In the movie, The Ten Commandments, Aaron, played by Edward G. Robinson, urges the Hebrew people at the foot of Mount Sinai to build a golden calf while they are waiting for Moses, played by Charleton Heston to come down from the top of the mountain, where he had gone at the command of God. God sees all of this and tells Moses that his people are doing a bad thing and that he needs to go down and to stop them. Moses does this and the people are indeed stunned at their leader’s anger.
That story has always puzzled me a bit. Those Hebrews have been freed from their slavery in Egypt and have been in the desert for a while coming to terms with it. They are a bit confused as to what circumstances they are in and what is coming next. Other than a “promised land” that seems to them to be a bit vague, they have no sense of what the future holds. With Moses away for a while, his brother Aaron takes charge and offers a rationale for their condition. He asks for all of the gold that these people have as earrings, rings and such, and fashions a molded golden calf from it and tells the people that this calf is the god who has brought them out of Egypt and invites them to worship this newly created symbol. God is of course furious and sends Moses to break it all up.
I’m not surprised at all at the Hebrew’s confusion. How are they to know what God has in mind for them. Moses is at that moment receiving the rules of behavior for his flock, rules that they don’t even know about yet. Aaron is simply giving them an answer for their confusion.
I am equally puzzled by Jesus’ parable of the king who was having a wedding banquet to which nobody was coming. There was no understanding here, either by the king or by the subjects. The people who were invited killed the slaves who invited them and the king sent his troops to kill them. Eventually, the king sent his slaves to invite anyone whom they saw in the streets and soon the banquet hall was filled with guests. The king comes in, sees one man who has no wedding robe, asks him how he got in without being properly dressed, orders him to be bound hands and feet and thrown into outer darkness. He ends the story with the curious words, many are called but few are chosen. Why is Jesus telling this parable? What is he trying to get us to understand?
In both of these stories, God is expecting some kind of understood behavior from those who worship their creator. In talk after talk during his lifetime and his ministry, Jesus tells us that the most important thing that we can do is to love one another. The primary commandment is to Love the Lord our God with all of your hearts, mind and souls and to love our neighbor as a person like yourselves. Jesus went on to say that on this primary commandment hangs all of the law and the prophets.
I think what is going on in these stories is that God is assuming that love will be the foundation on which these people build their lives. The creation of the golden calf is contrary to that and denies the existence of the God who created the world and all of the people who have been freed. In the parable that Jesus tells, the king, who is God has invited all of the people to come to the wedding banquet and is astonished that one man has no wedding clothes. The wedding clothes stand for the essence of love. That is why the man is thrown out of the banquet. It isn’t easy to understand, which is why at first these stories confuse me. Knowing that the God whom we all worship is the God of Love helps me to comprehend what is being said. If only we all could love one another, this world would be a place of peace and comfort, just like the Kingdom of Heaven. That is what our creator, and his Son, our Lord have in mind for us.
What makes all of this come together for me is that shortly after all of this was said comes the confrontation with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes and Jesus’ arrest, condemnation and crucifixion. God’s ultimate answer to this horrible treatment of Jesus is to create the Resurrection three days later and give us all the gift of eternal life as a result. What more can we ask of the God who loves us so completely? Our response is simple; we need to embrace Love as our guiding star and focus on taking care of each other.