Called or Chosen

2023 A Proper   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:19
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Matthew 22:1-14

Speaking of chosen - I think I regret choosing to preach on Mt 22:1-14 - I chose it because its complicated. And then - as I wrote my sermon I found myself getting more complicated.
But here goes...

My attention...

Socks and Crocs

If you know me well - you will know that I probably wouldn’t be wearing this shirt - or these shoes if I didn’t feel like I had to.
I’m a shorts and T-Shirt kind of person.
I like my big baggy hoodie - and I prefer to buy my clothes one size too big.
But I’m house trained.
I try to dress appropriately for occasions.

Windy Cassock

But mostly - I like my Cassock - because underneath it - I can hide my shorts and T-Shirt...
I did that - to a wedding -
but it was an outside windy wedding
the wind lifted my skirts - exposing my calves.
I’m hoping the photographer was ‘discreet.’
So - I’m the one who doesn’t dress properly.
I’ll miss the message that said all the ministers must wear black shirts - I’ll wear my blue one.
On Bok Friday I’ll be at the Spar feeling like the odd one out - everyone around me in their Springbok shirts.

I Feel Bad for these Guys

So I feel for this guy:
Matthew 22:11–12 NRSV
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
And he gets thrown out:
Matthew 22:3 “Then the King said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
A little earlier on, when he was sending his slaves out with invitations - granted the invited responded badly...
Matthew 22:5–6 NRSV
5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.
But the King’s response feels a bit excessive:
Matthew 22:7 NRSV
7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
If this was a movie it would not be suitable for children.
Its all out of proportion.
Messengers murdered for bringing invitations.
Cities destroyed over wedding invitations declined.
Someone thrown to the ‘outer darkness’ for not having the right clothes.

Interpreting this Parable

To understand this parable I think we first need to understand what kind of parable it is.
Where does it fit - who is Jesus talking to? Where does it fit with the life of Jesus?
Another context we need to look at is the simple place it has in scripture - how does it relate to the passages around it? Or echo other themes in the scriptures?
And what does it have to do with us?

What kind of parable is this?

Sometimes parables tell us what things should be like - they’re a moral lesson - like the one about the seeds. Good soil, bad soil, path way...
But in this case Jesus is telling people in his time about what is happening there and then.
I think what Jesus is doing is giving us a parable that is (in this case) more ‘descriptive’ than ‘prescriptive’.
And in being ‘descriptive’ - it is prophetic.
Someone said that a good journalist comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable - in a sense this is what Jesus is doing.
He is foretelling what is about to happen - the Son of God will be rejected.
New invitations will be issued.
- he is saying something difficult to hear.
Just as Isaiah spoke in Isaiah 5 -
Isaiah 5:7 NRSV
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!
Isaiah 5:5 NRSV
5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
Back in Isaiah 5 - Isaiah was pronouncing the bad news of God’s Judgement. He wasn’t saying - hey this is what you ought to do.
He was simply pointing out the way in which the people hadn’t kept their covenant with God - and now they were going to be taken into exile.
So its a descriptive parable. Not so much a moral lesson - as a prophetic warning - describing what is about to happen. And that brings us to questions of who was Jesus talking to and when - the context of the parable.

Context

Jesus was speaking at a specific time in his life. He was speaking to specific people. And as is quite usual for Jesus - he seems to be relating what he is saying to the words of the prophet Isaiah.

1 - Time

Jesus final days. In Matthew 21 we read about Jesus triumphal entry to Jerusalem. His turning of the tables of the money changers.
This is his final week - his last call to the people of Jerusalem. Arriving with the declaration that he is the Messiah.
Matthew 21:15 NRSV
15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry

2 - Audience

Chief priests and the Pharisees ‘The Crowds’
The other context that comes into focus are two crowds in the temple. The priests and Pharisees. Who are very weary of Jesus and what he is doing.
And the crowds who followed him into Jerusalem. The crowds who are excited to see him in the temple.

3 - Echoes of Isaiah

The third context that we need to notice is the wider scriptural context. Jesus words and deeds are reflecting the words of the prophets. In this case - the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 5:1 NRSV
1 Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
The parable about the tenants seemed to point to Isaiah 5:1 - a picture of Israel as a vineyard that didn’t produce the necessary fruit and was neglected and subjected to decay.
Isaiah 25:6 NRSV
6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
The parable of the wedding feast seems to be couched in Isaiah 25.
Or we could think of Psalm 23:5
Psalm 23:5 NRSV
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
So there is the broader sweep of scripture - but also - the immediate context of this parable in Matthew’s gospel - and the thing to notice is that it is taught as part of a set of three parables.

Three Parables

1 - The Two Sons (Mt 21:28-32) 2 - The Wicked Tenants (Mt 21:33-46) 3 - The Wedding Banquet (Mt 22:1-14)

Two sons:

The father invites them to go work in the vineyard.
One says yes and doesn’t. One says no and does. Jesus points out that the proof is in the pudding… God is interested in our doing more than our saying.

Wicked tenants

The tenants hire the vineyard - produce a crop and probably some wine - but they decide they aren’t going to pay the rent.
In the end of the parable of the wicked tenants - The landowner exterminates the wicked tenants and gives the land to worthy tenants instead of the wicked ones.
At the end of all this...
Matthew 21:45 (NRSV)
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.
They realise that Jesus is telling them that their rejection of Him - Jesus - is what he is talking about - and this means that their positions of power and authority will be taken away.
God will take the vineyard from them and give it to someone else.

Wedding Banquet

In the case of the wicked tenants - the message the slaves bring is “Hey - pay the rent!”
I can understand the anxiety of the tenants there… theft and greed - possible motives for murder.
But in the case of the wedding banquet “Hey - we’ve got some food and a party waiting!”
You had me at free food - who would turn down such an invitation?
The point of the parable is just how ridiculous the invited are being.
Whether it is to pay the rent - or to come to a party - people keep ignoring God’s good invitation.
So the parable begins to make sense if we understand it in terms of the time in which it is told (in Jesus life). The audience that Jesus is speaking to. And third - the context in scripture - the idea of this ‘eschatological’ feast. And end time celebration of God’s victory -
or - the wedding of the son of God.
It is about the bridegroom - Jesus. And his wedding to the bride - which is understood to be the church.
But there is a special word for church.
Ekklesia
In Greek the direct translation is ‘assembly’
But the word is a contraction of two words.
Out called.

Interpreting this Parable

So - we’ve got this strange moment - a wedding guest tossed out on his ear because he wasn’t properly dressed.
We’ve got some context for this passage...
Jesus’ final week.
Pharisees and priests - listening and plotting to kill Jesus.
A crowd eager to receive him - and call him ‘Son of David’.
Scriptural context - imagery - the vineyard and a wedding feast - references in Isaiah and the Psalms - and even (one I didn’t mention) Revelation, that might help us to understand what the robe is about.
We can just think of Revelation 7:14 for now:
Revelation 7:13–14 NRSV
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
These white robed people are allowed to share in the security of the throne room of God in Revelation - a kind of picture of a feast.

What does it mean?

It is about the ‘son of God’

Matthew 22:2 (NRSV)
2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
First - the wedding banquet is for the King’s son.

It is about the ‘Kingdom of God’

Second - it is about the kingdom of God - what the world is like if God is in charge.
This is the message Jesus has been preaching since the beginning of Matthew’s gospel:
Matthew 4:23 NRSV
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
The Kingdom of God is here.
It is like a wedding banquet for the King’s son.
And whether you are a royal fan or not - whether you are a Megan and Harry fan or not - if you got the invitation - you would have made sure to be there.
We also notice that the parable is a part of a set.
All three parables from Matthew 21-22 are about the same sort of thing… Invitation and response.

Story...

Wedding banquet parable.
Part 1 - Invitation (Nobility)
- Ignored / Rejected
- Cities burnt
Part 2 - Invitation Extended (Riff Raff)
- One Guy doesn’t dress up
- Thrown out into the darkness
---
The first part probably gets the crowd excited. Remember - the crowds that the Pharisees and chief priests were afraid of.
In telling the parable three times - first about the son who does as he is asked.
Second about the tenants who don’t pay the rent.
And now about the people who reject their invitation and get killed for it.
Theyr’e saying AMEN loudly -
Yes - these pharisees and powers that be are going to get sorted!

Destruction of the Temple

Now we know that at the same time as Jesus speaks about his death - and we hear about those who accept him as King
And those who reject him as King.
Jesus is including some heavy apocalyptic imagery.
Just as the prophet Isaiah had warned of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 600BC
Jesus is warning about the destruction of the temple in the first century BC.
Matthew 22:7 NRSV
7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
This fits in with the kinds of things Jesus would say as he came closer to his time of crucifixion.
Looking at the temple.
Matthew 24:2 NRSV
2 Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
So 1st century Christians who read this passage might start to feel a bit self righteous. They had seen the prophecy fulfilled. The giant temple that Herod had built had been destroyed.
The story of its destruction is a bit more complicated than we have time for.
- Jesus first hearers - the crowds who were saying this is the Son of God - could have felt a bit arrogant and proud hearing that they were in and the priests were out.
Matthew’s readers - people living after the destruction of the temple - could have felt a bit arrogant and proud hearing that the temple got - in their minds what was coming to it.

Humbling

Matthew 22:12–14 NRSV
12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
These final words - after this long build up.
Are here - just as the words of warning about the destruction of the cities.
Just as the words of warning about the wicked tenants.
Just as the words of warning were applied to the priests and pharisees.
Are words of warning to us Christians.

Wedding Attire

Think of me in my cassock - in the wind - with my ankles showing up behind me as I made my way to the pulpit at the wedding.
I feel a bit bad about that.
Or the times I’ve rocked up at a formal event without my tie or my jacket. And felt a bit under dressed.
Or gone to the shops on a bok friday without my bok shirt on.
On one hand you could say
Oh Gus - he is just that sort of goof ball.
But he is a good guy really.
The point is...
It is a sign of disrespect to the host.
To the other guests.
To the occassion.
Jesus is inviting us not to get caught short.
Not to take this invitation for granted.

We are under dressed

Paul’s words in Philippans.
Philippians 4:9 NRSV
9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
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