In the gospels the theme that Israel is not the real people of God is continued. In Matthew 8:5-13 Jesus heals the servant of the Roman centurion. The centurion only requests of Jesus to say the word and his servant would be healed. In response to such faith Jesus says,
I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus was stating that in the kingdom of heaven the Israelites, who are the picture of the people of God, will be thrown out of the kingdom. The Jews of Israel, who are repeatedly called the people of God in the Old Testament, are not the real people of God. That is why they will be thrown out of the kingdom. Their claim is that they are in the kingdom. They are not losing their salvation. They are giving evidence that they never had it. In saying this it must be understood that there has always existed a remnant of true believers in Israel. But throughout the Bible Israel is repeatedly described as an unbelieving people. The fact that a remnant of believers has always existed seems not to be relevant to the evaluation of the biblical writers. We will examine many of these passages in a future blog.
Another passage in the gospels addresses the faith of Israel is Matthew 21:33-46, which is the parable of the Tenants. Here Jesus gives a story about the owner of a vineyard. The owner plants a vineyard and then puts it into the hands of his servants. At harvest time he sends his servants to collect his portion of the harvest. The servants abuse and kill those he sent. Finally he sends his son and they kill him. Jesus then gives the point of the parable.
Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
The parable was giving the history of Israel and the stubborn rebelliousness of the nation of Israel. Jesus then says that the kingdom will be given to another people who “will produce its fruit.” This new people of God is the church of Jesus Christ, the real people of God. Hebrews 8:7-13 teach that the work of Jesus on the cross to purchase a people is being realized during the New Covenant era. The prophecy of Jeremiah 31 is being fulfilled right now. This passage will be discussed in great detail in an upcoming blog in this series.
Another parable that follows the parable of the tenants is the parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). Here Jesus describes a scene in Jewish life where a wedding banquet is prepared by the king for his son. He then sends out his servants to invite all of his guests. But when his guests were invited they paid no attention and refused to come. They not only refused to come but they also abused some of the king’s servants. The king, then great enraged, sent out his army and destroyed his former guests and destroyed their city. The king then instructed his servants to go out into the streets and invite just anybody and so that the wedding banquet would be filled. Text of this parable is about the hostility of the chief priests and Pharisees to Jesus Christ. One further point that is mentioned in the parable is about a man attending the wedding banquet is not dressed appropriately. He is thrown out of the banquet where it says in the parable that he is to be cast into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then you come to the punch line of the parable the final verse which is verse 14 that says quote many are invited, but few are chosen.” Just as in the parable of the tenants so also in the parable of the wedding banquet we see the history of Israel being portrayed before our eyes. Israel is described as always being in rebellion, always unbelieving. As we see in Romans 11:5 in the new covenant era only a remnant of ethnic Jews will be saved. The church, the spiritual Israel, will be made up of mostly Gentiles with a small number of Jews. The key phrase in the parable is found in the very last first, verse 14, where Jesus says, “for many are invited but few are chosen.” The gospel in one form or another came first to Israel but they rejected it. Now the invitation goes out to all, but the far majority of those who will respond will be Gentiles, And this is according to the plan of God.