The Scripture passages chosen for this week were all conversations Jesus had during these last few days prior to his crucifixion. These are roughly in chronological order.
Reader: “For many are called,”
Response: “but few are chosen.”
Scripture: Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus also told them other parables. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!
“So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.
“The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Reader: “These are the words of Jesus as he told a parable . . .”
Response: “. . . as recorded by Matthew.”
In this account Jesus is telling a parable on the Pharisees and leading Jewish leaders. The king is God the Father, his son is the Messiah. The religious leaders and the children of Israel are the invited guests. Their refusal to come to the wedding banquet is their rejection of God and his word through the years and their current rejection of the Messiah. The servants are the Old Testament prophets who proclaimed God’s message to Israel. When the guests refused to come, the king destroyed the town. Jesus was predicting the destruction of Jerusalem which in fact occurred in 70 AD. In the parable the king then sent the servants out to invite anyone. This part of the parable meant that God’s invitation was being extended to everyone, not just Israel. To the self-righteous Jewish leaders, this offer to anyone was damnable. Gentiles were despised. Taking Israel’s place in the parable was the Church, the Bride of Christ. The Church is now God’s people. When the king entered the feast, he noticed one of the guests was not wearing the proper wedding clothes. The wedding garment would have been provided by the king and this particular guest rejected these special wedding clothes (clothes of righteousness?) given him, a direct affront to the king. The king had him thrown out into outer darkness. The wedding clothes correspond to spiritual fruit that demonstrates true faith. This guest was a fraud. (See. Mt. 7:13-27 for Jesus’ further description of this guest.) The outer darkness is a metaphor for eternal punishment. The Pharisees and leading priests understood this parable to be against them and were all the more determined to kill Jesus. The last verse in this passage reminds us that the invitation from God is extended to everyone, but only a few respond in faith. Continue to pray for those people you know who have not yet found the narrow way to life in God’s kingdom. Pray that the message of Holy Week and Easter penetrates their hearts not only of those around you, but people from every tribe, nation and tongue throughout the world.
Music: “The Church’s One Foundation” Duke Chapel arr. Dan Forest
The Church’s One Foundation
-Samuel Stone, 1886
The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is his new creation,
By water and the word.
From heaven he came and sought her
To be his holy bride,
With his own love he bought her
And for her life he died.
Elect from every nation
Yet one o’er all the earth
The charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses
With every grace endued.
Remember, O Lord, your Church, to deliver her from all evil, and to make her perfect in your love; and gather together from the four winds the sanctified Church into your kingdom, which you have prepared for her. For yours is the power and the glory forevermore. Amen.
-the Didache, c. 120 AD