Our subject deals with the concluding verses of the parable known as “The marriage of the king’s son.” Before proceeding to read this article you would do well to first read the entire parable as found in.
To understand our subject under discussion we must first of all understand the main points of the entire parable. This parable was spoken by Jesus in the Temple, on the third day of Passion week. It is very closely related to the two preceding parables, the parable of “The two sons”, and “The wicked husbandmen.” The first of these two emphasizes the point that publicans and sinners enter into the kingdom of heaven in precedence to the chief priests and elders. The second parable emphasizes the thought that the kingdom would be taken away from the Jew’s and be given to a people bringing forth fruit. The parable of “The marriage of the king’s son,” clearly teaches that the Gentiles will become heirs of salvation. The picture of the parable is very clear. A king makes a marriage for his son. He sends forth his servant to call them that were bidden to the wedding. However, those bidden would not come. Again other servants are sent forth to tell them which were bidden to come for all things are ready. But those bidden make light of it, they find excuses. Finally, the remnant took the king’s servants and threatened them spitefully, even slew them. The king becomes angry, saying that those who were bidden were not worthy. And summoning his armies the king destroys those murderers and bums their city. Now the servants are sent out once more, they must go into the high ways and as many as they find they must bid to the marriage. Result is that many respond to the calling and the wedding was furnished with guests.
Before we go further I’d like to state that we must remember as far as the picture is concerned, and also as to its spiritual application, that those who were bidden to the marriage were under the obligation to come. The bidding of the king’s servants was not an invitation in the usual sense of the word, but is tantamount to a summons. Those that are bidden have no right whatever to refuse to come. Add to this that those who were bidden first had already indicated that they would come, they were waiting for the call of the king. Hence, this call when it comes is really the final notification that they must come, as they have promised, and as is their solemn obligation.
Naturally, we cannot enter at present into detail so far as the spiritual meaning of all this is concerned. However, here follow the main thoughts of the parable in its spiritual application. The King is of course God Himself. The King’s Son is Christ. The marriage feast is the Messianic blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven as they are also to culminate in the Supper of the Lamb in the day of Christ’s coming. Those who were first bidden are the Jews. Their reaction to the calling became progressively worse: “They would not, they made light of it, they entreated the servants spitefully and slew them.” Particularly the book of Acts is a vivid commentary upon these words.—Of course there were exceptions, there was also among the Jews a remnant according to election. But the majority of the Jews rejected the very Christ and the very Kingdom for which they had, according to their own words been waiting for centuries. The result is that the city of these ‘murderers’ was destroyed. Jerusalem which was no longer ‘the city of God’ but the city of ‘murderers’ was utterly ruined by the Roman legions. These words of Christ were indeed prophetic as history plainly proves. The destruction of Jerusalem was the official end of the Jewish nation as the peculiar nation of the Lord. Of course the Premillennialists claim that Jerusalem will be restored again to the Jews. But the Pre’s are definitely wrong in this. The Lord is finished with the Jews as a nation and God’s clock will not be turned back two thousand years. But the rejection of the Jews became the riches of the Gentiles. Also that is prophetically foretold in this parable. The servants go out among the Gentiles and a great many of them heed the call, embrace the gospel of salvation, and thus the wedding is furnished with guests. God’s plans are not frustrated in the least. His counsel shall stand and all the elect will be gathered in, partake of the Messianic blessings of the kingdom of God and enter into the final glory of that kingdom as it shall ultimately culminate in the Supper of the Lamb.
That is, briefly, the setting of the text we are dealing with in our subject under discussion.
According to the picture of the parable the wedding is furnished with guests. When everything is completed the king comes into the wedding chamber. He came to ‘see’ the guests, to greet them, welcome them. This final inspection naturally also marks the beginning of the feast proper. However, as the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment. The king said unto that man: “Friend, how earnest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?” The original plainly implies that the man knew that he had no wedding garment and that he had to have one. This also explains why the man has no excuse to offer, he is speechless, according to the original “muzzled”. The very fact that the man has no wedding garment implies that he despised the king, his son, the feast. Of course he had come, but he had come the way he pleased. His attitude was expressed in his action was: “I am willing to come and meet the king, but I come on my own terms and dressed the way I please.” It was of course obligatory to come to the king’s feast in a proper, for the occasion assigned wedding garment. Even today there are certain occasions at which special garments are to be worn, and they too are obligatory. Add to the foregoing, some claim that in the East when kings or great personages made an entertainment, they were wont to present costly dresses to the guests, and that such a custom here is tacitly assumed. In the light of all this it stands to reason that this man was of a low character. Naturally, the more honorable the person, and the more solemn the occasion, the more flagrant the offence. Here the person is a king, and the occasion the marriage of his son. Therefore, this man did not only violate the laws of common decency and the rules of proper etiquette, but be defied the king who had called him to come to the wedding of His Son. We can readily understand therefore that this man is treated as an intruder who could not possibly have come here in the legitimate way. He is like a thief who has no business to be here. In the light of this we can also understand what was done to him. We read: “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (vs. 13). The picture is very plain and fitting, suggested by the parable itself. He is made utterly helpless, and his punishment is not merely privative, the loss of that which is good, but also the presence of evil, he is cast out. Cast out into outer darkness as contrasted with the light and feasting in the wedding chamber.
As to its spiritual significance we are at present not so much interested in the question of the ‘punishment’ as well as in the question: “What is the wedding garment?”
Before we explain the meaning of the wedding garment, I like to remark the following; In the first place we must remember that we are dealing here with a parable. That is to say, in this connection, that every expression in the text cannot be literally applied when it comes to the spiritual significance. It is e.g. impossible to conceive of it that there ever could be any person who would manage to get into heaven while he had no place there. Such is possible in the picture, but not in spiritual reality if we apply this parable as we should, as to its ultimate meaning, to the Supper of the Lamb in the day of Christ’s coming. The picture here goes far beyond the actual, spiritual reality. Secondly, the main thought is therefore not: “How did this man come into the marriage feast?” As to the actual, spiritual, final reality he never did get in, and it’s wasting time to philosophize about the question: “How did he get in?”—He didn’t!—But the main point is the indispensableness of the wedding garment. Without the wedding garment one never will enter heaven and one will never partake of the Supper of the Lamb. In the third place we must clearly understand who this man is, what type of a man he is. As to the question: “Who is this man?” several answers have been given. Some have claimed that this man was Judas. Others claim that he is the Antichrist. Many of our fathers said that this man was the Pope. Now all these so-called explanations miss the point at stake. They are radical, one-sided, mystical, or all three combined’. It is safe to state that this man represents a certain type of man, not merely one single individual. Besides, this man is definitely a church member, one who claims to have obeyed the call of the Gospel, the outward call. Historically he is among the guests. Of course he is not a true member of the body of Christ. He is a hypocrite.
And now the question, which is really the main issue at stake: “What is the wedding garment?” Also this question has been answered in various ways. Roman Catholics seem to agree quite generally that this wedding garment is the indispensable grace charity. A charity that is seen, practiced, that is worn as a garment. The old fathers generally agree that the wedding garment is charity or holiness. Luther, as might be expected, makes faith the wedding garment. The simplest, most plausible and logical explanation with which we agree is, that this wedding garment is righteousness both “in its root of faith and in its flower of charity.” Scripture speaks of being clothed with righteousness. In the book of Revelation we read about the wife of the Bridegroom: “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.” (). This man had not, according to the pregnant image of Paul, here peculiarly appropriate: “Put on Christ.” ( and ). The wedding garment may be said to be the righteousness in its largest sense, the whole adornment of the new and spiritual man, including the faith without which it is impossible to please God ( ), and the holiness without which no man shall see Him. ( ). The parable does not state how this wedding garment is to be obtained (which is of course by faith). But the parable does emphasize very strongly the indispensableness of righteousness. Only those who are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ are adorned with the proper garments of salvation which enable them to stand before God, be His guests, enter into the fellowship and communion with Him and share in the eternal blessings of salvation.
In the day of Christ, to confine ourselves to the ultimate fulfillment of these words, this man without a wedding garment, the false friend, will be pointed out as a false friend, a hypocrite, to all, and he will be severely but justly punished. He shall be cast into hell, described in the text as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
We come to the conclusion, in the first place, it is not sufficient to apparently heed the call of the King’s servants. Those called must not merely come but they must come the way the King wants them to come. In the second place, all those who are clothed with the garments of the righteousness of Christ are welcome guests. If one seeks all his righteousness in Christ, appropriates Him by a true and living faith, walks in sanctification of life, one is a God-pleasing guest. Indeed, the guests are to share in the blessings of the marriage feast, but after all not they but the King and His Son must be pleased, for it is the marriage of the King’s Son.
There are, of course, a number of details which might be brought in for discussion as well as the concluding words of the parable. However, space does not permit me to broaden out and I believe for our purpose we have sufficiently treated the subject assigned: “The man without a wedding garment.”