Day 190: Matthew 22:2-14

The Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. He sent his servants to tell the invited guests to come to the feast, but they did not want to come. So he sent other servants with this message for the guests: ‘My feast is ready now; my steers and prize calves have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast!’

But the invited guests paid no attention and went about their business: one went to his farm, another to his store, while others grabbed the servants, beat them, and killed them.  The king was very angry; so he sent his soldiers, who killed those murderers and burned down their city.

Then he called his servants and said to them, ‘My wedding feast is ready, but the people I invited did not deserve it. Now go to the main streets and invite to the feast as many people as you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, good and bad alike; and the wedding hall was filled with people.

The king went in to look at the guests and saw a man who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ the king asked him. But the man said nothing. Then the king told the servants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him outside in the dark. There he will cry and gnash his teeth.’ 

Many are invited, but few are chosen.

So here is the traditional interpretation of this parable:

Question: “What does ‘Many are called but few are chosen’ in Matthew 22:14 mean?”

Answer:  This statement is the conclusion to the Parable of the Wedding Feast. Jesus spoke this parable to show what the kingdom of heaven will be like when the end of the age comes. In the parable, the king sends his servants out to gather the wedding guests to the wedding feast. But those invited refused to come, some because they were too busy with their own worldly pursuits and some because they were positively hostile toward the king. So the king commands his servants to go out and invite anyone they find, and many come and fill the wedding hall. But the king sees one man without wedding clothes, and he sends him away. Jesus concludes by saying that many are called/invited to the kingdom, but only those who have been “chosen” and have received Christ will come. Those who try to come without the covering of the blood of Christ for their sins are inadequately clothed and will be sent into “outer darkness,” (v. 13) i.e., hell. (http://www.gotquestions.org/many-called-few-chosen.html).

The only problem with this interpretation is that it doesn’t really make any sense, especially if you really look at the first and last sentences.

First of all, Jesus starts this parable with the phrase, “The Kingdom of heaven is like this.”  He then goes on to describe an angry, vengeful, petty, violent, murderous king who has a hissy fit when people don’t want to come to his party.  And then he tortures someone for wearing the wrong clothes?  Does that sound like the nature of God?  Does that sound like the generous, tolerant, loving Father that Jesus has described in every previous scripture?

Second, he ends the parable with the phrase, “Many are invited but few are chosen.”  It’s a snappy phrase, but it doesn’t fit if you accept the traditional interpretation of the parable. In this story there are a whole lot of people in the wedding hall and all of them are OK except for one who doesn’t make the cut because of his clothes.  Better morals might include:

  • Many are invited, but few attend.
  • Many are invited, and the needy are the ones you can count on.
  • If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.
  • Many attend but there will always be a party pooper.
  • Dress to impress or suffer the consequences.
  • If you hang out with people who murder and raze cities, you can expect to get burned.

The traditional interpretation is illogical and makes no sense.  I think I have a better interpretation.  This is my take on it.

When we read a parable like this and we see the word “king” we automatically assume that God must be the king, but the king in this story just isn’t very godly.  In fact, he’s downright earthly.  My conclusion is that the king in the story is not God.  The king represents the image of a false god created by humanity who is violent and angry and petty.

The king invites his friends to the party, but his friends turn out to be pretty rotten. They ignore his invitation and beat up his servants.  So the king angrily destroys everything in a temper tantrum when they reject him.  He retaliates by burning down their entire city. All the homes of innocent women, children, animals, old people,
everyone. The whole town. Gone.

But this king doesn’t give up.  Instead he invites strangers who don’t even know him, and these people (both good and bad) are all willing to come to the party.  They are all willing to accept this host, who represents the false god.  Except for Jesus.  He’s the one who is isn’t wearing the wedding clothes.  He doesn’t go along with the party going on in the Temple because he knows the difference between the real God and the false god invented by men.   Jesus is the one who has been chosen by the real, loving God to stand up against the false god – the mean, angry, vengeful, petty god to whom they are making all those bloody animal sacrifices at the Temple.  Jesus is the one who is bound, persecuted, cast out, and forced to endure darkness and suffering. It says that “the man said nothing.”  I think this is a prophetic reference to his silence when he is later interrogated by the authorities after his arrest.

I think the entire parable is another reference to his upcoming persecution and death.  The Kingdom of God is revealed in that single, solitary man who refuses to honor the false god.  The Kingdom of God is not cheap.  It is born out of the persecution of the faithful.  Yes, the Kingdom of God is like that.  Many are called to know the real God and reject the false one, but a few prophets are chosen who offend the establishment by revealing the truth despite the consequences. .

Maybe it says something completely different to you.  But that’s my interpretation and to me it makes more sense so I’m sticking with it.   Parables.  Sigh.

What does this scripture say to you?

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