New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Sheep and Goats

I have learned much in our journey through the parables. Not enough, but much. As this is the last of my posts in this series on the parables, I would appreciate your thoughts and comments. I am considering a series on the miracles of the Lord Jesus and would appreciate if this is of interest to any who may be following.

On to our parable! This parable is of sheep and goats. Two animals that are easily distinguishable. I think!

Lets read the passage and then dig in.

Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

The disciples, those who were following Him.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Jesus spoke this parable two days prior to the Passover.

When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” – Mat 26:1-2 ESV

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Jesus had been teaching His future apostles, those who would lead the ekklesia, truths on the mount of Olives

As he sat on the Mount of Olives the disciples came to him… – Mat 24:3a ESV

Why did the Lord give this message?

The purpose of this message as I understand it, is to instruct His men of the extent and power of His Kingdom, of the coming judgement, of His method of judging and can be outlined as follows

  • The King has authority of all nations (The nations are gathered before Him)
  • The King divides the nations into two groups (This implies they were together previously)
  • The King rewards both the groups on behavior towards the “least of these my brothers
  • The King judges based on linking the least of these my brethren with the King
  • The King will judge with surprising outcomes for both groups.

What was the message for the original audience?

During the time of this parable, goats and sheep were not as we see them today. Their appearance was not as distinct as we find today. Consider Genesis 30:32, where Moses describes both sheep and goat as being speckled and spotted.

let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages. – Gen 30:32 ESV

It was not uncommon for a flock to contain both sheep and goats during this time and this parable would ring true to the original hearers.

Consider Leviticus 5:6

he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat… – Lev 5:6 ESV

The original audience, the disciples were listening to the Messiah speak of the separation of two types of animals from a flock, not based on appearance, but based on the actions of the animal. What they did.

But I must ask. The sheep did things for the least of these my brothers. These things that were performed on the weak and powerless were acts of mercy and kindness. That seems obvious at this point.

But I need to understand who the Lord is referring to when he mentions “the least of these my brothers”?

I have always, until forced to consider it in this post, assumed the “the least of these my brothers” to be the physical, national brothers of the Messiah. Those who have their roots in the nation of Israel. Of course this is a result of my previous fascination with dispensational theology, which I have abandoned.

But ideas linger, and this is one that may be challenged with this passage. This needs to be discussed a bit later, as I am drifting a wee bit!

What is the message for us today?

One item that I have always assumed is that those who are “the least of these my brothers” is referring to the poor, weak and imprisoned, sometimes defining the least of these my brothers as Jewish “brothers” of Jesus.

As an aside, as many of you know, I live in Houston Tx, and the streets are full of the poor and destitute. My wife, who works in a store on a busy intersection, often comments on the organized efforts of the “poor and destitute” beggars who drive up to the intersection and pile out of a relatively nice vehicle, and take their stations for the day. Scam artists are out there and we need to have discernment in our efforts to be loving and kind. One characteristic we watch for are the condition of the shoes. If the “beggar” has nice shoes, it seems apparent they are not poor and destitute.

But I digress

Who are we, as believers to consider as “the least of these my brothers“, when we hear the Lord speak in this parable. I find it curious that the Lord appended His description of “the least of these” with “my brothers” Of course I can find no specific instance in the New Testament where national Israel is defined as Jesus family/brothers, but I do find multiple instances where the New Testament describes believers as His brothers. Consider Matthew 12:48-49, where His mother and brothers were requesting His presence while He was teaching.

48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! – Mat 12:48-49 ESV

Another passage that comes to mind is when the author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is not ashamed to call those sons that He is bringing into glory his brothers.

11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, – Heb 2:11 ESV

Jesus’ family are those who are His disciples. His brethren (and sistren) are those of faith, not of the flesh. This may seem obvious to some, but I did not catch this truth in the story of the sheep and goats for decades.

Please understand this specific teaching in Matthew 25 does not allow us to ignore the needs of the general population. This is not the intent of the parable nor my wanderings in this post. Each of us are to seek to relieve others of suffering, but as the apostle Paul teaches in Galatians, there is a priority of believers for believers to minister to.

10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Gal 6:10 ESV

One concluding thought.

If Jesus is referring to believers as the poor and destitute that are receiving the mercy, that tells us that it is the believers that are in the prisons, that are hungry, thirsty, poor, naked and sick. Believers are not exempt from the suffering of this world, and may be exposed to greater suffering based on our identification with our Brother Jesus.

As believers, we need to prioritize our efforts on those we know as followers as the Lord leads us. My understanding of this parable has taken a turn for the better after my simple rumination. Will you look for ways to bless those in the Body of Christ, those in the Family of the Son, who are suffering, and going without.

May the Lord help us all to know the best way to minister.

Please don’t forget to let me know your thoughts on a future series on the Miracles of the Lord Jesus. Your input and suggestions are always welcome.


Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The King’s Servants

Being an engineer in my day job, you can imagine that when numbers show up in the Word, I “calculate”. As we read through this parable, we see that each of the servants are provided a quantity of resources to use for a fixed period of time. Upon return of the Master, a time of reckoning falls on the servants. The Master judges each of the servants and doles out “rewards”.

Is that what this parable is about? Servants doubling their Masters resources and receiving proportional rewards?

Or is it about something else? Let’s read the parable before we make any assumptions.

Matthew 25:14-30

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Jesus was teaching His disciples. Those who were His servants.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This teaching was provided during the last week of the Lord’s life on earth.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As Matthew 24:3 teaches, the Lord gave this teaching outside of Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Jesus began this parable by likening the Kingdom of God to this story. Jesus was about to leave this world and release the Spirit of God into His Kingdom, providing an inestimable “resource” for His servants. The Kingdom of God was about to explode on the scene, and His servants needed to have a clear understanding of acceptable behavior for a servant, but more importantly, they needed to understand the unacceptable perception of the Master.

But I am getting ahead of myself

What was the message for the original audience?

The first two servants, in doubling the Masters resource were rewarded “with much”. The servant that doubled the Master’s five talents, thereby providing the Master ten talents, received authority over ten cities. Likewise with the servant who doubled His Master’s two talents. He received authority over two cities.

As you can see, this is where my initial thought of proportionality was spawned. But I was not considering the point of the parable. This background information was describing the grace of the Master, revealing the Master’s character.

A talent is a huge sum of cash, equal to 6,000 denarii. One denarii was a full days wage. Therefore, a talent represented approx. 20 years of wages!

The audience in Jesus day would consider the initial trust of such wealth to be unthinkable, and the reward to be unbelievable, for servants worked without the expectation of rewards.

Peter and the gang must have been delirious with this parable!

But alas, the focus of the parable is the third servant. Let’s reconsider this servant’s perception of the Master.

‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ – Mat 25:24b-25 ESV

The servant approaches the Master with a bold defense, claiming it is the Master’s fault for his lack of profit. This fellow is the ultimate “victim” This is quite the claim, since “hard” may be understood as fierce, harsh, or stern. This servant approached the Master, proclaiming his fear due to the Master’s character, and returned the single talent back. He knew the Master would expect profit, and this created fear in this fellow, but this fear supposedly “froze” the servant in his endeavors.

The servant was afraid due to his perception (right or wrong) of the Master.

The Master did not accept the servants claim of fear causing his lack of service. The reason the servant came back empty handed was that he was wicked (evil, bad) and slothful (sluggish, indolent, grievous)! This had nothing to do with the Master’s character, for as the parable describes Him, He is one who entrusts His servants with responsibility, and rewards them richly.

Amazing that the servant was described as “worthless” in a parable describing profits, resources and rewards!

This did not turn out well for the third servant, for the talent was taken from him, given to the first servant (thereby blowing my proportionality theorem!) and was thrown out.

The servant was thrown out! When I read that, I was shocked! This was a servant of the Master! How could that be?

I will not repeat my previous findings on the consequences of this servant’s perception of the Master here. If of interest to the reader, please refer to Parable Surprises – Wedding Banquet.

Suffice it to say, I think the original audience understood that their perception of the Master was key to avoiding failure in the Kingdom.

What is the message for us today?

What is the parables message to us today? The core message I have come away with is not that we are required to double any resources we may have been granted. This is not the intent of the parable. The talents are simply a vehicle used to describe the Master’s gracious character towards His servants.

The key message from this parable is our perception of the Master!

Our Perception of God

How do you “see” God?

Do you see God as the third servant saw his master, as a hard man, reaping where He does not sow, and gathering where He scattered not seed?

When you consider the One above, who came to earth, who took upon Himself the form of a man, and became a servant to His enemies, who loved those who crucified Him, who suffered and bled, do you see Him as “hard”?

I am a weak and sinful man blundering through this existence of mercy, but the Scriptures have a constant witness we are wise to avail ourselves of. The Word speaks of God as ever loving, kind and merciful to those who look to Him.

As we seek to serve Him, we must understand His character in order to serve Him and our fellow man properly. He is like no other, and we must be constantly reminded of His “otherness”, of His not being like us.

But what is the nature of our God?

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – 1 John 4:16

The fruit of the Spirit is the natural outflow of the nature of our God!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Gal 5:22-23 ESV

To attribute other than these characteristics to the Lord would be an exercise in contradiction. If we see Him as unwieldly, austere, fierce, harsh or stern, as this third servant saw his master, we ourselves shall suffer for this, and eventually end up using this lie as an excuse for our wickedness.

You see, the Scriptures teach us that what we worship is what we become. Now I am not saying if we worship God we become God, but the Scriptures do inform us of the opportunity to be conformed to the One we worship.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

But what if we avoid or ignore the witness of the grace of God. What may we be transformed into other than confirming our own likeness, of hardening our opinion of ourselves as being right, pure and good? This is a great danger!

But wait – there are implications of this decision to consider our own opinions as being correct as opposed to the Word. What might be worse is that we may project our character on Him? Make the One we worship identical to ourselves! How utterly disastrous for us and for His name!

To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. – Isa 40:25

He is the Holy One, the ever living One, the One who changes not! How can we ever be conformed into the image of the matchless Son of God if all we see is an image of ourselves!

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Rom 8:29

and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:10

What is your perception of God?

When you fall into a time of trial, do you see Him as One who brought the trial into your life, or as the One who will suffer with you through it?

When you fail in some endeavor, do you see Him as One that will mock you, judge you condemn you, or do you see Him as One who is kind and compassionate, willing to forgive, and inviting your repentance, providing your renewal?

Your perception of God determines your relationship with Him. Your perception of God determines your destiny.


Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Wise and Foolish Virgins

In my early studies on this parable, I have found widely varying interpretations and applications. Interpretations that are complex and specific, about which I question the requirement of.

Some of the links of this parable with our current understanding of Christianity included associating the sleep of the virgins with the sleep of death, or that the oil represented either the “works” of the foolish virgins, or the “faith” of the wise virgins.

As I pondered this effort to identify each specific item in the parable, I became engulfed in the details and lost focus on the main point. As a Pastor friend of mine once said… Keep the main point the main point. Therefore, I will seek to stay focused on the main point of the parable.

And what is the main point of the parable? Let’s read the passage, and consider my faithful questions below.

Matthew 25:1-13

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

As mentioned in a previous post Parable Surprises – Fig Tree, the parables spoken by the Messiah are directed to His disciples, the apostles who would lead the church in the near future, who would, in my understanding, watch the Lord build a nation of believers, starting from a nation that was dying on the vine, ready to be spewed from the land.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was provided within a week of the crucifixion.

As an aside, might the disciples have remembered this parable after the crucifixion, (but before the resurrection) and even mocked this delay He spoke of! The delay would be forever – all hope is gone! What a cruel promise is this parable without faith. And yet, the disciples, even after this gut wrenching, hope crushing disappointment, were used mightily of the Lord.

But I digress.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As with the previous parables, this one seems to be continued directly after the faithful and wise servant parable, given on the Mount of Olives.

Why did the Lord give this message?

This question is sometimes the most difficult question to answer. Not so with this parable.

This parable is given to warn the disciples that they do not know, nor will they know, when the Son of Man comes. This is the intent of the parable. Identifying additional terms, (like the oil or the lamps) are inconsequential, even distracting, from the intent of this parable. Watch therefore! But alas, I am getting ahead of myself, for we have to find out what the message was for the original audience, prior to making any application for ourselves!

What was the message for the original audience?

Peter James, John and the remaining disciples were listening intently to these parables, not realizing that they were some of the Master’s final stories.

In hearing this parable, they had just come off listening to instruction of staying awake.

Mat 24:42,43

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

And now we have a parable about ten virgins, all of them falling asleep. I find it instructive that within this parable, all ten virgins slept and are not judged on this. The wise virgins slept.

Previous teaching during this same period (minutes before?) the disciples were instructed to “stay awake”. What gives?

Parables, in my understanding are telling a story with a message, not twenty messages. One parable does not necessarily convey into the next. Each parable has a point – take the point and move on!

Matthew 24:42, 43 speaks of alertness, of understanding that we are to expect Him when we least expect Him. If we are looking for signs of His coming, this may indicate that we are not expecting Him when we least expect Him. This is actually detrimental to the Christian faith!

The previous parable speaks of a servant assuming the Master’s delay, and the subsequent results of this wrong thinking that led to his suffering.

Matthew 24:48, 50-51
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’
the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know
and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The parable of the ten virgins speaks of preparing, even planning for a delay. The foolish servant in the previous parable, assumed a delay for the purpose of selfish indulgence. In this parable of the ten virgins, we are not told why they didn’t prepare. Five of them simply did not prepare for any delay.

As you can see, these parables are to “stand on their own two feet”, to communicate one primary message to the hearers.

So the disciples had been taught of the need for alertness, and of the consequences of thinking wrongly of the Son of Man’s coming.

And in this parable, be ready, be prepared for the Bridegroom’s coming. “Watch therefore” in the parables concluding verse, must include the concept of preparation.

One last topic to bring to my readers attention, is the phrase “the door was shut” in verse 10. Even as the foolish virgins came back with oil, they could not enter the marriage feast. The opportunity had passed.

It seems this unpreparedness was characteristic of these foolish virgins, for the Bridegroom spoke of not knowing them. I am assuming that the bridegroom had a say in choosing these virgins for his celebrations. Did he misjudge their character, and from this say he didn’t (really) know them?

Don’t misunderstand – our Lord knows each and every one of us. Humanly speaking, this bridegroom had misjudged the five virgins. He didn’t know them the way he thought he knew them.

What is the message for us today?

So, what is the main point Carl? Be prepared. To “be” something implies a constancy, a consistency, an existence. Therefore, we need “to be” of such character that we are one’s who are prepared, have a character that looks to be prepared, that plans and prepares for possibilities within our abilities.

Personally, I believe Matthew 24 & 25 is providing teaching to the disciples of the coming of the Son of Man upon the nation of Israel in 70 AD, and that Jesus was giving His disciples direction regarding the dissolution of the political nation of Israel. But that conclusion isn’t critical in finding the important application to be drawn from this story.

This parable was directing the disciples to watch and be prepared for the Son of Man’s coming. A coming that would take 40 years to be realized for Jesus’ apostles. A coming that, in the disciples lives, would occur late in life, even with some of them not actually living to see it.

Long term preparation! Not a preparation that can be accomplished in a moment.

If this is correct, we need to understand that what was intended for the apostles, in the Lord’s call for their character, is not something we should dismiss. Be prepared for His ultimate coming, for I can promise you that His coming will be within your lifetime, (or one nanosecond later!)

Get right with Him, walk with Him, beg for wisdom in living a life of preparedness and watchfulness.


Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Be in Readiness

Our last parable spoke of watchful servants and the timing of the coming of the Son of man. The message was “Expect Him when you least expect Him”. Immediately after that message, the Lord questions His disciples of what “the Faithful and Wise” servant was. Recall in the last parable we had a master of the house that should have stayed awake. In this parable, the master of the house has left the household and placed responsibility on the servant. But I am getting ahead of myself. Lets read the passage.

Matthew 24:45-51

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Peter was beginning to wonder about the intended audience of the last parable and Luke records that prior to the giving of this parable, Peter requested some clarification

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” – Luk 12:41 ESV

Jesus did not answer other that the following parable describing of the wise and faithful servant. Do we need to see in Peter the same motivation we may have, of avoiding the finger being pointed at us? Is this question revealing a motivation to avoid responsibility? I know I am in that camp!

When did the Lord give this parable?

I presume this parable was given directly after the previous one. Jesus is teaching of not only the unknown timing of His return, but in this parable, of the results of not being ready. The consequences of the servant not being ready.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Since we are understanding this parable to be directly after the previous one, the location of outside the temple, on the Mount of Olives, is best to be understood

Why did the Lord give this message?

The Lord is warning His disciples of the deadly consequence of assuming the Master’s delay in His return.

What was the message for the original audience?

Notice the parable speaks of a wise and faithful servant being compared to a wicked servant.

The Wise and Faithful Servant

First, lets consider the wise and faithful servant. His only responsibility is to give his fellow servants food at the proper time. The servant needs to go out and earn a wage, raise the cattle, grow the wheat, harvest the fields, mill the grain, slaughter the animals, cook the meals and feed the servants.

Is that how you read it?

The wise and faithful servant was to give his fellow servants food, at a proper time. The verb is give, not supply or provide. The servant was to take of the Masters plenty and distribute the Master’s food at a proper time. This servant is not required to produce the food, simply to distribute the food at the proper time.

This is a management of resources position, a position of responsibility in distributing the Master’s provision to the Master’s servants. There would be a time when distributing the food would be correct, and there would be times when distributing the food would be wrong. That is the very definition of “proper time”!

Let’s continue this train of thought below, in “What is the message for us today?”, and consider the reward granted the wise servant.

Reward?

The wise and faithful servant will receive greater responsibility when the Master returns. The reward is more responsibility!

What? Where are the riches, the possessions, the houses and lands?

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. – Luke 16:10 ESV

The Wicked Servant

The wicked servant follows through on an assumption that the Master will be delayed. Critical error, for this thinking justifies his following actions, and to abdicate his responsibilities.

The wicked servant begins to beat his fellow servants.

In the kingdom, when a servant turns to bad thinking, those who continue to think properly become the enemy. This difference in thought becomes the catalyst for the wicked servant to reject his fellow servants. Rejecting his fellow servants eventually grows into a physical response against his fellow servants.

The wicked servant not only rejects his fellow servants, but joins those who eat and drink without restraint. Remember the servants one responsibility is to distribute food in a timely fashion, or at a proper time. This servant, having become wicked through wrong thoughts, has thrown out all restraint, and is possibly giving the Masters food and drink to drunkards. He has abandoned his fellow servants, beaten them and migrated his affections to drunkards, joining them in their short sighted and dangerous life.

Rewards?

The wicked servant will be cut in pieces, placed with the hypocrites. In the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth!

Cut in pieces! This may be referring to the Hebrews most cruel method of punishment.

And Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the LORD in Gilgal. – 1Sa 15:33 ESV

This term, cutting in pieces, may be referring to one of two actions. To be cut in pieces may speak of the complete cutting in half of the victim. The other is that the victim is cut up by scourging. Either one is completely undesirable! Either consequence is to be avoided at all cost!

But notice, that after being cut in pieces, the wicked servant is placed with the hypocrites, those drunkards and gluttons he associated with (?) in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Check out Parable Surprises – Wedding Banquet for information on gnashing and weeping.

Two servants. Two rewards. One decision. One decision makes the difference. That decision was to assume the delay of the Master.

What is the message for us today?

Proper Time

What is the importance of the reference to “proper time” in the servants duties? Are we instructed, in wisdom, to give out a message at a proper time? Is there a time when we should restrict the message? To be clear, I am assuming the “food of the Master” that is to be given out to others is synonymous to the message we have been given. The truth of the Word.

Consider

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. – Matthew 7:6 ESV

What was Jesus referring to here? Is there a time to restrict providing the Word to some? Since wisdom is required, lets see if the proverbs may help us!

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. – Pro 9:7 ESV

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words. – Pro 23:9 ESV

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. – Pro 26:4 ESV

If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. – Pro 29:9 ESV

Don’t get me wrong. Preaching the word is to be done in season and out of season. This command was given to Timothy, a pastor of a local church. The gospel is for all.

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. – 2Ti 4:2 ESV

Was this command to Timothy to preach the Word intended only for those within the church, or beyond the walls and into the culture he lived in? It appears to be for those who are in the church, since Paul warns them of them turning away from listening to the truth.

and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. – 2Ti 4:4 ESV

And yet the proverbs above, (and our subject parable) speaks of proper times of giving out “food”.

As I have walked this pilgrim way, I have come to recognize that some that I share with simply mock, or reject the message. Previously, I entered into arguments with those who were of differing opinions. Surely I could convince them!

That is until I read the reason Jesus taught in parables. He gave truth to all, but in a manner that caused those who were hungry and thirsty for truth to pursue the topic. The parables were Jesus method (at least one method) of weeding out those who could care less, of teaching only the teachable. Consider Parable Surprises – Why? for a fuller explanation of this truth.

Since then, I have used this method falteringly, and have found various results. When I provide a story speaking of a difficult teaching, those who have an interest, follow up with me. Those who have no interest, move on to other topics.

I am sure it is my weakness in using this method that results in the low response rate, and not the present condition of this generation towards the things of God. Oh, to have the skill of telling stories that cause questions in the hearer!

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (for whom?)

This message speaks of a servant suffering with the hypocrite? But I have a question for my reader.

Are we to equate the servants in this parable with New Testament believers? If so, this causes me pause. Can a New Testament believer suffer weeping and gnashing of teeth?

Are we to equate the servants in this parable to non-believers? If the servants are not New Testament believers, how does this apply to us today? In other words, what was the purpose of the parable if it was intended for non-believers!

Let’s cut to the chase! This parable speaks of two types of servants. The difference? One assumption! That one assumption led to further decisions for the wicked servant to abandon his responsibilities, and join a wasteful and thankless gang.

Don’t assume the delay of the Master. His timing is unknown, per the last parable, and that is the Master’s decision. When (not if) to come is His prerogative. Whether He comes today or in ten thousand years is His decision alone, and we can not know it! Our responsibility is to trust His coming may be any day, and that He is not delaying His coming. Out of that belief, we will naturally seek to “provide food” to others in the proper time!

Thanks for joining me in this parable, and if you have a comment, please provide in the comments section below.


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Watchful Servants

So much in this parable. I will find it difficult to stay focused on my 5 questions, since there are so many issues within the parable that I have had to reconsider as I try to understand it. Of course, lets first read it and then venture into my quandaries.

Matthew 24:36-44

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

As mentioned in my previous post on the parables, this parable was given to His disciples.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Jesus gave this parable to the disciples under the shadow of the cross, within a week of his passion.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As per the previous parable, the location was the same, that is, on the Mount of Olives.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Jesus was teaching to the questions the disciples asked at the start of the chapter.

  • When will these things be?
  • What will be the sign of your coming?
  • (What will be the sign) of the end of the age?

Considering the content of this parable, and the opening statement regarding the timing of “these things” (see Matthew 24:34), timing is the topic. And the unknown timing is the message of the parable!

What was the message for the original audience?

Before judgement, everything is normal.

People do not get married when they expect judgment to be imminent! But those in Noah’s day were gittin hitched! The folks before the flood, even on the day the flood erupted, were going about, eating and drinking, living their lives like they did the day before and “knowing” that tomorrow was just around the corner.

Jesus tells us they were unaware! (But how could that be Carl – Noah had been preaching for decades!)

and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. – Mat 24:39 ESV

Matthew 24:40 & 41 were some of my favorite verses to pull in order to prove the pre-tribulational rapture of believers, of those who were “taken”.

Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. – Mat 24:40-41 ESV

Early on in my Christian life, I was instructed that those “taken” would be the believers in the rapture, and it seemed to fit all my hopes and desires. Too bad I read the context and came away with a different understanding. Note that the previous verse refers to the flood sweeping them all away. We have to determine if Jesus referred to the ones “taken” as being those who were swept away (in judgement) or those that were safe in the ark.

Personally, I do not see the reference of being “swept away” as being equal with being “left”. I understand the one “taken” is equivalent to the ones swept away during Noah’s flood. Therefore, in the above verse, when considering the coming of the Son of Man, the ones taken will be those who are taken for judgement. Those that are “left”, are left to serve, honor and follow after the One who has delivered his Church from judgement.

The message is reiterated in verse 42, where the Lord summarizes the intent of the parable.

Stay awake! You don’t know when He is coming!

Why hasn’t this timing been supplied to believers? Even the Son of Man, at the time of this telling, did not have this information. Verse 43 teaches us that if we knew when He was coming, we would sleep until then! Sure, we would wake up minutes before He came, but what loss, what regret, what failure!

Our not knowing is for our benefit, as it is with all of God’s dealings with us!

What is the message for us today?

Stay awake!

Such a simple command to repeat! But this is long haul Christianity, not flash in the pan stuff. I have often heard that the Christian life is a marathon, and not simply a sprint race. So it is!

Have you on a work day, right after lunch, got a touch of the drowzies?

Well, I just came home from a day of battling the drowzies. Tiredness, like hunger and thirst, are seemingly uncontrollable influences on the human body. A constant battle to not only keep the eyes open but to keep the mind focused and the body alert. The defenses are weakened (I tend to be more sarcastic when tired!), along with experiencing a lack of concern (a bit apathetic, I admit it), a tendency to postpone tasks, or just to simply ignore the demands of the day! This is what we need to battle! (I admit to none of this!!!)

How does this apply to our Christian life. Are there periods or tiredness in our walk with the Lord? Of course. Tiredness is understood and our human weakness often overcomes our willing spirit.

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Mat 26:41 ESV

This fact of our weak condition only magnifies the importance of this parable. We do not know when He will come. As a matter of fact, we need to expect Him when we least expect Him.

What? How can we do that. Do not assign any importance to any “sign” others claim as an indicator of His coming. Supposed signs are a distraction to simple obedience!

Do you see signs of His coming? If those signs fade, does His coming become less “apparent”?

Comment below if you think something in the news may be directing us to know of the timing of His coming. Although it may seem I am confident in this stance, please rest assured that I am open to discussion!

By the way, when was the specific coming of the Son referred to above? Could it have been within “this generation” that He spoke of in the previous parable? Could it have been within the lifetimes of those who heard His message while He was on earth?

Questions.

More questions than I have answers to, but may it be possible that the audience of His day understood this parable as His coming to be within their lifetime? If so, how does this impact our common understanding of this parable being applied for our generation?


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Fig Tree

For decades, this set of verses were my “go to” verses to speak of the pretribulational rapture and coming of the Lord within my lifetime.

It was obvious, wasn’t it, that as the Jewish population had come back from the four corners of the earth to the land of Israel, and that this occurrence was equivalent to the branch becoming tender, and of the leaves sprouting forth.

Nevermind that I had to make two assumptions.

  1. The fig tree was Israel.
  2. The Lord was teaching His audience of something they would never experience.
    1. this generation, or that generation! Oh bother, what generation was He referring to

These unwarranted assumptions became evident decades into my walk of faith, and initiated my rethinking of the dispensational theology that I have since abandoned.

Lets read the parable and try to find it’s context, and what it meant to those who heard it, and what is the message we need to hear today.

Matthew 24:32-35

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Jesus no longer was teaching in the temple. He had left the temple, having given the Jewish leaders stories directly related to them. Prophecies in parables, speaking of the leaders judgement, and of the coming doom of their nation. Jesus’ focus shifted the His disciples, as Matthew 24:3 states

3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” – Mat 24:3 ESV

The disciples caught the message, but still had questions. The temple! What of the temple? Had not the Jewish people fallen into the same thinking as those of old, when they thought the temple was their security. (Check out my four part series Jeremiah 7 – The Temple of the Lord)

Is this not the security of the nation, the fact that God resides in His temple? Little did they recognize that God had just left the temple, and was going to isolate His teaching to His disciples until the end.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Matthew 24 was given to the disciples within the last seven days of our Lords earthly life, prior to the cross.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As Matthew 24:3 teaches, the Lord gave this teaching on the Mount of Olives, outside of Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Jesus was answering three questions the disciples had for Him.

  • When will these things be?
  • What will be the sign of your coming?
  • (What will be the sign) of the end of the age?

This particular portion of Matthew 24 is speaking of the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:30) , and of the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens. This seems to directly relate to our second point. That is, the fig tree parable is a response to the question of the sign of the coming of the Son of Man.

The fig tree. That is surely a reference to the nation of Israel. Or is it? Lets check it out.

What was the message for the original audience?

A Fig Tree as a Symbol of Israel?

Occasionally the scriptures will refer to the people of a nation as living in safety, and a sign of this as every man being under his fig tree. A sign of prosperity for each man, but not a symbol of the nation.

And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon. – 1Ki 4:25 ESV

but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. – Mic 4:4 ESV

Hosea likens Israel to grapes and the individual leaders (fathers) to the first fruit on the fig tree.

Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers…. – Hos 9:10 ESV

So why did the Lord use the fig tree to give us this parable if He didn’t intend for us to understand it as a reference to the nation of Israel? Consider the same parable provided by Luke, and it’s opening statement

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. – Luke 21:29 ESV

As we can see in the Gospel of Luke, the message was intended as a general teaching of nature, somewhat similar to the lessons that could be learned of the the sky at night. He was teaching a general truth and applying it to the specific situation for the disciples benefit.

This or That?

For those who fear grammar, please stick around. This won’t hurt that bad.

As the graphic illustrates, “this” refers to something near (in time of space), whereas “that” refers to something distant (in time or space)

When the Lord referred to “this generation” in the parable, what generation was He referring to? It seems obvious to me that the generation He was referring to was the one that was closest to Him, that was hearing His teaching during His life.

Consider the following passages that Matthew used “this generation” and check if this makes sense for yourself

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, – Mat 11:16
The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. – Mat 12:41-42
Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. – Mat 23:36

Sadly, I cannot find any reference to the Lord using the term “that generation” within the gospels. It seems He was focusing His message to the generation He was closest to. The generation that He was present with, and had heard His message in the temple, in the cities, in the fields and on the roads.

Jesus was teaching his disciples of the nearness of the temples destruction, in response to their confidence in the temple’s permanence.

What is the message for us today?

What is permanent in your world? What in your mind is enduring, unfading, constant, fixed?

Oh, we may have lived long prosperous lives, but let us not fall into the same trap that the disciples had fallen into. Permanence is an illusion in this life, and we trust in many things as if they were permanent.

Consider…

  • Is your church permanent? No
  • Is your family permanent? No
  • Is your job permanent? No
  • Is your home permanent? No
  • Is your nation permanent? No
  • Is your life permanent? No

What hope do we have? What can we look to for permanence in this temporary life? Let me ask you – Is Jesus permanent?

Cling to Him, for His permanence is our only hope in this life and the next!


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Wedding Banquet

Weddings are awesome, but sometimes full of tension and surprises. To plan a wedding is one of the more complex projects I have been involved with. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being involved with my girls in their wedding plans and taking part in the work, creating memories that will remain with them forever.

This parable speaks of a King throwing a wedding, having completed all the preparations, and offering a celebration to His people.

But something goes wrong. Terribly wrong. Let’s read the passage and consider the message.

Matthew 22:2-14

2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”‘ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

This parable is directed to “them”, referring to the audience in the previous parable. See Parable Surprises Wicked Servants

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was delivered to the nation and people of Israel as Jesus was preparing to establish the eternal kingdom through His death.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

It appears this parable was provided in the temple, as it continues from previous parables.

Why did the Lord give this message?

The previous parable was given as a warning of the rejection of the Son by the Jewish leadership and the plea for individuals to flee the sinking ship and to “fall on the stone”

This parable introduces the Lord as the King’s Son, and the central figure in the wedding prophecies throughout the Old Testament. Rejection of the invite and the resulting judgement on the nation is again spoken of, and yet the hope of an expansion of the wedding is offered. In the end, He warns of fakers, those who don’t have the wedding garment that was provided.

What was the message for the original audience?

There are a number of messages the Lord provided to the audience that day. Lets peruse the parable and find each.

As I mentioned above, Jesus introduces Himself as the Kings Son, and in saying this, He is declaring to His enemies the very truth that will lead to His death. That He is the King, and no other!

The second truth expressed may be found in verses 3 – 6, where Jesus speaks of the invite to the “bidden”, those who had been called to the wedding feast, as simply not coming. Again, just prior to the beginning of the feast the King sent forth servants again to invite the “bidden” to come to a feast already prepared, ready for a celebration Those “bidden” made light of the invitation, ignoring the invitation and continued on with their daily drudgery of farms and business. But this time, a portion of those who paid no attention to the invitation, went beyond simply ignoring the invitation, and continued into aggression upon those servants inviting them. To the death. Let’s get this straight – a portion of the invited, those “bidden” to the wedding celebration, slew the servants of the King. This group hearkens back to our previous parable.

The third truth may be found in verses 7-9, and speaks of the overflowing grace of the King. Note that although judgement must be meted out to those murderers, the King’s ongoing attitude was not of bitterness and anger, but to find some way to lavish His grace upon a people, no matter their standing. The servants went out and gathered “all whom they found, both bad and good”. The wedding hall was filled with guests! I can’t help but to see this as referring to the gospel call after the Lord’s rejection, beating, crucifixion and resurrection. Not only from those within the nation doomed to destruction, but to all those that the servants could gather.

In the final section Jesus focusses in on one lone individual. A man who had been invited. A man without a wedding garment. Although the passage does not state where the wedding garments came from, it is my understanding that the garments were provided by the host, that is, by the King Himself. The garments were basic robes that all attendees wore that would hide rank or status in life, thereby removing barriers to freely enjoy each others company.

When the King saw a man who was not wearing the provided garment, He questioned him.

Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?

You see, this man was blatantly expressing his rejection of the Kings provision by not wearing the garment. He may have been too proud to cover up his own status in life, his own garment may have been such that it exalted his own status in life over other attendees. At the very least, he rejected the Kings offer, and did not want to identify with the other wedding guests This may have been his motive and his path to doom, of his being cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

He was rejected from the wedding feast and cast into the outer darkness. But what is the outer darkness, that has this weeping and gnashing of teeth?

The term “outer darkness” is found three times in the Word, each time in the gospel of Matthew. (Darkness, of course is found many more times, but I am simply looking for clues on the specific term “outer darkness”.)

12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Mat 8:12 ESV
13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – Mat 22:13 ESV
30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – Mat 25:30 ESV

“Weeping and gnashing of teeth” (not including the phrase “outer darkness” as in the verses above) may be found an additional three times in Matthew and once in Luke.

42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. … 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Mat 13:42, 50 ESV
51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Mat 24:51 ESV
28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. – Luke 13:28 ESV

I find it interesting that the term weeping and gnashing of teeth is so specific. Let’s take a moment to look at these terms to see if the New Testament can shed some light onto our understanding.

Weeping.

When I read this parable initially, I associated pain with the weeping. But is that the intended meaning of the term, or is it the image we have imported, including the associated pain we have been taught of. When I am in pain, I may cry in the midst of the pain, and this may be synonymous with weeping, but is this the intended meaning here?

The term “weeping” is the greek work klauthmos and is used only in the above verses, and the two following passages.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Mat 2:18 ESV
And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, – Act 20:37 ESV

These verses are instructive since they provide a background and reason for the experience of weeping. For Rachel it was the death of her children. Much sorrow and sadness. For the elders in Ephesus, again, it was sorrow and sadness of not seeing the beloved apostle Paul again that caused the weeping. As we can see from the two available passages above, the term “weeping” is associated with sadness or sorrow. The root word for “klauthmos” is “klaiō” (G2799) and has many more verses that would support this general conclusion. I will leave it to the reader for further study if of interest.

Gnashing

The term “gnashing” is a translation of the Greek word brygmos (G1030), from the root word brychō, (G1031)

Brygmos is only found in the seven verses provided above, and are descriptive of some emotion that I associate with pain and suffering. I refer to Matthew 13:42, 50, where the passage speaks of a fiery furnace. The associated pain of fire must be where I am linking this gnashing of teeth with suffering.

42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. … 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Matthew 13:42, 50 ESV

But I am still looking for a bit more definition. After all, Matthew 13:42,50 may be referring to multiple emotions and not necessarily linking the pain of the fire with the gnashing of teeth. There may be more going on, i.e. the suffering of fire AND an emotion associated with the gnashing of teeth. After all, we have found that weeping is generally associated with sadness, and may be experienced at the same time as suffering pain.

So in my research, I found one time where the root word for gnashing appears in the New Testament, and to be honest, it is quite surprizing.

brychō

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. – Act 7:54 ESV

Stephen is giving his defense to the high priest and Sanhedrin, and with his defense, his audience “ground/gnashed their teeth” Why you ask? Were they suffering eternal pain and torment. No – They were enraged! Furious! Stephens defense condemned the Jewish leadership and they had had enough. Three verses later, Luke records the leadership…

cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him.

These guys were blind with rage! Murderous rage. The gnashing of teeth is associated with rage, anger, fury!

In conclusion, was Jesus describing the outer darkness as a place of sadness and sorrow, combined with anger and rage? You be the judge.

Now before some may claim I am trying to remove pain, suffering and torment from hell, (the “outer darkess”?), please rest assured that this little study is focused on the emotions described in this parable, and is not intending to limit the emotions or experiences that await those who may suffer in Gehenna.

What is the message for us today?

Two messages come to mind for me, and hopefully for you.

Heed the Invite

First, don’t ignore the invitation! Ignoring the invitation is rejecting the invitation. I speak to those who know not the Lord. If you have not sought out His grace and found Him – Seek Him. He has provided the invitation, but no response from you, no desire to accept this invite is a repitition of those who “went on their way” in the parable. No good results come from that! Therefore

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; Isaiah 55:6

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

I also speak to those know the Lord. Seek the Lord. Do not ignore your part of the relationship with the Lord of glory. Don’t ignore Him and drift off to destruction.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrew 2:1

We must remember that He is a God who rewards those who seek Him. There is danger to avoid and rewards to be gained in seeking Him. To knowing Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrew 11:6

Understand the Alternative

The alternative to seeking the Lord, to accepting the invite, is to reject the invite from the King.

Now I want you to know that I have two daughters, and we have sent out invitations for thier weddings to many friends and relatives. Some ignored the invitation, and that saddened us, but we didn’t go to thier town and burn it down.

You see, I am not a King.

I am just a poor ol’ fella that wanted to celebrate my little girl’s “happy day” and share it with others. I had no authority over those I invited. If they didn’t respond and come to the celebration, it was, at most, simply a social embarrassment for our family. At the least, we fully understood and accepted the guests declining the invitation as something they could not comply with.

But again, I am not a King.

Not so with Jesus. Jesus is declaring His authority over all those “bidden” to the wedding and clearly stating that ignoring the invite is an affront on his Kingdom. This does not bode well for those who ignore his grace.

The result of rejection, specifically in this parable is destruction, sorrow and rage. Other passages describe the suffering due to the rejection of the King in many other ways, but for this parable, this passage expanded my view of the consequences of rejection. When I considered the afterlife of those who reject the King, sorrow and rage did not come to my mind.

Have you considered the multiple results of the rejection of the One?

Choose life and not death. Choose the King!


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Doctrinal · Interpretation · New Testament · Old Testament

Dem Dry Bones – Ezekiel 37

This past Sunday, our Sunday School Class was delving into the famous passage of Ezekiel 37. It was a real good class, but I came away with a few questions.

Let’s read the passage prior to getting into it.

1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. 11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” – Ezekiel 37:1-14 ESV

The questions I had, started a week previously, when during the same class, it appeared the teacher was implying this passage was fulfilled in the modern state of Israel. I reminded the teacher that Ezekiel was an exilic prophet, that is, that he lived during the 70 year captivity of Israel by the Babylonian nation. I asked him if he thought Ezekiel’s message was intended for the audience of his day, for the surviving Jewish population in Babylon.

After all, the nation of Israel was gutted. If Babylon hadn’t taken you into captivity, well, you were out of “luck”.

15 The sword is without; pestilence and famine are within. He who is in the field dies by the sword, and him who is in the city famine and pestilence devour. – Ezekiel 7:15 ESV

The sword of war would hunt you down. Famine and sickness were locked together in the capital city, with the inhabitants waiting for the end.

24 I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses. I will put an end to the pride of the strong, and their holy places shall be profaned. – Ezekiel 7:24 ESV

Israel was to become a wasteland, devoured by the Babylonians (the worst of the nations!), gutted of any hope. Totally hopeless!

19 And say to the people of the land, Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the land of Israel: They shall eat their bread with anxiety, and drink water in dismay. In this way her land will be stripped of all it contains, on account of the violence of all those who dwell in it. 20 And the inhabited cities shall be laid waste, and the land shall become a desolation; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” – Ezekiel 12:19-20 ESV

My point is that Israel was without any hope, they were devastated, and when Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones, this was an accurate representation of the nation of Israel. The Lord clearly identifies the bones in verse 11 as the whole house of Israel, and of their utter hopelessness.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ – Ezekiel 37:11 ESV

When the Lord asked …

Son of man, can these bones live?

Ezekiel must surely have connected this image with the current state of his beloved nation. The Lord was giving Ezekiel a vision of the resurrection of the nation of Israel in the midst of the most hopeless condition possible.

But as I was listening to the class discuss this fantastic passage, I kept thinking of one passage in the New Testament. One New Testament passage that kept niggling at the back of my mind. One New Testament passage was especially leveraged in my thoughts when I came upon verse 12.

12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. – Ezekiel 37:12 ESV

Oh my goodness. Can you hear the words of the Messiah, as He was on the earth, walking amongst us?

28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice – John 5:28 ESV

The Lord GOD will speak to those in the graves, and raise them from their graves. Jesus had the audacity to say that it was merely hours until the dead would hear His voice.

Now I am not going to get into a prolonged discussion on resurrection teaching, but it occurs to me that the general flow of Ezekiel’s prophecy may be fulfilled in the following manner.

As the bones join together, receive sinew and muscles and even stand up, even as a great army, could this not represent the return of the Jewish people back into the land after the first captivity?

Let’s pick up Ezekiel’s prophecy in verse 13

13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” – Ezekiel 37:13-14 ESV

Check out verse 14! When, pray tell, may that verse be considered as a historical occurrence? Might Pentecost be the fulfillment of this amazing prophecy? Might the birth of the church, the true Israel, be the fulfillment of this great prophecy, a prophecy of a great army (vs 10) energized to know the Lord!

As the prophet declared, “THEN you shall know that I am the LORD!”

Amazing. He is so good! Praise His name, for His many acts of grace and wonder for His creation!


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Wicked Servants

In our last post on the parables, (See Parable Surprises – Two Sons), we watched as Jesus reached out to the Jewish leaders, seeking to find a willingness on their part to repent. He spoke of their rejection of John the Baptist and of His own ministry, and of how they yet would not change their minds.

This parable turns a page. No longer is the opportunity granted, but the Kingdom is going to be taken away from them.

Let’s read this sobering parable.

Matthew 21:33-44

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Luke 20:9 states that Jesus began to tell this parable to the people. Mark 12:1 simply tells us that he began to speak to “them”. The order of the gospel of Matthew implies that the parable was spoken to the Jewish leaders that had been interacting with the Messiah in the previous parable.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was delivered to the people of Israel as His ministry was coming to a close, and the cross was casting it’s shadow over the Son of God.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

The Lord was in the temple of God delivering this parable. Both Luke and Matthew provide this parable as a continuation of a discussion in the temple.

Why did the Lord give this message?

This is sometimes the hardest question to answer in this series, for the motivation of a parable sometimes isn’t as clear as I would like. (And sometimes the reason for giving the parable is a bit difficult to accept). This parable is the first that we have come up against where the judgement of national Israel is clearly pronounced. Jesus is entering into a time where He provides the Jewish leadership the national consequences of their rejection of God. His reason for providing this parable is two fold; to declare the loss of kingdom status to national Israel, and to call individuals into the everlasting kingdom.

What was the message for the original audience?

Jesus presents a microcosm of the history of Israel in a picture of a landowner. This landowner has invested much time and effort in creating a vineyard out of bare land, fencing the area, installing a winepress, building a guard towner and providing purpose for those who became the tenants of the vineyard. After all the work was completed in building the vineyard, the landowner trusted to tenants to provide him with his share of the fruits of his labor.

Remember that as tenants, they were joining in on the benefit of the vineyard, receiving a portion of the fruit for their management of the vineyard. The tenants did not own the vineyard, but they were safe, they had purpose and they were productive. At least that was the intent.

The parallels with the history of national Israel seems so obvious to us as we look on this parable after the fact. Often in the Old Testament, the God of Jacob would refer to Israel as a vineyard. Let’s read Isaiah 5:1-7 to see if Jesus may be taking advantage of the Old Testament writings in providing this parable of the wicked tenants.

Wild Grapes

1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry! – Isa 5:1-7 ESV

How could the Jewish leadership have been so blind as to not see where Jesus’ parable was heading? Sure, Isaiah was referring to bad fruit, and Jesus was referring to bad management, but the similarities are amazing in the set up of the parable. Isaiah provided the very theological framework defining the nation of Israel, that Jesus used in this parable. How could they have been so blind?

The message for the first century audience? Run! Run as fast as you can from the trust you may have in the leadership of the nation of Israel. RUN!

Trusting in the national status of Israel as God’s display of His kingdom was coming to an end. Babylon took them out over 500 years ago, and the utter final destruction of the theocratic nation of Israel, as we will learn of in future parables is within a generation. The management (leadership) has a track record of actively working against God, killing God’s servants and now conspiring against the Son of the landowner. Jesus again prophecies of his own death at the hands of the Jewish leadership, even to the detail of His death being outside of the vineyard!

The Jewish leadership/tenants defined their own destruction in their response to Jesus.

Two Stone Passages

Jesus concludes His parable with the very Scriptures the Jewish leadership claim to trust! Two stone passages, centered on the Lord Jesus.

The first passage, Psalm 118:22, the Messiah is depicted as the corner stone for an edifice, a building that God is building, but that is rejected (not ignored) by the tenants. The most important stone of the entire construction! Thrown away by the builders. Utter foolishness, or better said – utter rebellion!

The next “stone” passage refers back to Daniels dream of the great statue of Nebuchadnezzar. The stone (Messiah) would destroy the kingdoms and become a great mountain, filling the entire earth. Daniel 2:44 is instructive

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, – Dan 2:44 ESV

The everlasting kingdom (that shall never be destroyed) will be established out of the destruction of the existing national kingdoms the Stone destroys. Being everlasting, this kingdom will stand forever and not be left to another people. The kingdom set up will be the final kingdom. Previous kingdoms will be destroyed. Jesus is clearly including Israel with those kingdoms, when he concludes

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

Like the Master said earlier – It (the everlasting kingdom) shall break in pieces all those kingdoms, bringing them to an end. But what of an individual application to this tectonic prophecy concerning a nation?

And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him. Matthew 21:44

The Stone falls on You

The text states it will crush whoever it falls on. If any of you are reading along with me in my Psalms for Psome series, (See Psalms for Psome – Ps 35 – B) we discussed the wicked as chaff. The same general picture is provided here.

When Jesus is giving this truth, the Greek word He uses for crushing (likmaō) also refers to grinding to powder, to a chaff. This image is of a grinding stone in a mill, cleansing away the chaff from the grain by winnowing. Not only a crushing, as if that is not dire as it is, but the subsequent casting to the wind, allowing the wind to carry the waste away.

Why would anyone let the Stone fall on them?

You Fall on the Stone

To fall (piptō) upon the Stone has many uses in the New Testament, but a few are instructive.

To fall upon the Stone can simply mean to fall prostrate. To agree with His authority over your life, to relinquish your own lordship and follow after Him. Many in Israel were looking to the Messiah, and more would come. Many, many more would fall upon the Stone.

One other use of (piptō) is to describe the decent from a state of prosperity, or to lose authority, to no longer have force. Is this not striking at the very heart of the Jewish leaderships core sin? They would not bow to the authority of John the Baptist, and they are heading to greater sin by rejecting the Source of all authority.

What is the message for us today?

The message is the same for us as it was for the individuals hearing the message two millennium ago. You have a choice to allow the Stone to fall on you, or to fall on the Stone!

Which will it be? There is no other option. He has not provided any other option to choose, and don’t deceive yourself that you have any special status before Him through works, beliefs or bloodlines. He has not made that available!

He is the only One we are to trust.


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Two Sons

I got kids. This parable rings true. None of my kids were consistently like the second one, but occasionally…

Let’s read the passage and think on this message from the Father and His Son.

Matthew 21:28-32

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Matthew 21:23 informs us that the chief priests and elders of the folks who came to Jesus, but not as followers, but as adversaries, challenging His authority. They really didn’t know who they were dealing with now did they?

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given during Jesus time in Jerusalem. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Matthew 21:23 let’s us know that Jesus was in Jerusalem, even in the temple of God. His Father’s House

Why did the Lord give this message?

This parable seems to be a direct response to the chief priests and elders challenging the authority of Jesus. The Master replied to the two part question of

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Matthew 21:23b

by asking a question of His own.

This is instructive on it’s own, since we are sometimes asked questions as believers that have no simple answer, or that cannot be answered with a yes/no response. This is not the time to be defensive, apologetic or to cower, but to go on the offensive and expose the weakness of their own worldview. And what better way than to ask them a question that will cause them doubt.

Of course in this passage, the Jewish leaders would not answer, since either response would cause them heartache and trouble, so they simply refused to answer. In like manner, the Lord accepted that, informed them they had no response to their original question coming, and them launched off into this parable we are considering today.

What was the message for the original audience?

After the Jewish leadership refused to answer, Jesus opens the discussion with another question.

What do you think? He is giving these Jewish leaders a chance to reason, think and maybe admit of their incorrect assumptions!

The parable is a simple one (seemingly) in that it describes one who has authority (the man with two sons) and the two sons. Jesus equated the man in the parable with John the Baptist. (Remember this parable is a result of the previous discussion about John the Baptists, and Jesus authority.)

It seems obvious, that after the parable is completed, that the two sons represent two classes of people in the audience. The first son appeared rebellious, but actually obeyed the fathers will. The second son appeared obedient, but actually rebelled against the fathers will.

The message is clear. Sinners and tax collectors were pictured in the first son, the son who appeared rebellious but actually believed the message from John. First century Jewish leadership, the very people Jesus was talking to, were pictured in the second son, the son who said great things, but refused to believe, refused to enter the Kingdom.

Jesus equates going to work in the vineyard with belief in this a parable. In the parable, the will of the father was for his son’s to work in the vineyard. Jesus equates the sinners and tax collectors as those who were working in the vineyard, while the religious high faluting leadership were simply putting on a good show, talking but not walking!

It is also so good to see the patience of the Master here, as in the last phrase of the parable.

Matthew 21:32

 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Did you catch it?

The leadership have had multiple opportunities to believe. First, when John came. But no, they didn’t believe then. Meanwhile tax collectors and sinners began to follow. Even upon this occurrence, they “did not afterward change your minds and believer him.” That is, believe John the Baptist.

Now they have the One whose shoe John wouldn’t even unlatch, and they still would not believe. How can our Father be so patient? The mercy of God to each of us is far greater than we can comprehend.

What is the message for us today?

Repent of rebellion against the Father when you have a chance, even today.

I am convinced that the Father is seeking repentance from rebellion far more that great swelling words of religious boasting, of speaking how we are righteous and a blessing to God. Speaking of how we are “Righteous in Christ” while hurling hatred at a brother, while committing fornication, or as we lie to a friend is simply covering our sin with great boasting words. We must come to grips with the fact that we have offended many, and if so, must repent before God and the one we sin against.

The father was offended by both the sons rebellions, one by words and one by action. Yet the repentance of the second son brought him into the Kingdom, and was a witness to those still in denial.

Don’t be in denial.

Consider your life, and the many ways you have avoided admitting to wrongdoing against God and man. To offend a fellow believer is to sin against Christ. To hate an enemy is to deny His example and command.

He is Good.


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Pharisee and Tax Collector

Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Our first verse defines the audience – The Lord spoke this parable to those who considered themselves righteous, and that treated others with contempt. Oh the trap of self righteousness!

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Jesus had been battling the Pharisees in proclaiming the message of the Kingdom of God throughout His ministry and as His message was taking hold, it became obvious that religion was the greatest hinderance to the gospel. Jesus often preached of the requirements of faith, humility, love and forgiveness. Religious adherence fostered pride, isolation and contempt for others not so “faithful”.

This parable highlights the stark difference between a religious man, the Pharisee, and a follower of the true God, (a tax collector!) along with the resultant fruits.

What was the message for the original audience?

The message was simple for His audience. Religious pride separates them from the Father. Note that in Luke 18:14, Jesus teaches that the Pharisee is not justified. Between the two men, the beggar only was justified. No one else.

The very justification that the Pharisee gloated in was not in his possession. The very justification the tax collector admitted to not deserving, became his very own identity – a justified man!

The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom for those of us entrenched in a religious system!

What is the message for us today?

I suppose the message for the original audience is the same for the modern audience, and yet one item nags me in my thinking.

Luke links the attitude of treating others with contempt to the Pharisees boasting of his religious life.

Is this not a red light in our lives, that if you consider other Christians less than yourself, for what ever reason you use the justify your thinking, you may be exhibiting the very arrogance the Pharisee was enslaved in?

Heck, not just other Christians, but anyone we come into contact with, if our attitude is that of contempt, brings upon us the very same judgement received by the Pharisee.

Personally, I have spent years of pride (even more than I exhibit currently), in considering others as those who are despicable, contemptible and of no account. This is an attitude of judgement and worthy of exposing in all of our lives.

When was the last time in church you considered someone less than you? That had a different opinion that was not worthy of your time. That was less in God’s sight than yourself?

How about at your work, where there are many who may irritate you, and that you secretly curse.

How about at home, with loved ones, feeling that you deserve respect, or that others are there to serve you. That certain tasks are below you.

My friends, if you consider another to be of no account because you are special, it is time to get adjusted!


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Persistent Widow and Crooked Judge

Such an interesting parable and personal challenge!

Luke 18:2-8

2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Earlier in Luke 17, Jesus begins His current teaching in response to the Pharisees questioning Him of when the kingdom of God would come. He provided a quick response and then turned to His disciples, and began to teach of their desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and yet will be disappointed. His teaching is directed to His disciples, using a question offered by those who considered Him the enemy.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

He provided a response to the Pharisees, as mentioned above, yet the intent of the parable is directed solely to those who will follow the Master through disappointing times.

Periods of extended time will be required of believers, times of waiting and persevering through times when many things are disappointing. Consider the following to understand the context the disciples were possibly understanding. Many may look to the coming of the Lord as being instantaneous, and very soon, and this is a great hope of mine. Even so, come Lord Jesus. And yet, let us not get our eyes of the fact that His final coming may yet be thousands of years away.

The timing of His coming is to be handled with kid gloves in my understanding, and has caused many to experience great disappointment in their expectations.

A few years back, I did a quick study on the Greek word translated as lightning in Luke 17:24 and found a most amazing teaching. His coming is as the sun rise, and not necessarily as the lightning strikes. In relative terms, the sun rise takes “forever” compared to a lightning strike. Consider the implications.

So why did He provide the parable of the persistent widow? Persevere in prayer through disappointing times, times of seemingly unattainable hope, times when all the cards are stacked against you and the Lord is still waiting to answer.

What was the message for the original audience?

Let’s compare the two characters in this parable.

Persistent WidowUnrighteous Judge
Under persecution by enemyLiving in comfort
HelplessNo desire to help others
PersistentNo fear of God
Genuine need of justiceUnwilling to perform his duties
Received in the endSelfishly gave in

The unrighteous judge is definitely a looser. A man who had attained his lot in life and was riding the milk wagon (milking it, as those in my industry speak of folks prior to retirement as simply coasting).

And yet the Master compares our Father in heaven with this unrighteous judge, who simply offered relief to the widow to get her out of his hair. She just kept pestering, nagging, bugging, requesting, bothering the judge. He wasn’t in it for the justice of the matter. He sought relief from his own “adversary”, the persistent widow.

In all the parables so far, Jesus describes our Father as a loving compassionate God. The Old Testament is rife with descriptions of a patient, loving God who reaches out to an unrepentant rebellious nation time and time again. The unrighteous judge is a diametrically opposed description of the loving Father.

And that is the point!

This is a comparison of difference, and the Master is highlighting their need to understand that their prayers will be heard, even in disappointing, discouraging and difficult times.

What is the message for us today?

Consider the character of the judge and compare each trait with your knowledge of the Father.

I will address only one of the traits detailed above, simply due to the fact that it is dear to my heart this morning. The last trait, the trait of selfishly giving in.

How do you understand our Father in heaven?

Do you see Him as a Father who grudgingly provides a few requests to His people, who is reluctant in providing guidance and support, who is hesitant to give His best to those who seek Him? Who would rather not be bothered?

How is it that you understand the Father in such a dishonoring way. He has provided His only Son for our deliverance, giving Him over to the ravages of whipping, the torture of crucifixion and to experience death for our sakes. The Son is not the only One who suffered on that glorious day, on the day when God the Father selflessly provided His most treasured love to His enemies, to those whom He had created and who constantly despised and rebelled against Him!

He has freely, out of an abundance of grace and mercy, provided us all things for our lives and for our future. Even suffering if required in order for us to grow up into mature children, believers who walk, though haltingly, after the Master and seek His ways.

He is good. In the midst of any experience, He is good. I speak as a fool, since I so often fail to live in His goodness. Join me in seeking to remember His goodness in the midst of any difficult time that comes into our lives.

Persevere in prayer, knowing that our Father in Heaven has provided all our spiritual needs, and knows our current temporal needs. Reflect on the goodness of God in the midst of disappointment, in the midst of fears and discouragement.

He is good. Be a “widow” of persistence in prayer!


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Workers in the Vineyard

This parable speaks of the benefits of waiting till the last minute to go picking grapes.

No.

Ok. How about this – it speaks of standing around idle in the marketplace.

No no.

Dang – I think I got it! This parable speaks of the benefits of not entering into a contract with an employer.

No no no.

How about we just read the parable and consider the message Jesus is trying to communicate to us.

Matthew 20:1-16

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Back in Matthew 19:23, Jesus begins to teach his disciples of the difficulty of a rich person entering into heaven. It appears this parable is an extension of this teaching, especially when you consider the last verse of chapter 19 is identical to the last verse of our parable

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

NALC Devotions - November 30, 2017 - North American ...

As mentioned in an earlier answer, this parable was given to the disciples.

As I have often been taught, this parable is focused on the generosity of the Master of the House, and this is true. He is gracious, and his freedom to do as He pleases is emphasized in this parable. And yet, the “punch” at the end of the parable was intended for the disciples.

You see, He purposely told the story to emphasize the Master’s “out of the box” generosity, in order to highlight to those listening to the parable of their own sense of justice.

What was the message for the original audience?

The message to the disciples is simple. Be satisfied with what the Master gives you. Do not let the time of serving define your worth!

How often has He had to teach this direct connection between the Master and His servant in the Word? How often has He had to tell His people to not compare themselves with His other children?

Consider John 21:21- 22

John 21:21-22

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

What is the message for us today?

The message for us is simple to understand, and yet it is so easy to forget. Remember that the Lord is gracious to all and that comparing our selves with others is foolishness.

2 Corinthians 10:12b

But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

How often have you seen a believer getting some attention and we find your heart falling into a jealous funk.

You see a disciple receiving answered prayers and become discouraged, because God isn’t answering your prayers as fast or as often.

You see a follower with (seemingly) no problems, and fall into a victimhood mentality.

Try to understand. Do not be “without understanding”.

The Master is full of mercy, generous to all, but it is His prerogative who and when folks will realize His mercy and we must trust His loving heart to rest in this fact!

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Rich Man and Lazarus

The “go to” parable to learn of the terrors of hell.

How often I have been under preaching and teaching that has used this passage to scare the living out of the congregation. Many preachers/teachers consider this to be the stellar passages that describe, from the lips of Jesus, the eternal fate of the lost and the bliss of the redeemed. Let’s take a few moments to consider.

Luke 16:19-31

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Luke 16 begins with teaching directed to the disciples, yet the Word informs us that the Pharisees were within ear shot, listening to every word that came out of the mouth of Jesus.

For this parable, it seems obvious that the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, became the intended audience. Hopefully, it landed on a few willing ears that turned to Him, and rejected the love of money in their life. It appears in Acts 15, a number of Pharisees turned to the Lord, and this parable, among many others directed to the Pharisees may have been instrumental in that turning.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

For what purpose would the Lord provide this parable? Why did he provide this story?

Did Jesus give this teaching for future Christians to know of eternal conscious suffering of the wicked in the lake of fire?

Many times when I have heard a message on this passage, the teaching goes directly to the portion describing the condition of the rich man, and of his suffering. Rarely do I hear of the “set up” of the parable, how Luke provides a context of verses 14 through 18 to introduce the parable.

Let’s take a minute to review.

Luke 16:14 – 18

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Why did the Lord gave a message of a rich man and a beggar? What does the text say? Remember, this is your faith that you are seeking to develop, and to grow into. Forget about all the teaching you have heard on the subject and simply allow verse 14 – 18 to introduce the story.

Let me describe my thinking when I considered the introductory verses above. Some of my questions were…

  • Did Luke introduce this story by speaking of resurrection?
  • Did Luke introduce this parable by talking of the rapture and the end times?
  • Did Luke mention the Lake of Fire, the false prophet, the anti-Christ, the judgement seat of Christ, the Great White Throne…..

Need I go on?

Reread verse 14 and tell me (in the comment section below) why the Lord gave this parable to his intended audience.

What was the message for the original audience?

This is tough! Nevertheless, I shall take a stab at my understanding of the message to the original audience for your consideration. And as usual, a raft of questions flooded my mind, that may not at first seem apparent.

  • Why does the rich man have a dialog with Abraham rather than with God?
    • Did the Pharisees equate Abraham with God?
  • Why is Lazarus brought to Abraham rather than to God?
    • Didn’t the Jews consider God to be the judge of all mankind?
  • Why ask Abraham rather than God to have pity on him?
    • Was Abraham the Jewish equivalent of St Peter for Christians? (I am being waggish in this statement, for St Peter doesn’t have “pity pardons” for believers either!)
  • Does living in luxury make you liable to hell?
    • This is extremely bad news for all in America (and any other first world country), for we live at a level of luxury 90% of the world does not enjoy.
  • Does the rich man ignoring the existence of the beggar seal his fate?
    • This again is extremely bad news for most of us in America, and any other first world country.
  • Does being poor in this life entitle you to enter Heaven?
    • Where does the work of Christ enter into this? If being poor allows entrance to heaven, Christ died unnecessarily.
  • Why do we assume that Lazarus is buried when the story states the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abrahams side.
    • This last point shows how we insert our assumptions – that Lazarus was buried, therefore in hades. The rich man was in hades. Lazarus was “afar off”, with Abraham.

All of these questions lead me to think that the Lord was not giving doctrinal teaching on the hell or the lake of fire, but used a common story that pagans recited, (and that had become Jewish lore).

What? What heresy are you pushing now Carl?

I don’t often refer to commentaries, but in this instance I would direct the reader to the New International Greek Testament Commentary, on the Gospel of Luke, by I. Howard Marshall. I have highlighted a discussion in the pdf available below (pg 730 – 731 of 1095, or “alt” and click on link in table of contents), and provided a link for your further research.

Was the Lord using a commonly accepted story amongst the Jews to bring home a moral lesson on the love of money? Or was he teaching on the subject of hell, precepts in the story that would be in conflict with Biblical revelation, as in the ability to enter heaven based on personal wealth. It seems to me that this parable/story is not a passage we should depend on for soteriological doctrine, but for life teaching on God’s attitude on our love of money.

Given this background to the story of Luke 16, I would like to suggest a number of parallels in the Word that Jesus may have intended to make the story directly applicable to those within ear shot.

Parallels, Hints and Connections

Looking at the larger context of this parable/story, we find interesting parallels to the Jewish nation and it’s leadership

  • Judah (father of the remaining tribe composing the nation Israel) had exactly five brothers through his mother, Leah.
  • Abraham’s servant was named Eliezer.
    • Lazarus in the Greek!
  • Eliezer had no blood ties to Abraham.
    • The Jewish religion depended heavily on blood lines to justify their religious exclusivity!
  • Eliezer was a “foreigner” from Damascus (Gen. 15:2).
    • An intended parallel to the gentiles of the day?
  • The final statement of Jesus in this parable actually is prophetic
    • The Ones (the Pharisees!) who boasted in trusting Moses and the prophets refused to be convinced though Lazarus was raised from the dead.
    • Jesus summary statement condemns the ones who boasted of trusting in Moses by way of a sign – the rejection of a resurrection! He spoke the truth that would give the Pharisees ample warning of their true condition – that is they did not trust God and love Him

Could this parable be aimed at two parties that Jesus taught on often? The Jewish ruling class, the Pharisees, the “rich man” in the story, and the rejected unclean gentile represented by Lazarus?

What is the message for us today?

First, I would like to mention is that I fear this passage, if used for eschatological teaching (information on hell) may provide more information on the topic than was intended. This passage implies entry into heaven by being poor, and subjection to suffering by being rich. Is there any other passage in the Bible that justifies this teaching?

Luke tells us the end game of the parable, noting that the Pharisees who loved money – they were “rich men” – were in ear shot of the story.

Two messages occur to me for our modern lives.

Message 1 for us today – Don’t love money! Love God. Loving the moolah, the coin, the buck in this passage is associated with ridiculing the Messiah. Not a good thing for the one who says they love the Master!

Jesus summary statement (verse 31) needs to be taken as the purpose of the story, and that even resurrection from the dead will not convince those who do not trust the Old Testament Scriptures. For us today, the same can be said. The Word of God is sufficient for conversion and salvation of our “5 brothers” How often have you heard of some that depend on miracles or signs to convince the lost?

The Lord told the leaders of the religious elite that the great miracle of resurrection would not convince some, and that the lost should “hear Moses and the Prophets”. A resurrection only hardened the leaders resolve to eliminate the One they ridiculed!

Message 2 – Depend on the Word of God, not miracles or signs!

Consider.

Are our religious leaders depending on miracles, signs or such to warn the lost, or to preach to the believer?

When you share the grace of God to your neighbor, do you depend on miracles or signs in your life or on the promise of God provided in the Word of God?

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Shrewd Manager

I am writing this introduction before any serious study on this parable for one reason. In my four decades of Christian life, this parable has always caused me concern. I need my readers to understand I may not (most likely will not) have any hard conclusions, and that I may create more questions than answers. You see, this parable seems to imply that Jesus commends a dishonest action.

I just don’t get it.

Lets read the passage and ask for help!

Luke 16:1-8

1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

Questions to Consider

Where was this parable taught?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Who were the audience?

This parable was directed to His disciples. The Pharisees heard the message. They were still lurking about, finding ways to be on the outskirts of the Lord’s following.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Asking the five W’s (what, why, where, when and how) when studying a passage can be very illuminating. This particular parable, intended for the disciples, speaks of a believers relation with money, or possessions.

As a matter of fact, the gospel of Luke speak often of how believers are to relate to possessions. From John the Baptist preaching about material goods (Luke 3:11-14) to our last parable about the two sons and their handling of possessions, Luke returns to this theme often. The theme of things!

Also note that the Lord had two audiences. The primary audience of course, were His disciples, and yet the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were hanging out, lurking about and spying on the One who was seeking their best.

No matter who the audience is, truth is truth. If it cuts, then the cut was necessary.

What was the message for the original audience?

Thankfully, Luke gives us the message intended for the original audience, and does not leave us to wonder of the Lord’s intent in bringing up His commendation of the dishonest manager. But maybe I am assigning blame where there is no blame to be had, for the Lord did not commend the thieving manager. The Lord provided this parable, indicating that “the rich man” was the one commending the thief. This of itself is fairly amazing, that a man who got ripped off, commends the ripper offer. But that is beside the point!

The message is that believers don’t deal with their own people as shrewdly as the men of this world! Consider verse 8

Luke 16:8

The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

Shrewd

Not a common word for me. Let’s check a definition.

It is the Greek word phronimos, and can be translated as intelligent, wise or prudent. A bit more illumination from Strong’s Dictionary for those readers who are a bit more curious

φρόνιμος phrónimos, fron’-ee-mos; from G5424; thoughtful, i.e. sagacious or discreet (implying a cautious character; while G4680 denotes practical skill or acumen; and G4908 indicates rather intelligence or mental acquirement); in a bad sense conceited (also in the comparative):—wise(-r).

So what is the point Carl? Only that the comparison of believers with non-believers is not flattering for us. Is the Lord referring to the Pharisees at this time, or is He referring to His own people. and by extension to us? That isn’t clear to me. No matter, the statement stands and we need to seek understanding for our selves.

Jesus then tells His followers to make friends for yourselves by using cold hard cash, by using possessions, so that when the moolah, when the coin fails, (and He didn’t say if the penny fails!), we may be received into eternal dwellings.

Okay, now what does that mean? This eternal dwellings thing? Heaven?

I’m telling you, this is one difficult passage. Oh I know the standard teaching is that if we give to the church we will have a greater reception on the shores of heaven, more rewards don’t you know!

But is that what He is saying? Read it one more time carefully.

Luke 16:9

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Notice that the reception is not a qualitative reception. In other words, the reception is not speaking of being better if you are more shrewd in using the unrighteous mammon. It seems to be a matter of being received at all.

Like I said above, what is He referring to when He speaks of “eternal dwellings”?

For a consideration of the term “eternal” check out my post “A Study of Eternal / Everlasting” The term dwellings, refers to either a tent or the tabernacle, upon which the temple was fashioned.

Okay, I’m going to take a stab at this, only to get conversation going.

Take the following with a grain of salt and correct me where I am falling down on this thinking, but could Jesus be communicating to His disciples the life of an apostle/itinerant preacher, of distributing possessions amongst other believers, understanding that what “comes around goes around”.

Wow – that is a leap Carl!

There is a bit of support for this, (albeit little) when the Lord sent out His disciples without cash or staff, and speaking of those who would welcome them in to their homes. Luke 9:1-6 . Luke again refers to the disciples and their relation to support amongst the people of God in Luke 10:3-9

Also, in the past, as I was studying the concept of salaried pastors, I came across a passage in the Didache, which is NOT Scripture, yet gives us some direction as to how the church understood money in relation to preachers. The blog post I am referring to is Salaried Pastors? A discussion with a Pastor 3, and you can scroll to the bottom for the quote found in chapter 11 of the Didache.

It is a wee bit shocking!

What is the message for us today?

Going from the intent of the parable for the original audience, which is difficult to say the least, to the intent for us nowadays is a problem on steroids.

Should I give money in order to get to heaven? Remember the passage speaks of giving money in order to be received into eternal habitations! This interpretation is beyond my current understanding, and smacks of being used to fill the coffers of some organizations. But you know how I feel about that, so I won’t go into some rant that wastes both our times.

I suppose I have come clean on the commendation of the Savior to be dishonest, a Savior, “who is such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens”. He did not commend the actions of the dishonest manager. The rich man did. Any story or parable that the Lord spoke does not imply that all the actions performed in the story are of the approval of the Father in heaven. That is simply ascribing too much to any parable under consideration.

Secondly, for my own understanding one thing comes through crystal clear. When it comes to a competition of possessions and people, God wants people to win! Possessions are to be used for people, not the other way around.

Quick story before I leave you today.

Our family spent a few years in northern Quebec, doing mission work, and in that time we came to hear of a term that was common to the area. “Stepping on heads”. At least that is the English translation of the Quebecois phrase.

It’s a term describing the actions of those who use people to get ahead.

Don’t step on heads!

Be a blessing to others with your possessions, sharing and providing help to others for their sake, and not your own.

Nuff said.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Lost Son

If there is a parable that is famous, this is the one! The prodigal son has much in it to speak on, and if we are lucky, I will be able to get my thoughts out in one post, but that is highly unlikely!

But lets get at it, and read the passage.

Luke 15:11-32

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

It is important to understand the original audience to understand a bit better the intent of the message. This second parable is no exception. Lets read the first three verses to ensure we know who is hearing this story for the very first time!

Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:3 So he told them this parable:

As we pointed out in the last post, we have tax collectors and sinners drawing near to Him! But look – them Pharisees and Scribes are lurking about, checking out this preacher, protecting the nation from heresy and false prophets. What heros!

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

This final parable continues with the theme mentioned previously, that is of reckless love for the sought and rejoicing with neighbors when the lost is found.

What was the message for the original audience?

This message speaks of the reckless love of the Father in seeking out both the prodigal and the elder son. Remember who the audience is in this telling of the story, in that the tax collectors and sinners are coming to see the Messiah, along with the guardians of the nation of Israel, the ones who are “working God’s field”!

Two audiences.

Sinners and Tax Collectors

It is obvious that sinners and tax collectors were attracted to the Messiah, and that this story speaks of their return to God the Father, of God’s reckless love to reach His lost and rejected people. It is a story of rejection by the younger son, and of an ever patient Father who waits for the son to come to his senses, humble himself and return to the One who loves him.

Elder Son

The Pharisees were working in the field, “faithful” sons, (which is so graceful of the Lord describe them such!) The Father spoke of the elder son as being with Him always, and that all that was His is the elder sons.

But the issue is the green eyed monster – jealousy.

The elder son wanted to live a sinful life, especially when he mentions prostitutes and wanton living. Sure he stayed behind, but reluctantly! It seems he did not work the farm out of love and devotion to the Father, but out of a sense of duty, or obligation. Seems like a bit of a soulless type of fella, one that didn’t experience joy or love, happiness or friendships. Yes – I am stretching the parable and making some assumptions, but I think somewhat justified. Notice that not once did he consider the pain the younger son experienced, the lostness and fears, the isolation and poverty his own brother must have went through. Kind of a soulless man, living in the grip of jealousy!

The Father

The Father is definitely not your typical Jewish farmer. Of course, there were some in the nation of Israel, in their faithful following of the God of Israel, that leaned into this self sacrificial love, but to go as far as the Father in this story was beyond belief. To be insulted by the younger son by demanding (note that the son didn’t ask politely – just “give me”), and to comply to the sons command, it is just too much! What utter weakness, and granting of such freedom, even to the point of allowing a destructive behavior to be followed by the son.

What type of father is this?

A Father who is self sacrificial, who loves his son in the long term, not the short term, a father who realizes a young heart needs to be hungry before it is satisfied. This father realized the younger son was determined to go, and forcing him to stay may keep him physically on the farm, but in spirit, the son was gone already.

As a matter of fact, it turns out both sons had left the father, but only one had the nerve to “grab the dough”, leave his father and go to a foreign land!

What is the message for us today?

Sinners and Tax Collectors

Do you remember finding out about the reckless love of the Father? I will not duplicate my testimony here, since it is available for my reader to access here. Suffice to say, the abounding love that I began to understand as a condemned man of 21, the intense grace that the Father provided to a sinner such as I, was more than I could have imagined.

If you have not experienced the love of God and the release from the guilt and dominion of sin, reach out to the Savior. Admit your sin to Him, repent of the enemy attitude toward Him, and join the body of believers you will meet as you walk with Him.

The prodigal “came to his senses” and decided to return to his father. Humility and repentance! He was willing to return to the father in a beggars position. He had to experience hunger and deprivation before he “came to his senses”. Is that necessary for you? Will you need to be humbled by your own decisions and the work of death they produce in your life? So unnecessary!

“Come to your senses”, humble yourself, repent of your sin, and trust the Savior for eternal life in the here and now?

Elder Son

Are you a religious man or woman? Keeping all the rules and ensuring each day’s duties are performed for the god you have created in your mind, or through your upbringing? Is it a burden that is continually bearing down on you? Sure you have a reputation of “working on the farm,” of keeping some law and resisting every vice (at least in appearance)?

Give it up, repent of your self sufficiency, and join the family of God. You need to realize that His sacrifice was as much for you as the “sinner” out there. He has given all in order that you can have joy and contentment, peace and an assurance of everlasting love.

The Father

This father that Jesus speaks of is the One who patiently waits. He is the One who supplies what many may consider a destructive freedom to His creation. A freedom that many may argue against and find some way to limit, in order to protect God’s wisdom and holiness.

Yet the Father is the One who is represented, nay identified in the Son, the One who is the Master, yet serves, the Savior who freely forgives, yet was condemned, the King who is sovereign, yet provides freedom to His creation, the Source of all life, and yet was crucified as a common thief or insurgent.

The love of God the Father is beyond description.

I am reminded of an old hymn that describes the impossibility of defining the love of God. Years back, a lady who had just lost her husband to cancer (the week before), sang this song in chapel. It moved me then, and thinking of her reminds me of the beautiful God we have in our Father.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Lost Coins

This parable continues with a theme that the Lord is emphasizing, and will culminate in the lost son, or the prodigal son.

This theme is two fold in my mind, and includes the reckless tenacity of seeking out a lost article (sheep, coin, son) and the joy experienced in heaven when a seeker find the sought, and the sinner repents.

Luke 15:8-10

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

It is important to understand the original audience to understand a bit better the intent of the message. This second parable is no exception. Lets read the first three verses to ensure we know who is hearing this story for the very first time!

Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:3 So he told them this parable:

As we pointed out in the last post, we have tax collectors and sinners drawing near to Him! But look – them Pharisees and Scribes are lurking about, checking out this preacher, protecting the nation from heresy and false prophets. What heros!

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

This “middle” parable continues with the theme mentioned above, that is of reckless love for the sought and rejoicing with neighbors when the sought is found.

Of course a coin can’t repent, which introduces a wrinkle in the story, emphasizing the seeker and not the sought. The coin has no “will” in this story, such as the sheep in the previous portion, or which will be discussed in the next parable of the lost son.

The coin was misplaced by the owner, (or some stranger in the home) and has no responsibility for it’s condition. This additional wrinkle is interesting and may be a portion of the reason the Lord used this particular example. Would He be describing a parallel condition found in the one sought, or is He emphasizing the efforts of the seeker?

What was the message for the original audience?

As it was described in the previous parable of the lost sheep, one of the messages that shouts out to the original audience is the importance of each possession the seeker looks for.

In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd risked 99% of his flock in order to find 1%. I will admit this is ludicrous to my thinking, but for a shepherd in old Israel, that shepherd knew the sheep.

In this parable, the woman sought out one coin, 10% of her silver coins. She tears up her home in order to find that one coin! The coins referred to here are likely drachmas, which represented a days wages. Yet for a common woman, a peasant woman, most of her livelihood is taken care of by making her own cloth, growing her own food, bartering and generally being self supporting, from day to day. These coins may represent her savings and not simply “a days wage”.

This woman wanted all of her coins, just like the shepherd wanted all of his sheep, and upon finding the lost, rejoicing was shared with the seekers friends. Rejoicing! No grumbling or complaining allowed.

What is the message for us today?

In the last parable I asked of your attitude towards “sinners”. Do you receive them as the Lord, accept them and seek to love them, show interest in their lives and trials, or do you simply consider them to be lost and it is their decision, their fault and most can not repent if they wanted to, so….

In this portion of the three parable message, the woman seeks out an inanimate object, a silver coin that has a value associated with it. The coin cannot help in the search. It is simply waiting to be found.

The woman is the seeker, and we understand the woman represents God the Father, as the shepherd in the story before. So we can leave this parable, knowing that we have no responsibility in seeking out the coin, knowing that it is God alone that will search for the coin, will find the coin, and will rejoice over the found coin.

Such may be the conclusion of some who would lean toward a deterministic theology. Taken alone, this parable would seem to support this thinking, but we must admit that the previous and next parable fights against that.

Remember that the sheep in the previous parable wandered off from the flock, which was an unnatural action. The sheep did not wander from the fold simply for no reason. I suggested the attitude of the established religious order within Israel may have been a reason.

The established religious order did not seek those “out of the club”. Jesus did. He received and looked for the ones who were not “in the club”.

If you are “in the club”, whatever that may mean to you, consider those who are not included. The reception of “them” (as opposed to “us”) is at the very heartbeat of these last two parables.

If Jesus has three parables back to back with the same message, that of rejoicing over lost items found, let me ask you – When have you truly rejoiced over a lost one being found? Be careful – the implied message many may hear is of rejoicing that a sinner is converted, get’s baptized, joins a church, begins tithing…

That is not the message that I understand. No conditions are being placed on the lost article in these parables. The rejoicing is over the receiving of the lost one, not the lost ones reaction to being found. This may seem like splitting hairs, but as a believer, I sometimes apply many conditions to my unconditional love for those I know.

Can we love/receive one who is constantly against us, who is arguing against our position, who is mocking our life or who is seemingly settled in a lifestyle of rejection?

Where is my faith, my desire for lost relationships to be reestablished. Jesus is teaching us of His reckless love for all of His “sheep” and for all of His “coins”.

Consider relationships that are broken in your life. Ask for forgiveness. Seek out restoration. Ask for forgiveness for actions you may have committed against them, whether real or perceived! Give up your self importance that may be restricting you from humbly approaching one that the Lord Jesus loves, that you may have inadvertently offended, and you may not even know of.

Ask for forgiveness. Admit your weakness and the love you have for the relationship, the desire you have that considers others, that carries a burden for a neighbor, that seeks out the good of others.

Of course, to be following the Lord, we will not be carrying any grudges, malice, ill will, or resentment towards any, that is, we will have forgiven them of any acts we may have experienced at their hand – it is the way of the Master! Hanging on to offenses from others will only cause the separation to continue, the separation of our lives from the Living God, and from the one who supposedly committed the offence.

How are you receiving others? Have you “found” a coin lately, and the rejoicing that comes with it?



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Lost Sheep

This is a tremendously popular parable, especially for use as an evangelistic motivator. I want to warn you though, that when I read it, I find there are other challenges that the Lord may have intended that should cause us and the original audience some pause.

Don’t get me wrong. It is obvious that the intent of the parable is the joy that is experienced in heaven over the restoration/repentance of the sheep/sinner. And yet I personally find other challenges in the parable that I feel we need to consider.

First off though – lets read the passage.

Luke 15:4-7

4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

It is important to understand the original audience to understand a bit better the intent of the message. This parable is no exception. Lets read the first three verses to ensure we know who is hearing this story for the very first time!

Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:3 So he told them this parable:

Ok – so we have tax collectors and sinners drawing near to Him! But look – them Pharisees and Scribes are lurking about, checking out this preacher, protecting the nation from heresy and false prophets. You see, these Pharisees and Scribes are the guardians of the people, the ones who protect the nation of (from?) unwashed sinners, tax collectors, thieves and generally all round bad people – you know anyone that isn’t in their club!!!

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Why did the Lord give this message? It seems obvious, given that tax collectors and sinners are the audience. The Lord describes the reckless love of the shepherd, in abandoning the safe, “obedient” sheep, in order to seek out and find the rebellious sheep, the sinner that had wandered off from the sheep fold, from a safe area.

By the way – why do sheep leave safe areas? Sheep have a very strong flocking instinct and feel safe when gathered together. For a sheep to leave the flock is generally against its nature.

Notice that the Lord opens the parable describing a man, not as a shepherd, and questioning his apparent care for the sheep. It is only a normal shepherd’s care for all His sheep that He recovers the one that is wandering, that He recovers the sinner that is not in the flock. The normal shepherd would seek the sinner!

Sheep also will follow a leader they trust and know.

The normal shepherd would then receive the sinner! And the reaction in heaven is joy, but alas, the reaction on earth by the earthly shepherds seems to be a wee bit different!

What was the message for the original audience?

A normal shepherd loves the lost sheep. A normal shepherd seeks out the abnormal, rebellious sheep. A normal shepherd rejoices in finding the lost sheep.

This “normal” shepherd in the parable is used to describe God the Father in His method of care and love for His sheep in sending the True Shepherd, the One who receives the rebellious, lost sheep of Israel.

Remember the context here – the lost sheep were of the house of Israel. The tax collectors and sinners that were being drawn to the Lord Jesus were those who had rejected the religious leadership of the nation, a leadership who had become oppressive overlords, using the people, instead of caring for them. (Consider a study in Ezekiel for some thoughts on the shepherds of Israel – Ezekiel 34)

Having the lost sheep returned was a matter of great joy for a normal shepherd, in that he would advertise his great joy to his neighbors and friends, speaking of his happiness and not of the lost sheep’s original rebellion. (This might be a topic to consider in another post, but not now!)

Although this parable is often rightfully used to speak of the Lords great love in seeking out the lost sheep, I see also a back handed slap to the Pharisees and Scribes in this parable. They murmured and complained, finding ways to hinder the return of Israel to the living God. They sought to cause resistance to the move of God amongst them, the obvious appeal of the Lord Jesus in accepting, even receiving losers!

What is the message for us today?

Where are you at in “receiving sinners”? It seems to be a priority for the normal shepherd! At work or at home, in the grocery store or at the hardware store, how do you live in front of others? Are you an accepting person, one who is open to those about, or are you suspicious, fearful and self protective? I know I tend that way, and fight against being “offended” by those that are not like me. This is wrong. Of course, accepting the person is not the same as accepting the sin that they may being trapped in. Yet I need to see the person as the one who needs to be received.

The 99

One item that I haven’t discussed in the parable is the normal shepherds abandonment of the 99. As believers, I would consider each of us as a part of the 99. Are you alright in this scenario? With the Lord leaving us behind in seeking out others?

I want to be careful in speaking this way and not extending the parable beyond it’s intended purpose, and yet the message seems to be appropriate. The Lord is always with us, protecting, guiding, providing, and comforting us. And yet the normal shepherd left the 99 behind, making an assumption that they could care for each other, and themselves.

Is that fair? Can we care for ourselves in a manner that would allow a normal shepherd to have confidence in leaving us for a period of time?

In your church, if the shepherd is gone for a period of time, do you pick up the slack, visit those who may be weak, supply for those who have needs, comfort those who are suffering? Or do you take the attitude of simply hanging on until the preacher gets back?

If you are dependent on your local preacher for security, guidance, comfort and protection you may be dangerously close to become one of the sheep that would wander off.

The sheep left behind were not a concern to the normal shepherd in the parable.

What type of sheep are you?



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Cost of Discipleship

Price, value, worth, expense, charge, fee, payment, fare, bill, surcharge, invoice – words that are associated with “cost”.

Cost is not a foreign concept to us moderns. As a matter of fact, the list above is a only a small fraction of synonyms available for the concept of cost in our society. One list online included over 1000 synonyms for the concept of cost.

Cost is defined as the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something, or the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.

Let’s take a look at a parable that centers around the concept of cost.

Luke 14

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

This parable is set up with the proceeding three verses, where the Lord is speaking to “great crowds”.

Luke 14

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

These verses not only tell us of who Jesus was addressing his comments to, but also the general topic of discipleship. Jesus finishes His discussion of cost with the summary statement of the cost of discipleship in verse 33. But I am getting ahead of myself.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out Events of Jesus Life.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Why did the Lord give this message?

He must have been journeying, possibly towards Jerusalem, where the cost of our salvation may have been on His heart, when He turned to warn those who were with Him of the cost of following Him.

What was the message for the original audience?

The basis for this message is found in the verses before, where the Lord speaks of hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, – even your own life!

As many who read this know, I have been discussing the concept of hate in the Word with some readers who lean in the theistic determinist camp, (i.e. Calvinists). I understand they take the concept of hatred quite literally in regards to Esau, and by extension, to all those not chosen by God for salvation.

This concept has focused my understanding of the verse in our reading today, in that when the Lord speaks of hatred towards father, mother…..,

In my humble opinion, He speaks of a “priority of love”, not a literal hatred against those whom the Father has commanded us to honor. (That alone introduces a contradiction I can’t get beyond!)

The message for the original audience was to count the cost, to realize that allegiance was to be to Jesus above all others, above every loved one in their life, even above their own self interest! This is radical, extreme, overboard and what the Lord demands from those who say they follow.

This message, just a number of weeks away from the passion of the Christ, was fitting, as a warning to all. It was a volley over the heads of those who claimed allegiance to Him, in order to understand the price they would pay.

Be prepared. Count the cost.

Jesus illustrated the shame of not preparing by speaking of two situations, where both subjects needed to count the cost to accomplish their end game.

First was a builder, one who wanted to build a tower. This I can readily connect with, since I am involved in the building industry. Clients request Class 3 construction cost estimates, in order to make decisions to allocate funds to the specific project under consideration. Providing this type of estimate is difficult, since so many variables are involved. Yet without some plan on paper, it is all just wishful thinking.

My clients need this information in order to count their cost to get a goal accomplished. It is interesting to consider that if the cost is too high, their is no shame in confessing that the project will be abandoned before it begins. No shame at all. The shame comes, as Jesus notes, in laying the foundation, and then not being able to complete it. The foundation will always be visible for all to mock!

Secondly, a king is going out to war, woefully undersized against his opponent. Planning, strategy and wisdom in war is required to decide on his best course of action. If he is a brilliant warrior, his army may succeed, and win the battle. Yet, he needs to understand his opponent, before he can make an informed decision. He must understand his opponent!

Both of these examples have one thing in common – that is the cost of a decision needs to be understood, they needed to count the cost.

What will each man need to pay in order to accomplish his goals?

What is the message for us today?

This is a cost/benefit analysis that the Lord is directing all to perform. I hope I am not becoming too technical in this application, but I trust that all who read the term cost/benefit get a taste of what I am trying to communicate.

Remember, one of the definitions of cost is “the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something, or the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.”

The object is to be a disciple of Jesus. The cost is “renouncing all that he has”.

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

ALL?

He must not literally mean “all”! That term must be modified in order to be understood with some clarification, some mysterious adjustment or revision to our common understanding of “everything”. Of course I am being waggish in my last statement, since the term “all” has also been a topic of discussion on a previous post.

Back to our parable.

When the Lord states “all” it is commonly accepted that the term “all” means “all”. And yet it appears that there are many instances where the disciples of the Lord, even after the resurrection, are still in possession of boats, and homes and fields.

Maybe the term all isn’t where the focus of the statement should reside.

Let’s consider the term renounce. This may give us some insight into how we relate to “all” that we are and have.

The term renounce is transliterated from the Greek text apotassō. This term is found in the following verses in the New Testament (italicized)

Mark 6:46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
Luke 9:61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Acts 18:18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.
Acts 18:21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.
2 Corinthians 2:13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

This helps me immensely, since “taking leave” doesn’t imply a breaking of relationship with those being left. In Mark, Jesus left the disciples, those he was counting on to continue His mission, in order to pray, since this was a priority for the Messiah.

In Acts 18, Paul took leave of the brothers, because they were prioritized below God’s requirement on Paul’s mission. He stated he would return, based on God’s will. He wanted to be with them, but had prioritized his life above his desire to be with his friends.

My friends, this parable is about prioritizing the LORD above all, to consider all that you have and are, and your willingness to “say farewell” to all. I am persuaded that this is an ongoing struggle for all Christians, since at the start of anyone’s pilgrimage, he/she doesn’t understand all that will enter their lives during their walk with God.

The most obvious example is the decision to marry or to have children. Prior to these actions, when I read this passage of renouncing all, it was much less complicated than now. Now that I am married and have children, it is a different situation!

Is the condition of “renouncing all” any less binding? Of course not. Is it any less challenging? On the contrary, my struggles only deepen.

Let me give you an example.

At one point in my pilgrimage, I prayed for a certain outcome for the Lord to perform for me. I begged the Lord to answer my prayer, and for weeks heard nothing from Him. I pleaded, bargained, cried out to God, and yet never considered “Thy will be done”

I had to come to the point of allowing one of my children to be taken away from me, before the Lord would answer me in prayer. I had to renounce my will for my child in order for the Lord to be the One whose will I sought. This is no small matter, as many who read may have had similar experiences.

Yet, in all this, the Lord showed tremendous mercy to a poor sinner like I, in that after my repentance and sincere request for His will to be performed, my child was rescued from the danger, and has been allowed to flourish. Of course, there have been other times when the Lord has said no, even after my will has bent to His. This is the will of God!

To those who are struggling with a decision to obey, (and I am speaking to the one typing!) say farewell to those things that are more important than the Lord’s will.

Find the Lord’s will. Focus on the Lord’s will, not your own.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Great Banquet

The great banquet. The end times? Apocalypse, revelation and the antichrist? Eewwww this could get juicy.

Let’s read the passage and consider the message

Luke 14:16-24

16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Jesus had been invited to “dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees” (Luke 14:1)

Some commentators link this parable with the healing of the demoniac. Although applicable I suppose, I will continue with the flow of thought found in Luke’s telling.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out Events of Jesus Life.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan. This particular parable was given at a party.

Why did the Lord give this message?

The Lord had given a parable moments before, concerning who we should invite to parties. (See “Parable Surprises – Giving a Feast”) Out of that parable, some one said to Jesus, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

This is all it took, for I sense the Lord gave this parable ’cause the message just might not have sunk in. Sure, the previous parable was about “losers”, (those who had no influence, and may be considered a burden to society), but this parable had a similar message, directed to a different group of outcasts.

What was the message for the original audience?

You’ve read the parable. The message is simple. Those who are privileged often reject an invitation. The party goers Jesus was speaking to were not only healthy, wealthy, and wise (?), they were of the privileged class of people, the chosen ones whom God called because they were so special, they were the better “lot of people”. Not like those others! They weren’t them!

Three of the privileged were invited to a great banquet.

  • Who buys a field without looking at it?
  • Who buys a couple of oxen without inspecting them?
  • Who marries a wife? You know this one may have some merit, since the OT makes reference to the first year of marriage to be dedicated to no warfare, etc, But honestly, no banquet either? (See Deuteronomy 24:5)

Let’s just agree that these reasons are fairly thinly veiled excuses to avoid saying no the invite!

The party giver was determined, and he went to those he initially invited to bring them in, but to no success. Well servant, the food is getting cold – go get some of them there poor and crippled, blind and lame folk.

Sound familiar to the tone of the earlier parable? Even with that done, there was more room!

Go get those foreigners.

As an aside, this verse was used by a certain dark ages church to justify forcibly converting pagans to Christianity. Certainly an obvious misapplication of this parable. The Masters desire to have guests is very evident with the word choice of compel. Drag them into the party by whatever means necessary.

The word “compel” can be understood to range from asking permission of the invited to threatening or forcing someone to attend.

Compel (anagkazō)

Outline of Biblical Usage

  1. to necessitate, compel, drive to, constrain
    1. by force, threats, etc.
    2. by permission, entreaties, etc.
    3. by other means

It is my understanding that during the crusades this verse was used to justify the horrific manner of “evangelism” the church entered into.

Back to the point, the party giver was determined to have a successful party. He wanted to share his possessions and good fortune with any and all. Kinda sounds like God.

And yet, the punch line has not been discussed yet. Those who reject the invitation, eventually will be refused an opportunity.

What is the message for us today?

However you read this parable, the meaning for us in this modern society is evident. We are invited to the banquet daily, and yet we refuse. A continual refusal will bring about a continual rejection.

Maybe there is an end times flare to this parable, in that in the end, our willingness to accept the invitation is crucial while we have an opportunity.

Isaiah 55:6

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;



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