Choosing to be Chosen: Matthew 22:1-14

Focus Passage: Matthew 22:1-14 (NIV)

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Read Matthew 22:1-14 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Nearing the end of Jesus’ ministry, Matthew tells us that Jesus shares a powerful parable about a king inviting people to a wedding feast. As this parable concludes, the core truth that Jesus wanted His audience to grasp is simplified into a single, short verse: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (v. 14)

In eight simple words, Jesus summarizes the entire parable, and when we look at this concluding statement a little closer, it contains a paradox that is worth paying attention to. The paradox is visible when we divide this verse into its two separate phrases, each four words long.

The first phrase reads simply, “For many are invited”. This phrase is powerful because when we look at the details of the parable itself, everyone possible received an invitation. The first invitation was to a select group of people, and after they rejected their invitation, the king issues a second invitation to everyone else. Everyone received an invitation, either in the first round of inviting or in the second round of inviting.For many are invited”; no one is excluded from being invited.

The second phrase sounds like the opposite idea, because it simply says, “But few are chosen”. This second phrase contrasts with the first one because it is very restrictive, and it implies more people are excluded (or “not chosen”) then people who are included.

While Jesus could be referencing the first group of invitees when He makes this chosen statement, I believe it has more to do with the last part of the parable – the part where a man is seen at the wedding feast without being dressed in wedding clothes. On one hand, we cannot fault this man for what he was wearing, because he accepted the invitation and came – likely leaving in the middle of a task he was doing. However, by keeping his old clothes on, this man misses the truth that the old task he was doing is now no longer relevant.

Aside from being lazy or thinking it isn’t important, the only reason for this man to keep his old clothing on is because he believes that following this banquet feast, he will be returning to finish what he was doing before. In this way, the task he was doing is given equal (or perhaps greater) importance in this man’s mind than being at the banquet itself. The man who was kicked out for not wearing wedding clothes may have been present in body, but he wasn’t present in spirit.

This detail is important, because when Jesus shares that only a few are chosen, it means that there will be only a few who will have chosen to place their old lives in the past and to be present and looking forward while at the wedding feast. God, the King, knew beforehand who these people would be, and He makes extra sure that those who He has chosen have everything ready for when they accept His invitation.

When I read the phrase “For many are invited, but few are chosen”, I am inspired to believe that God invites everyone to the wedding banquet, and He chooses those whose hearts, lives, and minds are present to stay from those who chose to accept His invitation, but who decided to keep part of their past lives with them. We are invited! Are we willing to accept the invitation to put our past lives behind us when God calls us to the future He created us for?

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.