Monday, October 14, 2013
The Wedding Garment
22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants  to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV)
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy, Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment…”
The wedding hall was filled with guests. The picture is of the church on earth. The feast the king has laid out before us. Jesus Christ, the paschal lamb sacrificed for us for the forgiveness of sins. There are so many layers to the parables Jesus spoke. He himself had many variants on the same theme, working different angles to show different facets to the kingdom of God, like a jeweler working on a diamond, each facet reflecting a new light. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king giving a wedding banquet for his son. And of course, the relationship of the Christ to his church is often itself compared to that of a marriage, becoming one flesh with Jesus, just as we all eat of the same loaf. So we, the church, are the bride and the guests at the same time. But here is a picture of judgment, of rejection, of those who reject the invitation, and of those whom the Father then rejects.
“They gathered all whom they found, both bad and good, so the wedding hall was filled with guests.” “Lord enter not into judgment with your servant for no one living is righteous before you.” (Psalm 143:2) It is a prayer I repeat often, and one that comes to mind when I hear about them gathering the good and the bad. What does it mean the good and the bad? So many ways to parce that out. Both those a king would expect at his party and those he would not. Upperclass and the poor. Upright and honest citizens, and those with perhaps a more shady background. None are righteous, but some are good according to the worldly standards, and some not so good according to worldly standards. But the word bad hardly does the word Poneros any justice: Evil, wicked, and malicious. That is the way this word is normally translated. So the church, this wedding feast, where forgiveness is doled out according to God’s infinite mercy. This feast has the wicked and malicious as well as the good in it, because it is for them.
The servants they went out into the street to find guests! Can you imagine? Who do we invite? Are we not his servants? We could take this as a command from God who tells the church to go make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But we are often a bit more discerning than the servants in this parable. Why? This church is for sinners. Forgiveness is for sinners. And you have to get over this, you are evil, you are wicked, you are malicious. You are one that needs to pray fervently, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” And because that is you, you are invited to the feast of forgiveness. Because Jesus did not come for those who are well, but for sinners. Jesus came for sinners, for alcoholics, for drug addicts, for law breakers, for thieves, for adulterers, for the greedy and the envious, for the speakers of English and for the illegal immigrant speaking Spanish. It’s a mark of shame when a church is filled only with those who by worldly standards would be considered good. It’s a mark of shame when a church doesn’t embrace the whole community, when we act like the masons in trying to figure out who we should invite to the feast and who not to. Finally it is only God who can determine the good from the bad. He will peak in. on the last day he comes in glory with a different set of servants who will sort the wheat from the chaff, to separate the sheep from the goats, to bind up those who have no wedding garment and throw them into the outer darkness where there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Those without the wedding garment? And what is that, this wedding garment with which we are to be clothed for the feast? For as many of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:27) Yes, it is as simple as that, Christ is our righteousness, he is our sanctification, he is our wedding garment, the new clothes soaked in his sacrificial blood and whiter than snow. It is his righteousness spilt from the cross that makes us acceptable to the feast of forgiveness. He makes us acceptable to him by forgiving our sins, in which forgiveness we live. It is with this righteousness that he judges us, you and I and declares us innocent despite our sin, despite our drunkenness, our adultery, our thievery, or greediness and enviousness, despite the stingy manner in which we dole out his forgiveness. But then that forgiveness which we have it lives in and through us, as we who are forgiven learn to forgive. Because just as we have put on Christ in baptism, we who have been forgiven must forgive lest we put Christ off, and be found at the wedding feast without our wedding garment. And that is not an easy thing to do. It isn’t an easy thing to forgive. It wasn’t even easy for Jesus. No it was a hard thing, the thought of it made him sweat blood, the heaviness of it caused his disciples to sleep. It did not come easy, this forgiveness by which we lived in his righteousness, but it came about through the ordeal of death on the cross, and there it was finished.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.