Do you want the good news or the bad news?
When I first read this passage I saw a lot of bad news! Violence, murder, destruction, rejection, weeping and gnashing of teeth! But the more I looked at it, the more I realised there was so much more good news in there!
Jesus talks about 3 sets of people:
1. The chief priests, elders and Pharisees – Jesus was speaking to them and his message to them was very direct- the kingdom of God is going to be taken from you and given to other people. Through His metaphors He is talking about how they have rejected God’s prophets, particularly John the Baptist, and are now rejecting Him, God’s son. The tenants in the first story show complete disrespect for the landowner by refusing to do his will and meet their side of the agreement, and ultimately they kill his son. The guests originally invited to the royal wedding show disdain for the King and his invitation by refusing to come. But even these people, despite refusing to meet demands, rejecting invitations and killing servants, were given second and third chances. What a generous and merciful landowner! What a gracious and loving King! God is not denying the chief priests and elders entry into his kingdom because they accidentally got a little legalistic. He sees their hearts and they have chosen themselves over God. So it’s bad news for them. But the good news is that the God who made them and loved them gave them second and third chances, and showed them mercy and grace. It was they who chose.
2. Himself – Jesus prophesies about Himself in v.42, quoting from Psalm 118, a Psalm of great hope, with rejoicing at salvation being achieved. The parable at the end of chapter 22 ends with the son being killed – there is no victory. But for Jesus the Son, His rejection and killing will not be the end. This isn’t just good news for Jesus, it is THE good news for us all!
3. Other people – In the second parable, Jesus says that the King opened the invitation up to ‘as many as you find, both good and bad’ (v. 9-10). He says that those on the original guest list ‘were not worthy’, yet those who came were both good and bad. So it was not their previous behaviour and choices that had made them worthy, but their response to the invitation. What amazing news!
Verse 14: ‘For many are invited (some versions, ‘called’), but few are chosen’. This verse can be confusing, this is my understanding of it: Imagine that when Jesus was calling his disciples, He walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, saw Simon and Andrew casting their nets into the lake and said ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’, and they replied, ‘No thanks, we’ll stick to fish!’ They would not have been chosen to be disciples – how could they?! In the same way, God calls us all. He longs for us all to be saved and to be in union with Him, but the choice is ours and if we say ‘No’, and reject him in our hearts then we cannot be chosen to be in His kingdom. The man who was kicked out of the banquet had turned up, but his lack of preparation and wedding clothes revealed his heart – that he didn’t really value and accept the invitation.
So much good news to be thankful for! And to share. When we share we can be aware that we will be ‘the fragrance of life’ to some and the ‘smell of death’ to others (2 Corinthians 2:16), just as Jesus was, because there is bad news as well as good. But the good completely trumps the bad, so maybe we can start by praying for faith and boldness to share this amazing news more.