When the master of suspense, Mr Hitch, begins to plan his movie Psycho he comes up with the startling but ingenious plan of killing off his major star halfway through his film. His wife says it’s a terrible idea, he should kill her off after just 30 minutes. Psycho is a macabre film, full of shocks, not least Janet Leigh’s early and horrific demise in the now famous shower scene. Whilst making the film Hitch kept everything under wraps on order to have maximum impact when the movie was released.
Jesus’s stories were full of shocks and startling moments. Nowadays we sometimes read them with reverent voices and a distinct lack of tension. But they would have made his audience recoil at times. And they often featured macabre moments.
When Jesus tells his story (in Luke 14 and Matthew 22) about a man throwing a banquet there are at least four moments of shock. Firstly this is a story based on Proverbs chapter 9. Wisdom throws a banquet with the best food and finest wines, and she invites everyone to come and learn and grow. Jesus tells of a man inviting folks to come to such a party – but they refuse! His audience did not expect to hear this. As far as they were aware they had come to the party. Secondly their excuses are embarrassing, They claim to have bought cows and land and need to go and examine them. In Jesus’s culture you just did not do that, you examined before you paid out any money. These excuses are obviously made up, to derail the party, like everyone saying, ‘I need to stay in to wash my hair.’
Thirdly the man invites outcasts to his party, folks who were not originally invited, outsiders and misfits. Even gentiles!! And lastly the guests who had refused are slaughtered! (Some of them had actually killed the messengers the man had sent to invite them.) It’s a shocking and macabre outcome, and it’s not that he believes in violence, Jesus is very much a man of peace, but Jesus tells it to wake up his audience, and to stir them into action. into remembering and responding. Will they come to the party, learn and grow and develop? They never forgot the experience.