Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Few

1-3 Jesus responded by telling still more stories. "God's kingdom," he said, "is like a king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn't come!

4"He sent out another round of servants, instructing them to tell the guests, 'Look, everything is on the table, the prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast!'

5-7"They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop. The rest, with nothing better to do, beat up on the messengers and then killed them. The king was outraged and sent his soldiers to destroy those thugs and level their city.

8-10"Then he told his servants, 'We have a wedding banquet all prepared but no guests. The ones I invited weren't up to it. Go out into the busiest intersections in town and invite anyone you find to the banquet.' The servants went out on the streets and rounded up everyone they laid eyes on, good and bad, regardless. And so the banquet was on—every place filled.

11-13"When the king entered and looked over the scene, he spotted a man who wasn't properly dressed. He said to him, 'Friend, how dare you come in here looking like that!' The man was speechless. Then the king told his servants, 'Get him out of here—fast. Tie him up and ship him to hell. And make sure he doesn't get back in.'

14"That's what I mean when I say, 'Many get invited; only a few make it.'"
--Matthew 22:1-14 (The Message)

Jesus used stories or parables to speak to his disciples and to teach the people. He did this because he knew that there would be many drawn to his teachings who had no real kingdom interest in his life. Many just simply followed the crowds. He would teach using parables to the large crowds knowing that those who had true interest would ask questions or understand the symbolism. At times, he refused to explain himself to the twelve because they lacked faith and understanding.

This parable is representative of his life. In this story, the King is none other than God. His Son is the bridegroom, Jesus Christ. I believe that the servants He sent out where the prophets of the Old Testament plus John the Baptist. They were sent to warn the nation of Israel, the chosen people, of the Messiah's coming. They were invited to share in the wedding feast, and yet as Isaiah had predicted, the nation of Israel denied Jesus as being the Messiah promised to them.

So God extended the invitation through the apostles to the Gentiles, here characterized in verses 8-10. These are common people. They are not friends of the family. They are not distant relatives. These are the people in the busiest parts of town going about their business. All who will come are rounded up and brought to the wedding feast.

And yet, this parable ends on a sad note. The king arrives and finds that one "guest" is not dressed appropriately. The king is angered by this man's lack of respect and throws him out. Jesus ends the parable with a simple yet profound statement:

Many get invited; only a few make it.

I believe that Jesus taught this message to his disciples as a warning. They were a very select group. They were the ones who he explained the meanings of the parables to. And yet, he does not explain this one to them. Here he seems to weed out who will make it and who won't by not explaining the meaning of this parable. Perhaps it was a warning for Judas Iscariot. Perhaps it was meant to thrust a dagger into the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Or perhaps it was meant for us to read and to think about and ponder.

We know that in John 3, Jesus declares that he did not come into the world to condemn or judge it, but to save it. That lines up with the "many are chosen" part of his warning. It's the second part that becomes a challenge to us.

Few make it. Which makes me think of the Marines. And perhaps that analogy isn't all that bad. The Marines have prided themselves on being the elite branch of our military. Their basic training is more physically demanding, and longer than any other branch. They take immense pride in their uniform (oh how well I know this mouth, insert foot--those dress blues ARE blue, not black...sigh). In fact, the Marines are almost always the first troops sent to any conflict. It is my understanding that the number of enlistees who drop out of basic or are disqualified are highest within the Marines. They are the select few.

In our spiritual lives, which are we? Are we recruited because no one else is left? Will we make it through the physical? Will we fail the first time we are sent out to train in the real world? When our time here on earth, our basic training if you will, is done, will Jesus look at us and choose us? Or will we be like the man who showed up but lacked the foresight to be respectful to his host?

Father, I know that I fail you so many times. I have reflected many times on chance meetings where I dropped the ball when I could have witnessed for you or lifted up a sister or brother who was struggling. I have come into your presence with disrespect in my mind and heart--holding onto the commonalities of human existence instead of shedding them for joy, thanksgiving, praise and worship. Forgive me for my disrespect. I am proud to have been chosen at all, and it is my goal to make it into your eternal kingdom. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

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