Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Bible's Summer Wedding - Matthew 22:1-14

Today we continue working through Matthew's multi-chapter account of Jesus's verbal assault on the Pharisees just before His death.  Missed our previous studies on this topic?  Here are the links for you:

Part 1, The Triumphal Entry and Fig Tree

Part 2, John's Authority and the Parable of the Two Sons

Part 3, The Parable of the Landowner

The Scripture
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying,
2 "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.
3 "And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.
4 "Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast." '
5 "But they paid no attention and went on their way, one to his own farm, another to his business,
6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them."
7 "But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.
8 "Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those were invited were not worthy.
9 'Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.'
10 "Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
11 "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes,
12 and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?'  And the man was speechless.
13 "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."

Thoughts on the Passage
We'll approach this chronologically today, rather than topically. :-)
The King is God the Father, and the son is God the Son, Jesus Christ.  This wedding feast, as we see in Revelation 19:7-9, is basically ultimate salvation - eternity rejoicing with God.
As we saw last time, the slaves Jesus referred to were specifically the Prophets, as far as the original audience (the Pharisees) were concerned, but for modern application, we can view these slaves as evangelists.
Those originally invited were the Jews - and the Pharisees exemplified what much of the Jewish nation did, which was rejecting true relationship with God and instead embracing legalistic ritualism.  Notice that both in the parable and especially in real history, God gave them multiple, multiple chances to accept His invitation.  And he even tried to woo them with all the things he would offer at His feast - all the blessings and special protection He offered the Jews.  That shouldn't even be necessary, because God is so incredible that His character alone is far more motivation than any of us should need to draw near to Him!  Yet, the Jews rejected Him, just as so many people do today.
I see the Jews' refusal to accept God's invitation as sort of like bragging to all your friends that you got invited to a really exclusive party, then never bothering to actually attend the party, but still continuing to brag about the fact that you were invited.  Absurd, right?  The Jews acted exactly as people do today - they preferred their "real" lives, comfortable, secure, and spending their time how they wanted to spend it.  When a prophet came to tell them the truth about their life, and today when a true Christian tells someone the truth about their life, the reaction is to lash out.  Depending on the culture, it can range from verbal rudeness to grave physical violence.
The fiery judgment the first group faced is the same as that which the second group does - eternity apart from God, in hell.  We know that this is a just punishment for even one "tiny" sin, yet God in His grace always gives numerous, numerous chances for repentance - as His repeated invitation in this parable symbolizes.
Because the original invitees rejected the offer, God burst open the guest list.  You see, originally, Gentiles could come into relationship with God (for example, Rahab), but the way to do so was to actually become a part of Israel.  But one of the many changes that came with the New Covenant is that all people, everywhere, can have relationship with God right where they are.  Being born into or assimilating into Jewish culture are no longer prerequisites to following God.  Furthermore, Jesus is making extra clear here what has always been His policy - that not just the "religious," but anyone with a heart for Him, no matter how terrible their past, is welcome to come follow Him.
And yet, this isn't some Universalist Unitarian type philosophy where everyone or even just the "good people" go to heaven - that is a lie.  Our wedding clothes are "putting on Christ" (Romans 13:14) - truly making an effort to live like Christ in order to try to become more like Him - because that, not getting out of hell, is the entire goal of salvation.  It has nothing to do with what good works we accomplish, but rather if our heart truly wishes to please God.  Today, there are plenty of unsaved people who call themselves Christians, too, just like there were plenty of Jews who were not really following God.  So, this part of Jesus's masterful storytelling serves to both establish a point that applies for all the rest of history, and to underscore the point He was making specifically about the Pharisees.
Finally, I'd like to touch on the passage's concluding line, "For many are called, but few are chosen."  If you've read this blog for very long, you know that I don't shy away from sharing my views on controversial theological/doctrinal topics. :-)  But predestination isn't one I like to talk much about, because I'm still in the middle of a years-long process of figuring out what I think about that based on what I see in Scripture.  Honestly, I think it's like the Trinity in that our human minds can never fully understand it this side of heaven.  But what I will say for this passage is that I don't think this verse is arguing for predestination...  Everyone is "called" (God gives all humans the opportunity to come to Him, as that is His ultimate desire), and those that are "chosen" (saved) are those who choose to "put on their wedding clothes" (accept Christ).  That's what I see here. :-)
Have you made that choice for yourself?  Click here to learn how to become a follower of Jesus.
Any questions or comments you'd like to add to our discussion?  Feel free to leave a comment below. :-)
Image Credit: "The Boyars' Wedding" by Konstantin Yegorovich Makovsky.  Wikipedia.  Public Domain in the United States.

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