Sunday, October 16, 2011

Are You Ready for the Feast?

Gospel Mt 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
"Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast."'
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.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.'
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king 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.'
Many are invited, but few are chosen."

This Gospel is the Parable of the Wedding Feast, which is not easy to interpret unless you have a good understanding of Jewish customs and traditions.

What is Jesus saying here in Matthew 22:14, which reads, “For many are called but few are chosen?” Some of the things that Jesus said were hard to understand. Why would some be called and not chosen to be with the Lord? It seems that if He called them He would certainly choose them. This question makes us wonder if there might be more to understand in the verse. If He was saying it was their choice then wouldn’t the text read, “Many are called but few choose to go?” There is more to be revealed here and a look at the Parable as a whole will render more understanding.

First - Context.

Context is always vital in understanding any single verse in the Scriptures. Chapter 22 begins by saying that Jesus began to speak to them [the religious leaders] again in parables, and we can infer by looking back at chapter 21, that He is trying to make a strong point to the Chief Priests and Pharisees when He begins to teach about the Kingdom of heaven.

Jesus was known as the friend of sinners and here He explains why He went to the sinners and the irreligious people. The parable he tells is about a king who invites all the important people [the so-called righteous of Israel] to come to a wedding banquet [the wedding feast of the Messiah]. Though upright and moral they had no time for Him, nor were they interested in what He was saying about the Kingdom of Heaven. God was calling them through His Son, Jesus; but they were not receptive. So he sent His servants to the highways and byways where they gathered many to come – good and bad alike. Now, all these were gathered at the feast and the King notices one who does not have the proper wedding attire [dressed in the righteousness of Jesus or according to rabbinical teachings- dressed with repentance]. In verse 12 the King addresses this person and asks him where his wedding clothes are, to which the person has no answer. And the King them commands that he be taken out and cast into outer darkness. Then we arrive at verse 14 where Jesus says, "Many are called, but few are chosen."

This Parable deals more with having a true change of heart than with being one who simply and without thought says yes to Jesus, but then goes and does as he pleases. When there is no change of heart, no desire to follow the tenants of the Lord and no repentance, then there is no righteousness. Jesus is our righteousness, and in submission to Him, which is reflected by repentance and obedience, we are “clothed in righteousness.”

This saying that refuses entrance into the kingdom based on proper attire is more about rebuking the one who says yes, I will follow, but relies not upon the Lord. Rather he places trust in his own methods and personal works to achieve salvation. It also speaks volumes to the ones [Pharisees and Chief Priests as well], who thought their position in the temple or as Abraham’s children gave them the right to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is plain here and He says they cannot partake of the Wedding Banquet if they(1) don't come and (2) are not properly dressed.

It is clear here that the Lord’s message is that though many have been invited to come, and while some think they have earned the right to be there, that only those who put on Christ will enter and feast with the King.

We must all ask ourselves "Am I prepared to put on the mind and heart of Jesus in order to be properly dressed for the wedding feast". If not, who do we need to ask for help?

Peace and love,

Reverend Sue

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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