Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Preparation for the Kingdom
Matthew 22:1-14
VS. 14 "For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The Parable of the Wedding Feast is one of the many parables through which Jesus Christ has taught about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus told this parable while He was teaching at the temple in the city of Bethany, when the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him questioning His authority (Mat. 21: 17, 23). The Jews believed that they were the only chosen nation on earth. So He tells them The Parable of the Two Sons (Mat. 21: 28-32), The Parable of the Tenants (Mat. 21: 33-46) and eventually The Parable of the Wedding Banquet to make them understand that the invitation to the Kingdom of God is not limited to the Jews but to all the nations on earth; and more importantly, only those who earnestly respond to the invitation will enter into God’s Kingdom.
The Jews were not only the first to be invited to the Kingdom of God (through the prophets in the Old Testament), but they were invited repeatedly - through John the Baptist who preached that the Kingdom of God is near and urged them to repent (Mat. 3:2) and eventually by the Son of God himself. But they did not heed to the repeated invitations. So the Lord God extended the invitation to the Gentiles as well; thus the invitation to the Kingdom of God is to all the nations of the world – every one, both good and bad (verse 10).
But who gets to enter into the Kingdom? Everyone who responds to the invitation? No! What matters is how we respond to the invitation.  In the parable, Jesus explains how the response has to be. Only those who came dressed in wedding clothes were allowed at the feast; those who did not were thrown out. One could ask how can a man who got invited to the feast while he was at the street be expected to come prepared to attend the feast in wedding clothes. The answer is that in such situations of the Mediterranean culture, the king would make sure to provide proper wedding clothes to all of his guests as they arrived (Malina, Synoptic Gospels, 111. Cf. also Stern, Jewish NT Commentary, 64, and Pilch, Cultural World of Jesus, 148-150). We can infer that the person who wasn’t in the wedding clothes did not accept the wedding clothes that the king would have offered him on his way into the wedding hall and therefore got thrown out.
God wants all of us to enter into His kingdom, but He wants us to come prepared to attend the feast dressed in wedding clothes. Mat. 26:31-46 helps us to better understand the wedding clothes we need to wear – the clothes of righteousness. Only the righteous are chosen to enter into His kingdom (Mat. 26:  34-36, Mat. 13: 47-50). It might sound then that following the law (as the Jews believed) would alone make us righteous. St. Paul tells us no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law, rather through the law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:20). He further teaches us that apart from law, righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:21-24). Paul also clarifies ‘Do we, then nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.’ (Romans: 3:31) and reminds us to put our faith into action as did Abraham (Romans 4).
Let the Son of God’s teaching guide us and make us all worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven - “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Mat. 7:21)
Heavenly Father, we confess that we have sinned against You and have fallen short of Your glory. Please pardon our sins and guide us so that we may do Your will all the days of our lives. Amen.
“Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Mat. 7:21)
Aby George, Jerusalem Mar Thoma Church, Connecticut
Christian Education Forum, Diocese of NAE of the Mar Thoma Church