THIS GARMENT IS SPECIAL SO HAVE YOU GOT YOURS
by Dr. Henderson Ward 4/25/2012 / Christian Living
We know for sure that Jesus' ministry was carried out in the nation of Israel as he tried mightily to rescue the Jews and bring them into God's kingdom but Israel rejected him and point blank refused to heed his call. In our reflection today we are looking at this parable, as told in Matthew 22: 1-14, where he is telling them that because they have rejected him he is now turning to people outside of Israel to fill his father's house. The king in this parable, after the invited guests did not come, sends out his servants to find other guests to come to the wedding celebration and when he is inspecting the assembled guests behold he sees one not wearing his wedding garment.
Parables of Jesus are famously misunderstood but this one, like all parables of Jesus Christ, is intended to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson and we should note at the outset that it makes some important things clear, such as the following.
1. There will be a Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven. In Revelation 19:7-9 we read, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." All the saints of God will be invited and be present.
2. Everyone will be dressed in the garment provided by Almighty God; pure white. In Revelation 7:13-14 we read, "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Much symbolism is indicated here but sinlessness and purity define the garment of God and refers to conversion.
3. The only alternative to heaven unfortunately is hell (outer darkness in this parable). However much some people may deride the notion of hell there is no escaping its reality and believers should continue to warn the wicked of its existence. The notion that God determines that people go to hell is wrong for no one will ever go to hell that did not choose that destination for himself.
Have you got your wedding garment? This question is important for it is a matter of life and death that we be suitably attired. Much like the deep-sea diver needs to have on his atmospheric diving suit or the astronaut on the moon who will not survive without his space suit so too the invited guest needs to have on his wedding garment. So let us begin to answer this question by first noting a few things about this wedding garment.
Happily the wedding garment is readily accessible
We note it is accessible to all
The original invitees (meaning the nation of Israel) were uninterested in attending the wedding feast and even maltreated the servants who brought the invitations. The King after having dealt with those who murdered his servants determined that the wedding feast would go ahead so he gave the command that everyone (symbolizing the non-Jewish world, i.e. the Gentiles) who was available should be invited. "Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage" (Matthew 22:9) The King was not concerned with ethnicity or status; their standing in society, their wealth, their health, their past, their popularity or anything else. He just wanted to invite anyone who would come.
God's marvelous plan of salvation is such that it is open to whosoever will and the Bible says in Romans 10:13 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved". There is no discrimination with God and we have no excuse, what is available to one is available to all.
We observe it is accessible by invitation
Important invitations never come by luck or chance or by some happenstance but are deliberate and personal. In our parable the garment was for those who were honoured with an invitation to the wedding. The wedding invitation was a two stage process; the first was a notification of the date and place of the event and the second stage was to notify that the time had arrived and the guests were to come. The king at the appointed time sent his servants to invite the guests to the wedding as our text shows, "And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding" (Matthew 22: 3a)
In similar vein no one comes to Jesus without invitation for it is the Holy Spirit that will stir our heart to move towards Jesus Christ. The Bible says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44) We should be very careful and not take this invitation callously for it could be withdrawn as the Bible warns us, "And the Lord said my Spirit shall not always strive with man." (Genesis 6:3)
We declare it is accessible by faith
People who do not have faith and those who for one reason or another are hostile to the concept of faith will never appreciate the enormous facilitation of faith. It is for good reason the Bible tells us, "the just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). In this parable we are dealing with an earthly, practical situation but we must never lose sight of the heavenly dimension. The wedding garment, this robe of righteousness is accessed by faith in Jesus Christ alone for the Bible leaves us in no doubt. It says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8) Trying to access God's gift without faith is like a handless man trying to clap; it just will not happen whatever your good intentions. So what do you do if you do not have faith? The answer is to ask God sincerely and listen to and obey the Word of God and you will receive it for the Bible says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17)
It is very sad that many are being deluded into thinking that their self-righteousness and good works will give them salvation but they are horribly mistaken. Christian workers too need to understand that working assiduously for the church cannot save them; only faith in the atoning work of Christ can do that!!!
Delightfully the wedding garment is really adorable
We know it is priceless but free
In ancient Palestine if you were invited to a person's wedding and you did not have a wedding garment, could not afford one, then the host would provide you with one. However the prevailing custom then in most of Palestine was to give all wedding guests free wedding garments. In spiritual terms an appropriate garment is provided by God Almighty and this adorable garment is beyond price and no amount of money can purchase it for it is absolutely free. Priceless yet free seems almost too good to be true, but it is; hallelujah to the Lamb.
When a person receives Jesus as savior and Lord then God the Father gives him the wedding garment and Isaiah sees it this way, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1) Salvation is still free and priceless in spite of those who would sully it by exploiting it and trying to make money from it.
We recognize it is a personal fit
In the case where wedding garments were provided and the guest just chose one that would fit him then all the garments were not an absolutely good fit. Even when the garment was tailored to fit the individual there was always something here or there that did not quite meet expectation. As you would have experienced you are not always 100% happy with your new outfit. This wedding garment, given by God himself, is a perfect fit for everyone, young or old, short or tall, little or large.
No one has ever complained with and justification that Jesus Christ didn't fit them. Everyone who truly accepts Jesus Christ finds a perfect fit. Salvation transforms lives for the better and every born again Christian can testify to this.
We should pity those parents who tell their young children that they should not give their lives to God just yet. They say to the young "Live a little first and then, maybe" as if you are too young to die. Jesus is as suitable for the young just as he is for all the other age groups.
We are assured it is pleasing to the father
This is what really counts for it is not just a perfect fit and free but it is pleasing to Almighty God the Father. Anytime we are able to please the Father whether by our attitudes, our conduct, our commitment, our giving, our service or anything else then we are doing something right. In our parable this wedding garment was a requirement to be worn in the presence of the king and all guests were to be inspected and approved by him. All the other guests were so approved and accepted except that particular one.
Equally true everyone clothed in the garment of Christ's righteousness is accepted by God. To be in your own righteousness is to go before God unprepared and you will pay the penalty. How we are dressed, what we are wearing when we depart this world will determine where we spend eternity. This is a most sobering thought.
Amazingly the wedding garment has real ability
We see that it transforms one's appearance
Some people say that appearance really does not matter because the Bible says, "for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) While the morals and values of a person are heart related it is also true that appearances can be windows of the soul. In almost all cultures the bride always seek to be different and dressed in such a way as to be distinct from everyone else at the wedding. When you see a wedding you do not have any trouble identifying the bride even if you cannot tell who the bridegroom is. Almost all brides look different in their bridal outfit because bridal outfits are transformational as far as appearances are concerned.
The same thing applies to salvation; it changes people so completely they are hardly recognized. This happened when a mad man called Legion found grace with Jesus and was healed and when the news spread abroad people rushed to see this man and when they saw him they were astonished and the Bible recorded it thus, "And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid (Mark 5:15). It was the transformation that had them frightened.
Wearing the wedding garment enables God to see you differently, not now as the guilty sinner but justified and righteous in his sight. This is the miracle of God's grace and speaks to justification.
We are in no doubt it touches one absolutely
In our parable the wedding guests were taken from off the streets literally, just as they were. Whatever state or condition they were in when they were found was no barrier to their acceptance for when they put on the wedding garment they were completely covered. It stands to reason that many were filthy or in rags or in some way had on unsuitable garments but provision was made for them. This is life as it really is for we often have to put off some things before we can put on others. This is amply demonstrated throughout the Bible as Isaiah comments on the state of our garments, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) They are those, sadly, who are still not convinced and put great store on their own self righteousness. When we are saved we are covered absolutely by the blood of Jesus through the grace of God and not by any work of our own.
Christians must teach this, preach it and live it; salvation comes by God's grace through faith in Christ alone!!
We delight at how it transcends one's ability
We have to accept that they are many mighty and powerful movers and shakers in the world who can wheel and deal quite effectively. These mighty and powerful entities can demand and get an audience with the greatest powers on earth yet they are powerless before God until they put on the wedding garment. The weak and insignificant are empowered and given audience because the wedding garment takes them above and beyond their ability. It is God alone that makes things happen, "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." (Zechariah 4:6)
Many are going to miss out because they fail to realize it is not their ability that matters but their faith in the ability of Jesus Christ that counts.
Fittingly the wedding garment's absence is remarkably apparent
In ancient Palestine, somewhat like royal occasions today, the way you were dressed for weddings was indicative of your sense of the occasion as well as your conformity to the norms of your host. Not to have on a wedding garment was strikingly obvious and held serious implications for all concerned and led to certain consequences. In the spiritual sense the absence of the wedding garment will be grave.
Its absence will unquestionably produce confrontation
Unlike the situation of today when a wedding guest can wear virtually anything the custom was for guest to conform to the host's requirements and in this parable the king did his duty to the fullest. When the king inspected his guests he saw a man not wearing his wedding garment, "And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment" (Matthew 22:11) There were all now assembled and the king, as caring and courteous host, inspected them to see that all was in order. Any breach in decorum was a reflection on the king's ability to organize an efficient wedding for his son as well as an affront to fellow guests who would have been pedantic in conforming to requirements. The king could not let this pass for this was too serious a matter and the guest not wearing a wedding garment was confronted, "And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment" (Matthew 22: 11a)
Let there be no doubt that a day is coming when we shall face God one on one either at the Judgment Seat of Christ (to be judged for awards) or at The Great White Throne Judgment (to be judged and sentenced to eternal damnation) as John tells us, "And I saw a great white throneAnd I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second deathAnd whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20: 11-15)
Its nonappearance will surely produce chagrin
When the man not wearing the wedding garment was confronted by the king he was lost for words as this text tells us, "And he was speechless" (Matthew 22: 12b) He could not offer excuses or apologies; he had no legs to stand on. When faced with the truth he could not hide or justify his position.
When the unsaved face God at the Judgment they will be unable to plead their case for they will be confronted with unimpeachable evidence, perfect details of transgressions and impeccable angelic testimony. Even the cry for mercy will fall on death ears. The time to repent and be saved is now, for today is the day of salvation and the Bible advises, "For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart" (Psalm 95: 7-8)
Its nonexistence will definitely put you in confinement
The absence of this wedding garment will not only cause chagrin and confrontation it will do a lot worse for it leads to confinement. Satan is not the only one who will be bound in everlasting darkness but also those who die in their sins for they did not put on their wedding garment and in this text the king says, "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness." (Matthew 22: 13b) Some still cling to the foolish notion that God will not put people in hell but they err in not knowing the scriptures for the Bible clearly says, "The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God" (Psalms 9:17)
The big question now facing each and every one of us is this. Where are we going to spend eternity? We do have a choice. In our reflection on Matthew 22: 1-14 we saw that Jesus gave us a simple parable with a hugely significant meaning and we are compelled to ask you, where is your wedding garment? Are you spiritually dressed for eternity? Are you washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and dressed in garments of white as provided for you by God himself or are you unsure of your standing before him. This wedding garment is very special so have you got yours?
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013