Matthew 22:1-14 (New International Reader's Version)
1 Jesus told them more stories. He said, 2 "Here is what the kingdom of heaven is like. A king (God the Father) prepared a wedding dinner for his son (Jesus Christ). 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited(The Jewish People) to the dinner. The servants told them to come. But they refused.
4 "Then he sent some more servants. He said, 'Tell those who were invited that I have prepared my dinner. I have killed my oxen and my fattest cattle. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding dinner.'
5 "But the people paid no attention. One went away to his field. Another went away to his business(Caught up in the cares of this world). 6 The rest grabbed his servants(The Prophets of God). They treated them badly and then killed them.
7 "The king became very angry. He sent his army to destroy them. They killed those murderers and burned their city.
8 "Then the king said to his servants, 'The wedding dinner is ready. But those I invited were not fit to come. 9 Go to the street corners. Invite to the dinner anyone you can find.' 10 So the servants went out into the streets. They gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad. Soon the wedding hall was filled with guests(The Gentiles...You and Me).
11 "The king came in to see the guests. He noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes(Clothed in Righteousness). 12 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man couldn't think of anything to say(He was not a true believer).
13 "Then the king told his servants, 'Tie up his hands and feet. Throw him outside into the darkness. Out there people will sob and grind their teeth.'
14 "Many are invited(Those who hear the Word), but few are chosen(Those that Believe)."
Italics and comments mine)
In the last few days before his crucifixion, Jesus spent time in the Temple in Jerusalem giving final rebuke, teaching and instruction. He relayed much of what he was trying to say in parables. He related things that were common to the people, so that they would understand and take to heart what Jesus was saying. I believe that this final week of teaching in Matthew is some of the most important in Scripture, and it speaks to us today and calls us to make decisions in our lives.
The parable noted above is both comforting and concerning, depending on where you find yourself in the story. Here is how I read it:
God has prepared a place in Heaven. He prepared the way to this place in Heaven from the time that man disobeyed Him in the Garden. He has always wanted His most precious creation to be reconciled to Him, made right, with Him.
The first to have be invited where the Jews, who God selected as His chosen people. He sent prophets and teachers to explain what need to be done to be acceptable to God, but the Jewish people got caught up in their own traditons and ways, and they rejected those sent and even killed some of them. So He extended the invitation to all of humanity; to anyone who would listen, and He provided them the clothing(the Way through Jesus) to be found acceptable in His eyes.
God has given us all a choice to make. The story of Jesus as Lord and Savior of mankind has been taught to humanity for two millenia. It is the Way that God has provided for all people to be reconciled and found accetable to God. Almost daily I emphasize this truth, because I feel that too often it is not taken seriously enough in our world. In our society and todays' world Chritianity has been relegated to being "just another religion", and thinking of our faith in that way has huge implications for how people will spend eternity.
Here in the South, many of us might even take being a Christian for granted, because we attend church and say the right things. But it has to be made very clear that we are not truly chosen by God until we fully believe that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came down from Heaven and gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins. If we will confess those sins and agree in our hearts that He is the only way that we can be forgiven, then and only then will we be forgiven in God's eyes.
As we look to Jesus' work on the cross, and you prepare yourself for this year's Easter celebration, be sure that you have made the right decision and clothed yourself in the righteousness that God, through Jesus Christ, has provided. At the same time, let us not be too casual with that decision, for ourselves or the loved ones around us. Let us not assume, but be sure, that those we love will be with us at the wedding dinner.