When I read this Wedding Feast story through carefully, it reminded me that Hilary and Jonnie in the last few weeks had said parables were often hard to understand and I didn’t even like the final words “For many are called, but few are chosen.” And then my mind went back to my own wedding 59 years ago when my parents invited the whole congregation so as not to upset anyone. We had the reception in the church hall. I don’t seem to remember that there many refusals! Then as my mind moved on I thought of Godfrey who has a recurring dream of being somewhere important without all his clothes on and when he wakes up he is glad to find it’s only a dream. Next I thought I better start being serious.
The parable is a story that begins like many of the others “The Kingdom of Heaven is like …” In this case it’s like a King who arranges a marriage for his son and sends out invitations. A wedding celebration by a king is quite an important event. His son is a Prince and such an affair demands attention. The big Royal Weddings of our time command a lot of attention. Prince William, the Queen’s Grandson, was married in Westminster Abbey. Many who were not invited would have loved to get in the door of that wedding.
Because of the interest shown in a modern royal wedding, it’s hard to understand in this parable why some would reject the invitation. But it says, “They were not willing to come.” Even when the event was described –A menu of prime rib steak and all you can eat, and dancing to a full orchestra under the stars on the palace grounds – they still wouldn’t come.
The King’s servants, sent to encourage them to attend, were seized by them and treated very badly and when the king heard about it he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
The marriage feast would still go on. The King decided that the invitation should go out giving people everywhere, from all walks of life, both good and bad, opportunity to attend the marriage of his son. People from all nations were given the chance to choose to come, or not, to the marriage feast.
God’s calling or invitation is not a light matter. The calling to salvation, pictured here by the Glory of a marriage feast, is a great once-in-a-life-time matter. It’s why the garment, or lack of one, was such an issue for the King. The garment is important to understand. And the attitude of the guest in not wearing the garment is also important. Let’s look at what the garment represents. The Book of Revelation states “For the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be dressed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. There it is, spelled out for us. At this marriage of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, to his bride the church, she has put on fine linen, which is defined as the righteous acts of the saints. It is all about personal righteousness. The Bible uses clothing and dressing to show how we “put on” behaviour that is pleasing to God. Character is likewise put on one piece at a time – one action at a time. Some things are easier than others. If you have always been quick-tempered, it can be very hard to change to a less agitated nature, but it can be done.
If you are filled with pride and lacking humility, just a single intense trial can reshape you. Ask anyone who has lost a job or gone through a life-changing event. Character can be altered but it requires the need to want to change.
Let’s go back to the guest at the supper who was found to be lacking the right garment. This man did not have on the right garment by his choice. Knowing what was required, he chose to come to the marriage feast without wearing the right clothing. When confronted by the king he had nothing to say. Then the King said to the servants “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness.” The judgement comes for not wearing the right garment or for having a frame of mind that God cannot reach. It is an awful matter to consider.
The parable concludes with a statement from Christ that “Many are called, but few are chosen” The word “chosen” here applies to those who not only receive a call, but willingly choose to come, being sure they are dressed with the right garment, and remain committed for life to God.
In this parable the King represents God the Father and the King’s Son is, of course Jesus Christ. Those invited to the marriage feast are those God invites to prepare now. In this lifetime for his Kingdom. To accept this invitation is to become a “lifer”. You are in for the duration, with no intention or option of quitting.
I wake up from my dreams relieved to not be found out in public half-dressed. How about you? Are you missing a garment while thinking you are all dressed and ready? This parable is a wakeup call for all of us to make sure we are wearing the right garment when we meet our Lord in heaven.