Stowaways are Throwaways

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber (John 10:1).”

Marilyn Hartman boarded a British Airways flight to London recently from Chicago’s O’Hare airport along with all of the other passengers. But there was something very different about Hartman’s presence on board – unlike her fellow travelers, she had no ticket. It seems that she managed to slip past TSA and a busy gate agent and enter the plane. She immediately hid in a bathroom until the flight was underway and then settled into an empty seat. When Hartman could not produce her passport at Heathrow Airport Customs she was promptly sent back to Chicago and taken into custody charged with criminal trespass and a theft felony. (1)

Jesus tells of a similar story in which “a certain king” hosts a wedding feast for his son and invites everyone to come (Matthew 22:1-14). “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment? And he was speechless.’ Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will weeping and gnashing of teeth (vv.11-13).’” He was speechless before the king indicating that he had no defense for his failure to be properly attired and that it was solely his own fault. (2) As a result he was thrown out of the banquet hall and thrown into the eternal prison from which there is no escape.

To begin this parable, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like… (v.2).” This man crashed the party as though he belonged there along with all of the other guests. But his credentials were not valid and he had no right to be there. The king basically asked him, “How did you get past the doorkeepers dressed like that?” (3) Imagine being invited to a state dinner at the Whitehouse and showing up in raggedy shorts, dirty t-shirt and flip flops. That provides a measure of the audacity this man demonstrated in coming to the banquet attired as he did.

But this is how God looks upon those who call themselves Christians but are depending upon their own righteousness to get them into heaven. The proper attire is to be clothed in Jesus (Galatians 3:27) and those who think themselves Christians without obeying the gospel are merely attempting to be wedding crashers. Paul wrote that those who do not obey the gospel will be banished from the Lord’s presence forever (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Jesus explicitly stated that on Judgement Day there will be many who supposed themselves to be His disciples but were deluding themselves and they will not be able to provide their boarding passes into heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). As we seek passage on that sweet flight to eternity, credentials will be inspected (Revelation 20:12).

God has invited everyone to come aboard but only those who have a proper boarding pass will be allowed entry. You can’t buy a ticket to heaven. It has already been purchased for you and is non-transferrable, but you must be ready with the proper boarding pass when the flight departs.

“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut (Matthew 25:10).”

  2. James Burton Coffman Commentaries: Matthew 22; Bible study Library CD-ROM, ACU Press
  3. Sellers S. Crain, Jr., D.Min., Truth For Today Commentary Matthew 14-28, Resource Publications, 2011, p.250

Billy Alexander is a member of the church of Christ in Jersey Village in Houston, TX. He and his wife Gwen both work at Hewlett-Packard where they met and have worked more than 25 years each. Billy enjoys teaching Bible several times each week at Jersey Village and Memorial church of Christ. Since 2008, his weekly article "Equipping the Saints" as run in the Jersey Village bulletin.