"For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. And on the day of the Lord's sacrifice—“I will punish the officials and the king's sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire. On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master's house with violence and fraud." (Zephaniah 1:7b-9)
Notice here the similarity between Zephaniah and Matthew 22:1-14 in general. (Our Lord's midrash on Zephaniah perhaps?) But of particular importance is this: The Lord prepares the sacrifice and the feast is assumed. In Matthew 22:1-14, the feast is the main thing. But a feast assumes a sacrifice. In Matthew, therefore, the King who is sending out invitations to the wedding feast of his son has already prepared the sacrifice. For there is no feast unless there is first a sacrifice.
The wedding feast of the king's son is no ordinary party. It is a great occasion of the state. Consider the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. This was no ordinary day. The whole world was watching, but more important was the response of the United Kingdom. Every Duke and Dutchess, Earl and Lady from the Kingdom was there, regardless of how far they needed to travel. So also those invited first by the king in Matthew 22 would have been the other great men from throughout the kingdom.
And their attendance would have been expected without excuse, not that these particular invitees took the time to RSVP with regrets. Indeed, their attendance would have been expected not only as a necessary expression of the honor they owe their king but also as an expression of their loyalty to the legitimate successor to his throne. Political allegiance is at stake here. To refuse the invite is tantamount to rebellion. This isn't just a snubbing of a party. It is a deliberate contempt for the king's authority. It is insurrection, and they know it. And thus the king responds as kings do when confronted with rebellion in their own kingdom.
But since the feast is in honor of the wedding of the king's son, he can't simply cancel it. It must go on. And it most certainly can't be empty. It must be full, overflowing. And so the king, for the sake of His son, sends the invitation into the streets. For if you're to get the most bang for your buck, if you're going to invite the most people so that the party will be full, then you go to the streets because that is where the people are.
We mustn't assume then that the people came straight from the street. They had time to go home and change. They had time to go home and wash up. For if the king requested your presence before him, you most certainly would put on your best. Dressing for the occasion indicates one's full participation in that occasion. Wearing festal garments, therefore, indicated a full participation in the feast. To appear in ordinary working clothes, on the other hand, showed contempt for the occasion, contempt for the king and his son, contempt for their authority. It was a refusal to join in the king's rejoicing.
A king's authority is only seen in his words. He rules by commands and edicts. A king doesn't fight with his army. He commands them to fight in his stead. He may be present, but he doesn't fight. He speaks, and what he speaks is carried out. To refuse the king's invitation (his calling, his summons), either by refusing to come or refusing to participate on his stated terms, is a rejection of that authority, a rejection of his word. And so both are unworthy--unworthy because they reject the word (the calling, the summons, the invitation) of the king.
Where does that leave us? There is no feast without a sacrifice. The Lord has made the sacrifice. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is crucified. Forgiveness of sin has been won. But you don't get it there. The sacrifice is prepared. The meat has been roasted (in the Father's wrath). The blood is ready for application. So come to the Feast. Come at the Word of the King. Come discerning His Body. Come to the wedding feast of the Son of the King, who invites you for the sake of His Son. He invites you. He wants you there. And He invites you because of and for the sake of his son. Trust that what He says is true, for He who died is alive out of the grave just as He promised. Come then, and eat and drink at the Lord's table. Be merry and rejoice. Dine on and rejoice in the Lord's sacrifice, which takes away sin, cleanses from all unrighteousness, makes the dead to live, and sinners into saints. Come at His Word and according to His summons, His invitation. Join the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, join with angels and archangels in festal gathering, join with the whole company of heaven (Hebrews 12:22-24). For he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." And faith is no private matter. Faith is seen.