Jesus often used parables to teach important lessons. For example, in the parable recorded in Matthew 22:1-13, he dramatically pictured the only way to live with God forever. Before we take a closer look at it, please take the time to read it in its entirety.
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
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.
This parable is about heaven.
The Bible often describes heaven as the wedding feast of God’s Son. In this parable, Jesus puts the spotlight on the wedding guests. Imagine what an honor it would have been for these people to be invited by the king to his son’s wedding. It would be the highlight of their lives!
But look at how the people responded. They first refused to come. Then, when the king sent his servants to invite them, they killed them! Talk about rebellion. Talk about ingratitude. It’s no wonder the king destroyed them.
Next, the king invited others. The focus transitions to one inappropriately dressed person. “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment.” This man enraged the king. So much so that he ordered him to be cast into outer darkness.
Why was this so infuriating to the king?
To understand the king’s anger, we need to understand the culture of Jesus’ day. When kings celebrated the marriage of their sons, they supplied wedding garments for all those attending. In this parable, the guests were pulled off the streets to attend. They would not have had time to prepare.
Therefore, there was no excuse for the man not to wear the provided wedding garment. The only reason he wasn’t wearing one was that he refused the king’s stupendous gift. Talk about foolish arrogance. Talk about unbelievable ingratitude. Fewer things are more maddening than when people turn their backs on a beautiful gift.
You have been invited to God’s heavenly wedding banquet and given the clothes to wear!
The Robe of Righteousness
These wedding garments are beyond wonderful. They are described in Isaiah 61:10:
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
Only those who are clothed in righteousness can live in God’s presence. The only righteousness which makes us worthy to live with God is the righteousness he gives us!
“He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
If we try covering ourselves with our own goodness, we will be in deep trouble. No matter how pure our goodness looks to us, it doesn’t appear that way to God. Three chapters after telling us about the robe of righteousness God gives, the prophet Isaiah explains why we need God to provide it: “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). God demands perfection, and our righteousness doesn’t even come close to perfection. In God’s sight, they are disgusting. Thank God he supplies us with righteousness!
Jesus is Our Substitute
This righteousness belonged first to Christ. Jesus kept all the commandments for us. This is why one of his titles is the Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). Jesus not only atoned for all our sins with his death, but he also qualified us for eternal life with God by living perfectly for us. When it comes to this worthiness, Jesus was not our Exemplar showing us what we have to do, nor did he give us instructions on how to make our own wedding garments. Jesus was our Substitute. He did for us all the works needed to live in God’s presence, providing us with his righteous garments.
In the parable, Jesus taught that attendance to the wedding was not about the inviteds’ goodness or worthiness. Notice how he described them. “So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good” (emphasis added). The inclusion of the bad is striking. By saying this, Jesus emphasized that qualifying to be in heaven with God doesn’t depend on what we do. It doesn’t depend on our being good.
The only thing that makes us worthy to be in God’s presence is Christ’s goodness, not our own.
What about those who aren’t wearing Jesus’ robe of righteousness?
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Whoever isn’t wearing Jesus’ robe of righteousness and totally relying on what he did for them will be cast into outer darkness. “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
Imagine for a moment living in total darkness. One time I went on a cave tour where they turned off all of the lights so we could experience total darkness. It probably only lasted seconds, but it felt like an eternity. It felt as if the darkness was choking me. Add to darkness the sound of constant weeping and gnashing of teeth. Biblical outer darkness is beyond terrifying.
It is even more terrifying when we understand that this is where everyone will go who is not relying on Christ’s righteousness – totally relying on it. Trusting in any of our righteousness in addition to Jesus’ righteousness ruins it. As we saw in the book of Isaiah, in God’s sight, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
Friends, take this to heart. Please don’t ignore it. See that Jesus doesn’t say people who aren’t worthy will be consigned to a lesser section of heaven. No. He says they will be cast into outer darkness. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Knowing how to live with God for all eternity is the most important thing in the world.
It’s crucial, therefore, to examine yourself.
The Only Way to Live Forever with God
When you think of being worthy to live eternally with God, do you think you have to do anything? If you do, then you aren’t trusting completely in Jesus.
Or are you uncertain whether you will live with God for all eternity? This is an indication that you think you must do something to qualify.
God wants you to live eternally with him. So much so that God freely offers you Christ’s righteousness. This gift shows how much God loves you!
Honor him by eagerly and joyfully wearing the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness. Trust in Jesus, and know for certain that you will have a wonderful eternity in God’s presence.
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