Monday, October 03, 2011

Wedding clothes

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "'For many are called, but few are chosen.'" Matthew 22:14

Jesus' stories certainly snag one's attention. In today's we have a king's banquet hall all decorated with steaming platters of food for the wedding feast already on the buffet—but no guests. The invited give excuses about why they can't come, and worse, abuse the servants who carry the invitations. As a hostess who has prepared a few big meals myself, I can feel the pang of the king's disappointment when no one shows up.

How satisfying, then, when he calls in the unworthy, the good, even the bad. The story feels finished with the scene of that hall alive with conversation and laughter, the clink of dishes and cutlery (although I'm not sure they used cutlery. Oh well...).

But no, here comes another instalment. The king sees a wedding guest who has a little problem. He is wearing no wedding garment. A margin note in my study Bible explains about Bible-time weddings:

"Even among the lower class first century weddings often included several days of joyful feasting. The bride and groom wore their best clothes; their guests enjoyed the best food and drink they could provide (Isaiah 61:10, John 2:1-11).

A royal wedding would be even more elaborate. If a guest of the king was unable to find suitable attire, the king himself would provide something to wear (1 Samuel 18:4, Esther 6:8, Revelation 19:7-9).

Of all the guests brought to the wedding—good and bad, worthy and unworthy—this particular guest had apparently rejected the garment provided by the king." - Quest Study Bible, p. 1366.

It turns out the apparent little matter of not being dressed in the right clothes is not little at all, judging by the king's reaction: "Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?" he asks. And in response to the man's silence, the king commands him bound and taken away "...cast into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

It's not hard to see who are the real players in this story. The king is God. His son is Jesus. The intended guests are the Israelites—who spurned all invitations to come to the feast even killing the prophet messengers. And so the invitation comes to all, worthy and unworthy: "For God so loved the world..." - John 3:16.

God provides the wedding clothes to wear (Zechariah 3:4). They are ours when we exchange our rags for robes "washed...and made white in the blood of the Lamb" - Revelation 7:13-14.

Paul describes this exchange another way: "He made Him who knew no sin to be made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" - 1 Corinthians 5:21.

Someday there will be another wedding banquet (Revelation 19:7-9). Have you asked Jesus for the wedding garment to wear to it?

PRAYER: Dear God, Your invitation is so generous. Help me not to interpret Your grace as an attitude of 'anything goes.' Help me to cultivate habits of righteousness, faithfulness and obedience. Amen.

MORE: Bible-time marriage customs

For more information about Bible-time marriage customs, this exhaustive article on Bible History Online includes entries from many sources, including Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Smith's Bible Dictionary etc.

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