The Called And The Chosen
October 9, 2005
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. When we think about Jesus' parables from a common sense perspective, quite a few of them are abnormal and very hard to accept. Even the one we read today is one of those parables where we automatically feel like saying, "How idiotic!" It's not just because they are words given about two thousand years ago. Even the people back then at the time it was first spoken must have felt that way about it. However, the reason Jesus still gave this parable is that a message that he wanted to tell them was included in it. Therefore, we too, still must turn our eyes and lean our ears towards the hard to swallow sections, [which violate] common sense.
The Abnormal People And The Abnormal King
2. But, when I call it "the hard to swallow section," [I'm saying] it's a part that requires some attention and care. [Otherwise,] we will get the odd notion that "Jesus is [just] some humane and moral speechmaker" and we will end up overlooking the abnormal sections, feeling true resistance to them.
3. For example, some people feel resistant to the brutal language of verse seven, "Then, the king was angry, sent his soldiers, destroyed the murderers, and burned that town down." Or, some feel resistant to the ruthless language of verse thirteen, "The king said to his aides, 'Bind the hands and the feet of this man, throw him out into the darkness outside. He will weep aloud and gnash his teeth there.'" These people feel that this does not seem in any way, shape, or form, along the lines of Jesus' way of speaking.
4. But, as for the good or the evil of it, if spoken from the common sense of society, what the king did is not "abnormal" at all. It does happen a lot. Even among ourselves, don't we get mad when we are insulted? If an absolute monarch of some country somewhere receives a similar insult, then what is written here will happen as one might expect it to.
5. So, what is so abnormal? Let's look at this scene carefully. The first ones to appear in it are "those who had been invited to come," (verse four). They were invited to a wedding banquet for the prince. It was a banquet that had great significance to both the king and the prince. The king invited the people there and wished to celebrate with them. According to the custom of the day, the king sent his officers again on the appointed day to "those who had been invited to come." But, for some reason they "refused to come." In the world of that day, this type of thing was unthinkable even. They were abnormally impolite.
6. But, there is something even more weird written here. It is the behavior of the king after that. Where in the world is there a king who would still send more of his servants to an impolite people like them? And on top of that, the king preps his officers as he sends them with the message of his courteous invitation. "Preparations for dinner are arranged. Having slaughtered cows and fattened cattle, preparations are completely ready. So, please come to [my] wedding banquet." Does this [sound like] the message of a king? Here in the text we find the figure of a king, abnormally polite and absurdly patient.
7. Whereupon, the people took an even more abnormal action in response. "The people ignored it all, one went to his field, one went out to his trade." It was as if the field plants were more important than the prince's wedding banquet. Even more surprising is what comes after that. "Also, the other people seized the officers of the king, were violent with them and killed them," (verse six). Could something like this even be possible?
8. When you consider the situation, had the king become enraged, in and of itself, would not amount to any surprise to us, but would much rather be [taken as] normal. But instead, the king, once again, comes up with abnormal behavior. The king commands his servants, "The preparations for the banquet are done. Those who have been invited are not worthy. Therefore, go out to the larger streets in the city, and bring with you whomever you might find," (verses eight and nine).
9. Supposing a number of seats were open, [the command] to "bring with you whomever you might find" seems to be lacking in common sense. Wait a second, it's not just the king who is lacking in common sense. Even his servants are [missing a marble or too]. Supposing a number of them did announce to the king, "the persons we have found, both good and bad, have all gathered," it would have been preposterous. At the least it would have been worth it for "the good" people. So, the abnormal king had abnormal servants lined up around him.
10. Then after that, the weirdest character of all comes on the scene. The Bible says, "There was one person who was not wearing wedding clothes." There were also some who had no dress clothes for the occasion. However, going by the flow of this story, it is believed that every one there was expected to wear dress clothes. Therefore, it has been explained from ancient times that these dress clothes were not something that they possessed personally, but were prepared for each one equally as per the wedding sponsor's self-assumed obligation towards them. Regardless of that [detail] though, the point is not that [this one] person couldn't wear wedding clothes, but that he didn't [bother] to wear any. We know that because of the silence of this man to whom was asked, "Friend, why did you come in here not wearing wedding clothes?"
11. Give it some thought. He was not one of the original invitees. He was given a [special] invitation in a special manner. Though originally not supposed to be there, he did enjoy an invitation there. But, he just sat there wearing every day clothes, paying no respect to either the king or the prince, as if to say "[You're lucky that] I showed up." Could something like that be possible? Whoever would have heard this back then, he or she would have said, "Does such a rude person as that even exist?!" Anybody who hears this story, regardless of his or her preconceptions, will come to the quite proper conclusion that this man ought to have been thrown out.
What The Abnormalities Stand For
12. Well, what in the world does this strange story mean? I would like for us to go back to the beginning of it and to think about it in line with the Lord's words.
13. The parable of the Lord starts off with the following words: "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who gave a wedding banquet for his son the prince," (verse two). This story is a parable of the kingdom of heaven. Since a king appears in the parable of the kingdom of heaven, it must be God. God invites the people. He invites them to a wedding banquet. The wedding banquet symbolizes joy. In this way, God is inviting human beings to great joy. He is inviting them to eternal fellowship with God, which is filled with joy.
14. Let's take note by looking at the figure of these people invited to the wedding banquet. What we see there is that the people didn't come though invited. They didn't just carelessly forget. They flat out refused to come. Those who refused to come are depicted in two ways. The first way is the people who "ignored" it. One went to the field, and one went out to his trade. Field work is certainly also important, and so is one's trade. But, clearly when one ignores a royal invitation and goes to another place, one can't help calling that abnormal behavior.
15. Upon hearing this we might say, "If that were me, I'd never do anything like that." Yet, Jesus is saying that human beings will do similar abnormal things like this when it comes to God. We're twirling around before [the every day things] right there, we're dancing around the world visible to us, but we leave for later what's really important, situations having eternal value. This is how one may obtain short-term satisfaction, but end up losing eternal happiness in a relationship with God.
16. [As for the second way], the next people are openly resistant. "The other people seize the king's servants, beat them up violently, and kill them," (verse six). They never should have murdered the messengers who brought the invitation to the banquet! Why was it necessary for them to hate them? But, the people who disliked having a king over them were unable to love the king. They didn't like the royal invitation. The people who wished for self to be the focus were not pleased with the invitation to the banquet where the prince would be the focus. In that case, instead, the call to the king, the call to the banquet incited a hatred within them. Jesus was stating that [their] hostility towards the royal invitation, as strange and as illogical as it was, is also the [universal] figure of human beings towards God.
17. But, it isn't only the sinfulness of humankind that is being addressed in this story. There is another topic. It is God's passionate nature. In this story, God's passion is illustrated as the abnormal image of a king. [The king represents] the passion of God, wishing to make [his wedding] banquet come to pass come what may.
18. What is being written about here in this text actually happened in history. It was the Israelites who were invited first. God had invited them. He invited them to the banquet; but, they refused to come. Still God kept inviting these invitees who refused to come. He kept inviting with great patience. The image of God after this manner is illustrated in the Old Testament. God had sent [his] prophets over and over again to the Israelites. It was just like when the king had sent his servants. Through the prophets, God kept speaking [to them].
19. But, in spite of God's call out to them, Israel did not turn. Those invited first would not heed to his call to them. Some of them ignored God's call; others of them killed the prophets. It's just like he told it in the parable. But, God's passion for bringing the banquet into fruition did not know how to stop. Through and through God has desired fellowship with people and has wished for sharing joy with them. Humankind's refusal and resistance could not frustrate the will of God. The king cries out, "Bring with you whomever you might find."
20. In this way then, the words of God's invitation did not stop in Israel. It didn't die out from Jewish resistance. The gospel leaped outside along with the royal command. The royal servants leaped out into the whole world. In the early church, the mission to the Gentiles had begun. Thus, the servants sent by the king have come to us Gentiles. Surprisingly, the royal servants did not only assemble the good people. They had even begun to assemble the bad ones. Ultimately, the words of the invitation have even reached us, [though we may be] bad people standing idly by on the larger streets in town.
Wearing Dressed Up Clothes
21. The conclusion of this parable, then, becomes important. The invitations to us come through special blessing and grace. It is an invitation to persons who originally were not supposed to be invited. Therefore, we should not think it an automatic right that we can attend the prince's banquet. We should not think it something we naturally have, that we can live in fellowship with God, that we can live sharing joy with God. We should not attend with the attitude that "[You're lucky] I showed up."
22. We ought to appear before the king wearing fine clothing. The king requires that we sit before him wearing fine clothing. What are these dress clothes we are supposed to wear? Are they good deeds? Is it our staid and devout lifestyles? As for those who claim one is presentable before the king in an impressive manner wearing one's good deeds, they [will] probably [say] one should wear them. But, that which might have seemed rather fine in the dim [light] will certainly look only like old, shabby, and dingy clothes, all wrinkly and spotted under the bright lights in God's banquet. The dress clothes in which the king takes pleasure -- it must be perfect, without the stain of sin. We do not have dress clothes like that. Since [we don't have any clothes of that quality], we will only be recipients of [such clothing]. That dress clothing is Jesus Christ!
23. This parable was given a few days before Jesus was arrested and crucified. Jesus, on the way to his cross, gave this parable. Jesus went to the cross in order that he might become our dress clothes, that he might redeem our sin and allow us to sit in fellowship with God. As we wear our dress clothing, we become one with Him, and receive forgiveness of sin, and are justified, and then we will banquet. No way will we be sitting apart from Christ, wrapped in our rags. If we appear before the king in a selfish manner, the king will ask us, "Friend, why did you come in here not wearing wedding clothes?" The end result will be nothing but outer darkness. Therefore, the Lord says, "Many are invited, but few are chosen."
24. Well, we've read this parable to the end, but those who question in their hearts, "Who in the world are the chosen? Who are the unchosen?," are those who still have not placed themselves into this parable. They are looking at it from the outside. When a person places himself or herself into this parable, the cry of Christ's heart all the way to the cross should be audible to him or her. The Lord says, "You should not dismiss God's invitation. You should not become a person who will be thrown out into the darkness. Wear me, be at peace and come to [my] banquet. Enter into fellowship with God, which will be filled with joy." That's what "being chosen" means.
25. O Father God: You have invited us, though we are truly unworthy to be. You have invited us that you might share [your] joy with us. We have been given the [wedding] garment called Christ, and in peace we assemble before you. From now on and for ever more, you have granted that we may live in the fellowship of life with you. You have allowed us to be continual sharers of your joy. We pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.