We are God's chosen few;
All others will be damned.
There is no room for you;
We can't have heaven crammed!
This arrogant piece of sarcasm from Jonathan Swift accurately reflects the attitude of God’s people at various points in history. Leading up to the coming of Jesus, for instance, the Jews took increasing pride in calling themselves “the chosen.” What a shock it was to be to learn what Jesus said about “the chosen” people of God!
The Greek word for “chosen” is the plural form eclectoi (ek lek TOY). Thucydides used it in the 5th century B.C. to describe 300 “select” or “elite” soldiers who could run faster and fight harder, and who were chosen to lead the attack on a Syracuse stronghold. A generation later, Plato used the word to depict the “select” panel of judges who should try and convict crooked lawyers. (Plato said this was any lawyer who, for the love of money, would get a guilty person off the hook!)
By Jesus’ time, the Jews had decided that in God’s eyes they were the “select,” the “choice,” the “top quality.” But in Matthew 21 and 22 Jesus told three parables which exposed the low standing of Jewish leaders in the eyes of God. The climaxing parable was about a king who invited guests to the wedding banquet of his son. Though previously invited, when it was time for the banquet some guests refused to come. And then one man who did come refused to wear wedding clothing. The lesson of all this comes in 22:15, “For many are invited, but few are chosen (eclectoi).”
What does it mean to be chosen? According to Jesus, it means that (1) God wants you, (2) you respond to his invitation, and (3) you come dressed however God demands. Such are the people who will be with the Lamb in heaven, “his called, chosen, and faithful” followers (Rev. 17:14).