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The Wedding Garments
Matthew 22:2
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son…

As with all parables, this one has many lessons. It is the beauty of narrative instruction that one may teach many morals with a single story. The first part of this parable (verses 3-8) involves the calling of the original guests by the king to the wedding feast. These guests not only refused the invitation, they mistreated the messengers who called them. This is the nation of Israel refusing the call of the prophets and killing them instead. The second part of the parable (verses 9-10) involves the widening of the call. “Bid as many as you can find to the marriage.” This is the world which is invited to share through Christ the blessings first offered to Israel alone. The third part of the parable (verses 11-14) focuses on an individual.

Matthew 22:11
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment…

The wedding feast, of course, was a joyous occasion. Unless the couple was direly poor, both dressed as royalty. They wore resplendent robes, sparkling jewels, and polished crowns.[1] If the father of the bridegroom was exceptionally prosperous, he would even furnish festive robes to the guests. Imagine the consternation of a king who had graciously supplied something that his guest refused to wear! As our parents were robed of God in animal skins,[2] so we have need to be clothed with Christ. His garments have been given to us, but we have to put them on. [3]

Matthew 22:12
And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

Being inappropriately dressed for a social function is the kind of thing nightmares are made of! The public speaker who dreams of arriving at his engagement dressed only in his underwear or the business man who comes to a formal company function in shorts are almost proverbial. How could this man not feel conspicuous? All around him are gorgeously arrayed guests while he socializes in his street clothes. It should have made him uncomfortable, but apparently he didn’t care enough to change. How many of us feast with the church attired in our worldly graces while all about us are those arrayed with Christ? Shouldn’t this cause us to be uneasy and provoke us to put off the old man and put on the new?

The king confronted this man. He didn’t spot him and say, “Poor fellow! He probably couldn’t find a robe that fit.” Neither did he say, “Well, that’s the way he is. I can’t impose my standards on him. After all, he is an invited guest.” No, he said, “How in the world did you get past the bouncers? Didn’t you read the sign, ‘Shirt, shoes, and wedding garment required?’” The man was speechless. What could he say—I didn’t have anything better to wear? After all, the king had provided robes for him. What if he had protested and said, “Those you sent to invite me said, ‘Come as you are.’” The king still would not have released him from personal responsibility. It matters not what condition we were in when we were called. Once we accept His invitation, we need to walk worthy of it.

Matthew 22:13-14
13 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.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

If we meditate on the fate of this man for even a moment, it should cause us no small discomfort! This man was not only invited to the feast, he had arrived. But being found improperly dressed, he was tossed outside. The bride’s betrothal gifts are of no benefit to her should she be found unchaste and defiled on her wedding day. Through the Holy Spirit, our Lord has given us many gifts. But they will not secure our place at the wedding feast. Only a pure and obedient relationship with Him will.[4]

The Oil Lamps
The bridegroom often came calling at night. Once the bride was dressed, she was led to the bridegroom by her maids bearing lamps to light the way. In the parable of the ten virgins, five were wise and five were foolish; this was their distinguishing difference. But all ten held several things in common.

Matthew 25:1-5
1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

All ten of these women were virgins. All of them had lamps. And all of them, wise and foolish, fell asleep while the bridegroom tarried. In these things they were alike. But the wise carried with them an additional reservoir of oil. The foolish had only the oil in their lamps, perhaps supposing that the wait wouldn’t be long or that oil could be easily had should they run out.

Matthew 25:6-9
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

When the Bridegroom comes, only your measure of anointing will matter. Your oil will do me no good and I cannot give you mine. The wise virgins knew that they needed all the oil they had to make it to the wedding feast. The foolish supposed that others could still carry them at that crucial hour, or worse yet, that time remained to buy what was needed.

Matthew 25:10-12
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

Because they had foolishly failed to prepare, these virgins were barred from the wedding feast. “Let us enter,” they cried, “we’re the bride’s maids!” “I saw all the bride’s maids in the wedding procession and you were not among them,” the Lord replied, “I don’t know you.” And with these awful words they were left outside in the dark and the cold.

Matthew 25:13
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Watch—this is the biblical synonym for prayer and wakefulness. The five foolish virgins only became aware of their need for oil when their lamps burned out (verse 8). The Greek word used in the text is sbennumi and is also translated “quench.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17-19
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench [sbennumi] not the Spirit.

When we cease to pray and give thanks in all things, the fire of the Spirit is quenched within us. We need to be continually connected to the anointing supply of His precious oil. Should we arrive at the door of the feast with all our oil gone, the Lord may inquire of us as He did the man who hid his talent and brought no increase. It is during prayer that our faithful High Priest resupplies our lamps with oil. When the disciples prayed, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness.[5] That is how we are to let our lights shine: not by our own smoldering wick efforts, but with an anointed message received in prayer from the Lord.

[1] Ezek 16:8-13
[2] Gen 3:21
[3] Rom 13:14
[4] Matt 7:21-23
[5] Acts 4:31