(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: Matthew 22:1-14
Fashion. Certainly not my forte. In the 10th grade I thought that jeans with lots of holes were cool, so I took a perfectly good pair of them and made random cuts with scissors. I then put them on and walked to school. I wasn't five houses away from home when I realized my mistake. Holes in jeans ONLY look cool when they occur naturally via wear and tear. My jeans looked and felt ridiculous. As long as I stayed still, you couldn't even tell there were any incisions. But as soon as I started to walk, it looked liked I was attacked by piranhas. I made it through a tortuous day of school and then threw the monstrosity away.
In today's reading we have perhaps the biggest fashion error in all of the Bible. Jesus tells a parable, very similar to the one recorded in Luke 14, about a Great Banquet. In both these accounts, many guests are invited to a great feast and those same guests make all sorts of lame excuses as to why they cannot attend. In Matthew's version, some of the guests become downright hostile and violent. Much can be said as to the meaning of this parable, a vivid illustration that the Gospel message, which was first for the Jew (Rom. 1:16), has been rejected by the high majority of Jews.
But for our part, I want to focus in on the verses that center on a man with a worse sense of fashion than even me. We are talking about a man who actually showed up to the Banquet, only to be tossed out like a drunken fan at Ralph Wilson Stadium. And to our 21st century ears, this part of the story seems a bit harsh. After all, who would expect that anyone gathered from some random street corner would be dressed business formal.
The answer is found in the fact that we do weddings and receptions quite a bit different than those 2000 years before us. Knowing this opens our eyes to the richness found in the parable.
In ancient times, there were always two wedding announcements made. The first was a general invitation that so and so were getting married in the near future. The second was the announcement that the actual event was at hand. This shows us that those who made excuses for not attending were not merely unfortunately busy, but rather that they were promise- breakers, having already agreed to be there, only to back out at the last minute. The insult factor there is huge.
Second, it was often the custom of the day for the father or person in charge of the wedding/banquet celebration to provide the invited guests with a special set of clothes to wear. The richer the patron, the more likely this was to happen, so it's almost guaranteed because we are talking about a king. (Think of those fancy restaurants that require a jacket and loan out coats to unsuspecting men, so that they fit the dress protocol.) To attend the feast meant that your regular clothes would have to be changed for more proper wedding attire.
Why did this man get tossed? Because he, by remaining in his own clothes, was stating the he had no need of the King's garments and was fine with what he was wearing. The problem is in the Bible that our clothes (righteousness) are not good enough to get us anywhere. They are as pitiful as Adam & Eve's fig leaves (Gen. 3:7). They are as filthy as the high priest's garments in Zechariah's vision (Zec. 3:3). They are as pleasant as menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Instead, the Scripture tells us to clothe ourselves with the Lord Christ Jesus! (Rom. 13:14) We need new clothes that are not of us, just like Adam, and Joshua. The beauty of the Gospel (seen in this parable) is that not only has God invited us into His Kingdom, He has also provided the means to enter and the very clothing we are to wear. We cannot accept the invitation to attend the wedding banquet and refuse the clothes demanded for the occasion any more than we could join the Marines and expect to wear a clown suit in combat.
When we trust in Christ we are covered in His righteousness. We too have been graciously, and personally invited to a great Wedding Banquet. We too were strangers to the King, shut out outside His doors; and now we've received word that He wants US! We too have been provided appropriate garments from the King Himself.
Whatcha wearing? Because if we want to be part of God’s Party, we need to wear His Clothes!!!