“No shoes, no shirt, no service.” Signs with these words were commonplace in the days of my youth (I am a child of the 70s and 80s). The message was clear, certain clothes were required if customers expected to be served.
Our reading today contains the parable of the wedding feast. In this story, a king has made great preparations for his son’s wedding, inviting many, only to be rebuffed by the original invitees.
Undeterred, the king sends his servants into the countryside to invite people that the feast might be full. However, once the wedding hall was filled, the king came in and found a man attempting to join the feast, but he was not properly dressed. His presumptuous act resulted in him being cast out into outer darkness wherein there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I think the basic characters are not difficult to identify. The king and his son represent God the Father and His Son Jesus. The original invitees are the Jewish people, who not only rejected their invitation to the wedding feast, but also abused God’s messengers (cf Matt 23:34-35). The king’s military response is seen in Jerusalem’s destruction (Matthew 24:4-35). The second group of invitees is the Gentiles.
The final character in this story is the man who attempted to enter the feast without a wedding garment. I believe this man is representative of denominationalism. That is, those who presume to know or accept the invitation of Christ without properly preparing themselves. We can see folks like these in Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 13:25-27, where people claim knowledge of and association with Jesus, but will be rejected because they have not obeyed Him through the observance of God’s will.
The church is the bride and wife of Christ (Eph 5:23-32). The only way we can be properly attired for the Judgment is to be clothed with Christ. The only way to be clothed with Christ is to put on Christ in baptism – “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:27).
Like the man at the wedding feast, those who go to the Judgment without proper attire will likewise be cast out.