Holy Week: An Unworthy Guest

Matthew 22:12–14 (ESV)
"And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The above verses are part of the Parable of Wedding Banquet, a story about an invitation given by a king to his son’s wedding but those invited (Israel) rejected the offer so the king extended the offer to others (Gentiles). The new guests were those who would be honored with such an invitation. These were the riffraff, the outcasts of society that the messengers would find along the byways. The impartiality of the king represented the impartial grace of God, inviting all people of all nations into the kingdom during the church age.

After the guests had gathered in the wedding hall, the king inspected them and discovered a man not dressed properly. The wedding clothes were not a particular style of garment, but they were the cleanest and best clothes each person had to wear, and, tradition was that it was also common for the host to provide a garment. This man was displaying disrespect by wearing less than the best available to him. The king addressed the man as Friend, implying that he was open to an explanation. But when questioned, the man had no answer. He was guilty of failure to honor the king’s son in a proper manner.

In essence, he was an unprepared imposter. The wedding clothes are a form of righteousness, and Jesus is trying to show here the inadequacy of our own self-righteousness. To accept God’s free gift of salvation is the answer to trying to clothe ourselves in our own rags. Remember how God clothed Adam and Eve after they attempted their own inadequate covering of fig leaves—God provided a blood sacrifice of an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with its skin. Similarly, without accepting the blood of Jesus, we face an eternity separated from our Father, trying to clothe ourselves. We are thus instructed to trust wholly in God’s righteousness and not our own (Philippians 3:9).

There is no path through our works and good deeds that will secure our home in Heaven. Nothing in God’s Word provides such a possibility, and if you are being taught you must have works and perform other rituals, along with faith to enter God’s Kingdom, you are being taught by men and not God. Only through His grace and our faith in acceptance of this free gift can we have eternal security in His presence—the works we do are simply fruit of having such faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 5:22-23; James 2:17).

“Many are called, but few are chosen.” Not everyone who is invited will be among the chosen. In particular to this parable, the unbelieving religious leaders of Israel were among those called but not chosen. This doctrine of election, taught throughout Scripture summarizes the theme of the preceding parables (Matthew 21:28–22:14). God invites many people into His kingdom. However, as the man thrown out of the wedding feast illustrates, not all who consider themselves part of God’s kingdom are genuine members of it.

I’m reminded of the statistic that reported 83% of Americans consider themselves Christians, a percentage I still find hard to believe. I then go to this Scripture:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21–23).

The tie-in to the man not clothed correctly in this parable is clear. It also should have implications for us as well. While we may fool ourselves and those around us into believing we’re a faithful Christian because we do good works, Jesus will never be fooled by our hypocrisy in a heart that is far from Him. This parable should convict all of us to examine ourselves and resolve anything in our lives that are an affront to His Holiness, repent, and seek forgiveness for believing we need to offer more than what He already provides (2 Corinthians 13:5).