this often, where someone refuses God’s offer of mercy, either because of pride, shame, or feelings of unworthiness. Not that any of us are worthy in our own right, but we must allow Christ’s mercy to heal us of our unworthiness. “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Both the bad and the good were invited, because we are all the same in God’s eyes. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6 Those who consider themselves ‘good’ may be too proud to accept Christ’s mercy. Those who consider themselves ‘bad’ may be too ashamed to accept Christ’s mercy. But to enjoy the feast, we must all humbly accept God’s gift and let him heal our souls.

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