I have often read and questioned what seems to be harsh actions for the king in Matthew chapter 22. Jesus is giving a parable, of a king inviting people to his wedding banquet, many are invited but few respond, some invitees actually assault or kill the king’s messengers. Finally the king sends his servants out onto the streets inviting whomever they find, whether good or bad natured people. All these guests gather at the banquet, the hall is now filled with guests. Then the king notices that one of the attendees has not dressed appropriately. The inappropriately dressed man is speechless – unable to defend himself, he is caught not wearing wedding clothes. In rage the king has the man’s hands and feet tied, he is thrown out onto the streets where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Some versions say he is thrown into hell.
Thinking of this man from the street, I have questioned the fairness of the king. I can imagine this homeless person being grateful for a free invitation to the king’s banquet, yet the king’s actions seem harsh and inappropriate considering the man’s background. How could this king expect a filthy street beggar to have wedding clothes and to be dressed appropriately when the man can barely live on the streets?
This is how the story would appear if one did not realize that in the orient, kings and nobles, not wanting to be disgraced by the dress and conduct of the common people, would supply the appropriate clothing for the guests. This king would have provided wedding clothes and therefore could rightly expect proper wedding attire. To refuse to wear the supplied clothes would be an arrogant refusal of the provision of the king. This is why the accused man was speechless, he was guilty.
In application, I can’t help thinking about how our Lord is preparing for a great wedding celebration, the ultimate heavenly uniting of Jesus Christ with the church. He is working on His people (the church) that they might be set apart, clean, glorious, without spot, wrinkle or blemish (Eph. 5:26,27). To help bring this process about, God has provided everything that we need so that we are ready for His final wedding banquet. We are to:
- be washed by His word (Eph. 5:26) – which implies that we need to read and apply His word.
- be washed and renewed through the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) – which implies that we need to constantly be renewed and we need to submit to the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives (Rom. 8:13,14).
- respond to the grace of God which teaches us to deny ungodliness, worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly lives (Titus 2:12).
- choose to put aside and flee youthful lusts (Tim. 2:22).
- submit to God and draw near to Him and allow ourselves to be cleansed (James 4:4-8).
- allow other spiritual people to bring restoration and wholeness into our lives (Gal. 6:1).
When the great wedding feast comes, it will not be the king’s fault if we are not ready. He will have provided all that we need to be clean, whole and rightly dressed. The question will be whether we have applied all that our Lord has provided. Take a moment to examine your, thoughts, motives and actions. Are there areas where you need to allow God to bring changes into your life?
I have often wondered about the significance of these verses and why the king would be so cruel. I appreciate the clarity you have brought and feel that what you shared gives beauty to something that I found to be a bit hard to swallow. I also appreciate the steps you provide for us to be ready.