The Gospel, according to Matthew 22:1-14, gives an account of one of Jesus’ enlightening and yet entertaining parables. The Parable of the Wedding Banquet was given at a time when Jesus’ three-year ministry was in the homestretch. This text should be understood from this backdrop, and exegesis of the same should take this into account.
Those listening to the Parable of Jesus must have understood what he meant, considering that His teachings homed in prevailing cultural settings.
I think several applicable lessons can be gleaned from the Parable. However, I would wish to pinpoint my object of curiosity and narrow on it, instead of thoroughly snaking through the entire Parable.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Matthew 22:11-12 (NIV).
I want us to score our jackpot in the fellow with the wrong wedding attire. Bible scholars and historians tell us that it was an ancient Middle Eastern custom for the organiser of a party to come and greet the guests but not necessarily sit at the meal with them. He would appear to check on them, and this is what we see happens in the Parable of Jesus. The Bible tells us that the centre and the circumference of this party (Wedding parties in Ancient Israel could last up to one week!) was a King. He had given orders that guests be brought in from streets, alleys and neighbourhood so that his chambers could be full. But there was one guy who happened to get in without a wedding attire. It is not clear how he got in. It seems that the fact he lacked in dressing did not bother him. He was contented. He knew the dressing code, and even if he did not know at least, he saw how other guests had dressed.
We could further stretch our imaginations far and wide and assume he could have been blind. Anyway, this would be a far-fetched explanation and the most unlikely one.
It is quite surprising and somewhat uncomfortable that the man was contentedly seated even though he was offbeat. Could he have been an imposter? So what can we learn from him?
Odd situations in our lives are impermanent: A time is coming when the King will cast them out. No blemish can outlast the Blood of Jesus. No stain can stand the steadfastness of Jesus. No storm can steal the stillness of Jesus. No stench can stop the steps of Jesus.
The rules of the Kingdom are meant to help us stay on the pitch until the final whistle is blown. Bending and breaking them serves to shorten our stint in the field. Soon we find out that faking is tedious. Do not fake wholesomeness. Be real; we are humans. All these pretences cannot outlive His Kingdom principals.
It is not only the inner garment that is important. Even the outer garment should show that we are part of the King’s guests. The argument that ‘what matters is the heart’ is misleading as we are supposed to be a Sermon in the Flesh. A non-believer cannot see what is in my heart but can observe my everyday conduct and make judgments. Remember the words of D.L. Moody, “Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible; the other 99 will read the Christian’.
Asking questions and seeking clarifications do not lessen our worth. It is better to ask questions and look stupid in the process but amass vital wisdom nuggets. This practice can save a lifetime embarrassment.
There is only one doorway to the King’s banquet. It is in the form of a person: Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Possibly the man with the wrong attire outsmarted the doorkeepers. Or perhaps he climbed the fence. All these efforts brought forth wind. Things are easy when you use the Right Door.
An invitation to a banquet is necessary but not sufficient. Sufficiency is arrived at when choices are made. A call can be public, but decisions are personal.
Adorning the right attire is critical. It is one thing to be among the guests, and it is another thing to have the appropriate apparel.