About a week or so ago, I was thinking about the concept of being “called” by God; what it means when Christians say it and whether or not this is what it means in the Bible. In my thoughts, the verse from one of Jesus’ parables rose to the surface; “many are called but few are chosen”. The verse comes from a parable about a wedding banquet which I found in the book of Matthew. I read it again carefully. Here’s what I found.
Matthew chose to place this parable in with a couple of others which, it seems, Jesus was telling to his audience in an effort to say something about God’s authority (which had been given to him). He had just told his listeners that he would not tell them the source of his authority because they would not acknowledge that John the Baptizer came from God. However, he does tell them about their current relationship to God and His authority. The first parable gives them an example of a son who submits to his father’s authority and one who doesn’t. Through it, Jesus implies that his listeners are like the second son. In the second parable, Jesus tells what will happen to those who do not submit to this authority: they will be destroyed. Finally we come to the parable in question; the parable of the wedding banquet. I think that this parable was intended to show the audience that as a result of their rejection of Jesus’ authority (God’s authority) and their punishment for this rejection, the way would be opened for Gentiles to become part of “the people of God”.
The king in the parable is God. The son is Jesus. The banquet is the rule and fellowship of God through Jesus as foretold by the prophets. The invited guests are the children of Israel, the Jews, Jesus’ audience. The servants are the prophets that God sent to the people. The people on “the street corners”, “the good and the bad” are the Gentiles, the rest of the world. The under-dressed man whom the king had bounced from the party represents one of the “bad”, those who attempt to enter the kingdom on their own terms instead of on those of the king.
The call that Jesus refers to when he says “many are called” is the call to fellowship with God. That fellowship is predicated on Jesus. The whole reason for the party in the first place is to celebrate the joining of the Son of the King to his betrothed, the one(s) promised to him. Obviously the call to fellowship goes out to the whole world; Jews (the invited) first and then non-Jews (the uninvited). Good and bad folks (whatever those terms mean) from both groups are called to come. The call is not to a mission, a job or a Divine course of action. It’s a call to dwell with God just like mankind did in the beginning.
So, who are the chosen few who get to be where God is and party with him and his Son? It seems from the story that the chosen few are the ones who came dressed for the occasion. They had showered and shaved, and were wearing their party clothes. Surprisingly, Jesus uses one man to represent the majority of folks who attempt to crash the party and come to God on their own terms, unclean, unshaven and undressed. The king in the story doesn’t allow gate-crashers to ruin the party for the other guests and neither does God.