Many are called but few are chosen

Matthew 22:14 talks of many being called but few chosen, the context being a “wedding banquet” for a king’s son (verse 2). Sadly, those whom the king himself invited had refused to come, and they’d even murdered the ones bringing the invitation (verse 6). The king was so angry he had them all killed (verse 7).

But that left a wedding banquet all ready to go with no guests (verse 8). The king, therefore, gave orders to invite in anybody from the neighbourhood no matter how “good or bad” they were. Lots of people took up his offer and the banquet hall was filled with guests. But someone got in “not wearing wedding clothes,” verse 12. The king asked him why he was dressed the way he was when wedding clothes were readily available to him, as they were to everyone else.

The man didn’t say a word (verse 12). He didn’t say, “Sorry, I’ll go get dressed immediately in wedding clothes,” he just stood there as if to say, “So what if I’m not dressed properly?” The king blew a fuse and had the man thrown out, concluding his fury with “Many are called but few are chosen.”

The “few” being whom? In context, it was those who accepted his invitation and dressed in the right clothes. And who was Jesus aiming all this at? The “chief priests and Pharisees,” Matthew 21:45 and 22:1, to whom he’d just quoted Psalm 118 that talked of people just like them who’d rejected him as the key to their salvation (Psalm 118:20-23). The story was a major warning, therefore, to anyone thinking they could just waltz into God’s Kingdom without depending entirely on Jesus for their salvation. The kingdom is “given to a people who will produce its fruit,” Jesus said in Matthew 21:43 – or to those who wear the right clothes (Matthew 22).

So what were the right clothes? Verse 32: believing Jesus was “the way of righteousness.” That’s what gets a person “chosen” for the kingdom, or allowed to attend the wedding banquet.

God had invited the Jews to the banquet of salvation in his Son. All the righteousness they needed for that salvation had been provided in Jesus Christ – just like the wedding clothes had been provided for all the guests. But the Jews trusted in their own righteousness (or their own clothes) instead, expecting it to be good enough to get them into the kingdom.

It was to these people that Jesus said, “Many like you are invited to the banquet of salvation, but oh so few get to attend,” as a warning to anyone who misses the obvious, that Jesus is the way to salvation and there is no other.

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