Scripture: And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”‘ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus (click here to read), Jesus tells The Parable of the Tenants (also found in Mark and Luke), where the landlord (God) plants a vineyard and leases it to tenants (the religious leaders). He sends his servants (prophets) to collect the fruit at harvest, but the tenants abuse and murder them. So the master sends even more with the same outcome. Finally, he sends his son (Jesus), thinking they would behave respectfully toward him. But they kill him, too. Jesus then asks the high priests and elders how the story should end when the landlord arrives. They pronounce judgment on themselves as they indignantly declare that the owner should execute those murderers and lease the vineyard to others who will rightfully give him the first fruits (new disciples). So Jesus quotes a messianic passage from Psalm 118:22-23, where he self-identifies as the rejected landlord’s son of this parable. And he concludes with another reference to himself from Isaiah 8:14-15 as a stumbling stone that will cause those who reject him to meet their demise.
Today’s reading presents the last of the three parables aimed at the Sanhedrin (governing leadership of the Pharisees and Sadducees), all of which Jesus taught in the temple on the Tuesday of Passion Week. While Mark does not record a wedding parable, Luke includes a similar one spoken earlier in Jesus’ ministry when he attended a dinner party (Luke 14:15-24, click here to read).
Here, in scene 1, Jesus likens the wedding-feast motif to that of the kingdom of heaven. The king (Jesus) sends his servant (the prophets) to call those invited to the celebration, but they all reject the offer, and some even humiliate and kill the servants. Angered, the king sends his troops, slaughters these wicked subjects, and razes their cities. So he instructs more servants to go to the main roads and invite the stray and the stragglers to come and enjoy the celebration, which they do.
In scene 2, during the feast, the king sees a man with no wedding garment and questions how he gained access. When the man did not respond, the king ordered his attendants to bind him and cast him into the darkness where there is enormous suffering (hell). And Jesus concludes with a poignant editorial remark, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (v.14 ESV).
Takeaway: The first scene represents the inauguration of the New Covenant of Grace. Of those who reject the king’s invitation (our Gospel), some return to their mundane farming and business matters, but others go on the offensive and are vengeful and ruthless—two scenarios not unlike our fallen world today. In contrast, those who accept the invitation represent the least, the last, and the lost who will enter Jesus’ upside-down kingdom with honor.
The second scene (the wedding feast) foretells the consummation when Christ returns and makes all things new. For those who know and love Jesus, it will be glorious as we enjoy intimate fellowship with our Triune God and fellow saints. But those who reject Christ in this life will face a most severe judgment of enteral separation from all that is good and beautiful when sentenced to a void of darkness where their spirits suffer neverending anguish.
Our takeaway? Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have efficaciously brought humankind salvation. Still, many will reject his Gospel (and our Gospel invitation as ambassadors of Christ) since humankind’s free will operates under God’s sovereign will. Moreover, left to our own devices without the Holy Spirit wooing us to the truth of the Gospel, none of us would receive Christ’s gifts of forgiveness and reconciliation. But for those graciously chosen by God, his Holy Spirit compels us to go to the highways and byways to share the good news of Christ with others. And as scene 2 portrays, we will meet resistance. Thus, we must carefully follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in exercising prudence, lest we cast pearls before pigs who would trample our message and us (Matthew 7:6, click here to read).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who pressed into the resistance to proclaim our good news at the priceless cost of his life. Aware that we are chosen and compelled as his disciples to follow him to the highways and byways of a fallen world that is sometimes hostile, would you please help us discern your Holy Spirit’s direction ongoingly so that when we encounter hostility, we will be faithful, wise, and courageous ambassadors? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling