“Many are Called, but Few are Chosen”

Matthew 22:1-14

Today we are reading the third of a series of parables Jesus used to respond to the chief priests and scribes when they asked Him back in chapter 21 what authority He had for teaching in the temple. First, Jesus responded to them with a question of His own and then He gave them three parables. The first parable was about the two sons, the second about the terrible tenants and today’s parable about the wedding feast. Each of these parables was directed to the leaders of the temple. Jesus’ main focus was on the dangers of rejecting Him as the Messiah. 

Today’s parable is about the arrangement of a marriage for the king’s son. For a king to hold a wedding for his only son is still one of the most social events of the day. The wedding of a prince is a spectacular event and to be invited would be especially significant. 

This parable is quite similar to the parable written in Luke’s gospel, however, there are some evident differences. The differences could be that Jesus had a good story that He used in different forms to suit a different context. 

This parable begins with describing what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, “a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” Yet, not one person accepts the invitation to the prince’s wedding! This seems rather strange, illustrating that there is no “logical” reason God’s good gifts are refused. 

But God is a God of second chances and Jesus goes on in His parable to explain that the king doesn’t take “no” as an answer. 

He tells his servants to go and explain to those invited that at this wedding, they will be provided with a dinner, not just any dinner, but the chosen oxen and fatted cattle will be killed. 

In fact, all things are ready. Why won’t you come?

Again, it would help if we were part of the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day. They didn’t have email, or Evite where guests could respond or a postal system with written invitations. When a social event was planned, people were invited but with no specific time provided. On the appropriate day, when the host was ready and the party was all set up, messengers were sent out to tell the guests things were ready and to come to the party. In Jesus’ parable they not only flatly refused, those invited either went off to do their own thing or they seized the messengers, mistreated them and killed them. 

Good grief!

It was like they were rebelling against the king. Let the king do what he wants with his oxen and his fattened cattle, I am going back to look after my farm and to attend to my affairs.  

Okay, not the best way to make friends and influence people. The king becomes furious. He sends out his armies and destroys the murderers. It was one thing to reject the invitation, another to murder the king’s messengers. 

Have you noticed the change in the tone of Jesus’ parables? Before arriving in Jerusalem, we would have never heard a parable of kings wiping out their subjects. But in today’s parable, rejection of the king brings about annihilation. 

This is heavy stuff. 

After killing those who refused to come, the king declares to His servants that since the wedding is ready, and those who had originally been invited were no longer worthy, they were to go out into the highways and byways and invite as many people as they could find. Which they did. Jesus said they found both bad and good people and were able to fill the wedding hall with guests. 

This is an example of grace. This time around those that received an invite were not deserving of coming to the wedding and even less deserving of partaking in a wedding feast. 

Then Jesus tells us the king came to see the guests. 

He examined them to see if they were appropriately dressed in the garments that were customarily offered to those attending a wedding feast. The man who was without a robe immediately stuck out and the king noticed. 

The man came because he was invited. He made an appearance, however, the banquet was intended to honor the King’s Son. Yet this man could have cared less. He was willing to eat the good food but he was not willing to honor the provider of the food or the purpose of the event. When the king asked him how he was able to get in without the correct attire, we are told the man was speechless, he didn’t have an appropriate response. The king responded alright, he had his servants tie the man by his hands and feet and had him thrown out into the darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. This was a direct description of hell, a terrible fate. 

Okay, this parable has gone from bad to worse. 

We need to remember to whom Jesus was speaking. The Jewish leaders were represented by the first group in the parable who rejected the invitation. Their fate was to be annihilated. 

The second person demonstrated the one who showed an indifference to the gospel. Sure the person would enjoy the feast, but he wasn’t willing to change his actions so his heart was not really in it. He was sentenced to hell. 

Neither of these men enjoyed the feast. Jesus demonstrates by this parable that everyone gets an invitation. Those who reject it are judged for their rejection. Those that accept the invitation but do so for selfish reasons or whose heart is not in it, are also judged. 

What happened to the Jesus who has been teaching about blessings, blessed are these and blessed are those? What are we supposed to do with the Jesus who is throwing people into hell? 

Can you imagine what the disciples are thinking? Remember, they have a vision of a Messiah who will come and “take over.” 

I suspect they were finally thinking, “About time, Jesus. Let’s show the religious who is really the boss.” 

And yet, we will soon discover that even the disciples weren’t able to step up to the plate. Judas slides Jesus under the bus for thirty pieces of silver and Peter denies even knowing Jesus, not once, but three times. 

This parable is difficult enough to put together for those who were listening at the time. 

What difference does it make for us today? 

All three of the parables Jesus gave to the religious leaders had this point…

Although grace is free, it is not cheap. 

We not only need to accept it, we also need to recognize our own responsibility in the process. Following Jesus is an all or nothing venture that initially requires true repentance combined with a desire to produce more fruit.  

Hell is real. Jesus understood this and wanted to make sure that those following Him also understood. It is an individual relationship between each of us and God. 

Jesus provides this parable for each person to make a sober assessment of their spiritual condition. 

Today’s parable ends with this statement from Jesus, 

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Sobering words indeed. 

But not without hope. And that hope is demonstrated by the cost of grace we recognize as we come to take part in the Lord’s Supper. 

Everyone is invited. As we partake of the bread and juice let us ask ourselves these questions:

Have we accepted the invitation to follow Jesus?

Is our heart in it? 

Every day? 

Are we all in, or just on Sunday?

Have we been chosen?

Let’s Pray.