“Responding to God's Invitation”
"For many are called, but few are chosen."
Jesus told a story about a king whose son was getting married (Mt. 22:1-14). To celebrate the occasion, the king threw a huge party. He sent out his servants to call those who were invited but they refused to come. He sent out other servants with the message that the feast was all prepared, the food was ready and the party was about to begin, but the people "paid no attention" to the invitation. They went about their daily business and ignored it. Surprisingly, there were others who attacked the king's messengers and killed them! These violent people were, of course, punished by the king but what was to happen with the party? Who would attend the feast and honor the king's son?
The king determined that those who refused the invitation, though they seemed at first respectable, "were not worthy." So he instructed his servants to go out into the country and invite everyone, "both bad and good," to come to the feast. Finally, the day arrived and "the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who" wasn't dressed properly. He had somehow slipped into the feast with "no wedding garment." This was a grave offense, so the poseur was bound and thrown out so that the feast could commence with those who truly belonged.
With this parable, Jesus is teaching us what "the kingdom of heaven" is like (vv.1-2). He is underscoring the danger that people find themselves in when they reject Christ and showing his acceptance of spiritual outcasts over seemingly "respectable" religionists. The characters in the parable are clear: God is the king, Christ is the son and we are the people who respond to the king's invitation. The invitation is the gospel and the wedding feast symbolizes the blessing of salvation that is enjoyed through obeying the gospel (see 25:10). This parable not only intructs us about the nature of the kingdom but also invites some much needed self-reflection.
How do we respond to God's invitation?
Are we ignoring it? (v.5) The king wanted to celebrate his son by serving his guests the best of everything at the feast (v.4) but some evidently didn't care. Their farms and businesses were their first priority and they were not willing to change their schedules or halt their work. Sadly, those who ignore God's gracious invitation don't know what they're missing. God wants us all to celebrate Jesus' victory over sin and death and follow Jesus into the blessings of eternal life. But, because many are blinded by the trinkets of this fading world, they ignore God's invitation (Lk. 8:14; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). What about you? Does your life take precedence over God's invitation? If so, you're missing out on life itself (Mk. 8:35).
Are we attacking it? (vv.6-7) Who are these spiteful people who brutally attack the king's messengers? They are those who, when invited to take part in the kingdom, instead, take offense and lash out against the messengers. Jesus warns his disciples, who are tasked with extending this invitation, of people like this (Mt. 5:11-12; 21:34-36; 23:29-36). What about you? How do you respond when a loved one approaches you with the gospel? An invitation to reflect upon your own decisions? Your sins? An offer of life in Jesus? If you respond in anger and mistreat the King's messengers, beware the King's wrath and repent (v.7; 23:37-24:41).
Are we faking it? (vv.11-13) The fate of the guest who was caught not wearing the appropriate clothes to the feast is a surprising element to the parable. While verses 5-8 are a warning to unbelievers, verse 11-13 are a warning to believers. Simply responding to God's invitation is not enough. By responding to the gospel, we commit ourselves to follow Christ and abide by his 'dress-code,' so to speak. Christians must "put on... compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience," forgiveness and, "above all... love" (Col. 3:12-14) Those who are caught at the wedding feast without this essential Christian wardrobe are subject to the same judgment of those who rejected the invitation in the first place (Rom. 11:18-22). What about you? Are you faking it or is your faith genuine?
Are we changed by it? (v.10) A person doesn't have to be "good" to be invited to the wedding feast (9:10-13), but responding to God's invitation should result in a changed life. Those dressed in Christ's character, who consistently "put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24), are privileged to enjoy the great wedding feast with God. God's grace motivates us to "walk worthy" of our calling (Eph. 4:1), to "keep in step with the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25), to be renewed in the spirit of our minds so that we may live the life of Jesus. Are you changed by God's invitation?
We all fit into this parable somewhere. God invites everyone to participate in his kingdom. We are "called" but are we "chosen"?