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!

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?

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Stay Silent or Share Jesus: Mark 7:31-37

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After traveling to the region of Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, and both ignoring and insulting a woman needing help, Jesus then leaves the area and travels to about the opposite corner of the area where He focused His ministry – an area called the Decapolis. This trip is fascinating on several levels.

Looking at how the gospel writers focus on many of these events, and how they transition between the places Jesus went, it is almost as though Jesus traveled to specific areas just to help one person who needed help. In our last episode, we focused in on a trip Jesus made to Tyre and Sidon and specifically how it may have been a trip to help just one person. In this episode, we look at another miracle that appears to help another single person.

Let’s read what happened before discussing several things we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will read it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 31, Mark tells us:

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.

Pausing briefly, to give you a little context of the geography, Tyre and Sidon were far Northwest of Galilee, and the Decapolis region was south east of Galilee. Picking back up in verse 31, we read:

32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

In our passage, I wonder if you noticed something. In the gospel record, the region of the Decapolis is mentioned only three times. The first time we see this location mentioned, it is part of a transition statement in Matthew’s gospel describing the crowds that followed Jesus. Matthew 4:25 tell us that, “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Other than this passing statement, Matthew doesn’t mention this region again, and the context for this verse doesn’t place Jesus in the Decapolis. Instead, the context describes Jesus traveling through Galilee instead.

The next time the Decapolis is mentioned, we learned that this was where the demoniac went following Jesus healing him. If you remember earlier in our year of miracles, we learned about a special trip Jesus made across the lake to visit this man. On the trip across the lake, a storm freaked the disciples out while Jesus slept. When they arrived on the far side, they met a man who was possessed by a legion of demons, and Jesus cast the demons out into a herd of pigs.

This would likely have happened on the Decapolis side of the lake. Those who were present from the area urged Jesus to leave there, and when the man Jesus healed wanted to go with Jesus, Jesus instead commissioned him to tell others what Jesus had done for him. Mark’s gospel tells us in chapter 5, verse 20 that “the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him”.

The last time we read about Jesus visiting the region of the Decapolis is for this single miracle. Word had spread about Jesus’ miracle working abilities, and those living in the Decapolis wanted to see a miracle. The healed demoniac had spread the news about Jesus throughout the region, and it is likely that many of those present bringing this deaf, mute man wanted to see a miracle because of what they heard from the former demoniac.

However, Jesus knew that this crowd wasn’t keen on praising God. They wanted simply to praise Jesus, give Him glory instead of God, and have bragging rights to their friends that they had seen a Jesus-miracle. Jesus pushes back against the selfish current of this miracle while also desiring to help this man. Because of this, we read that Jesus takes the man aside and away from the crowd before healing him.

After healing the man, Jesus tells them to keep quiet about what happened, but the more He wanted people to stay silent, the more people would talk about it. In a way, I find this funny, because this brings out an interesting aspect of human nature – specifically the part of our nature called rebellion. What better way to rebel against Jesus’ wishes than to tell others about what Jesus had done for them when Jesus wanted them to stay silent.

Was this some elaborate scheme Jesus used to get people talking? Probably not, but it’s hard to say.

If Jesus wanted people to talk about what He was doing, He could have simply said so, but if He did this too often, it might appear like He wanted the people to praise Him rather than pointing the praise to God. However, there were times when Jesus did ask people to share what God had done for them, like what Jesus had told the demoniac to do.

However, it is more likely that Jesus simply didn’t want to draw the attention of crowds because He wanted to be free to travel to see those who God wanted to help. When the crowds were present, it made it difficult for those who really needed help to come to Jesus, and it made it more difficult for Jesus to travel to the places where He could help others. Jesus also knew that His time was limited, and that teaching His disciples was also important.

But those in the crowd who rebelled to share what Jesus was doing in their midst share another key idea regarding our human nature. This other idea is that we are wired to share what we find amazing or noteworthy. Every miracle Jesus did was significant, special, and it was not something that had happened before, and because of this, sharing what Jesus was doing was the most natural thing for people to do.

However, what about your life and mine? Is it easy to share what Jesus has done for you today? Is it easier to stay quiet about Jesus when you are not with friends?

While I don’t know what Jesus has done for you, I know that depending on the social circles you are in, some of them welcome stories about what Jesus has done for you while others do not. Many of us on this podcast right now likely have family or friends who they can share with and family or friends that dislike hearing about Jesus.

I don’t know if God has called you to tell everyone your story or if He has called you to be a silent witness? Whichever way God has called you is between Him and you. However, if you are a silent witness today, know that tomorrow God may call you to speak up. Silent witnesses aren’t silent forever, and the more God has done for you the more He will call you to speak up.

Don’t be afraid of sharing the good news. Be ready and willing to share it with everyone who will listen, because when this life is over, and when history is finished, the only news that will matter is news that centers on Jesus and what He has done for all of His people!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and be ready to share your faith with anyone and everyone God opens the door for you to share with. Let God lead and guide you to share with others and let God and Jesus be the center of your story.

Also, always keep praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to Jesus each and every day. A strong relationship with God is built on regular prayer and study, and with this foundation, you will have a strong, solid faith that can weather the storms of this life.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or fall away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 31: In the last miracle the gospels record that took place in the Decapolis region, we discover something significant through what Jesus asks the crowd to not do. Discover if this is something relevant for our lives today or if it was only something for that certain place and time.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

The Parents’ Failure: John 9:1-41

Focus Passage: John 9:1-41 (NLT)

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”

But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

10 They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”

11 He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”

12 “Where is he now?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. 15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

17 Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?”

The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.”

18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

26 “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

27 “Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

28 Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! 29 We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”

30 “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”

34 “You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”

38 “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.

39 Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”

41 “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.

Read John 9:1-41 in context and/or in other translations on!

One reason why I believe the Bible to be accurate is that it doesn’t seem to brush past people’s failures or faults. In this passage, had I been the one developing this story as a work of fiction, I would have changed one relatively minor detail because it would make the two least relevant characters appear better than they currently do. This detail wouldn’t change the outcome of the event, but it would simply sound better – at least in my mind.

Between the two interrogations of the formerly blind man, they call in his parents to question them. In verses 20-22, we read what actually happened. The formerly blind man’s parents, responding to the Pharisees say, “‘We know this is our son and that he was born blind, but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.”

John shares that the parents were more interested in aligning with the Jewish leaders, and being accepted into their synagogue than they were about sticking up for their healed son. If I were creating this event as fiction, I would change the parents’ response to sticking with their son, or framed their current response in a way that made them look like miracle supporters.

But the Bible doesn’t minimize people’s failures. It may actually emphasize them. It is in short verses like these that we learn that those living then faced similar tension that we do now, and when there is failure, it simply reveals that we need a Savior to help us. There was nothing the blind man could do to regain his sight on his own, revealing his need for a Savior. The formerly blind man’s parents struggled with how to interpret Jesus’ actions in the face of outright opposition, and they needed a different kind of Savior – One who they believed would take care of them spiritually if they lost favor with others relationally and/or socially.

The formerly blind man’s parents faced a challenge we all face: picking either God’s favor or other people’s favor when you can only choose one. In our culture today, the trend is to eliminate God as much as possible, and minimize His significance in the world. When we are pushed to choose, which direction will we go? To acknowledge and serve God, or to hide God and serve man – the choice is yours.

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It’s Not About Us: Luke 10:1-20

Focus Passage: Luke 10:1-20 (NCV)

After this, the Lord chose seventy-two others and sent them out in pairs ahead of him into every town and place where he planned to go. He said to them, “There are a great many people to harvest, but there are only a few workers. So pray to God, who owns the harvest, that he will send more workers to help gather his harvest. Go now, but listen! I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Don’t carry a purse, a bag, or sandals, and don’t waste time talking with people on the road. Before you go into a house, say, ‘Peace be with this house.’ If peace-loving people live there, your blessing of peace will stay with them, but if not, then your blessing will come back to you. Stay in the same house, eating and drinking what the people there give you. A worker should be given his pay. Don’t move from house to house. If you go into a town and the people welcome you, eat what they give you. Heal the sick who live there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10 But if you go into a town, and the people don’t welcome you, then go into the streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dirt from your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. But remember that the kingdom of God is near.’ 12 I tell you, on the Judgment Day it will be better for the people of Sodom than for the people of that town.

13 “How terrible for you, Korazin! How terrible for you, Bethsaida! If the miracles I did in you had happened in Tyre and Sidon, those people would have changed their lives long ago. They would have worn rough cloth and put ashes on themselves to show they had changed. 14 But on the Judgment Day it will be better for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No! You will be thrown down to the depths!

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever refuses to accept you refuses to accept me. And whoever refuses to accept me refuses to accept the One who sent me.”

17 When the seventy-two came back, they were very happy and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!”

18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. 20 But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven.”

Read Luke 10:1-20 in context and/or in other translations on!

As Jesus was training His followers to carry on the Christian movement after He returned to heaven, He sent them out on a mission trip to the surrounding countryside. In His mid-ministry commission for His followers, Jesus shares some interesting instructions that are relevant for us living today.

Near the end of this commission, Jesus draws the focus of everyone present onto how Jesus’ disciples could be treated when arriving at a town. Some towns might accept the message Jesus’ disciples brought with them, while other towns might not. Here is how Luke’s gospel shares Jesus’ words: “If you go into a town and the people welcome you, eat what they give you. Heal the sick who live there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But if you go into a town, and the people don’t welcome you, then go into the streets and say, ‘Even the dirt from your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. But remember that the kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, on the Judgment Day it will be better for the people of Sodom than for the people of that town.” (v. 8-12)

As I read Jesus’ words, I am impressed that it is not up to us to get other people to listen to God’s message. Because Jesus had to warn the disciples in this way, it might be surprising to think that there were towns in that region that refused to accept God’s message. We might think that it was easier for those back in the first century to share about God than it is for us today, but this is not necessarily true. About the only conclusion we can make between those sharing God’s message in the first century and us living in the 21st century is that we live in two different worlds and in two different cultures.

Sharing Jesus in the first century is simply different than sharing Jesus in the 21st century. They had different methods than we have today, and we have different tools than they had living 2,000 years ago.

But while we might get caught up worrying about how to share Jesus most effectively, the simple truth that I see in this passage is that when we share (regardless of the ‘how’ question), those who are listening in can either accept or reject the message. When they have made their choice, they are not accepting or rejecting us – they are accepting or rejecting Jesus.

While the stakes are incredibly high in this decision and no one should make their choice lightly, when we share Jesus with others, God’s Holy Spirit steps in and helps guide the conversation and the hearts of those listening. Sharing Jesus is not about you and I – it is about Jesus, and everything He has done for us.

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