The Man Without The Wedding Garment
“And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”—Matthew 22:1-14
In this striking parable which our Lord spoke to the people of Israel toward the end of His ministry shortly before His going out to the Garden of Gethsemane and from there to the judgment hall and to the cross, He gave a remarkable dispensational outline of the way God is dealing with men in this scene. We are told in the beginning that He “spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.” This expression “the kingdom of heaven” is peculiar to the Gospel of Matthew. It is not found in any of the other books of the Bible. In the other Gospels we often get the expression “the kingdom of God,” but only in Matthew’s Gospel do we find “the kingdom of heaven.” And there it is used in two different aspects: in the first twelve chapters “the kingdom of heaven” is practically synonymous with “the kingdom of God.” It refers to that time when the Divine authority is to be established over all the Earth. John the Baptist announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; when Jesus appeared He preached “the kingdom of heaven has come nigh unto you.” The twelve and the seventy were sent to proclaim that the kingdom was at hand. The King was there already, and He offered the kingdom of Israel.
In chapter 13 we find the Lord Jesus intimating that the kingdom had been rejected. From this point on we have a different aspect of the kingdom of heaven. It speaks of conditions that will prevail during the time the King Himself is absent. The kingdom of heaven was to take on a mysterious form. Thenceforth the “kingdom of heaven” is practically synonymous with what we call today “Christendom.” The word “Christendom” really means “Christ’s kingdom,” and yet Christ is not here; He is not actually reigning on Earth. Where is He? Hidden in the heavens. Then how can His kingdom be here on Earth? There are on Earth many who profess to own Him as the rightful King. They are not all genuine; some are Christians in name only and have never had the experience of the new birth, and therefore are not really children of His kingdom, but at least they profess to recognize Him as the rightful King; others have trusted Him as Saviour and own Him as Lord. These in the aggregate constitute what we call “Christendom.” This is the kingdom of heaven in mystery. From chapter 13 on to the end our Lord speaks of conditions that would prevail after He ascended into heaven.
Here He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.” This is one result of the work of the cross. The “certain King” is God; the Son is Christ Himself; the marriage is the glorious union of believers with Christ, those who put their trust in Him and are thus united to Him. The marriage supper is really the gospel feast, the feast of good things which God had provided for all who will accept His gracious invitation. But observe: the feast is prepared by God for the joy and glory of His own beloved Son.
Do you know why God is willing to save sinners? Do you know why He is willing to receive you? It is because He wants to have you in the glory with His Son for all eternity. It will mean so much to our Lord Jesus to be surrounded in the ages to come with untold millions who have been redeemed by His precious blood. John Bunyan says somewhere, “Oh, this Lamb of God, He had a whole heaven to Himself. Millions of angels to do His bidding, but that could not satisfy Him; He must have sinners to share it with Him!” It is God the Father who designed the wedding feast for His Son. The thought was in the heart of God, and He expressed it by sending the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins. We read that the king “sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.” This first invitation was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, bidding them come to the marriage feast which the king had prepared. But they would not come. They refused the gracious invitation. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11).
The question has often been asked by Jewish people, “If Jesus is really the Messiah as you say He is why is it that Israel has been suffering all these years instead of being blessed?” The answer is: He came to save Israel, but because they refused Him the invitation was extended to the Gentiles. The king sent his servants to call the people of Israel; they had an invitation to the marriage, but they would not come. Jesus said, “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). They would not accept the invitation; they would not enter in and partake of the feast which had been spread. To accept the invitation one must trust Christ for himself. Have you done this? If not, your condition today is the same as that of Israel of old.
In the next verse we read, “Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.” Now notice, this is the second invitation, a most urgent one, extended to the same people, telling them that were bidden that the feast was ready. Still they would not come. The king said, “Go again and call them!” After the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven we find Peter and the other apostles, in the early chapters of the Book of Acts, pleading with Israel to repent of the rejection of Christ and turn to Him and trust Him, confessing Him as their Saviour. A few accepted Him, but the great majority spurned Him and actually persecuted His servants. We read, “But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.” Is there anything wrong in owning a farm? Anything wrong in being a merchant? Not at all; unless it keeps you out of heaven! If you get so occupied with your farm or so taken up with your merchandise that you cannot lift your eyes above the earth, so that it actually keeps you out of heaven, then there is something tragically wrong with it. Things in themselves which are proper may become wrong if we put them in place of Christ and the Gospel. These men to whom the message came, said, “We have too many other things about which we must be concerned: we have our farms to work, merchandise to sell. We cannot consider the king’s invitation.”
We read, “And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.” There were some who were simply indifferent, and others positively antagonistic. These actually murdered the servants. Even in those early days hundreds of God’s dear people were put to death by those who spurned His message.
I may be addressing some who would say, “Well, I am not really against Christ; I have nothing against the Church, nothing against Christianity. The only thing is I am not really interested. I have too many other things to occupy my mind.” You are just like the first class—those who “went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.” Others of you may be antagonistic to Christ. But notice this: both classes failed to get into the marriage feast. Whether one is simply indifferent or actually antagonistic to the Gospel of God, the end will be the same. The question found in Hebrews 2:3, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” has never been answered. In order to be lost forever it is not necessary to be opposed to Christ. It is not necessary to say definitely, “I reject Jesus.” Just neglect Him and you will never get in to the feast. “The road of by-and-by leads to the house of never.” You may say, “Some day when conditions are different I am going to think about my soul.” But alas! while you are waiting for a more convenient season the end of life may come, and you will find yourself shut out in the darkness forever.
In the next verse we read, “But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” What does this mean? After Christ had been rejected and crucified God still waited for some forty years for Israel to repent, but they would not. Then He sent forth His armies. His armies? Yes. He is the God of hosts; He is the God of armies. And when a nation has sinned against Him to such a degree that He must deal with them in judgment, He sends the armies of some other people to visit judgment upon them. In this instance it was the Roman armies which He permitted to invade the land and destroy Jerusalem. The final destruction of that city was the fulfillment of the words of the Lord Jesus, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).
The Father thinks so much of His Son that when men deliberately reject and spurn Him, God’s indignation is stirred. In His dealings with Israel He really caused Jerusalem to be destroyed, and the people have been scattered ever since all over the world. They have shown themselves to be unworthy of eternal life.
Is God then going to have an empty banquet hall? Will there be no one who will accept His invitation and be present for the glory of His Son? Oh, yes! God is going to see that His wedding feast is furnished with guests, and He will find them in the most unlikely places. We read, “Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.” Now we see the gospel going out to the Gentiles. Israel had their opportunity; they had an invitation to the feast, but they refused to accept it. So God says to His servants, “Go out into the hedges and the highways; go out among the classes everywhere. No matter the condition in which men may be, no matter how unclean, no matter how vile and sinful, bid them to the marriage feast, invite them to come in.” And so we read that the servants “went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.” It is a graphic picture of what has gone on for the last nineteen hundred years. God’s servants have been going from land to land, from city to city, and out into the uttermost parts of the Earth. They have been going everywhere inviting poor, lost men to come to the marriage feast which God has prepared for His Son. Millions have accepted the invitation, and millions have already gone home to heaven. Many of you have responded and are enjoying your place at the gospel feast; but oh, how many there are among the Gentiles who have rejected Christ and refused to come! Are you one of these? You may have been born in a Christian home, and have heard the message all your life. Perhaps the first name you learned to pronounce, after learning to say “father” and “mother,” was the name of Jesus; and yet you are still unsaved, still in sin and without Christ. Oh, the unspeakable danger in which you stand, for it is written in the Word of God, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). Now God is waiting in grace to save you. The invitation is extended. Will you come? Will you take Christ for yourself? Tomorrow the door may be shut.
Some people profess to accept the Gospel invitation and yet never really trust Christ as their own Saviour. We read, “and when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment.” Now according to eastern custom we are informed that when some great personage made a marriage feast for someone in his family, he himself provided suitable garments to be worn by the guests when they sat down to the banquet. Everyone had an opportunity to don a wedding garment. So today God provides a robe of righteousness which all are obligated to accept and wear. You may say, “I am not fit for Him and for heaven; I am not fit to be numbered among the redeemed.” My dear friend, it is because you are not fit; it is because you are a sinner that you are invited to come, and it is He who makes you fit. Will you trust Christ as your Saviour? “All the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him.” Lack of fitness is therefore no excuse. When sinners come in repentance, trusting in Christ, then He clothes them with the garment of salvation, with the robe of righteousness. This is the wedding garment which makes one presentable at the marriage supper.
There was a man at this feast who professed to accept the invitation but he was indifferent and would not avail himself of the wedding garment. This man was like many who say today, “I do not think I am so bad; I do not need a Saviour; I am good enough as I am”—men who are trusting in their own righteousness. We read in Romans 10:3, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
I can visualize this man coming in. There were the king’s servants handing out robes to the guests as they entered the door. But when this particular man came he said, “I do not think I need to bother with that robe. I just bought a new outfit, and I do not think I need anything else; I am quite presentable just as I am.” “But the king himself has provided this robe; he wants all to wear one,” the servant would reply. The man insists, “Oh, I do not think it will make any difference in my case; the king will be satisfied with me just as I am.” And the servant allowed him to pass in. The time came when the guests were gathered at the table. The king comes in; he looks over the guests; he sees this man without a wedding garment, and he asks, “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.” He had accepted the invitation to the feast but had refused the wedding garment so graciously provided. He is like many who join the church but do not receive Christ as their personal Saviour. This shows what will take place someday. When the King looks over the guests He will inquire, “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? How did you dare take your place among those who profess faith in My Son when you are not really born again? How did you dare associate yourself with a Christian company when you were never saved?” This is what it means. And in that day no one will be able to say a word. Oh, I fancy a little while before, this man was quite ready to explain to the king’s servants. He made a good case for himself, but when it came to facing the king he was speechless. And my dear friend, you may be relying upon your own good works for your soul’s salvation; you may be resting on the fact that you have joined some particular church, perhaps in childhood, and you think that will get you into heaven; or you may be relying on the facts that you were baptized, and take the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, as we call it; or you may be relying upon the fact that you have reformed your life, and you are no longer living the way you used to live, but “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), except the name of Jesus.
Saul of Tarsus at one time refused the wedding garment. He thought he was fit for God without it, and thought that he did not need Christ; he had a righteousness of his own. But on the Damascus road he found out that all his righteousnesses were as filthy rags. He caught sight of Christ in glory sitting at God’s right hand in heaven, and he exclaimed, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:7, 8). That is the wedding garment—the righteousness of God by faith, which is offered to all; but is only upon all those who believe in Christ. Are you wearing the wedding garment? If the King came in to see His guests tonight, would He say to you, “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” You would have nothing to say; you would be speechless. Oh, would it not be best to take your true place in repentance before God and receive Christ as your Saviour? Confess to Him now, “I have not been born again; I am still in my sins with all my religious profession; I am a lost sinner needing a Saviour.” If you will make this confession and turn to Him, He is ready to save you.
“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.” What do they mean? Do you say, “I may not be among the chosen”? You never will be among the chosen unless you heed the call. The invitation is the call. How many are chosen? Those who respond to the call, those who accept the gift of righteousness, those who trust Christ. Millions are called, but thousands are chosen because the great majority refuse to take God at His Word.
Will you take Christ as your Saviour now? You are called; will you be among the chosen? Will you yield your heart to Him? He waits for your answer.
If you refuse you have only the misery and wretchedness of the outer darkness to which to look forward. This means banishment from the King’s presence in eternal woe.