New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Unfruitful Fig Tree

Our last parable of the rich man and his barns spoke of a bountiful harvest and the rich man’s poor decisions, being fueled by covetousness and poor priorities. This parable speaks of another agrarian example, but this time the dang tree ain’t producing!

Let’s take a look at

The Parable of The Unfruitful Fig Tree

Luke 13:6-9

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and delve into this parable.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

The text opens up in Luke 13 with a general description of “some present at that very time” and how they had spoke of an atrocity that some Galileans suffered.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Again, this is early on in the Lord’s ministry, seemingly in the Galilean region, prior to His journey towards Jerusalem

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

The region of Galilee.

Why did the Lord give this message?

The context of the passage is repentance. Luke 13:1-5 speaks of the relative sinfulness of those who suffer compared to others. You know how that goes – they are worse than I. It is a favorite past time of everyone of us. These folks in the first verse just mentioned this to the One who doesn’t dabble in relative sin, at least in His discussion here.

These folks who suffered at the hands of a cruel government leader weren’t worse sinners than any others! All need to repent! And those folks who suffered due to an accidental occurrence weren’t worse sinners than any others! All need to repent!

Even those who think they are better than those “worst sinners!”

So in summary, the context is for this parable is the requirement of repentance, especially of the self righteous.

What was the message for the original audience?

What is a fig tree doing in a vineyard?

I get the allusion of the vineyard as representing Israel, because it is often referred to as such.

One of the multiple verses referring to Israel as a vine is

Jeremiah 2:21

Yet I planted you a choice vine,
wholly of pure seed.
How then have you turned degenerate
and become a wild vine?

So what about a fig tree? Why the difference?

Jeremiah helps us one more time, for in the 8th chapter….

Jeremiah 8:13

13 When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.”

Interesting. Jeremiah complains of the nation of Israel, in that both the vine and the fig are fruitless. Is this an example of Hebrew poetry, where the author says the same thing using a different description? I’m thinking so.

That still doesn’t explain why the Lord made the distinction. And I want to be careful not to make a mountain out of a molehill, or to try to make this parable walk on 50 legs! Still, it is interesting and caught my attention. If the reader has a suggestion to assist, it would be greatly appreciated.

The message for the original audience is that the fig tree, representing the nation of Israel, needs to change (repent) and begin to produce fruit in keeping with the message of Jesus. If the nation continues without producing the fruit required from the vinedresser, that is the Lord Jesus, that fig tree will be immediately pulled out by the roots and completely destroyed.

Did you catch that?

Not by the roots! The tree will be cut down. The life of the tree will not be extinguished, just the visible portion removed. (There is significance to this truth, but will not chase that rabbit right now!!)

And notice, that the fig tree had not been producing any fruit for THREE years. Remember that the fig usually produces fruit twice a year, the early and the late fig. But this tree produced nothing.

Also one more mistake I inserted into the text above.

The tree would not be immediately removed! The vinedresser, the Lord Jesus asked the owner (God the Father) to give it one more year. He would dig around it, and place some fertilizer on it. The Lord Jesus wanted to give the fig tree / nation of Isarea the most advantageous conditions to produce fruit. He gave the fig tree another year of opportunity. A second chance. (In reality a fourth chance!)

What is the message for us today?

I wanna say “Get to work and do something!” or “Get producing!” but I’m not quite sure that is the right thing to say. After all, the context is repentance, and as the prophet John said, bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Bear / produce fruit.

Fruit in the Christian life is the result of walking with the Spirit. Walking with the Spirit is the goal of the every day Christian. The every day Christian should recognize the Spirit’s call on his life. The characteristics of a believer walking in the Spirit should be obvious, but I will mention since I need to be reminded – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Don’t try to produce fruit. You will get leaves.

Walk in the Spirit, be submissive to His calling in your life.

  • When you have opportunity to argue, return a soft answer
  • When you are tempted to compete, show humility and give way.
  • When a difficult situation arises, seek to endure, if it be the will of God. (That last one is a tough one!!!)

Don’t stand or run in the Spirit – walk in the Spirit, and if you do you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Incredible truth.

Produce fruit.

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Rich Man and Barns

This parable is a response to an unknown crowdster, that wanted to “see tha money”. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into!

Let’s take a look at

The Parable of The Rich Man and Barns

Luke 12:16-21

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and delve into this parable.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Luke 12:13 mentions a crowd being present. Jesus had been teaching and a crowd came together to hear the Master. The disciples of course were present.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Specifically, I can not find a time or location this parable was taught. Others with greater abilities than I place it in the region of Galilee.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

It seems this parable was taught in the early years of the Lord’s ministry.

Why did the Lord give this message?

As mentioned in the introduction, the parable was given in response to a man in the crowd wanting resolution over an inheritance.

During our Lord’s time, it seems the scribes of the law were addressed in the matter of the laws of inheritance.

One of the laws of inheritance that may seem foreign to us nowadays is the right of the first born. The first born would receive twice the amount of inheritance than any of the other siblings. So, for example, out a 2 million dollar inheritance between two brothers, the first born would receive 1.3 million buckaroos, while the younger brother only $667,000. (Poor little rich boy!)

In our society that would cause constant complaints, a commission should be set up to study and strike down such an unjust law. That is our problem – this was Old Testament Israel, set up originally as a theocracy, with laws that picture the supremacy of the first born, looking to the Savior as a fulfillment. But I digress.

As mentioned, sometimes scribes were addressed regarding inheritance laws. But Jesus would not get pulled down into this specific issue since it was not his mission. He simply asked the man the following.

Luke 12:14

… “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

What a question. In the matters of this man’s familial conflicts and greed, He would not get involved. And yet, upon His resurrection, God made Jesus a judge over all.

Romans 2:16

16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

This question, or shall I say demand, from a stranger in the crowd, brings Jesus to the topic of covetousness, and the teaching of this particular parable.

What was the message for the original audience?

The message for the original audience is to be on guard over covetousness. The covetousness in this parable takes the form of the rich man seeking comfort and ease in his future life. He has had a bumper crop, to no credit of his own efforts – the God of creation provided the bounty – and yet in the midst of this great success financially, the rich man thought of the ease it may provide for his own soul.

Luke 12:19

….“Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’

Jesus was addressing priorities, for in the very next verse, God called this man a fool. Why? The rich man had no earthly future upon which to enjoy his goods, and the statement implies that all the goods this rich man accumulated would be dispersed to an unknown recipient.

I don’t want to make this parable walk on 50 legs, finding parallels in every word, but this question from God is startling, for the condemnation from God is two fold in my eyes this morning.

  • The rich man was not prepared for death.
    • He wasn’t prepared for death in that he had planned for “many years of relaxation and rest”. Back in the garden, God told us to “till the garden”. Labor is not a part of the curse, but part of the original creation, a blessing that is instilled in us by the Creator. Why was relaxation and rest the top priority for this rich man?
    • The rich man did not consider the Creator regarding the length of his lifespan. No man knows of his time, and it behooves us to be prepared, even daily for death. This is not something that is encouraged in our culture, or even in our churches very often. We so often want our best life now. This may not be wide! Tonight his soul is required of him.
  • The rich man was not prepared for death.
    • He wasn’t prepared for death in that he hadn’t directed his earthly possessions to his descendants (if he had any) or to worthy causes. This is a bit stunning, for what does it matter to the Creator of the universe where this rich mans paltry possessions end up? Whose will they be?
    • We began this post considering a man who had issues with an inheritance. His initial question from the crowd began this post. Inheritance in the Old Testament was a common topic, and this phrase is directing me to consider its implications. ( A quick search for the word inheritance shows it coming up over 200 times in the Scriptures.)

Although the topic is covetousness, there seems to also be an undercurrent of priorities to be applied to one’s life.

Could it be as simple as the priorities of God first, family and friends next, and then finally yourself?

In answering this question, I began with my thinking that it addresses covetousness in the believers life, and that is true, but in this parable, priorities are used to reveal the covetous life.

What is the message for us today?

In reading this parable over the years I have had a number of reactions to it. When I read it quickly, or think about it without reading it (don’t do that), I come away from it thinking all retirement investing as being sinful.

Is that the intended message for us today?

Of course, if covetousness is controlling your plans for retirement, or generally for your future, consider your ways.

If you are planning for a time when you may no longer be able to provide for yourself or loved ones, then this may be considered careful planning.

In setting priorities, we need to remember that becoming a burden on others should not be a goal in our lives. Balance in our lives regarding our financial decisions needs to be reviewed, and the previously discussed priorities of God, family and self (in that order) need to be reapplied as necessary

You know, as I think of this topic, it reminds me of two items that may help in understanding the intent of the parable

Prioritizing Honesty with God

Recently my wife and I were in the book of Acts, and read of Ananias and Saphira. I posted earlier on the surprise of a small statement in the text about Barnabas selling a field. He sold a field, not all of his fields, or most of his fields. It doesn’t tell us what percentage he sold. It seems unimportant. He performed a loving action for his brothers.

Ananias and Sapphira were different – They also sold a field, and lied about giving all of the funds to the church. The amount didn’t seem to be the problem – it was the lie that they gave all when they only gave some. I wonder if things would have turned out differently if they admitted they only gave some?

In prioritizing God in our financial decisions, honesty is a priority. After all, it is all of His, and we are simply “tilling the garden”, not owning the field!

As an aside, I find that being anonymous in my giving is also beneficial, in order that my motives may approach an honest simplicity.

Prioritizing Others after Death

Early in our married life, I shunned many offers of life insurance, thinking it showed a lack of faith in God. I wanted to honor God in every decision, and as I sought to understand His will for our lives, I came up against 1 Timothy 5:8.

1 Timothy 5:8

8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Out of context, I understood this verse to speak of supplying food and shelter for my family and I still believe that. Consider 2 Thessalonians 3:10

…If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat

But as I considered the context of 1 Timothy 5, I began to see something that would require an attitude adjustment.

The context of this verse is in relation to widows. 1 Timothy 5:3 speaks of honoring widows, and of family members caring for the widow in the next verse. Then verse 8 pops up, speaking of one not supplying for members of his household, and that he is worse than an unbeliever. It may be addressing the living relatives of the widow, but I was impressed with the need of supplying for my wife and family in the event of my death. Out of that period of time, I revised my thinking (it’s called repentance) and took out a life insurance policy for my wife and children.

Please understand that I am not a life insurance salesman, nor is anyone in my family a life insurance salesman. This is not a life insurance commercial!

I currently have a policy that will supply funds for my wife (my children are out of the house now) in the event of my passing before her. Is this a solution for all? That is for you to seek God in. There may be many ways for the believer to honor God and love his family in place of having a policy as I have.

In the midst of the insurance struggle that was raging in my mind and heart, I also was drawn to the topic of a last will. Nothing specifically in the Scriptures directed me in this matter but love for my wife and family constrained me to get one done. But gosh golly, gee willikers, this parable may be addressing the need of a will, when we look at Luke 12:20.

….whose will they be?

Your thoughts and comments are always welcomed and I look forward to any insight you may add in the comments. Thanks so much for visiting. May the Lord bless you and keep you in all His ways.

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Unequal Debts

This parable speaks of debt, and a few parables use this topic, since it was a common condition in the first century. A bit later in the career of the Lord He uses this topic in a somewhat lengthy parable of a man being forgiven a humongous debt. It is one of the more disturbing parables I can think of. But I am getting ahead of myself (again!).

Let’s take a look at

The Parable of The Unequal Debts

Luke 7:41-43

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and delve into this parable.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

According to Luke 7:36 and following verses, a Pharisee by the name of Simon invited Jesus into his home for a meal. Simon had also invited “others” to the meal according to Luke 7:49, and of course there was that instigator, that sinful woman.

When did the Lord give this parable?

During the Lord’s Galilean ministry, which was in His first year of public ministry.

By the way, I have recently found an interesting graphic of a timeline of the ministry of the Lord Jesus here. The website supplies this information. Visit to check the info out. I hope it is useful for your review and information.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Simon the Pharisee likely lived in the region of Galilee, near either the city of Capernaum or Nain. Both these cities were on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Simon asked a question. Under his breath! If’n I ask a question under my breath, I surely don’t expect anyone to respond. I usually do this type of complaining in order to justify my own bias’s. Jesus would take this opportunity to help Simon understand a basic truth, that had great implications.

I think if he had closed the door to his home and the woman couldn’t get in, everything would have been different. Of course I am being waggish at this point. But it raises a question in my mind. How did a woman, whom the general audience and Simon had disdain for, enter into the home?

Simon invited Jesus into his home, but the woman wasn’t invited. She entered the home of a Pharisee to bless the Master. What utter audacity! This is totally unexpected.

And what is more, Simon didn’t rebuke the sinful woman, but muttered under his breath, saying to himself that Jesus surely isn’t a prophet since this “sort of woman” was touching him.

It is truly warped what religion does to those engulfed in it. For a sinful woman to touch someone, to become “an issue” is beyond me.

Lets recap. A woman dowsing Jesus feet with ointment gave offence to a Pharisee, who had little estimation of who Jesus was. (It seems Simon thought of Jesus as simply a failed prophet!)

What was the message for the original audience?

Jesus responds to Simon’s thoughts in telling this story. Remember now, that Simon is thinking Jesus is simply a failed prophet, a prophet who is lacking in the basic understanding of the moral character of a woman, and is failing in keeping Himself “pure”.

Jesus tells a parable about two debtors, the sinful woman and Simon. The sinful woman owed 10 times the amount of debt than Simon. Of course, during the parable, Simon would not have recognized that he was the one owing a debt, but that will come later in Jesus explanation of the parable to Simon.

Both debtors were in debt. To the moneylender. Who is this moneylender Jesus? Looking back on this parable, we all have the privilege’s of knowing the “punchline”, but Simon is not wary of this yet. He is still in a fog!

This is the power of a parable, since it takes us out of the story until it is too late. This is what I call the Nathan principle, since Nathan the prophet did this so well with King David when he asked of judgment on the rich man who took the poor man’s sheep.

Both debts were forgiven by the moneylender, and a simple question was asked.

Who loves more?

Simon was a careful Pharisee, for he said “I suppose…” I am thinking the light is starting to dawn on Simon. This woman obviously loves Jesus.

The reactions of the two debtors reveals their estimation of the Son of God, their understanding of who this Jesus is. This estimation of who He is, is what fuels each of their reactions to the Messiah.

The audience finally get it. Who forgives debt / sins? A failed prophet? You can think that Simon, but it doesn’t change reality. The woman understood, that sinful woman!

What is the message for us today?

If I were there in Simon’s place, as he was “getting the point”, I would be preparing myself for a shaming.

My lack of love to Jesus would have been based on my wrong estimation of Him.

Simon thought He was a failed prophet, but the parable and His explanation makes it clear who Jesus is. Jesus is the Great Moneylender. The One to whom we all owe debt. If we could be honest with ourselves, like the woman, sinful as she was, and realize our debt, and the scope of forgiveness He provides to us, we would simply love Him and seek ways to show it.

This parable speaks to us as to our estimation of who this Jesus of Nazareth is. Is He a failed prophet, a misguided teacher, a good man?

What is your estimation of this Man named Jesus?

Who do you say He is?

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Wise and Foolish Builders

This particular parable is one of the most recognizable parable in the English language. This is the second of the parables found in the sermon on the mount and as mentioned in the previous post, it is intended for Christians to understand, and heed.

It’s utter simplicity of message has one point to it, and that point is… Hang on, let’s read it first.

The Parable of The Wise and Foolish Builders

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and delve into this parable

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

As mentioned in the previous post, the audience is the disciples primarily. Some of the crowd may have hears it, dang it all of the crowd may have heard it, but without being a committed follower, many of these teachings may have fallen on deaf ears. As a matter of fact, let’s remember that is the purpose of the parables.

Selective teaching based on the recipients!

When did the Lord give this parable?

The Sermon on the mount was one of Jesus earliest messages, and many believe it was given in the first year of His ministry.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

I got some nice graphic in our previous post that is nice eye candy, but for the sake of brevity, tradition speaks of the mount of the beatitudes being on the northwest shore of the sea of Galilee, just a stones throw away from Capernaum.

Why did the Lord give this message?

This parable was not initiated by the enemies of the Lord, in asking some challenging question, or in trying to trip Him up. This teaching is directed to those who want to follow, and is not defensive in its posture.

Even saying that, I can’t think of one question that set the Messiah into defensive mode. He has all knowledge, full of grace and truth and is the embodiment of wisdom. Those that question or challenge Him were using the gift of intelligence He gave to them against Him – how utterly ridiculous!

Back to the question at hand. He gave us this parable to associate true success in living with heeding His word.

What was the message for the original audience?

The parable’s message was to direct the disciples attention to the Lordship of Christ, to the hearing of His teaching, His instruction and to understand the message, maybe struggle with it, but ultimately follow His lead.

By the way, if you do not struggle with the life of faith, consider if you are living a life of faith. Many give lip service to the words of the Messiah. I admit I am guilty of this crime too often.

The message was to hear His word and do it! I think James gave us a great summary of this parable in verse 22 of his first chapter.

… be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

What is the message for us today?

A couple of questions back I mentioned that the parable’s intention was to associate true success with heeding His word. I though I heard a harumph as some may have read that, thinking how utterly simplistic.

Really Carl – How bout those who have obeyed and been destitute, martyred, betrayed by family and friends? How can you make a statement like “true success in living is associated with heeding His word”, without considering the history of the church?

By the way, this very thinking of worldly / financial success as being God’s best is rampant in the modern church and needs to be repented of!

If He speaks the truth, (which is why you have placed your faith in Him), this means we are to align our crooked thoughts with His priorities. So if that is correct, lets consider what one thing in Jesus life was of paramount importance?

I will give you a moment…

Success, in the modern mind, is a two car garage, a buck or two in the bank, a comfortable home and a loving family. Jesus had none of that, except for the loving family. Ooops, well at least His mother loved Him.

And yet He was so successful in God the Father’s eyes, that He raised Him from the dead, never to see corruption again.

I’m thinking that is perty successful!

So, how are you gauging your success?

By the way, I am still waiting on your response to my question above, about what was of paramount importance to Jesus. I will let you respond in the comments, to give you time to consider.

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Lamp on a Stand

The last two parables were “twins” of sort, but this one is a stand alone type of parable. This parable is couched in the Sermon on the Mount and describes the believer as a lamp. A lamp that is open to view by all.

Let’s take a look at

The Parable of The Lamp on a Stand

Matthew 5:14-15

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and delve into this parable

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Matthew 5 starts out with Jesus on a mountain, seeing the crowds and the disciples being with Him. It appears that the sermon was intended for the disciples, since Luke 6:20 informs us that

…he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God

The intended audience is the disciples during this time in the Lord’s ministry. So let us understand this parable as being addressed to His followers.

When did the Lord give this parable?

The Sermon on the mount was one of Jesus earliest messages, and many believe it was given in the first year of His ministry.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

No one knows exactly where the mount is, but we can know that this sermon was on “the mount”

Tradition speaks of it being delivered on Mount Eremos, on Galilee’s northwest shore between Gennesaret and Capernaum.

Why did the Lord give this message?

This message, or parable was not given out of answering a question, such as the last two teachings. This parable came directly from the Master, speaking to His followers.

I have understood the beatitudes in different ways at different times in my Christian journey, at one time thinking it didn’t apply to the Christian life, but only to those during a literal thousand year reign of the Lord on the earth.

At this time in my life, I find that teaching to be weak, and that the sermon was given to His followers, or disciples, in order to be understood and followed.

The lamp on a stand applies to disciples. The Lord gave this message to believers.

What was the message for the original audience?

Let’s consider the lamp as a fixture in a room. In the days of the first century, there were likely one lamp in the house, as a single source of light. The purpose of the lamp was to give light. Why would anyone put a lit lamp under a basket?

The lamp produces a certain amount of light, or in our world, the term is a certain number of “lumens”. (Remember a 40 watt bulb? This is the amount of power a light bulb uses to produce light. The light produced from a watt of power is measured in lumens. But I digress!)

No matter where the light is situated, the amount of lumens is the same. Under a basket or on a stand.

Advantageous Use of the Lamp

Placing the lamp on a stand is speaking of the advantageous use of the lamp.

One other item that occurs to me is the number of beneficiaries a lamp can supply light to.

It takes no more power to produce 100 lumens of light to one person as it does to 10 people. The lumens are not used up by the “consumption” of one person or a hundred.

The light expressed from the lamp is effortlessly blessing those who come within sight of its source. The power is not dealt with in this parable, and will not be commented on, but I bet you know Who the power is.

What is the message for us today?

There are two messages that every believer needs to consider from this parable, that I need to hear.

To be a light that is on a stand is the believers place in the kingdom. It is the purpose of the light, and the purpose of the believer, to bless those in their vicinity with their light they have been freely given by the Master.

Find the Power

When I say find the power, I’m not asking anyone to dig deep and find that inner strength. I am becoming more and more convinced that my power is the weakness of my soul, the abject infirmity that keeps me down. My power is a replacement of the true power of God, that I realize I have so little of.

Stand up for Jesus

Stand up for Jesus. Take a stand, in humility and with grace.

I have often made a stand for the Lord Jesus out of pride and hostility, out of fear or religious arrogance. How may I gently, and firmly stand for Jesus, depending on His power and grace? Lord, I ask for your hand and guidance.

You, my Savior, are the only One I can find strength in.

It is my continual proneness to depend on my strength, and I thank you Father for the aging process, where my strength is waning, showing me the emptiness of that source of strength. You are all strength. You are of eternal power. Your strength, Your power, You are the source of all light and life.

Psalm 38:9-10, 21-22

9 O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes–it also has gone from me. …

21 Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me!

22 Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

David’s heart sought the Lord. This passage speaks to me and hopefully to the reader, that our strength will fail us, and the light of our eyes will fade. But our salvation is the Lord, and in Him is our strength.

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The New Wine

In our last post, we looked at the parable of The New Cloth, and noted that it was spoken within an inhale of this parable. Many parallels run through the two parables, like when and where it was spoke, to whom it was spoken and such.

This post will attempt to show some possible distinctions that may be of interest.

Let’s take a look at

The Parable of The New Wine

Matthew 9:17

17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and delve into this parable

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Matthews dinner guests, and those asking the question – John’s disciples, along with possibly some Pharisees. (See previous post for a few details)

When did the Lord give this parable?

During or after the meal with Matthew. (See previous post for a few details)

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

This parable was likely spoken in Capernaum, Matthews home town. (See previous post for a few details)

Why did the Lord give this message?

Changes are a comin’, as Bob Dylan used to sing, and never was this concept actualized more than during the time of Jesus among His people!

What was the message for the original audience?

This is the question that may supply some distinction between the two parables. The new cloth was a parable teaching of an external patch on an unyielding garment. This parable speaks of a growing medium in an unyielding container.

There is a difference.

Consider the stresses on a unyielding bag when the pressure exceeds its limitations! It is an instantaneous explosion. (Sorry ’bout that but I am an engineer, so I tend to go anal at times!). The Greek word used for “burst” in this passage actually may be translated as “break forth”. The wine is gonna break forth! The wineskins ain’t gonna hold it back.

At the very least, the useful wineskin becomes unusable. Both parables speak of the original garment/wineskin being destroyed, and the new patch/wine being wasted.

But the difference is also to be seen in the growth of the new medium. The wine grows (or ferments) and nothing stops it. The patch of new cloth actually shrinks in relation to the old garment, which creates the stresses leading to future tears. (Again with bringing up the pressure / stresses thing, Carl!)

In the first parable, the New Covenant is compared to a shrinking material (the new cloth), and in this parable (the new wine), the New Covenant is compared to a growing medium.

The ramifications are kinda interesting in my mind! Let’s consider in the next question.

What is the message for us today?

In some ways the New Covenant causes a shrinking of obligations (at least seemingly to the religious man).


Let me try to explain before you dismiss this thinking.

During the ministry of the Lord, the Sabbath became a huge issue between the Pharisees and the Master. Continually, the Master challenged the conventional wisdom of the currently accepted observance practices of the Sabbath. Check out my recent series Jesus on the Sabbath. It seems the Sabbath observance is an issue that is simplified in the New Covenant, that the Sabbath is a Person we can rest in. This is an incredible truth that I personally need to appropriate in my life.

The sabbath simpler, “smaller”? Kinda, but the reality is so much deeper!

One more example to consider.

For the first century church, much discussion was had over circumcision. To be in right relationship with the God of creation, the Old Testament directed the Jewish people to adopt circumcision as a sign of being the people of God. Many in the first century church fought to retain this obligation for the new covenant people of God, and yet the stories of the conversion of the Gentiles logically showed that physical circumcision did not make a difference. The New Covenant speaks of circumcision of the heart, and of the new life given to us a believers.

Physical circumcision simpler, “smaller”? Kinda, but the reality of heart circumcision is so much deeper.

Do you remember the time your heart was circumcised?


The New Covenant is a covenant that is alive, living via the life of the Living God. The Spirit of God is the “wine” in the believer (or globally, the church) that will not stop growing.

The believer (or church) will continually be challenged by the “new wine” of the Spirit of God to break out of old structures and religious restrictions that are constantly being laid upon and into their lives.

When was the last time you pushed a religious teaching out of your belief system (and subsequently out of you life) because the Word expanded your understanding?

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The New Cloth

As our first parable, the story of the new cloth is closely linked to our second parable, that is the parable of the wine skins (Next weeks study!).

During our Lord’s teaching, the two parables were separated possibly by only an inhale of the Lord, but there are a few differences I would like to highlight in the next post, so we will only consider the new cloth parable with this post.

Let’s take a look at

The Parable of the New Cloth

Matthew 9:16

16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and dig into this parable.

Questions to Consider

Who were the Audience?

As we read through the immediate context, we see that previous to the parable being given, Jesus was calling (and eating) with Levi the publican, the tax collector that eventually became the apostle Matthew. Therefore, the audience most likely were those who were eating with Levi., and the ones providing the questions.

When did the Lord give this parable?

As this is the first parable it goes without saying it was relatively early in the career of Jesus. Specifically, it seems to be given right after Jesus sat down with sinners and publicans, and the Pharisees started questioning His eating habits. During the supper at Levi’s house, the Pharisees started finding fault. (Did they ever stop finding fault?)

Matthew 9:11

11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

A short time later, (it appears) John’s disciples come to the Master with further questions. It is interesting that these disciples group themselves in with the Pharisees in their eating habits, but I am getting ahead of myself!

Where did the Lord teach this parable?

This parable was likely spoken in Capernaum, Matthews home town.

Why did the Lord give this message?

We must remember who spoke these words. Jesus is not simply a good teacher or “nice guy”. He is, in this instance, One preaching the Kingdom of God to a nation that is committed to the pharisaical understanding of the Old Testament.

The Pharisees considered fasting as a sign of piety, and would express their “godliness” openly. Fasting, per the Old Testament, as I read it, seems to be linked with repentance and contrition.

John’s disciples may be following this spirit of fasting, but during the time the Messiah is on earth, even that right spirit of contrition over sin is to be left behind. Jesus Himself says

…Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?

What was the message for the original audience?

As mentioned earlier, we must remember Who is giving this teaching out. Throughout the gospels, Jesus is constantly informing the nation of Israel (and it’s leaders) that the Messiah has arrived, the Kingdom is now.

In this instance Jesus speaks of Himself as the Bridegroom. What would the hearers understand when they heard this?

Throughout the Old Testament, God is spoken of as the husband of Israel. Consider one of many verses that speak to this truth.

Isaiah 54:5

5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

A husband to one wife. So how could Jesus say He is the bridegroom? This created a conflict in my mind for many years, until I read a couple of verses that shook my thinking.

Isaiah 50:1

1 Thus says the LORD: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.

Isaiah is speaking to the people of Israel, and telling them the reason their mother (The nation of Israel) was sent away into captivity. The transgressions of the nation caused the divorce decree to be given. Israel was no longer the wife of Jehovah.

Jeremiah speaks of the Judah playing the whore, even though the northern nation of Israel was sent away with a decree of divorce.

Jeremiah 3:8

8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.

This is incredible. Not only for my understanding of divorce within the Christian community, but more so, for the impact of Jesus statement.

A new wedding, a new covenant with God was being offered to those who would hear it, who would accept it, who would follow.

The days of repentance and sorrow were to be over with while the Bridegroom was on earth. These are days of celebration, of a new opportunity to relate to and love God. No sorrow. This brief time of Jesus sojourn on earth was to be of the greatest celebration!

And Jesus speaks the parable of the new cloth.

It is detrimental to both the old garment and the new cloth to mend the old garment with new cloth. Wash that garment a few times and the new patch with shrink, and the old garment will not be flexible enough to adjust. The new cloth will be wasted and the old garment will be further destroyed. (Nowadays, with pre-shrunk materials, patching has some limited success, but the point of the parable is mismatched covenants, and not new technology!)

Flexibility for the New Covenant, the New Cloth.

Can the old garment of the religious order in Israel accept the new? This is a huge challenge to the people of Israel, and an insurmountable problem to some of the leadership.

The patch could not fix the garment! The garment was not flexible enough. Will the people (and the leadership) of Israel abandon the old garment or cling to the new? Or will they try to combine both, and make the situation worse?

We know the end of the story.

What is the message for us today?

This is the difficult part of the post, where I make my estimation of this parables application.

Old Covenant in the New Covenant

Christians have to grapple with the relationship of the Old Testament (OT) religious order with the New Covenant (NC) we are living under. Over the centuries, the church has wavered between completely accepting the OT norms into our NC life, and rebelling from the OT order of things.

I would suggest an example of accepting the OT in the NC is the confusion of every believer being a priest (check out 1 Peter 2:5,9) and the designation of a church clergy.

Where did the concept of church clergy come from? I would suggest that this concept of an order of people elevated to an office above the common believer smacks of the OT order.

Does God use this system or order in the church? Of course. He is God and can use all things to His glory.

But the question remains for the reader to consider. Is this an example of the Old Testament order of things creeping into the New Covenant life?

Can you think of another instance where the Old Testament (garment) is being repaired with the New Cloth?

Personal Application

Personally, I need to be flexible. I need to cling to the truth of the gospel, and yet be flexible in the application of the truth of the Word. This is a daily challenge since I am a “dyed in the wool” religious fella. (Aren’t we all?)

Is there something in my life that is not being ruled by the love of God, but simply by a tradition or religious history.

An example might be such.

My early life in Christianity taught me many things, and I am thankful for the men and women who took the time to show me the Scriptures. One Scripture that was given to me by a dear brother was on the topic of divorce in the Christian community.

Malachi 2:16

16 “For I hate divorce,” says the LORD….

This topic comes up since we breached it above, but early on, I made a clear stand on the topic of divorce. It seemed so obvious! God does not allow divorce in the Christian community!

Take a look at the verse above. It seemed so obvious, and I felt I was taking the moral high ground which would make God proud of me – how foolish now that I said it out loud!

God hates divorce – this hasn’t changed. Does God allow for divorce? Yes, under certain conditions, the believer is allowed to consider divorce. We can consider these conditions (I think there are two conditions) in a later post since this one may be getting a bit “long in the tooth”.

Suffice it to say, I had to repent (be flexible) of my understanding, my high moral position, in order to comply with the New Covenant teaching on this subject.

Where are you needing to be flexible (like new cloth) in relation to the Master’s will? I can promise you that if you are in the same struggle I am, that is as a believer, you are struggling with something even today.

Be flexible.

Don’t be such an old garment!

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Why?

One sunny day, as Jesus was in the middle of teaching by way of parables, (in the 13th chapter of Matthew) Matthew makes a brief comment that may help us in understanding why Jesus taught in parables.

Matthews first comment is on the regularity of Jesus teaching in parables. His second comment is on the the fulfillment of prophecy in doing so.

I’m sorry – What was that? Teaching in parables was a fullfillment of prophecy?

Hang on – we will get to it, but first lets look at the passage from the gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 13:34-35

34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.

35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Verse 34 seems to be telling us that Jesus limited Himself to teaching only in parables, yet we know that He taught in many ways, sometimes with object lessons, or with a simple direct narrative. He is the Great Teacher, and exercised many methods of teaching.

So what is Matthew saying? At this time in Jesus ministry, and with the current audience, He taught them with parables. That, in my opinion was a simple observation. Verse 35 is where I am struggling.

A Difficulty – Apostolic Interpretation

My first difficulty is the fact that this method of teaching is a fulfillment of prophecy. Let’s consider the Old Testament verse we find the prophecy in.

Psalm 78:2

I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old

It appears that the psalmist is stating the current condition for his writing, that is, he will open his mouth in a parable. It is his chosen method of teaching in his current historical context. As a young believer, reading through the Old Testament, there were prophecies that were obvious, such as Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22, concerning the Messiah. Psalm 78, without the apostles direction, would not have occured to me as prophetic.

This is critical, for the apostles are the teachers of truth, based on the Lords method of reading the Old Testament.

Which makes this next passage so amazing.

A Difficulty – Parabolic Reasons

The Lord supplied the reason for speaking in parables in the following verses.

Matthew 13:13-15

13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘”You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

Again, let’s consider the passage Jesus is referring to in verse 14.

Isaiah 6:9

And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

God is speaking to Isaiah, telling him that the people of his day will hear the words, but not understand the message. When I read this passage, it seems to be directed to the people Isaiah was ministering to over 700 yrs before the Messiah. I wouldn’t have seen this as prophetic, and that is why the apostolic interpretation of the Old Testament is such an important concept to grasp as we read through the New Testament.

As amazing as the apostolic interpretation of the Old Testament is (which is such a gift!), the reason why the parables are Jesus’ preferred teaching method is even more amazing.

Jesus tells His apostles that the reason He teaches in parables is to teach only to the teachable. (And yet some of his disciples didn’t understand the parables!) He tells stories that only those who are willing and able to hear can understand. The people He is teaching at this time, that do not “hear” Him, only become deafer and blinder.

Another Feature of Grace

Truly amazing when you think of the loneliness of the Master as He taught. No-one was getting it! How frustrating. The Master Teacher came to earth, spent His days speaking out truth, and yet His best students/disciples were struggling with understanding the message.

What hope do we have? The Spirit of God and prayer are critical for this effort. As I have quickly reviewed the parables in accumulating them for the study, I am concerned I may be biting off more than I can chew.

No – that is wrong. I am definetly biting off more than I can chew. I need guidance and strength to understand, see and hear His message.

I do hope you will venture along with me on this trek. It promises to be a whopper!

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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Introduction

The parables have often caught my attention and, if dwelt on, usually cause me surprise. I often enter a parable with a presupposition, and leave with a different conclusion.

Welcome to Considering the Bible, and our newest series, looking at the Parables of the Lord. The following posts will consider the stories Jesus “laid down beside” our earthly experiences to explain a heavenly, spiritual existence He was re-introducing to the nation of Israel, and eventually the entire earth.

What is a “Parable”

I suppose it is incumbent upon me to explain the concept of a parable. The word “parable” comes from the root greek word παραβάλλω, paraballō.

This word is made up of two greek root words.

  • παρά (G3844)
    • to be with, to be beside..
  • βάλλω (G906)
    • cast, put, thrust, lie

Simply by putting these two terms together, we see that a parable is a story that is “cast down beside” something. Jesus provided short stories of general earthly truths that would illuminate His hearers (if they wanted to hear the message) of a heavenly or spiritual truth.

Why a Series on the Parables

I have never sought to methodically go through the parables in an intentional way, and this blog will give me the structure to attempt this study.

Each post will seek to address the following items

  • Who were the audience when Jesus spoke these words?
    • Was it a private teaching to only his inner circle, or to the population at large? This may have significant bearing on the intent of the message!
  • When did the Lord give this parable?
    • I suspect we may find some enlightenment with understanding when a parable was given by the Lord.
  • Where did the Lord teach the parable?
    • The location of the message may also give us insight as to the purpose of the parable.
  • Why did the Lord give this message?
    • Although we will seek to address this question specifically for each parable, our next post will look at this question in a general manner.
  • What was the message for the original audience?
    • If we get this, it may help with the next question!
  • What is the message for us today?
    • This is the crux of the matter, and only after understanding the intent of the message for the original hearers may we come to an accurate application for our lives. This is the goal!

A spreadsheet of the parables in chronological order is supplied at the beginning of this series. As the series progresses, updates may be required.

The parables, chronologically ordered, matching the spreadsheet noted above may also be downloaded for your information and study.

I am currently using the ESV for the text.

I do hope you will follow along as we Consider the Bible and the message we may find in the parables of the Lord

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