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Many are called, but few are chosen

I received a telephone call with urgent news. My computer had been hacked and my documents and personal details were in danger. It was imperative that immediate action be taken. Happily, the caller had a solution: all I had to do was pay a small fee into an overseas bank account and the problem would be averted.

It was a scam. There was no urgent problem. No action was required, immediate or otherwise. It was a façade presented to deceive and to precipitate payment. None was made. This was just one of countless such calls which are made every day to people all over the world. As Jesus himself said, admittedly in a very different context: many are called.

The trouble is, of course, that a small proportion of such calls are successful and achieve their aim of deceitfully persuading people to part with their money, personal details or information, often with distressing results. It is increasingly important that we are all on our guard to protect against such fraud. How we respond to calls like these can have significant consequences, at least in the short term.

Jesus came with an urgent message. He spoke about the Kingdom of heaven, which he said “may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son”. Many were invited by his slaves to the banquet, but refused the invitation. It wasn't that they couldn't come, but that they wouldn't come. Instead, they went their own ways and did their own things. The king was enraged, and sent slaves to invite others – good and bad - to the wedding banquet, so that the hall was full.

Jesus reminded people that many had been called: they had heard the news of the Kingdom of heaven, through God’s servants. The prophets, John the Baptist, and now Jesus himself had proclaimed it – but not everyone had accepted it. Many had rejected or denied it. Many had heard, but few believed. Many were called, but few were chosen (or elect).

In a way, this is a challenging and chilling parable. Those who find themselves at the wedding banquet will see the kingdom of heaven. Those who have heard and responded positively to God’s call will take their seat at the feast. It begs the question: how do we respond to God, and to those he sends? Do we hear and ignore, or listen and accept and obey?

One person, we read, was thrown out of the banquet for not wearing the right clothes. This might seem a bit harsh – it would take a severe host to do that! The wedding garment here is the righteousness of Christ. Those ‘who put on the Lord Jesus…, who live by faith in Christ, and to whom he is all in all, have the wedding garment,’ as the commentator Matthew Henry says.

As Christians, we are called to clothe ourselves in love (Colossians 3:14). Those who seek to hear God’s call and accept the good news of his kingdom, and who hope to take a seat at the great banquet, must surely be clothed correctly. Those who don't wear the wedding robe are bound and thrown out into darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The great news is that the invitation to the kingdom of heaven is open to everyone. Anyone can accept the invitation, should they choose. How we respond to the invitation is a different matter. How we clothe ourselves, too, is a different matter. That's why many are called, but few are chosen.