What are you wearing?
Text study for Matthew 22:1-14 Lectionary texts for October 9, 2011
"Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet." Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
What? This man got dragged in off the street and was then thrown out to a fate worse than death simply because he didn’t have the right clothes on?
Before we answer that question, let’s look back to see why Jesus is telling this story in the first place and to whom. Jesus has just entered Jerusalem triumphantly. This is Christ’s last week of life and he knows it.
He has already gone all "Indiana Jones" in the temple, kicking over the tables and brandishing a bullwhip. He’s told three consecutive parables having to do with workers in the vineyard (nicely, our last three Gospel readings). Why?
The Pharisees challenged his authority and were plotting against him. Whenever Jesus brings up "weeping and gnashing of teeth," he's almost exclusively trying to teach the Pharisees a lesson. Hell on the lips of Jesus is a slap in the face of those who think they can make it into the kingdom on their own.
Dressed by God
Back to the garment.
I once read a commentary on this text that said the garment was a baptismal robe. They were literally handing them out at the door.
Paul describes it this way to the church in Colosse, "So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it."
And so, we are all given a robe to wear by the grace of God in Christ. Do you wear your baptismal robe daily? Does the love of God which enfolds you radiate in all that you say and do? After all, love makes the kingdom unfold.
• Are there times when you hide your identity as child of God? Why?
• How is your everyday life transformed when you boldly wear the grace God gives to you? Where does that grace extend to others? How does that grace change your attitudes, your life, your work?
• How are you challenged by the parable that makes a point to say that everyone is invited to the banquet, good and bad?
Matthew Martin was a youth worker and ELCA pastor for 17 years in Minnesota, Illinois and Massachusetts before becoming regional manager of New England for Outreach, a non-profit program.