Theme: Reactions to God’s Invitation
This week we learn about the indifferent, even arrogant way men and women respond to God
“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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
At this point the parable seems to be over. But it is not, and I am glad, because the Lord goes on to give a much needed warning in the account of the man who came to the feast without a wedding garment. I say it is needed because there is sometimes a kind of inverse pride found in the disadvantaged which imagines that, because they are not rich or famous or powerful but poor and unknown and weak, therefore, they deserve the king’s bounty and can come before him in their own character and on the basis of their own “good” works. Jesus exposed that error by showing how the man who came to the feast without a wedding garment was immediately confronted by the king and then thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (v.13).
What is the wedding garment? It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, of course. What else could it be? It is that perfect righteousness that is provided freely by God to all who repent of sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. We sing about this righteousness in that hymn by Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, translated by John Wesley:
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.
If we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we will be able to stand before God and rejoice in our salvation. But only if we are so clothed. If we are not clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we will be speechless before God and will be cast out. I am interested in the four words “the man was speechless,” because that is the same thought Paul expresses in Romans 3:19 when he says that every mouth will be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”
During the long years of his ministry, Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my distinguished predecessors as minister of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church, developed a way of presenting the gospel that used that text well. It was what God used in the conversion of D. James Kennedy and was later used by Kennedy as the basis of his Evangelism Explosion program. When Barnhouse was speaking to a person who was not sure he was a Christian, he would often ask, “Suppose you should die tonight and appear before God in heaven and he should ask you, ‘What right do you have to come into my heaven’ what would you say” He had learned from experience that there were only three answers a person could give.
Some would cite their good works, saying, “Well, Id say that I’ve done the best I can, and I’ve never done anything particularly bad.” This was an appeal to the persons moral record, and Barnhouse would point out that it is our record that has gotten us into trouble in the first place. We have all fallen short of God’s moral standard embodied in the law. The Bible flatly declares, No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law (Romans 3:20).
A second group of people would respond as did a woman whom Barnhouse once met on a ship crossing the Atlantic. He asked, “If God demanded of you, ‘What right do you have to come into my heaven?’, what would you say?”
She responded, “I wouldn’t have a thing to say.” That is, she would be “speechless” before God. In this parable Jesus says that will be the case of all of us when God actually does ask that question. In this life we may get by with our excuses or with the delusion that our record is pretty good and that God will be satisfied with it. But in that day, when we see God in his glory and understand what true righteousness is, our foolishness will be apparent to ourselves as well as to all other beings in the universe, and we will be reduced to silence if we are not clothed with the white wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness.
That is the third and only acceptable answer, of course. “What right do you have to come into my heaven?”
“None at all, so far as I myself am concerned. But Jesus died for my sins and has given me the covering of his own righteousness in which alone I dare to stand before you. I come at your invitation and in that clothing,” Will God reject such a one? He will not, for it is for such persons that the Lord Jesus Christ died. And he has told us to come to him.1
1 “Portions of this section are adapted from James Montgomery Boice, The Parables of Jesus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), pp, 65-73
What is the wedding garment?
Why are our works not good enough?
Have we the right to enter heaven? Why?
Jesus died for my sins and has given me the covering of his own righteousness in which alone I dare to stand…