Trinity 20 – Matthew 22:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Many are called, but few are chosen. What does this mean? Few men are saved and enter the glory and joys of heaven. Jesus does not teach this truth in passing. Holy Scripture says this elsewhere. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Human reason always asks the question: WHY ARE SOME MEN SAVED, AND OTHERS LOST? Some say God just flat-out condemns people to hell before they were born. Others say that a person did not make a rational, clear-headed decision to follow Jesus when presented with the evidence for salvation. Both are wrong. The reason some are not saved is that they do not listen to God’s Word at all (FC SD XI:12).

This means it is not God’s fault that the majority of mankind is lost. God has prepared salvation for all men. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son… See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. In Jesus’ parable, God is the king. The preparation of the marriage feast is the preparation of salvation through Christ. The king went to great trouble and expense in preparation for the marriage. “[God] turned to me a Father’s heart; He did not choose the easy part but gave His dearest treasure.”

God offers salvation to all mankind. The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. Those who were invited but were not worthy are the Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah. Time and again our Lord and His disciples proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God. Many were called but few heard the Word and gladly kept it. The Gospel invitation continues to the ends of the earth as it began in Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria, and to the entire world. The Gospel is able to save all who hear it as Saint Paul says in Romans chapter one: I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

God’s call to salvation is an earnest call. His invitation is sincere, unlike invitations of mankind. The king in Jesus’ parable sent the first delegation to bid the guests to come. He sent a second delegation, and made the invitation more urgent. He became furious and sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t been warned. As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Those who will not hear the Gospel are not only under the threats made in Scripture, but also under these threats of our Savior: I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins. Whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God…. Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. Whoever does not believe will be condemned. God certainly is earnest when He invites men through the Gospel. There is no way that God Himself is the reason why those who refuse the call of grace are condemned.

The reason lies in man himself. Consider the responses in the parable: they would not come.… they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. They preferred their jobs and the profits they expected from their jobs instead of the wedding feast. Some even showed open hostility toward the king. One in particular showed an outward compliance to the call of grace, but did not think the feast was worth the preparation. When the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.

So whose fault is it? It is their own fault, not God’s fault. There’s the answer to the question that haunts mankind. Many men decline the call to grace. They pay no attention to it. They are too busy. They resist the call to grace. They refuse to refrain from sin and its pleasures. Some even show open hostility. Others outwardly receive the call of grace and attend church but in spite of the outward show of piety they lack faith. It is their own fault that they are cast into outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Those who are saved take no credit in their salvation. Today’s Gospel clearly says so. Those chosen and invited were no better than others were. They were unfit to dine at the king’s table and needed a wedding garment. They did nothing to help plan the banquet, much less in preparing the feast. They did not invite themselves nor even solicit an invitation. There is no merit or worthiness that these guests could boast of. So it is with the kingdom of heaven. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. You were dead in the trespasses and sins. The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Those who are saved are saved by God’s grace alone, unaided, unassisted, and unmerited by man. The king in the parable planned and prepared the wedding. He invited the guests and fed them. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, God planned the salvation of man. His love and mercy prompted Him to send His Son. Saint Paul proclaims in Ephesians chapter one: God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.

God is the prime mover who quickens us into spiritual life, into faith. It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. God also keeps us in faith unto the end so that, at last, we inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

Many are called, but few are chosen. The reason why some are lost is found in them alone. The reason why others are saved is not found in them, but in God alone. We don’t speculate about incomprehensible things, but rather take heed that we do not resist grace and frustrate God’s merciful designs. We take heed to the wedding feast by hearing His Word of grace and gladly following that Word to His altar to receive His forgiveness in the Supper. We follow that Word of grace into the world to live as His children, loving and serving our neighbor wherever God puts us. Many are called, but few are chosen. Thanks be to God that He has chosen you to be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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