[Read Matthew 22:1-14]
Wearing the Wedding Garment Supplied
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.” [Matthew 22:1-14]
You may be able to excuse yourself from the wedding of a cousin or an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a while, but there are some weddings you are truly obligated to attend.
Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a king who throws a wedding feast for his son. Throughout the Bible, this imagery is used – the Lord is the Groom, His Church is the Bride. The two become one flesh. So, you are called the Body of Christ.
The marriage union of man and woman points us to this greater union [Ephesians 5:31-32]. Christ’s marriage union with His Church is the basis for the everlasting feast of heaven.
On this side of heaven, we attend that feast in the Divine Service – the service of hearing and receiving His Word and Sacrament. The wedding feast of heaven is hidden under earthly elements, bread and wine. And His Word is our Bread of Life upon which we also feast by hearing and believing it.
The first half of our Lord’s parable talks about those who skip this feast – “they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business” – while others “seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”
This describes Israel’s reaction to the prophets and to the Messiah, Jesus. And it describes so much of His church’s reaction ever since – either not prioritizing the hearing of His Word or reacting angrily against it when it pricks at us – and therefore neglecting attendance at the feast.
There are real excuses. But understanding this feast to be a very important family wedding reception tells us what kind of reasons really count and which excuses don’t really fly.
Having spite or anger toward God’s Word or toward His messengers for preaching it – or neglecting to attend this feast because we don’t give it priority – these things anger God and bring His judgment against us: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”
Sometimes we stop here. But there is a second portion of this parable. It talks about one who does attend the wedding feast but does not wear what is referred to as the “wedding garment”.
The king said to the servants, “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
“Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” This isn’t about your jeans or your suit jacket. This wedding garment is given to you when? When you are baptized. It’s the garment of Christ’s righteousness that covers all your sin. It’s Jesus covering you.
We are not fit for this feast. We are each sinful and unclean from within. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” [Mark 7:21-23].
The “wedding garment” is the purity and righteousness of Jesus Christ alone which covers us – clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. By this covering, you are counted pure and pleasing to God.
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” [Romans 4:7]. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” [Isaiah 61:10].
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her – present her holy – having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word – baptism – so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”[Ephesians 5:25-27].
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:27]. You come to the feast wearing Jesus. He is your covering, your wedding attire.
The man in the parable who was said to be without the wedding garment came to the feast based on his own merits. He came believing what he was was good enough – instead of being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
To wear the wedding garment means to trust alone in Jesus’ righteousness to cover my sin. Therefore, I can confess my sins to be sinful. I can call myself wrong. Because I’m not trusting in me. I’m trusting in Jesus. I don’t have to make myself out to be good. He is good. He forgives me and covers me.
Second, to wear the wedding garment means to walk in it. To walk according to what I’m wearing. They say that dressing up for work improves your performance even if no one else sees you. We sort of become the uniform we’re wearing.
Jesus has become our clothing that covers us. He is our uniform which shapes how we walk. We are growing up into the garment God has laid on us. This includes walking in Christ’s kindness, forgiveness, and love. It also includes walking in His purity, self-control, and obedience to God’s Word.
In short, as we have put on Christ, let’s also walk in Him and live lives of holiness. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” [Romans 13:14]. “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt…” [Ephesians 4:22-23]. “Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” [Ephesians 4:24].
We say it the same way in our Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate? “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” [Luther’s Small Catechism, Baptism, Fourth Part]
We are mistaken when we conclude that because we’re all sinners and Christ covers us, therefore, there’s nothing wrong with living this way or that way. Believing that the Gospel means we can safely continue in sin is a way of coming to this feast without the wedding garment.
Therefore, it says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” [1 Corinthians 11:28]. Because “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” [1 Corinthians 11:27].
Let’s come to the feast covered and dressed – wearing Jesus Christ who covers all our sin and seeking to grow up into this righteousness in which He has clothed us. Amen.
Pastor Curtis Stephens was born in Flint, MI. He completed his M.Div. at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN and has served congregations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Pastor Stephens began serving at Trinity in July of 2023.