The Parable of the Heartsick King

There once was a king who neither feared God nor men.  However, he was rich, charming, and very clever.  On everything he set his heart to do, favor always rested upon him.  The king grew strong so that everything and everyone seemed to be under his spell.  Nothing disturbed or harmed his reputation in all his kingdom.  He was loved by all, until one day he wasn’t.

So the king called his royal counselors, friends, wise men, and harem to advise him what to do.  The counselors talked strategy.  The friends discussed happiness.  The wise men emphasized ethics.  And the harem played his desires.  But no advice they gave the king could solve his problem.  Day by day, more and more of his subjects lost their loyalty and admiration for him.  Even the king’s family lost faith.

One night as the king sat on his throne, lonely and puzzled, the court jester appeared.

And the king said, “Fool, who invited you to stand before me?”

The fool answered and said, “O king, your family has brought me to diagnose your problem.  I understand you are losing the love of your people day by day?”

“Yes.  But how can you help?” the king replied.  “Your foolish words are nothing but therapeutic soothings—mere babble.”

The fool smiled.  “To the fool, all things are foolish.  But to you, O king, perhaps you might bear with a fool to find your cure.”

The king was perplexed and said, “But I am not sick.  Rather it seems I have lost my golden touch.  What do you mean?”

After sighing and offering a silent prayer, the fool answered the king.  “It is clear to this fool that you are indeed very sick.  I believe your disease is called: necropneumapetrocarditis.”

The king ejaculated a chuckle.  He thought the fool’s attempt to name heartsickness cute.

Undeterred, the fool continued.  “Your condition is quite advanced, so you are resistant to normal treatment.  Up to now, you’ve been misdiagnosed by everyone who knows you, even your family, because you’ve been deceiving them.  A king’s lies always sabotage his kingdom because as wise King Solomon once observed, ‘The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death’ (Proverbs 21:6).  At this late stage of your disease, there is only one thing you can do.”

“And what is that, fool?” the king sneered in disbelief, but still intrigued.

The fool looked at the king and loved him.  “O king, to find your cure you must answer my riddle.  Actually it is your riddle.  You see, the disease that plagues you can only be cured through a riddle crafted just for you.”

“Surely you can’t be serious!” the king balked.  “Is this another one of your jokes?  How can a stupid riddle cause my people to love me again?”

“Your riddle is like an onion, O king.” the fool tried to explain.  “At first it appears simple, but is in fact profound.  It is like the gospel of Christ—the aroma of life for some, the stench of death for others.  Answer it quickly, and it will do you no good.  To find your cure, you must peel layer after layer through many tears.  But heed this warning: do not wait as your riddle will spoil, for your hope of healing is very short.”

The king was annoyed with the fool.  Impatiently he demanded, “And how will I know, fool, when I’m cured?  When I solve your riddle?”

Meekly and with conviction the fool announced, “O king, I cannot answer that question.  But I believe you will know when you are no longer afraid of a truth-telling fool, and when you start believing you are in fact sick unto death.”

The fool had been waiting for the king to request his riddle.  But the king refused to take the bait.  This grieved the fool’s heart because he loved the king dearly.  Since the king’s family desperately wanted to see him live, the fool then dared to go where only fools dare to tread.

“O king, here is your riddle.  May it lodge in your heart forever, for good or ill.  And may you find healing through the only One who can save you before it’s too late.”  Raising his voice for all to hear, the fool riddled the king with this question:

“Is she worth it?”

In a flash the man’s nakedness was exposed.  But the feeling quickly passed.  Having served his riddle, the fool and the family left the king alone with his thoughts.  It was cold and dark.  Again he felt nothing.  It seemed too simple!  But the words kept ringing in his ears and sank deep into his heart.  Layer by layer, symbol by symbol, the fool’s riddle taunted him by day and haunted him by night.  It was for the king an unwelcome gift—a labyrinth of guilt and grace…

…It came to pass in those days that all the angry, betrayed, and heartbroken people who truly loved the king prayed for divine mercy or justice.  And while keeping watch and living by faith, they built houses, planted gardens, drank from their vineyards, gave their sons and daughters in marriage, and worshiped—united together with hearts no longer spellbound by the king, but set on a kingdom not of this world—the kingdom of heaven.

He who has ears, let him hear.

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