Chosen for the Kingdom
October 15, 2023 |Chosen for the Kingdom|Matthew 22:1-14
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This is our third week looking at Jesus’ conversation with the religious leaders who approached him while he was teaching in the temple during the last week of his earthly ministry.
Their questions were ‘what authority he had to do the things he was doing’ and ‘who had given it to him.’ After responding to their question with a question about John the Baptist that got at the heart of their inability to recognize what God was doing among them, he launched into a series of parables.
One about two sons, one about a landowner, and the one we are looking at this morning, about a king who is hosting a wedding feast for his son.
We find this parable in Matthew 22 beginning at verse 1.
One of the interesting things to me about these parables is that they are getting progressively longer and more detailed each time. I think Jesus is building up to a climactic application of sorts, supported by the fact that after the first two parables, Jesus asks a question of the religious leaders and in the last one, he simply makes a statement of application.
He also does an impressive job of building to a great reversal.
When the religious leaders came, the underlying implication in their questions was, what right do you have, as someone outside the recognized authority to do these things. We are in and you are out. Right? Do you see that?
But Jesus, by the end of his parables, is going to reveal that in actuality, they are the ones who are out, when it comes to the kingdom of God.
Now that’s a pretty important thing to know, isn’t it?
These Jewish men assumed because they were Jewish, sons of Abraham, that they were in the Kingdom of God, that they were right with God and in particular, these religiously observant leaders counted not only on their heritage, but their keeping of the law as indicators that they were in.
So Jesus begins with a simple parable.
One father, two sons, one rebels and then repents and does the will of the Father, one submits and then fails to do the will of the Father, showing it is not in our confession alone that obedience is found but in our actions. This, he says, shows that Jewish people like tax collectors and prostitutes who repented at the preaching of John the Baptist are in the kingdom and you are not.
He continues with a little more elaborate parable.
A landowner prepares a vineyard, leases it out, and expects to receive what is due him.
The tenants rebel and repel his efforts to collect in increasingly hostile ways until he removes them and leases the vineyard to those that will produce its fruit. This, he says, shows that God is going to take the kingdom of God away from you and give it to a people producing its fruits.
In this last parable, in particular, he makes this point clear.
Jesus gives us the application by which we understand the parable when he says, for many are called but few are chosen.
Call for what, chosen for what?
We don't need to look any further than his opening statements to the parable to understand.
The kingdom of heaven may be compared…
With these bookmarks, the purpose of the parable- to explain/illustrate the kingdom and the application of the parable- for many are called but few are chosen, we can better understand that this is the theme Jesus is dealing with.
Who is chosen for the kingdom of God?
Isn't that in essence what Jesus is getting at?
Who is this ‘people’ that God is going to give his kingdom to?
This morning, from Jesus' parable, we are going to see three requirements of those chosen for the kingdom must meet.
To be chosen, you must be called.
Matthew 22:1-10 (ESV) 1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 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.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 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.
Immediately we see that Jesus treats the ideas of being chosen and being called as different yet related things. But we can also safely presume that if you aren't called, you can’t be chosen. That’s just logical outworking of the terminology Jesus uses.
Indeed there are many called in this parable that are not chosen in the end.
We will see how this works out as we go through the parable, but for now, I want to focus on the calling aspect.
The word call is used many times in this short parable, in essence it is used in the way we would use the word invite.
The first ones who received the call, the invitation, to come to the feast, are those who had been previously invited. In this day, an invitation would go out making you aware of an upcoming celebration and then you were expected to be ready to come when the invitation came the day of. Without watches, alarms, and digital calendars, this was the way to make sure that everyone came when all the preparations had been completed.
Jesus is using a shared cultural experience to illustrate a spiritual reality.
God had promised his people he would send them a Messiah, an anointed one that would usher in his kingdom and rule his people. They were waiting for him to do this. Especially during Jesus’ day there seemed to be an expectation that God was going to do something soon. They were looking for this Messiah.
Then John comes telling the people that it is time, he is coming. And for the most part, the religious leaders ignore him, they don’t respond.
Then Jesus comes, teaching about the kingdom, displaying the power that accompanies the King, healings, miracles, etc… and yet the people either pay no attention or dismiss him. Some, even now, are actively plotting how to kill him.
This is what the Bible means when it says John 1:11 (ESV) 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
He came to call those who had previously been invited to respond to what God had called them to do and to be. He himself describes his ministry as to the Jews, to God’s chosen people.
But they are not responding, they are not answering the call, so God will widen his call, much like in the parable. His purposes will not be thwarted, his vineyard will not remain unpopulated, if those who he originally called will not respond, he will call others.
The king now tells his servants to go to the crossroads, the outskirts of town, and invite, call, as many as they can.
Jesus is talking about what will happen in a short time, after he is put to death, resurrected, and gathered with his disciples. Even the language is similar.
The king says, go and invite as many as you can.
Jesus tells his disciples, go and make disciples of all nations. Go call everyone, as many as you can find.
What does this mean for us today?
I think it means that we must be a calling people. Although not the main point of the parable, it is obviously an application from it. Those that enter the kingdom of God must be called by those that know about it, right?
Paul says it this way in Romans, Romans 10:14-15 (ESV) 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
Who should we call, who should we invite to come into the kingdom of God?
Who were the servants supposed to invite? Everyone, the good, the bad, the known and the unknown. These people had no formal connection to the king, had no reason to be invited, had no claims and no right.
Are you issuing the invitation far and wide to everyone you can find?
We don't need to try and discern who is chosen, but rather call everyone we can, understanding that no one is chosen that is not called and God uses his people to call.
Jesus is showing us in this parable that the call, the invitation, is going out into all the world at the hands of his followers, so that his Father’s house may be full.
The first requirement to be chosen, you must be called, the second is…
To be chosen, you must accept the invitation.
First, notice, with me, the reason for the call.
The wedding feast is ready. God is ready to usher in his kingdom, he is ready to reconcile people back to himself. First he calls those previously invited, they do not come, he calls them again, and they refuse to accept his invitation, so the call goes out to others.
Let’s look at the response to the call by these that reject it.
It can be summarized in two ways, indifference to it and indignation to it.
Indifference to it- they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.
The root word translated ‘paid no attention’ is to not care about.
They simply did not care, they were too busy living their lives. Jesus illustrates this with two examples when he says, one to his farm and another to his business.
They were preoccupied with their to do list, with making a living, that they paid no attention to the invitation.
These were indifferent, but there were also those that responded with indignation to the invitation.
They seized the servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. These people were angry with the king and took it out on his servants, showing that if it was within their power they would do the same thing to the king.
They were not too busy, they hated the king.
Can I tell you, that each of these still summarizes many of the responses people give to the call of the gospel?
Many people are simply too preoccupied with their own lives to care. They say things like, I’m sure this Christianity thing is good for you, but it's just not for me. They say, maybe I’ll come to Jesus, maybe I’ll come to church when life is less busy. When the kids are finished with school, when life slows down, right now, listen, I’m good. They are indifferent to the message of the gospel, they don’t hate God, they just don’t have time for him.
Then there are others that violently resent any mention of his name. They understand the Gospel call as one of submission, of ownership, one that dethrones them from the seat of prominence in their lives and it angers them. They are not indifferent, they are enraged that you would share the gospel with them, they want nothing to do with God or his people and take every opportunity to silence them or to punish them.
This response manifests itself in all kinds of ways, some overt and some covert ways. We often think of these kinds of things happening in other places, but I was thinking about this and I was reminded of someone in my extended family that has forbidden her parents from talking to their granddaughter about Jesus. They cannot share bible stories with her, they can’t talk with her about the real meaning of Christmas, they can’t sing Christian songs with her. If they do, they will lose contact with her. This is indignation at the gospel message. Anger.
But listen, one is not better than the other. Whether indifferent or enraged, they both refuse the invitation.
The only ones who will be chosen are those that accept the invitation to believe in Christ, to accept the good news we call the gospel.
Which is modeled for us in the second set of invitations.
The servants go out and invite as many people as they can. Literally, the king says, call as many as you come upon.
What is the result?
The wedding hall is full of guests. Many of these people gladly accepted the invitation and came at once to the wedding feast.
How about you? Have you accepted the invitation? There is a good chance that if you are here this morning you are not enraged by it, but certainly there may be some here today that are indifferent to it. You are here because you want to make someone else happy, or you are here because you feel like you are supposed to be, but when it comes down to it, you really don’t care. You are fine with all this Christianity stuff as long as it doesn’t interfere with your life. As long as it doesn’t take away from your pursuits. Listen, friend, that is not accepting the invitation.
The invitation is to drop everything and come to Jesus, wholly and completely.
As we will see, there are some that seem to accept the invitation, but in reality do not. This is where Jesus goes next in the parable and is our next requirement. But at the very least we see to be chosen, you must accept the invitation, having been called, and finally…
To be chosen, you must be transformed by the call.
Matthew 22:11-14 (ESV) 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
This is yet another twist in the parable. For times sake we cannot highlight all of the surprising aspects of this short story, but this one is pivotal to our understanding.
Culturally, the king would dine separately from the guests, but he does come in to view them. Who responded to his call, who was honoring his son and his marriage? As the king looks over his guests, he sees a man who does not have a wedding garment.
At this point we need to stop and understand the culture behind the parable.
It wasn’t that this man didn’t dress up for the wedding. This is not a condemnation of his ability to dress nicely, it is not an indicator of his status, as though he was too poor to dress properly.
Nowadays, when you get a wedding invitation, it may tell you what dress is expected. Formal, semi-formal, casual, etc… Or the location might give you some indication. If it is a beach wedding, most couples don’t expect you to wear a tuxedo.
But we do try to wear nice clothes to a wedding, don’t we? It is respectful and part of celebrating the couple.
This is not that.
In this day, the guest would be provided with a festival garment to put on for the wedding. While not clearly stated here, this is the underlying presupposition operating. After all, these guests were called off of the streets with no preparation time and yet this is the only one singled out. Even more condemning is when the king challenges him, he is speechless. That is, he has no defense.
He knows he should not be there without one, he knows that he has refused to put on what was provided. He has nothing to say.
This would not be strange language to the people of God, many times in the Old Testament, which these religious leaders knew, God spoke of clothing his people.
Isaiah 61:10 (ESV) I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Or passages like, Zephaniah 1:7-8 (ESV) 7 Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. 8 And on the day of the LORD'S sacrifice— “I will punish the officials and the king's sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
This man is a picture of those that would feign acceptance of the gospel call and yet remain unchanged by it. To highlight Jesus’ audience for this parable, these were the Pharisees, trying to stand in the presence of the king in their own righteousness, their own good works. Jesus says, these are not the appropriate attire for the kingdom and you will ultimately be put out of the kingdom.
For the Christian, what is the wedding garment, what is represented here? What does scripture say?
We are treated to a picture of the marriage feast of the Lamb in John’s revelation vision. It is wise to go there now and read what we find.
Revelation 19:6-9 (ESV) 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
This highlights the two parts of what it means to be transformed according to the scripture.
First, we note that vs 8 says that it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.
The Bible says that those who come to Christ, who accept the invitation are clothed with Christ’s righteousness by faith. It is a gift, not of works.
So in that way, it is similar to the wedding garments in our parable, they are provided for those who are invited.
Second, note that it says that the Bride has made herself ready, and then it says the fine linen she is clothed in is the righteous deeds of the saints. This highlights the results of having been clothed in Christ’s righteousness, having been set free from sin and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we now walk according to the Spirit. That is, our lives are changed as a result of receiving the gift of salvation.
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The man in our parable was put out because he was not fit to be in the king’s presence because he had refused to clothe himself with what was provided.
In essence, and don’t miss this. The implication is that everyone else who had been called, accepted the invitation, and had clothed themself in what was provided were chosen.
In theological debates, we can get so worked up on this issue of election. That’s the word Jesus uses when he says many are invited but few are elected.
But rather than getting into endless debates about it, isn’t it much more important to make sure that we are in the few out of the many that are chosen?
How do we do that?
Let’s use Jesus’ parable as a way to evaluate whether we meet the requirements.
Have you been called? That is, have you had the gospel proclaimed to you and been given a chance to respond? Yes
Have you accepted the invitation? Have you turned from living life your way and surrendered to the will and desire of God for your life? Yes
Have you been transformed by the call? Is your life radically different after you came to Jesus? Are you producing the fruit that scripture says you should produce?
Then rejoice, for according to Jesus he is preparing a place for you and when he returns for his bride it will be a glorious union of everlasting joy and peace with God.
But if you think you are going to make it into the marriage supper of the Lamb, eternity with God based on a prayer that you prayed, based on you living an okay life, based on you being a pretty good person, then the bad news, according to Jesus, to some of the most religiously observant people in history, is that you will be put out of his presence.
And the worst part is, you will be utterly speechless and defenseless in that moment, just like the man in our parable, because you willingly rejected God’s offer of salvation through his son Jesus Christ.
For many are called but few are chosen, and with that Jesus concludes this set of parables designed to show these religious leaders that they were in fact the ones who were outside of the will of God and unless they repented, they would find out that they were not some of the few.