Marchin’ to Zion – A Modern Parable

Subtitle: What it looks like when the word of Jesus comes to pass. One conception.
Parable of the Great Banquet (detail), Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)

Papa, where are we going?”

‘Twas an odd procession slowly wending its way along the road that ran, dusty and circuitously, through the lower, the lowest part of the village where, as everyone not from there said, “those people” – the least and the last, the discounted and disenfranchised, the huddled masses described, defined by their accursed circumstances – lived or, rather, existed.

The old man, Shimon, his arms draped across the strong backs of two of his sons. His wife, her hand, a visor, shading her eyes from the bright sunlight that she might train her sight; following, as the rest of the crowd, the gesture of a third son continuing to point the way.

“Papa, where are we going?”

“Papa, where are we going?”

“Papa, where are we going?”

“Papa, where are we going?”

From behind, the question, with rat-a-tat insistence, the high-pitched voice rising with each iteration, came rushing forth, battering his ears, begging for a reply.

She, the youngest and the dearest (for she, the most curious and perspicacious) of his brood of children, though “pleasant,” the meaning of her name, he knew, would not accept his silence as an answer.

“Naomi…” He wheezed. Still ambling along, he sought to catch his breath; his need, which he knew she would understand and, for a spare moment or two, not press for his response, granting him a blessed moment to think.

What would he say to her? He thought back to the day before…


The sun was high in the sky when a messenger appeared on his doorstep, bearing word: “My master, the leader of the Pharisees, invites you to dine with him at his home.”

Initially, mute with incredulity, he found his voice, exclaiming, “How can this be?” The messenger, as everyone in the household came rushing at the sound of the alarm in his voice, took him aside, continuing to speak, to whisper, “The rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth…”

(Hearing that name, his mind momentarily wandered. Days earlier, Jesus had visited them, sharing a meal, teaching, healing! For he himself, for years, had been bed-bound, unable to stand, much less walk, until Jesus touched him, bidding, “Rise!” and, to his amazement and that of all, he could and did!)

“…at table, near the end of the meal, said to my master…and, Shimon, barely could I believe this had I not heard it with mine own ears! The rabbi said, ‘When you give a banquet, invite not your family or friends or the rich who can and will invite you in return. Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. For, as they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ That is what he said! So, it is that I have been sent by my master to invite you. To invite all of you,” the messenger spread his arms, visually, figuratively encompassing the entirety of the lower, the lowest part of the village, “to a feast to be held on the ‘morrow, beginning at the tenth hour.”



“Naomi, we are on our way to dine at the home of the leader of the Pharisees.”

What? Papa, what are you saying?”

“What I am saying, Naomi, is that, as we have been invited…as we have been included, what the rabbi said to us, ‘The kingdom of God hath come near,’ now, today, is here.”


Endnote: The biblical reference: On one occasion when Jesus (went) to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath…(h)e said…to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14.1a, 12-14)

Illustration: Parable of the Great Banquet (detail), Eugène Burnand (1850-1921). This illustration is a detail (a part) of Burnand’s larger canvass of his depiction of the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14.15-24). However, my imagination was inspired to employ it as a visual representation of what it might look like if…when the leader of the Pharisees obeyed Jesus’ instruction to invite not friends, family, or the rich, but rather, “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.”

2 thoughts on “Marchin’ to Zion – A Modern Parable

  1. Paul,

    This is such a great lesson!! So few of us would think invite the downtrodden or the lowly to a meal. I think we tend to forget that no one would choose to be homeless or the lowly, that’s why I love the phrase there but for the grace of God Go I….. I know how fortunate I am to have all that I do.

    I’ve absolutely attended dinners and served meals, BUT I never invited any of the lowly to my home for a meal. I’d love to make that happen in 2020.

    I know that it feels amazing to be included and I have to make sure that I also make it a point to “include”…

    Much love!


  2. Ah, Loretta, you’ve taken the point, I think, of Jesus’ teaching when talking with the leader of the Pharisees and the point of my A Modern Parable to its faithful extension; that is, that we, in our time, follow Jesus’ teaching. Who “they” are who “cannot repay” (as Jesus teaches in Luke 14.14) are ours to determine. Still, determine, we are called, I believe, to do.



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