Updated: May 24
Years ago, when I was young and wild, I happened to be in southern Florida. Because I knew a friend who had moved there, close to where I was visiting, I decided to pay him a visit. It was unexpected, but I was welcomed to drop by and stay with him for a while.
As we were catching up on how each of our lives had unfolded since we last were able to pal around, my friend told me he had to go to a wedding party. He asked me if I wanted to go with him, and I said, “Sure.”
He wasn’t dressed formally, and neither was I. We met up with some of his Florida friends, and none of them were dressed any differently than we were. In several cars (none mine, as I had flown to Florida), we drove to some place that I had never been before in my life; and we got out and met a couple of adult males on a sidewalk. Everyone was happy to see one another.
Then, one adult male headed towards a building, followed by my friend and his friends, but the other adult male came up to me and said, “I’m sorry, but this is a Jewish wedding party. You are not an invited guest, plus you are not Jewish, so you cannot go inside.”
Before he left, he said, “I’m sure you understand.”
Then, I was left, alone on the sidewalk; with no idea how long a Jewish wedding party lasted. So, I went to a pay phone and called for a cab. I took a taxi to the airport and I flew back home. My trip to Florida was over.
I remembered this flash from my past because of the parable Jesus told the people of the temple in Jerusalem. I imagine, had I been allowed to attend that wedding party in Florida, I might have stood out as uninvited. I might have been asked questions by whoever was paying for everyone to have a nice time, which I could not answer well enough to justify my being there. In essence, I would have been a wedding crasher.
It was best I leave on my own accord. Better that than be kicked out.
Still, the point Jesus was making was not about someone being uninvited, as the king had sent his messenger out into the streets to invite everyone to come – good and bad.
The “one man” who stood out, did so because he was the only one not wearing a “wedding robe.” He was spotted by the king because he did not desire to be part of the celebration. By not putting on a “wedding robe,” he was refusing to be “married” to the king’s son. By not putting on a “wedding robe,” the one man was stating he was not a priest to the king’s son.
When Jesus said at the end of the parable, which can be taken as the “moral of the story,” “For many are called, but few are chosen,” this can be somewhat confusing to some.
It sounds a lot like when Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” where many are called to pick the grapes, but few volunteered to do that work. It is that being restated, but the word “chosen” can seem difficult to grasp, when compared to “few laborers.”
The Greek word written is “eklektoi” (“ἐκλεκτοί”), which can translate as, “chosen out, elected, picked, or selected.” Keep in mind that this parable follows the one we read a few weeks back, where the master of a vineyard hired laborers for the vineyard, at several times during the day, paying all the workers the same wage.
“The last will be first, and the first will be last,” was the moral of that story.
Maybe God likes people who don’t stand in lines to buy stuff … the first with the new gadgets, or the first with Black Friday deals?
After the parable reading today, we can see how “many laborers were hired, but few chose to do the work.” They showed up, but they probably were not dressed to work. Because the vineyard owner kept seeing no work was being done, he kept sending for more workers. That means that the last workers hired did, in one hour, what the first workers took all day not accomplishing. The first did nothing at all.
This means “chosen” is an act of the wedding guest, and also of the laborers, but not of the king or of the vineyard master.
“Many are called” to attend a marriage between the king’s son and those who would become his dedicated workers – the marriage banquet was planned for those who would put on the robes of marriage – as priests, servants to the king. However, those invited did not care to go that far.
“Few are chosen” mean, “few choose to answer the call.”
For the vineyard owner, only those hired at 5:00 PM were motivated to do hard labor, thankful for that opportunity. They chose to work, such that even being the last called to work they saw an urgency. They chose to actually pick the grapes, to gather the harvest, thus they were most deserving of a full day’s wages.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he points out the names of three who were called to the king’s wedding, as all Christians have been. All who knew Paul personally, through his ministry, had put on the wedding robes, as priests married to Jesus Christ. Because the invitations had gone out to everyone – both those good and those bad – Jews and Gentiles, sinners being repentant – it seems the minds of Euodia and Syntyche were two choosing to do the work. However, each did their work differently.
Paul pointed out in his letter, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”
Thus, this bad element was showing through their robing, as some form of bickering and complaining about each other. The two were women, and because Paul addressed this chapter to his “brothers and sisters,” the early church recognized the laborers were both males and females.
The implication of Paul pointing these two women out may be because women are more prone to be emotionally committed to their relationships, and strive for perfection. This sense of feeling might have made both become blinded to there being more than one way to do the same work. Thus, these two women were not of the same mind, and the one mind they needed was the mind of Jesus Christ.
Paul recommended that Clement help them out; and there are those who believe Clement of Philippi would later become Pope Clement I. He is believed to be either the second or third Bishop of Rome, following Saint Peter.
Now, that history is well and fine, but it does little to have us stand up and put on our wedding robes, having us be filled with the Holy Spirit, as those married to Christ in mind and heart.
This means understanding the symbolism found in names can help a little towards that goal.
The name Euodia means, “Good road” or “Good trip.” It is something like the saying, “Have a nice day!”
The name Syntyche means, “With chance” or “Good fortune,” but because it meant luck more than skill, it’s common use in Greece implied “Ill fortune.”
So, we need to hear Paul saying there was some “cat fighting” going on between two brides of Christ, as they may have entered into that holy matrimony because being Christian meant (to one woman) “Everything would be easy going,” or maybe one complained because the “Good fortune that was expected as a reward for being Christian,” was not panning out, seeing there were way too many grapes to pick.
The name Clement means, “Peace” or Calm.” This is representing someone who is truly married to Jesus, with the “mind of Christ” taking over and leading one who truly chooses to serve the king, married to his son in heart and mind.
Thus, Paul was pointing out attendees at the wedding banquet who have to be seen as paralleling today’s Christians.
Now, the “one man” at the parable’s wedding party stood out because he had attended for all the wrong reasons. He flat out rejected the son. He certainly was not going to marry him, and promise to love, honor and obey his commands. There was no “Peace” within “one man,” such that it showed.
In the Exodus reading, we see Moses talking God out of destroying all of those back-sliding Israelites who God had “chosen” as his own priests. As much as God “chose” them, it was supposed to be a mutual choosing. However, it was apparent, while they were worshiping their gold jewelry, formed into a bull-calf, that they had not yet put on the wedding robe and chosen only one God to be married to.
At that time, they must have only been engaged.
The Israelites pleaded with Aaron to make them some “gods” to worship, who would take the place of the God of Moses. They were happy to have a speechless idol – the golden calf – lead them. Speechless idols are easier to follow than a God that repeatedly orders and commands His people to wander around in godforsaken wildernesses, having to worry and fret over everything.
The Israelites stood out then, as they would stand out when Israel and Judah fell, and as Jesus told a parable that reflected the same “one man” standing out, as the one who refused to even make the simplest of gestures of willingness to serve the king.
The condemnation of God, as spoken to Moses, was still in force – although delayed. The reason was this: The Israelites never found “Peace” or “Calm” as God’s servants.
They would show up in the vineyard early, for pay, and then do no work.
They would say, “Yes,” to the father, only to do nothing they promised to do.
They would try to steal the land his vineyard was on, even killing his son, thinking God would never come to reclaim what they had been allowed to rent.
They would show up at a wedding banquet showing no respect whatsoever.
It is easy to read the Bible and see times so long gone as if those times bear no consequence today. We like to think we are wearing the wedding robes proudly, as Christians dressed up in our Sunday finest. We like to believe we are hard at work picking grapes for the Father, by putting an offering into the tray. We like to see ourselves as the arms of the master, who are ready to receive the orders, to go in and destroy those sinners, and to leave nothing standing.
However, we do not read old books to find fault with those long gone.
We are every failure of which we read … until we find peace and calm and choose to marry our bodies to the spirit of Christ.
Anything less than that will make us each stand out as pretenders at the king’s wedding banquet. Anything less than saying “I do” will make us identifiable as the “one” without a wedding robe on.
No one can put that robe on for us. It is up to each one of us … alone.
For many are called, and few choose to say, “I do.”
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