The Right Clothing
(with many thanks to my good friend Pr. Weedon, for most of this!)
What in the world is this parable about? Does it make sense to you? I can understand the King sending out his army to slay those who ruthlessly murdered his servants. After all, his servants only came to bring an invitation. But why does the King get so worked up over the man who shows up without a wedding garment? He did come to the great feast at the King’s own invitation. But to end up bound hand and foot, taken away, and tossed into the outer darkness – all because he wasn’t wearing the right duds? Talk about being superficial! Talk about being super-strict and overbearing! What’s up with that? Does it make sense to you?
Well, this little dilemma does invite us to think about our clothes and what they mean in the Scriptures. So, let’s go back to the very beginning. When Adam and Eve rebelled and broke off ties with God, when they selfishly seized what God had not given them, they lost the clothing of the glory of God. They had been created to wear it for all eternity, but they threw it away like some tattered old rags. Suddenly they realized that they were naked, and they were ashamed of that nakedness.
So how did they deal with their shame? They decided to make their own duds – fig-leaf fashions – as they tried to cover up their nakedness. It didn’t work too well, though, did it? God came into the Garden one day, in the cool of the day, and they played a little hide and seek. Their fig-leaf fashions could not cover up their distrust of the God who loved them. They could not hide their fear and shame. So, Adam and Eve were left naked – exposed, vulnerable, and ashamed. You see, that’s how it always works with the clothes that we design and sew to cover our nakedness and our shame. They never really do the job.
So, what are your fig leaves? What do you use to cover up your nakedness of turning away from God, your shame of being self-centered, self-serving, and just plain self-ish? How do you try to make yourself presentable to others and to God? Do you dress up in money and think that those little pieces of paper, or even smaller pieces of credit card plastic, can cover your nakedness and your shame? Do you dress up in working out so that you can keep a fit, trim, and beautiful body? Do you try to cover over your selfishness and shame by trying to please everyone around you so that they all really like you? Do you don the garments of gossip, thinking that if you invite others to ogle over someone else’s shame and folly, they won’t really notice yours?
Oh, we all play dress up – no question about it. And just like Adam and Eve, when God comes to call, we soon discover that our self-designed duds, our personal line of fig-leaf fashions, just doesn’t cut it. God sees right through the fig leaves. And we are left quite naked, quite exposed, quite vulnerable, quite blushing, and quite ashamed. We know that we are just plain naked, because we routinely live as if God does not matter, and as if we matter most.
But God did not leave Adam and Eve in their nakedness, did He? No, He graciously clothed them. He gave them duds that fit and covered much better than fig leaves. But instead of plucking from a fruit tree, God decided to kill an animal. “And the LORD God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). God had told them that the day they ate of the one fruit, they would surely die. But now look what happened. Instead of Adam and Eve dropping dead on the spot, an animal – an innocent victim – was sacrificed in their place. From that death they were given garments to wear – garments bought with the price of blood.
Now we can go back to the parable Jesus tells us today. Now we can properly ponder the wedding garment. If you want to make sense of the King’s anger at the man who comes to the wedding feast without the proper attire, you have to keep the story in the Scriptural pattern of clothing. You see, the King graciously supplied the wedding garment. And that was not an easy task, mind you. That wedding garment was not made from sheepskin or goatskin or cowhide. No death of an animal would do for this luxurious garment. No, the wedding garment was made from the innocent suffering and death of the Son of God.
You see, the Son of God clothed Himself in our flesh and blood when He was conceived and born of the pure Virgin. Then, when He went to the cross in our place, He was stripped of His garments of cloth. He hung naked on the cross to provide the pure, seamless garment of His own holiness for you. Why would He do this? Because He loves you with an everlasting love; because He wants to welcome you to His Great Wedding Feast, just as He invites and wants all to come.
So what you wear to the Great Wedding Feast does matter, especially when the King comes to inspect the guests. If you are not wearing the garment and the holiness of the Son of God – the garment and holiness that He bled and died to give you – then watch out! You won’t be able to stand before the King. You won’t be able to stand before Him clothed in your own personal line of duds. That would show the greatest contempt for this priceless gift from the King! And, yes, that would arouse His anger. In fact, that’s the only thing that arouses it – contempt for the priceless garment of holiness given by the Son of God.
So what are you wearing today? When you were baptized the Great King did more than invite you by name to His Great Banquet. He also gave you the perfect wedding garment. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). He dressed you in the holiness of His Son. He wrapped you up in the glory of Jesus’ own perfect life of love. He gave it to you as your very own garment for time and eternity. And He invites you to wear it with joy and gladness all the days of your life.
The Church used to show that glorious new garment by wrapping the newly baptized in a white garment after Baptism. We still show it by clothing our pastors in the alb or surplice. These white garments do not testify to any personal holiness of the pastors, but rather to the holiness of Christ Himself – the very same holiness laid on all of the baptized.
You need to wear something to live in this world; we know that well enough. Well, you’ll also need to wear something when you appear before God on the Last Day. As the hymn says:
Lord, when Your glory I shall see
And taste Your kingdom’s pleasure,
Your blood my royal robe shall be,
My joy beyond all measure!
When I appear before Your throne,
Your righteousness shall be my crown;
With these I need not hide me.
And there, in garments richly wrought,
As Your own bride shall we be brought
To stand in joy beside You. (LSB 438:4)
So, remember and trust that God Himself has clothed you with His Son. He has wrapped you up in His life. Never take Him off; never be found naked without Him. Instead, remain clothed in Him, and come forward to the Foretaste of His Great Wedding Feast. You have a most certain welcome to the Feast in the Kingdom that never ends, and that Feast begins even now at this rail. Come, you who are clothed in the perfect garment of Christ Jesus! Amen.