Many are invited…

cast out13 Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ 14 Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

The Elect of God. The judgment seems harsh, but Matthew is thinking not of an actual wedding party, but of the last judgment. The language “weeping and gnashing of teeth” corresponds to 8:12; 13:42, 50; 24:51; 25:30, an apocalyptic expression (cf. Luke 13:28) that became a favorite of Matthew’s to picture the terror of condemnation at the last judgment.

Matthew does not use “call” (kaleō) in the sense of “effective call,” as does Paul, but in the sense of initial invitation to become a disciple. Whether one is actually “chosen” (eklektos, “elected,” i.e., accepted in the last judgment) depends on manifesting authentic Christian faith in deeds of love and justice. For the first time Matthew explicitly appropriates the term rendered “elect,” referring it not to a specific group (Jews, Christians), but to those who will finally be accepted in the last judgment (see also 24:22, 24, 31). The focus of an elect people of God has shifted from the OT understanding of the people of Israel as a whole to that of the righteous “remnant,” a shift already made in some streams of Judaism.

Reflections. From Eugene Boring:

The theological point of 22:11–14 is that those who find themselves unexpectedly included may not presume on grace, but are warned of the dire consequences of accepting the invitation and doing nothing except showing up. By concluding in this manner, Matthew makes it clear that such pictures in which unfaithful Israel is condemned are not an encouragement to smugness on the part of his Christian readers. The “elect” are not the church as a replacement for Israel, but those finally accepted in the last judgment. The whole section, in fact, is directed to the Matthean reader. It is instruction and warning to insiders, not a description of the fate of outsiders, confessional language rather than objectifying report. At this point, Matthew does join his voice with his fellow Jewish convert, who laments the present rejection of Israel: “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor 10:12; cf. Romans 9-11)

Notes

Matthew 22:13 wailing and grinding of teeth: the Christian who lacks the wedding garment of good deeds will suffer the same fate as those Jews who have rejected Jesus. A phrase used frequently in this gospel to describe final condemnation (Mt 8:11, 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). It is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in Lk 13:28.

Sources

  • K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007)
  • Eugene Boring, The Gospel of Matthew in The New Interpreter’s Bible, VIII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994) 377-79
  • Warren Carter, Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Book, 2000) 432-37
  • T. France, The Gospel of Matthew in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 2007) 746-52
  • T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 1, ed. Leon Morris (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989) 292-94
  • Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 1 of Sacra Pagina, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991) 282-85
  • Arland J. Hultgren, The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 2000) 341-49
  • Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 2009) 517-23
  • Turner and D.L. Bock, Matthew and Mark in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, vol. 11 (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005) 279-82

Dictionaries

  • David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996)
  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
  • Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)

Scripture: The New American Bible available on-line at http://www.usccb.org/bible/index.cfm

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One thought on “Many are invited…

  1. In reading all the previous posts since our departure to Italy, I found it interesting about the comparison of the vineyard, the Pharisees, Israel, etc. In the most recent post, the word “elect” struck a cord with me as part of the RCIA process. It is my hope that all of us are found by the Lord to be bearers of “good fruit”. Thank you for your blog entries. Very interesting indeed!

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