And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:1-14, KJV)
Many believers have a difficult time understanding what Jesus the Christ means when He says: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14, KJV). Some of these believers who are hopelessly bewildered or just impudently sarcastic ask: Called for what? Chosen for what?
Since it always is important to know the context in which something is said or done, then the meaning of “…many are called, but few are chosen” must be examined in context with the last week of the Lord’s life on Earth—in context with His Passion Week. The following reasons are why the Lord’s words are connected to the Passion Week.
Indisputably, all of the events of the Passion Week lead up to the Lord’s crucifixion, especially those lessons He teaches to His disciples and the multitudes right after His victorious entry into Jerusalem. In fact, the conflict between the true Messiah and the political rulers and religious leaders becomes exceedingly inflamed when the chief priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Jerusalem’s Jewish elders take issue with the authoritative nature of Jesus the Christ’s teaching (cf. Matthew 21:23-27).
The omniscient God is aware of the exact moment when the chief priests, Pharisees, and Jewish elders would endure their proverbial last straw, and no doubt this awareness is why God directs Jesus the Christ to sandwich His Parable of the Wedding Banquet in between His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and His prophetic Olivet Discourse on the last days and end times. Actually, many scholars declare that the Lord teaches the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in the middle of His Passion Week, on Wednesday, or the day before He is betrayed and crucified (note here that a Jewish day is from sundown to sundown; for example, the Jewish Wednesday would begin on Tuesday at sundown and end on Wednesday at sundown, which at the same time would begin Thursday).
The timing of the Lord’s teaching on this parable, therefore, is by design, because the timing symbolizes the Marriage Supper of the Lamb’s preparation times—the time of the Old Testament prophets’ ministry, the time of Jesus the Christ and the first-century apostles’ ministries, and the time of Gentile spiritual leaders’ calling, inviting, evangelizing, discipling, and warning. These banquet preparations, thus, begin in the distant past, centuries before the birth of Jesus the Christ, and continue long after the Lord’s first coming, even in this modern day!
It should be noted here that the Wedding Banquet not only is mentioned in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:1, 7-11, and 16-24 [except, as the Great Supper]; and Revelation 19:9), but also is mentioned in Rabbinic Literature. Traditionally, Jewish people have believed for thousands of years that a time is coming when they will enjoy the privilege of breaking bread with their Messiah—a time when God, in honor of His Son, assembles and seats around a banquet table, according to the rank and order of the chiefs of the clans of Israel, the Jewish wise and learned men, and the Jewish religious leaders.
In fact, over time, the Jewish community religious leaders of Jerusalem elevated their common meals to feast status so that “they” not only could institute a rank and seating order but also so that they could practice what they believed it would be like when they get the chance to eat with their Messiah at the Great Supper. As man’s understanding would have it, these Jewish elitists actually convinced themselves that their elevated common meal not only is an archetypal pattern of the traditional Great Supper but also is a “peaceful” representation of that Great Supper.
However, Luke describes Jesus the Christ’s attendance at one of these elevated common meals, to which the renowned Jewish religious leaders also have been invited, as both a portrait of a war zone and an image of the traditional Messianic Feast (cf. Luke 14:1, 7-11)! The irony here is that these renowned Jewish religious leaders who gathered in the house of a prominent Pharisee NEVER truly realize that their time of breaking bread with their Messiah already had come! The irony abounds, because it is evident that ONLY Jesus the Christ is aware that this dinner table seating arrangement is really the quintessence battleground table setting rather than the prophesied peaceful Messianic Feast’s table setting.
In this confrontational atmosphere, the invited Jewish elitists are more interested in closely watching Jesus the Christ’s actions than they are concerned about seeing Him as the most important person who EVER attended one of their Jewish get-togethers. Moreover, since a man who has dropsy also is at this elevated common meal, these Jewish elitists have fixed their eyes on Jesus the Christ, in anticipation of His next move (cf. Luke 14:1-2). They want to see how He responds to this sick man.
For sure, NOT one of these “important” and without any physical blemishes Jewish men would have publicly invited any lame, blind, mute, poor, or disabled person to this dinner gathering (cf. The Rule of the Congregation, a Dead Sea Scroll; and Leviticus 21:18-23). Nevertheless, the man who has dropsy is in attendance, so Jesus the Christ uses this opportunity to revolutionize these Jewish elitists’ understanding of God’s Great Supper.
The Lord heals the man who has dropsy, which should make his (the healed man’s) presence now acceptable, but because this healing takes place on the Sabbath the arrogant and proud guests at this elevated common meal are not interested in accepting the healed man. For sure, their interest ONLY is in their increasing hostility toward the Messiah, which has resulted in their supper environment becoming the opposite of the peaceful setting expected at the traditional Messianic Feast. The problem, once again, is that these invited wise, intelligent, and religious prominent men, ironically, are ignorant of the fact that the Lord is dealing with their intolerant, prejudicial treatments of the poor, powerless, sickly, handicapped, and seemingly unimportant individuals whom they have labeled as “unworthy” to be included in their symbolic seating arrangement of the assembled chief priest, other priests, other “important” Jewish men, and the Messiah.
Now, Luke’s Great Supper Parable comes much earlier in the ministry timeline of Jesus the Christ than does Matthew’s Wedding Banquet, and perhaps this timeline difference is why Luke records a milder treatment of those guests who initially are invited to the prophesied Messianic Feast, as opposed to the harsh treatment of those guests who initially are invited in Matthew’s Wedding Banquet Parable. Moreover, Luke’s reference to the invited poor, blind, disabled, and lame guests (v. 21) lays the foundation for Matthew’s “both bad and good” invitees (v. 10), for the King’s welcoming of “both bad and good” not only carbon copies Jesus’ own mission in this world, which is to save ALL sinners, but also the King’s welcome makes it clear that God’s Grace is able to forgive and transform even the most wretched individuals!
Furthermore, there are other differences between Luke and Matthew’s parables. Those differences include: referring to the person who is hosting the dinner as “a certain man” (Luke) versus “a certain King” (Matthew); calling the dinner a “great supper” (Luke) versus a “wedding banquet” (Matthew); sending one invitation to the initial guests (Luke) versus two invitations (Matthew); making excuses for their refusal and then returning to their daily interests (Luke) versus refusing the first invitation, then mocking the messengers/servants who come with a second invitation, then while some invited guests return to their daily interests, others attack and murder the messengers/servants (Matthew); searching the streets for the poor, blind, disabled, and lame (Luke) versus the bad and the good (Matthew); and ignoring the rude behavior of the invited guests (Luke) versus killing those who murdered the King’s messengers/servants, and burning the murderers’ city (Matthew). Lastly, there is no mention of the man who is improperly dressed (Luke) versus rebuking and then punishing the man who is NOT wearing his wedding garment (Matthew).
Differences notwithstanding, what is important to note about Matthew’s Wedding Banquet Parable is that there is no doubt that the King’s (Father God’s) wedding banquet in this parable is given in honor of His Son, Jesus the Christ, who by His atoning sacrifice has entered into a marriage contract—a spiritual union—with His chosen Bride, His ekklesia referred to as the CHURCH. For this reason, once again, the timing of this wedding banquet is not the actual time of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but rather the time of preparations—of calling, of inviting, of evangelizing, of discipling, and even of warning!
Indisputably, there are many Scriptures that speak of the Wedding Feast being prepared specifically for the Bride of Christ (again, the ekklesia referred to as the CHURCH, which is primarily the Gentile nations), so even though Jesus the Christ doesn’t explicitly say that the Wedding Banquet is for His special guests—His Bride or the CHURCH, ekklesia or the “called out ones,” the discipled believers who come from the four corners of the world—the collective Bride of Christ is understood to be the King’s (God’s) invited “as many as you can find” guests. Therefore, the sending of the King’s messengers/servants into the streets (cf. Matthew 22:9, NIV), metaphorically speaking, the Gentile nations, no doubt represents the Great Commission.
Thus, if believers ever hope to enter into the heavenly Kingdom of God and sit down at the Lord’s Table, then they (collectively, the Bride, but individually, a guest) must be aware of how they appear to God, now, so that if changes need to be made those changes can be achieved on this side of the Rapture. Since any opportunity for salvation is by Father God’s special invitation (God’s Grace), He, thus, automatically lists in the “guest” category anyone He calls/invites to receive His salvation gift, which transforms and makes every recipient a “worthy” invitee. For this reason, every called/invited “guest” must put on the appropriate wedding garment, or be cast out of the wedding hall—denied a seat at the wedding table! There will be NO exceptions!
This contextual analysis of Matthew 22:14 helps us to see that Jesus the Christ’s closing words in the Wedding Banquet Parable contain the moral of this parable, which is revealed through the King’s (God’s) repeated invitations. Moreover, the moral of the Wedding Banquet Parable answers the questions: Called for what? Chosen for what?
For sure, the “many” in Matthew 22:14 = ALL (every person God calls/invites to accept Jesus the Christ as Lord and Savior and to receive eternal life). God indeed calls/invites every Jewish individual and every person from every Gentile nation to accept His salvation gift.
Then too, the “few” in Matthew 22:14 = NOT ALL (NOT every person God calls/invites will be chosen/selected or make it to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb). God clearly wants every person He calls to be the choice or the best of those who sit at the Lord’s Table. However, the truth of the matter is that NOT every one will respond properly to the call, by accepting it, and not every person who does respond properly will do what is necessary to ensure that he or she is prepared to enter into the Kingdom of God.
In other words, the moral of this parable is: NOT every “called” Israelite/Hebrew and NOT every “called” Gentile will be “chosen” (will be selected) or will make it into the Kingdom of God as the Bride of Christ, as the worthy guest, who enters the banquet hall and sits at the Lord’s Table! In essence, God is not expecting those of us who ONLY hear His Word to accept His command to prepare ourselves for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but He is expecting those of us who hear, obey, and keep His Word to take advantage of this calling, inviting, evangelizing, discipling and warning time to get prepared, and help others to do the same!
For sure, God through the proclamation of the Gospel calls/invites EVERY person to obtain salvation and an eternal life in the Kingdom of God through Jesus the Christ. Next, those individuals who receive Jesus the Christ as their Lord and Savior are chosen (selected/set apart) to prepare for His Marriage Supper of the Lamb so that they can be in attendance at this event, wearing the appropriate attire. Put differently, the spiritual implication of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet is that, even though all born again believers are saved by Grace, not all of today’s born again and saved believers will be serious enough about their salvation to prepare their heart’s clothing (to take the time to develop a holy and righteous heart for God) by doing holy and righteous deeds for others! In essence, the Kingdom of Heaven’s holiness and righteousness, those God and Christ-like characteristics that are NOT being reflected in the “works” that many of today’s believers are doing for God will prevent many who acknowledge Jesus the Christ as their Lord and Savior from being included in the Bride of Christ (the resurrected dead in Christ and the raptured or translated alive in Christ), who along with Father God’s other invited guests will be seated at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb’s table! In The Message version of the Holy Bible, Jesus the Christ words are expressed this way: “That’s what I mean when I say, ‘Many get invited; only a few make it’” (Matthew 22:14).
Since proud and conceited people often think they can make it to Heaven without accepting God’s redemption plan, since they think that they can make it by following ANOTHER path, this is the reason why God’s ways seem so paradoxical and restricted to them. Such was the case with the God’s originally “chosen” people—those with whom God made a covenant in which He promises them the Kingdom and the King. To these Jewish individuals, God FIRST extended His invitations to salvation, eternal life, and the promise of participating in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but they rejected God’s invitations. For sure, there will be many people (Jews and Gentiles) who will reject God’s salvation and eternal life invitations. Likewise, there will be many people (Jews and Gentiles) who will fail to meet His FAITH requirements. Unfortunately, both the people who refuse God’s invitations and the people who fail to meet His FAITH requirements will end up having the banquet hall door shut in their faces.
Once again, the moral of the parable is seen through the King’s (God’s) repeated invitations. For example, in the Wedding Banquet parable, when His invitation to the so-called cream of the crop is refused by them, the King (God) sends His messengers/servants out to find and then invite the world’s outcasts—the world’s lowly and overlooked—because, ironically, they will be more inclined to acknowledge the King’s (God’s) sovereignty and His reign by not only humbly accepting His invitation but also by doing what He expects them to do to prepare for the event, which means they will put on the proper attire—wedding clothing—holiness and righteousness, as provided by the King/God.
This above example pertains to us. We who believe in and have accepted Jesus the Christ as our personal Lord and Savior have been invited by God (the certain King) to be the Bride/lowly guests who get to eat at Jesus the Christ’s (the Son’s) Wedding Table. God initially invites the Jewish people with whom He has established several covenants. However, after they not only refuse His invitations but also murder His messengers/servants (both the prophets/servants of the Old Testament and the prophets/servants of the New Testament (e.g., the Lord’s disciples, as well as The Prophet Himself who is Jesus the Christ), God then invites us to become the true Bride of Christ (ekklesia or the CHURCH). We, thus, are the participants in the future Marriage Supper of the Lord, who are represented in the Wedding Banquet Parable as the “few” who graciously accept the King’s invitation in a timely manner, those who recognize God’s Marriage Supper of the Lamb preparations—the calling, inviting, evangelizing discipling, and warning—and, thus, those who come to His feast wearing the proper attire (their wedding garment). These are the “chosen few” of the “many called” who are worthy to be seated at the Lord’s Table! Therefore, a word to the wise should be sufficient.
For more details, read my “What Will Your RSVP Be To The King’s Invitation?” blog entry.