Many Invited. Few Chosen.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 22:13 (Holman) Then the king told the attendants, “Tie him up
hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Tie his hands to make resistance impossible. Tie his feet to make escape or return impossible. Throw him outside the hall, into the outer darkness, that is, the faraway, most distant darkness, where the banquet lights are not visible at all. A vast chasm separates lost sinners from any banquet lights and merriment. It is an extreme darkness that can be felt.
“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Bitter remorse for the past; misery and despair for the present; regret with no hope for the future.
This vivid description of Hell cannot be explained away. Three times in Matthew (8:12; 25:30), Jesus described the place of punishment for unbelievers as a place of darkness with “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
Much about Hell we do not understand. For instance, it has flames, yet is dark. Despite a vast chasm, the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. We have been given images, and must humbly infer certain realities from them. One fact for sure; it is a terrible place where no one wants to go.
The concept of a place prepared by a loving God for the purpose of everlasting retribution for unbelievers trips up many, but this doctrine is non-negotiable. Jesus spoke of Hell more than anyone else in the Bible. On any issue Jesus spoke to, truth is to be discovered, not debated or created.
Our misgivings about Hell often stem from our misinterpreting Jesus’ precise teachings about it. We frequently fail to look closely at what He said.
Jesus did not say Hell is a “one size fits all” place. There are different degrees of punishment in Hell. We glean this from Jesus’ clear teaching that the religious leaders of His day would receive “greater damnation” than others (MT 23:14; MK 12:40). This helps us respond to the “Hitler versus the-ones-who-never-hear” dilemma. Will they all be treated the same? No.
Matt. 22:14 For many are invited, but few are chosen.
“Many” refers to the large number of people the slaves invited to the banquet. They summoned everyone. The “few” refers to those who showed up properly attired in wedding clothes, who came God’s way. Many who say they want Him do not want Him on His terms, but want to come their way.
The Gospel invitation extends far beyond those who receive it. The parable of the sower taught us; cast Gospel seed indiscriminately. God wants everyone to believe (2 P 3:9). “But not everyone wants God” (MacArthur).
We leave the wedding banquet story with a sober reminder. At death, we carry nothing out of the world but a soul. It had better be ready for the occasion. Love invites, but the invitation cannot be accepted properly apart from our decision to receive and pursue holiness. Many profess, but don’t possess. Many think their own goodness is good enough. This is not true.
Matt. 22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap Him by
what He said.
Jesus, having been on the offensive against the religious leaders, had used three parables to indict them. The parable of the two sons (MT 21:28-32) cast the religious leaders as the son who did not do the father’s will. In the vineyard owner parable (MT 21:33-40) they were those who murdered the landowner’s son. In the parable of the wedding banquet (MT 22:1-14), they were the ones who refused to come, and mistreated the king’s slaves. Jesus had not been subtle. The leaders knew He was talking about them.
Now they launched their counter-attack. Having been pounded by Jesus’ parables, the religious leaders had to choose: get right or get mad. They opted for the latter and pushed back.
Learn two lessons from the Pharisees here. One, don’t let criticism make us mad. Say thank you to the critic. Then take time to ponder what was said, and pray about it. Their criticism of us could actually be right.
Two, believers will have opponents. It is vain for us to think we can forever hide from trouble in our USA culture. Believers go through seasons of testing. I think we are entering one for us. We cannot forever escape being focused on by the wicked. People-pleasers, including me, struggle with this. We always hope “dodge, duck, and delay” will work, but it won’t.
The religious leaders chose to be coy, to avoid a frontal attack against Jesus. They decided to let Him discredit Himself. They felt they could trip him up by catching Him off guard, and using His own words against Him.
Satan loves to use “a word misplaced or mistaken or misunderstood” (Henry). Many people have been trapped by their own words. Some believe Gerald Ford would have been elected President had he in his Presidential debate not said that he believed there were no Soviet troops in Poland. The whole nation collectively gasped. George Bush said “Read my lips; no new taxes”. Had he not said it he might have been reelected, but he did say it and went back on his promise. My Hebrew professor warned us to be careful in what we say. He told us not to answer “whatiffers”, to avoid what ifs.
The Pharisees, pushing an explosive button in their nation, will now quiz Jesus on taxes, a hot topic that has brought down many, in addition to President Bush. A country cannot survive without taxes. Governments need funds in order to function. Unfortunately, taxes can be a never-ending bone of contention among constituents. Usually, citizens want their taxes neither increased to help others nor decreased if it will reduce their benefits.
Our country’s independence was founded on a tax war. “No taxation without representation” was our battle cry. I have to admit I would have had trouble with the Boston Tea Party. Being a radical tea drinker, throwing away tea would have caused me serious consternation. I fear I would have stuffed tea in my pockets and under my shirt. Had it been a Boston Coffee Party, I would have been okay with that; in fact, I would have reveled in it.
The leaders tried to catch Jesus in a foolish statement. Few efforts have ever been more useless. He fielded a question on the most difficult of topics, gave a spin on the subject that would be earthshaking, and changed history forever. “They were up against incarnate omniscience” (Phillips).
It remains foolish to try to trap Jesus by His words. He was not only a wise man. He was God, as was proved by His resurrection from the dead.
The Gospel is very reasonable, rational, and coherent. It follows such a logical sequence of thought that even a 6-year-old child can understand it.
Despite this, people contort into all sorts of mental gymnastics to not believe. Since Christianity is, first and foremost, history, unbelief requires as much faith as belief does. Believers think the initial witnesses were honest; unbelievers feel they were dishonest. Both positions require faith. I feel safer casting my vote on behalf of the conclusion the disciples were willing to die for. People do not die for fairy tales.