20th Sunday after Trinity + Matthew 22:1-14
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Many are called but few are chosen.” With today’s parable Jesus teaches us the doctrine of predestination or eternal election. The Greek work translated “chosen” is also translated “elect.” Whenever Christ or the Apostle Paul begins speaking about eternal election we’re tempted to think it as something it’s not. The idea in the mind of most is that God, from eternity, made an arbitrary and absolute decree of who would be saved and who would be damned. People imagine God gathering the entire human race before Him and electing this one and that one to eternal life, while electing the rest to eternal damnation. The idea of a “double” predestination, that God predestines some to life and others do damnation, is not found in the Holy Scriptures but comes from the imagination of sinful man. Neither is the idea that predestination is absolute, without regard for anything whatsoever, found in Holy Scripture. Christ teaches us this parable so that we have a proper understanding of election. He doesn’t answer every question we have may have about it, but by telling us this parable Christ teaches us what is necessary for us to know, for our warning and for the consolation of our faith.
The parable begins, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding!’” Since this parable is about the kingdom of heaven, the certain king is God the Father. His is Son is the God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity, and the marriage arranged for the Son of God is the incarnation. In marriage, the man and woman become one flesh. In the incarnation of the Son of God, He assumes for Himself human flesh and unites Himself with it so that He is remains truly God and is simultaneously fully man. The Son of God becomes man so that He can suffer and die to atone for the world’s sins. In Christ, God the Father prepares a rich feast of forgiveness and a banquet of spiritual benefits like adoption as God’s children, eternal salvation, and peace with God.
Once the feast is prepared, the Father sends out His servants to call those who were invited to the wedding. So Christ commands His apostles in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” “Preach repentance and remission of sins in my Name to all the world!” Why to all the world? Because St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “He died for all.” He died for all to atone for all sins because God ‘desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Lord said to Ezekiel, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (33:11). Because Christ has died for the sins of all mankind and because He desires the salvation of all men, He sends His servants to preach the Gospel. When the gospel is preached purely, the Holy Spirit is present in that preaching to call sinners to repent of their sins, forsake their own merits, and trust Christ’s perfect life and innocent, bitter sufferings and death for their salvation. And this isn’t only an outward call. It’s an honest call by which God wants to convert all men. Look with what tenacity the certain man calls those invited to the wedding. He sends His servants out not once but twice, extolling the benefits earned by Christ. It’s a complete salvation. “All things are ready.” Sinners, with no merit or worthiness in them, are invited to enjoy full forgiveness and all Christ’s benefits.
But “they were not willing to come.” Not because God had ordained from eternity that it was His will they damned. They rejected the call of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel because they were not willing. They didn’t want to repent. They loved their sins more than forgiveness. They “loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Others were not willing because they wanted to earn God’s favor by their own worthiness and works. God’s will is that all men be saved by coming to the knowledge of the truth. Jerusalem in Jesus was day was not willing (Luke 13:24). The first martyr Stephen chided the Pharisees in Acts 7:51, “You always resist the Holy Spirit!” They aren’t among the elect, the chosen, because they resist repentance and faith in Christ. Some just make light of the call and go ways, “one to his farm, another to his business.” But others are more violent in their unwillingness. Some seize God’s servants, treat them spitefully and kill them. The king burns with anger at these men for their rejection and destroys their cities. They are truly called by the gospel. God earnestly desires their conversion. But they are not chosen because of their unwillingness, so they are the authors of their own destruction.
God then sends more servants out to the highways to invite as many as they find. His servants preach the gospel to good people and bad people, and they hear the invitation, repent of their sins, trust in Christ for their salvation, and endure trials and tribulations faithfully believing the Word. The wedding hall, the Church, is filled with those who hear the Gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit, believe. But even within the wedding feast there is one who isn’t properly attired. To be a wedding guest means you have to wear the wedding garment the king provides for you. So the king asks, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” And the man can’t answer a word. The wedding garment for the kingdom of heaven is Christ Himself. Paul says in Galatians 3:27, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Christ is our garment of salvation and our robe of righteousness because when we trust in Him, His perfect righteousness covers us, so that God the Father no longer sees our sins. Speaking of our sins, Paul says in Romans 13:14, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” The wedding crasher in the parable is a picture of thy hypocrite, externally part of the church, enjoying the benefits of the marriage, but inwardly still wearing either His own righteousness or the garment defiled by the flesh, as Jude calls it, which means he was not covered with Christ but preferred to remain in his sins because He loved them. His fate was no different than the unwilling; cast out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, eternal regret.
“Many are called but few are chosen.” You have been called by the Gospel. You have put on Christ in Holy Baptism. Take that You are among the elect. Peter tells us, “Be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10), not sure to God but sure to yourselves. You don’t do this by trying to search out God’s predestination from eternity. That will only bring you to despair because God hasn’t revealed that to us. God has revealed this to us in Christ, who is the book of life. We make our call and election sure by hearing the wedding invitation through His servants, hearing God’s Word faithfully and using His means of grace as often as we can. Make Christ your daily garment by repenting of your sins each day and trusting His death for your sins, Put on Christ as your righteousness each day and put off the spotted garment of the flesh. And rejoice because “He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world to be saved. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.