Scholars find this story from Matthew’s gospel difficult to understand, especially when you compare it to the same story more simply told in Luke’s gospel. (Luke 14,16-24) Both evangelists describe a banquet in which last minute rejections by those invited cause the host to send out his servants to scour the land for others to come in.
In Matthew’s account the story is directed towards the “chief priests and elders of the people,” whose refusal to accept God’s invitation through Jesus leads others to take their place. “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find… bad and good alike.” God’s big net, cast far and wide, brings Jews and Gentiles to fill the halls of his kingdom.
But there’s a cautionary part in Matthew’s account. An invitation to God’s kingdom doesn’t mean you’re safely in and automatically saved. Seeing a guest with no “wedding garment,” the king has him thrown into the darkness outside where there’s “wailing and grinding of teeth.”
A “wedding garment” is not something you freely get and freely wear. Once called to the banquet, you have to shed your old clothes of sin and clothe yourself in goodness. There were probably people in Matthew’s church (in our church too?) who thought being a church member was an automatic ticket to heaven. Not so, you need a wedding garment, and that means living a life of faith and goodness.
Are you wearing your wedding garment today