Matthew 22:1-14 (Pentecost 20A)
St. John, Galveston 10/15/2023
Rev. Alan Taylor

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Articles of clothing are often viewed as very significant in the Scriptures. For instance, Adam and Eve, having eaten of the forbidden fruit of the tree, found themselves naked and desperately trying to hide from God. Their shame wasn’t simply in their nakedness. Rather, they stood before God in all of their rebellious and broken humanity, having lost the righteous image of God into which they had been made. It was God who clothed them with the hide of an animal. Death, which, to that point, may have only been an abstract concept to Adam and Eve, was now vividly set before them. An animal was sacrificed that they might be clothed, that their shame might be covered.

In the Old Testament, Priests were adorned with clothing designed to recall the Eden narrative and humanity's ideal role in God’s creation. Priests represented the new adam—in their shimmering, royal, priestly garments they entered into the Eden space, if you will, the Holy of holies, through prayer and the offering of sacrifices. The 43 verses of Exodus 28 describe in minute detail the priestly attire. “A breast piece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.” Again, articles of clothing are often viewed as significant in the Scriptures.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, a king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call people to the feast, but they wouldn’t come. He sent other servants. These he instructed to tell those who were called what the feast would be like. Perhaps the King sought to persuade His invited guests with the grandeur of the event. (The king) “has prepared his dinner, his oxen and his fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” Grace abounded in the King’s invitation. Still, “they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”

The parable spoke very pointedly to the people of Israel, who rejected Jesus, the Lamb of God who would be slain for the sins of the world. In that case, the parable is much like the previous parable, about the Master’s vineyard and the tenets and the Master’s servants. However, in the parable of the tenets, while Jesus let the Scribes and Pharisees pronounce their own sentence for the manner in which they treated the Master’s servants, in this parable, the King proclaimed the sentence upon those who refused to heed his call to come to the Feast. “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.”

Though he was angry, the King yet remained gracious. As such, he sent his servants to call others to the feast. “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.”  This, my friends, is grace in all of it’s glory. God’s forgiveness and mercy in Christ Jesus is for all people, young and old, rich and poor, holy and unholy, or shall we say, good and bad. And so, the king’s servants called people to the feast of the king’s son.

And “the wedding was filled with guests.” But all was not right. There, perhaps over in the corner of the great hall, was a man who was not wearing a wedding garment. His appearance was evident only to the king. The King went to the man and said to him, “‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And (the man) 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Articles of clothing are often very significant in the Scriptures. In this case, it was a wedding garment, or I should say, the lack thereof that proved detrimental to the man at the wedding feast. But we can’t get our eyes off of the reaction of the king. In this parable, the King, of course, is God. And, for us, that makes the situation all the more disturbing. It seems so unlike God, doesn’t it, that someone should be so harshly treated for lacking the proper clothing? I mean, perhaps the man who wasn’t wearing a wedding garment simply couldn’t afford one, or maybe he couldn’t find a place at such a later hour that would provide him with such a garment. Whatever the reason, the King’s judgment seems excessive, even harsh and cruel.

And yet, the King’s judgment was absolute. He is, after all, the King. Perhaps though, this is where we become a bit uncomfortable with this incident at the great banquet. The choice of who stayed for the feast and who was forced to leave the great hall was the King’s and His alone. The guests didn’t get to decide what they would wear, or even whether or not they wore what the King required them to wear. Judgment belonged to the King and only the King. Someone might respond, but oh King, I have this wonderful garment to present to you. At which time, the King would pronounce His judgment. “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

At this point, we do well to examine the Scriptures, that we might better understand the significance of the wedding garment, and the king’s insistence that He guests be found in such a garment and in none other.

A good place for us to start would be in Isaiah 61. The prophet writes, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God.” Why does Isaiah greatly rejoice in the Lord? Why does his soul exult in his God? “For he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Remember, the priestly garment recalled the Eden narrative and humanities ideal role in God’s creation.  

And so, God has clothed me, He has clothed you, with the wedding garment, the garment of salvation, the robe of the righteousness of His own dear Son. Here, your baptism is of such great significance and importance. You, my friends, were clothed that day in Christ. His righteousness became your righteousness. He covered you “as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest.”

While the priest, in beautiful dress, entered the Temple as the second Adam, to offer prayers and sacrifices on behalf of God’s people, Jesus, by way of the cross, entered the holy of Holies as the second Adam. As the Scriptures say,  “the first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” And so, in the water of baptism, God draped over you the robe of the purity and righteousness of His Son. Thus, you are clothed in the most significant attire that could ever be worn, the wedding garment of the King’s Son.

“Christ, the second Adam, came
To bear our sin and woe and shame,
To be our life, our light, our way, 
Our only hope, our only stay.”

“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +