Bible Reading for: February 4
You can’t attend the Celestial Wedding Feast if you aren’t wearing the appropriate wedding garment.
For three days straight, in our reading in Matthew, we hear Jesus give His followers a parable concerning the empty faith of the Pharisees and the invitation of Gentiles to join the membership of God’s Chosen People. Today that parable is about a wedding feast. A man’s son is being wed and he invites his friends to join him in the celebration. These so-called friends rejected the invitation, so the man sent his servants out to find anyone who wished to attend. Do you see the analogy? The friends, the ones that already know and have a relationship with the Master, have turned their backs on His offer and even killed His servants sent to call them to the feast. These were the Jews who acted pious but rejected right relationship with God. The strangers who were invited were those who did not have a previous relationship with the Master. These were the Gentiles.
Now I have heard time and again the argument that “the Jews” are no longer the “Chosen People” and that they had been supplanted by Christians. This concept, in my view, is not exactly accurate. What is a Jew? A Jewish friend of mine once said to me that a Jew can be one who practices an Old Testament faith or he can be a Jew simply in a biological sense in that he is a physical descendent of Abraham. In other words, a Jew can be someone who practices a particular religion or he can be a person who is from a particular blood line. I don’t know how other Jews feel about this assessment. As far as I know, he could have been way off the reservation on that observation, but it seems to me to be accurate.
In fact, something similar could be said about Christians. There are some who claim to be Christian because some ancestor was once a Christian or because mom and dad made them go to church on Sunday when they were a kid. Basically, there are those who view being a Christian as some kind of tribal affiliation. Then there are those who are “practicing Christians”. I like that turn of phrase. A Christian never really reaches perfection until he stands before Christ. All who truly are Christians are practicing – trying to do better.
Anyway, Jesus made it clear that only those who come through Him can get to Heaven. That is a very exclusive claim. Still, someone who is genetically Jewish can, and I say there will be many who will, accept Christ as their Savior and enter Heaven. There will also be many who claim to be Jewish, and many who claim to be Christian, who will not enter Heaven. In a sense, it is true that the promises of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have been transferred to Christians, but this in no way means that the promises to the Jews will not be kept. You can be Jewish and a Christian – you know that right? God keeps His promises.
Often, we think that for us to get something good it has to be taken away from someone else. This is certainly the point of view of many politicians today. They play a zero-sum game – God does not. Do not think that God took His promises away from one group to give them to you; He did not. He has laid down the requirement to enter Heaven, and it has nothing to do with labels like Jew or Gentile.
Well, I’ve rattled on and haven’t really gotten to my point. After the master in our story invites strangers to the wedding feast he sees a man who is not dressed appropriately.
Matthew 22:11-14 ESV
“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.”
When someone invites you to a formal wedding do you show up in cut-off jeans and a tank top? No, you do not show up that way. Your heart is not in the right place if you answer such an invitation in such a disrespectful way. In this analogy, a wedding garment is the snow white robe you gained when you rejected the tattered, sin stained cloths you used to wear.
I’m reminded of an old Christian allegory written by John Bunyan entitled “Pilgrim’s Progress”. I learned of this book while reading a biography about Ronald Reagan. He had said that this book had made the greatest impact on his life. Wikipedia says this about this book:
“…published in February, 1678. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print.”
The story is one of a man named Christian who journeys from his hometown of “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City”. It is a struggle for this man to make his journey, as he must overcome many obstacles along the way. In the story, there is a moment, after having passed through the “Wicket Gate”, where our hero meets up with a fellow called “Ignorance” who came into the territory by climbing over the wall rather than going through the gate. He intends to enter the Celestial City but finds that he cannot but is instead thrown into Hell.
Jesus has told us that the gate that leads to destruction is wide but the gate to eternal life is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14). It is a popular belief that there are many ways to God. This belief is false and Jesus shows us it is false in today’s passages. The attendee of the wedding feast who was not dressed appropriately did not enter through the narrow gate. He jumped the fence just like the character named Ignorance in Pilgrim’s Progress. The fence jumpers will be spotted and removed. There is only one way into the Celestial Wedding Feast and that gate is narrow; it proceeds through Jesus Christ. There is no other way.
So, let me ask you brother, are you wearing your wedding garment or have you jumped the gate? Do you think you’ll get in because you’ve done more good than bad or because you’ve found another way in? My friend you are invited, but you must have on the proper attire. Attire you can only obtain by submitting your life to Christ.
Victorem Vivere! (Live Victorious!)
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!