Who is that guy, anyway?
as told by Deborah
One time Jesus told this parable:
You might say that the heavenly realm is like the king who hosted a wedding reception for his son.
He had his staff members call those who had been invited, but they didn’t want to be bothered.
So he sent others to speak to the guests in person: “Tell them: The party is starting: the table is set, the food is cooked, the band is warming up, everything is ready; come on over.”
But those who had been invited blew them off and went about their own business: one to his ranch, another to his job in the city, while others roughed up his staff members, beating and even killing some of them.
The king was enraged. He sent his army to destroy those murderers, and raze their city.
Then he told his staff, “The banquet is ready, but the ones I invited didn’t deserve to be there. So go out into the streets and neighborhoods, and invite everyone you see."
So they went out into the streets and gathered up everyone they found, both good and bad; so the banquet hall was filled with guests.
But when the king arrived, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing party clothes, and he said to him, "Hey, buddy, how did you get in here like that?"
But the guy had no answer.
Then the king said to the waiters, “Tie him up and toss him out into the outer darkness, where there will be sorrow and rage.”
For many are called, but few are chosen.
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Ah yes, “the chosen few,” those special people who have a place at the table; the proper, the correct, the informed: the “in crowd” — unlike the wedding guest who got flung out of the party. We know who the chosen are because they’re the ones on the inside, the ones with the stamp of approval, the ones we identify with because … well, because they’re right, obviously. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in there!
The chosen few were invited to the feast, and now they’re in, and their worries are over. Let the party begin!
Some poor schmo was just hog-tied and shoved out the door? Oh well. He probably deserved it. Here, have a glass of champagne, and be sure to try the stuffed mushrooms. Isn’t life grand?
It’s easy to tell the wrong ’uns: they’re the ones who aren’t wearing the right clothes, or using the right words, or saying the right things: the outsiders. Not like us.
The exiled guest in Jesus’ parable was an outsider. He didn’t have, didn’t know or hadn’t been told what was required in order to fit in. And so he was cast out, out into the outer darkness. That’s a hell of a place to be. Alone, lonely, despairing — while the chosen ones celebrated.
And who among us hasn’t been right where he is? Maybe we’re there right now. Ouch. It hurts to be all alone, sorrowing, on the outside looking in. And nobody is looking out.
Why do we assume that the king in this parable stands in for God — in a parable told by One who came as servant of all? Why do we look for wrongdoing in the guest whom the king ordered to be cast from the banquet into the outer darkness — in a parable told by One who would soon be bound hand and foot and condemned to death by Pilate, One whose suffering would go unnoticed as the people celebrated the Pascal feast?
I wonder. Perhaps things are not quite as they seem.
There were not a “few” who were chosen, but a single one: the one who was ejected from the party, rejected as an outsider; the one who gave no answer when he was accused of being in the wrong.
Many were called, and they merrily ate and drank at the bountiful table — and ignored what was going on in their midst. Another guest who had done nothing wrong was roughed up and kicked down the stairs … and nobody said a word.
Thoughtless of tomorrow, comfortable and self-satisfied, the guests did not realize the hidden cost of this free event: they were now the unwitting subjects of the king. At any point, they, too, might be excluded from the feast; reliant on his protection and at risk of his rejection, they spoke of him in reverent terms, gave homage to his son, and danced to his tune.
It’s easy to get sucked in to the power of the king: to worship the one who decides who’s in and who is out; easy to accept the benefits, ignore the abuses, and toe the party line. “It’s nothing.” “It happens.” “Just do what’s necessary to fit in and everything will be fine.” After all, look at what happened to the one who didn’t fit in.
The king’s rules are frequently arbitrary, subtle, and slyly enforced; you may discover that you have agreed to the terms unthinkingly, unwittingly, almost automatically. There hardly seems to be any alternative; it’s the king’s way or the highway.
The Golden Rule is that the one with the gold makes the rules.
~ the Wizard of Id
But Jesus’ parable reminds us that there is always someone who fails to meet the king’s requirements: there’s always someone who ends up on the outside. There is always someone who is made an example of, if only to keep the others in line.
And of the many others…. how many speak out?
A little later in Matthew’s gospel we will hear of another who will be made an example of; One who had done no wrong, but had provoked the ruler’s ire, and who gave no answer when He was condemned.
The worldly rulers demand obedience: “Do as you’re told and say what you’re told, and praise us in all ways each and every day.” Don’t complain, don’t object; conform or face the consequences. If you don’t fit in, you will be condemned to the outer darkness — excluded from the festivities; shunned and avoided, alone and miserable, and missing out on the countless delights enjoyed by those on the inside.
To choose another Way takes great courage. We are designed to love and be loved; we long for companionship, we want to fit in, we crave acceptance — and it’s hard to be on the outside looking in. Those who choose another way, who challenge “the way of the world,” who think their own thoughts, pursue their own passions, and refuse to follow the herd will always be outsiders. They will face exclusion, scorn, hatred, and exile, and will always viewed with suspicion — and frequently tempted to just give in and “join the club.”
"Follow the less-traveled Way, though it may be lonely; don’t be seduced by what is popular, for that is the path to destruction."
~ Matthew 7:13
Recent news reports have revealed vast numbers of people involved in the American entertainment industry (and beyond) surrendered their minds, bodies, and integrity in order to “succeed.” Winning — a role, a film, a contract — was everything, In order to become or remain a part of “the in crowd” intelligent, talented people were willing to protect and defend a vicious predator — utterly unconcerned with the harm and damage that he inflicted. Life was good for the chosen few.
And nobody said a word. For years and years on end.
The ruler of this world demands our allegiance, and insists that we remain faithful with a zeal that would leave a Puritan astonished. This “king” can take many forms: success, money, power, politics: it is the god we worship, the idol we serve — the kingdom of which we are subjects; the kingdom whose offspring we cherish, the kingdom whose laws we observe.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
~ Matthew 22:37
Many are called to the banquet table of the “king,” but few are chosen to walk another Way.
May we be strengthened and guided to walk in the Way that leads to the kingdom of heaven.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Is there a “kingdom” of which you are — perhaps unwittingly — a citizen? Are there actions you must ignore or overlook to retain your status? Are there things that you are obliged to say (or not say) or do, in order to be acceptable? Is there a “party line” that must be upheld?
Christ Before Pilate, detail, 1311, Duccio
Christ on the Cross, circa 1920, Georges Rouault
Theater Marquee, free use, imagechef