A basic idea within Judaism, both ancient and modern, is that the Jews are God’s chosen people. Jesus understood this, but he took it to be for them a privilege, not a right. Many of the Jewish leaders of his time thought that they had a special right to a place in God’s coming kingdom because they belonged to God’s chosen people, but Jesus pointed out, by way of a descriptive parable, that for centuries they had been rejecting God’s invitation to kingdom living. Yet those whom they despised as religious failures were responding to the kingdom invitation. The outcasts would have a place in God’s kingdom, pictured in his parable as a banquet table, while those who claimed it as their right would miss out. A place in the kingdom of God is never a right; it is a privilege, a gift of God’s grace. This applies to people who belong to the Church just as much as it applied to the people of ancient Israel. But grace does not mean that we can get away with any sort of behaviour – do whatever we want because it doesn’t matter, God still loves us. We have to live with the consequences of our actions. If we neglect to live the way God means us to live we condemn ourselves to missing out on life in God’s kingdom. This is brought out in the second parable that has been tacked onto the first and which concludes with the difficult saying, “For many are called by few are chosen,” which I take to mean that while God’s loving invitation is issued to all, far and wide, in fact only those who respond to God’s love seeking to live the way God’s chosen people were meant to live are the real chosen people. The wedding robe supplied by the king to his guests represents righteousness (right-with-god-ness) given to those who have faith and seek to live the kingdom way of love to God and love to neighbour.
- Why should a banqueting table be an apt image for life in the kingdom of God?
- Have you heard the saying, “Once saved always saved”? Do you agree with it?
- How does the idea of consequences for our actions help you understand God’s judgment?
- If neither belonging to Israel nor the Church guarantees a person a place in God’s kingdom, what does?