“Many are invited, but few are chosen”

Perhaps you have heard these words before. These are from Matthew 22: 1-14. In it, Jesus tells the chief priests and elders the parable of the king who gives a wedding feast for his son, but none of the officially invited guests come. Instead, they go about their daily routine or they abuse or murder his servants. So the king exacts revenge on the evildoers and burns their city. The feast is ready so the king sends out more servants, this time on the main roads to invite anyone they find, the good and the bad. Out of all the guests, the king finds one who isn’t dressed for the occasion — him the king has tied up and thrown out into the dark.

I paraphrase here because this is a long reading, but there are several interesting parts of what is a complex parable.

Jesus begins the parable by saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.” Then he goes on to say, “He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.” This is a direct reference to the people of Jesus’ day, but very like also people throughout history since Jesus’ days. Jesus preached to the Jews and many wouldn’t listen, especially the chief priests and the elders. Later, the Apostles also preached to the gentiles, many of whom also wouldn’t listen.

A bit later Jesus says, “Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.” Today, the Gospel is preached and many go about their business, some of them even calling themselves Christians. They scorch others with their words and their misdeeds as if they never even heard Jesus speak.

The most confusing part for me is this near the end: “But when the king came in to meet the guests
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’” Is that a reference to not being prepared? Is that a reference to showing up as if you’re part of the celebration but not having your full heart into it? Is that to say that you say one thing but think or do another? People who come to church but aren’t really believers, or who say they are believers but exhibit something else entirely? Who is Jesus really speaking to there?

Jesus then ends his parable with these words: “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Many are invited and don’t show up; many are invited and do show up, but few of the invited are chosen to stay. Such is like the Kingdom of heaven.

 

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