“Many Called, Few Chosen”

Matthew 22:1-14

October 11, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Prayer.

This parable

Causes me to remember my defiant adolescence.

With hair down to my shoulders,

Sporting rose colored glasses,

I’d turn off my loud rock and roll,

Come bounding down the parsonage stairs

Burst into the kitchen

And ask dad for the keys to the car.

Inevitably, my mother would turn away from

The dishes in the sink or dinner on the stove.

She would take a look at my outrageous tee shirt or clothing, and say

“You’re going out looking like that?”

“Yeppers, mom. Catch you on the flip side of life.”

And off I’d go,

Acting as if there was no accountability, …

… Knowing full well that there was.

This parable is the third in a row.

It is important to be reminded that

Jesus is confronting the Temple authorities,

The Chief Priests, Pharisees, and leaders of the people.

The confrontation in Matthew 21 and 22 is explosive,

Extremely dangerous, and potentially violent.

For contextual reasons,

It is important to remember that this confrontation

Is taking place in the final days of Jesus’ life.

Try to imagine this confrontation taking place

During the early days of Holy Week;

Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.

Just remember,

Jesus only has hours to live,

Share a final meal with his disciples,

Wash their feet,

Be arrested and tried and condemned,

And be crucified.

Time is short.

If ever there was a moment

To clearly and concisely communicate to the world

What the Kingdom of God looks like,

It was now.

Characteristics of God’s Kingdom have been revealed by Jesus

Throughout this high-stake confrontation in Matthew 21 and 22.

This is what we have learned so far:

  • Jesus’ authority comes from God, his heavenly Father.
  • God’s Kingdom is inclusive.
  • Those who do the will of God, in spite of past sins, will go first into the Kingdom.
  • God seeks justice and righteousness.
  • God’s Kingdom is given to those who bear fruit.

Today, Jesus turns up the gain,

Amps it up, and

Takes this confrontation over the top.

It isn’t pleasant.

This isn’t the Christmas baby Jesus

Or the gentle Jesus, meek and mild, with children sitting on his lap surrounded by cute little lambs.

That’s the Jesus we want,

But that isn’t the Jesus we get.

This is our Jesus,

At the height of his ministry,

Fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father.

He is filled with disciplined, righteous anger

Confronting authority,

Speaking truth to power.

The environment is teetering on the edge of explosive violence.

Why is Jesus whacking the hornets’ nest?

Jesus confronts Temple authorities

To expand our comprehension of the Kingdom of God.

There is more to learn and his time is short.

This parable causes us to ask

What kind of power does God exercise?

And how does God exercise it?

A closer look.

The King interacts on three occasions with four different players.

1. The first player the king engages is the royal elite.

These are the ones who would not come,

Despite two personal invitations.

What kind of person in royal circles declines an invitation from the king?

They owe their status and influence to their proximity to the throne.

Why wouldn’t they come,

Unless they, themselves had reason to believe

They would be called to accountability?

Had they become so smug that they had nothing to fear?

But those who believed and acted as if they were first in the kingdom,

… The A listers …

… The Primadonnas …

Didn’t really know their king and

They didn’t want to be held accountable by him.

(Sounds to me like the Chief Priest, Pharisees, and the elders of the people)

The king’s response is proportional:

First, he decides to send a second invitation.

When even the second invitation is mocked …

Made lite by some,

Ignored by others, and

Flaunted by still others,

They seize the king’s slaves,

Mistreat some and kill others,

Then, and only then, the king resorts to judgment.

Judgment rains down.

He “destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (22:7)

There is a price to be paid for rejecting the king.

Yes, there is accountability, Jesus’ parable teaches us.

There is accountability in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The king will not be rejected.

Judgment is decisive.

2. The next two players the king engages are commoners,

Described as both the good and the bad.

Peasants?

A king mixing with mere commoners?

This is over the top!

This is Good News for those who are left out and

Treated with contempt

By the aristocracy.

Both the good and the bad are invited, and they come.

In some respect

This was an offense to the good;

They’d been working in the vineyard since the early morning,

Then along comes those who were hired at an hour before quitting time?

However, they get a free meal out of it;

So why not attend?

Good news is still good news.

It was also good news to the bad people on Main street.

The invitation wasn’t predicated on their behavior or reputation.

The invitation was color blind.

It demonstrates the king’s hope for

Transformation in the present and

The hope for a better future.

This was of greater importance than

Any sin they had committed in the past.

The king believes in redemption,

A second chance.

A wedding hall filled with guests

Would have certainly pleased the king.

The banquet was over the top;

Oxen, fat calves, a royal banquet unlike anyone has ever experienced,

A true feast, where all could gather and eat their fill.

(Much like our communion table)

With this second encounter with both the good and the bad

Jesus’ parable also teaches us that

The king’s grace is inclusive and unconditional.

The invitation to the banquet is extended to everyone.

The king’s grace is abundant,

Rich and overflowing,

Exceeding the expectations and the experience of his people.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

Now that’s some good news!

3. The last player the king engages in this parable

Is the man caught not wearing a wedding robe

In open defiance of the king.

One could possibly title this final portion of the parable

“The Parable of the Wedding Crasher”.

Oh, the king gets his wedding feast,

But he noticed a man who was not wearing a wedding robe.

Again, the king is patient and proportional:

He gives the man who is openly defying him

An opportunity to justify his behavior.

“Friend,” he asks,

“how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” (22:12)

The man is speechless.

Perhaps he is speechless because he had earlier witnessed the king’s wrath.

Judgment had resulted in death.

Perhaps he is speechless because he had witnessed

The mercy the king had shown

By including both the good and the bad at the wedding banquet.

There is plenty in this parable that leaves us speechless.

The King passes judgment,

But notice, again, judgment is limited.

“Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (22:13)

The phrase Jesus uses

“weeping and gnashing of teeth” to pronounce judgment

Has been used three times before in Matthew (8:12, 13:42, 13:50)

And will be used twice again (24:51, 25:30)

Mostly in the context of a parable.

Don’t assume this is a reference to hell.

I’d suggest this is Jesus’ way to simply indicate

Their removal from the banquet at hand.

He doesn’t kill the wedding crasher,

Unlike those who rejected him.

Defiance might get you kicked out,

But it didn’t preclude the possibility of his future return.

O, dear Judas. Rejection of the king leads to death.

But defiance, dear Peter; there remains hope for redemption.

In a powerful way, Jesus reiterated that,

Yes, there is accountability in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The King will not be rejected.

The King will not be mocked.

Judgment may be proportional,

But it is decisive.

The King’s grace is inclusive and unconditional.

The invitation to the banquet is extended to everyone.

The King’s grace seeks the redemption of his people.

The King’s grace is abundant,

Rich and overflowing,

Exceeding the expectations and the experience of his people.

Jesus uses this parable to fill in some of the remaining characteristics

About what life is like in the Kingdom of Heaven.

He tells us a lot about the power of God,

His heavenly Father and our King.

What kind of power does God exercise?

And how is it exercised?

God’s power comes from grace.

God gives everyone a second chance.

God acts with discipline and proportionately.

God includes everyone, the good and the bad.

This is good news because

God has a place in the kingdom,

At the table,

For everyone,

Including both you and me.

God’s power comes from restraint.

Vengeance is the Lord’s, and God’s alone.

There is no place for vengeance in the life of a follower of Jesus.

This is an especially important message to us

As we attempt to navigate life and faith in our turbulent world.

Leave vengeance up to God, knowing that it is only used as a last resort.

God’s greatest desire is for everyone to enter the Kingdom

And to feast at the heavenly feast.

This is good news!

Let there be no misunderstanding.

Don’t believe that we can take advantage of God’s grace.

God cannot be gamed.

Because, Jesus warns us,

God’s power also comes from decisive judgment.

God demands accountability.

Let us conduct ourselves accordingly.

Amen.

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