This is the third of three blogs in a series of posts about the parable of the wedding feast found in Matthew 22:1-14.
A third invitation goes out, but this time it goes to the unexpected. Instead of the ones who were first invited, the king opens up the invitation to anyone walking along the streets. The ones who were invited first proved to be totally unworthy of the invitation.
The text says the servants gathered the good and the bad, and this shows us the extent of the gospel call to come to Christ for the cleansing from sin. No person is too far beyond the reach of the gospel. The good and the bad both need the gospel. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That’s the level playing field.
But in this third invitation, we have this very interesting note. Somehow, one of the people who got an invitation made it into the feast without the proper clothes. Today, most of the time the expected attire for a wedding is “morning dress,” or just a nice, clean suit or dress. If you go to an upscale clothing retailer website, this is what you’ll find. In that day, wedding clothes weren’t so much prescribed as they were just clean, white clothes that anyone would have had available. So instead of this guy going home to get what he knew was expected of him, he shows up in his work clothes, coming right off of the street, thereby insulting the king.
Now before we start think that this means we earn our salvation, this goes deeper than that. Here we’re getting to the problem of presumption, of presuming God’s grace, presuming no change is attached to salvation; essentially, presuming faith without works. Now this does get sticky, because some people do argue that to be saved and to continue to be saved, you have to bring your sins to the altar over and over or you have to rack up a bunch of good deeds to maintain your salvation. But this isn’t what this particular parable is about. If we’re not careful, we can make every parable about “once saved, always saved” when there’s something else going on here. The relationship between faith and works is important, and this parable gets to the heart of it. The invitation into the feast cost this man nothing. But once he received and welcomed the invitation, he did not respond with gratitude and humility.
A person humbled to their core by the sheer impossibility of being invited to the wedding feast of the king’s son while you were out sweeping the streets of your city would do anything to honor and respect both the king and the invitation, which would include no less than wearing the proper clothes. Essentially what we see here is a person offering lip-service and nothing more. So this ungrateful, disrespectful man will be kicked out just like the others before him.
Admittedly, even the most devout among us don’t always feel this level of gratitude. But we have to maintain the knowledge that we should be and act grateful by daily reminding ourselves of what God has done. Feelings come and go, but what God wants is obedience, not feelings.
Jesus ends this parable by saying that “many are called, but few are chosen.” Jesus says this to remind us that there is more than one way to respond to his invitation to come to the wedding feast. Some will outright refuse the invitation. Some will think that it looks good and might be able to do something for them. And then there are those who have been made new and desire to wear the wedding clothes prescribed by the king and joyfully enter the feast. These are the people who respond to God’s invitation with repentance and faith.