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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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Giving a Feast

Christianity is a socially acceptable religion, if you don’t read the Bible. If you read the Bible, the cultural understanding of Christianity and the prescribed actions of Christianity are sometimes light years apart. I think this passage will agree with me.

Let’s read the parable Jesus spoke to the Pharisee who invited Him into His house.

Luke 14:12-14

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

One man was delivered this short story, and yet I think the entire party may have overheard.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given near the end of a period of withdrawal from Galilee, approx. 6 months prior to entering into Jerusalem for the last time. Jesus was attending a supper, being invited by a ruler of the Pharisees. (Luke 14:1)

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As mentioned earlier, the Lord was at a supper, in the house of a Pharisee.

Why did the Lord give this message?

The Lord was in the home of a Pharisee, with a bunch of Pharisees attending, watching and judging Him. He had healed a man with the dropsy (See my post on Swelling Opposition for more background)

It doesn’t appear to be clear to me of any known initiator of this parable, other than the situation the Lord found Himself in. Often the parables are told in response to a question, or because of an obvious misunderstanding. This parable seems to be given as a general teaching, yet the Lord is in the midst of Pharisees, known to be considered favored of God due to their wealth and high standing in society.

I understand a generic Pharisee believed that monetary success proved God’s favor. Sinners received poverty, sickness and weakness. To be right with God was to have health, wealth and happiness.

What was the message for the original audience?

For the master of the ceremonies, the host of the party, the message was clear. The home was full of his friends and acquaintances, and if the man with the palsy somehow was included in the party, I fear it may have been reluctantly, in order to entrap the Messiah.

The one with sickness, the one who was a “sinner” was a tool of the Pharisee.

Jesus turned the tables and witnessed against this belief in two points

  • Don’t invite your equals, peers or those who are close to you
    • Invite those who are the rejects, the sinners, the ones who seemingly have been rejected by God
  • Don’t look for temporal repayment.
    • The doctrine the Pharisees believed was such that God’s love had to constantly renewed with monetary blessings, instead of simply having your life “hid in God”.

In other words, don’t suck up to those who can repay your friendship, but serve those who can’t (or won’t).

What is the message for us today?

Can we invite every poor soul to a party? Can we care for all the crippled and blind? For one soul who is in need, to accept them and give care, even for a short time, fulfills the intent of this story.

As we go about our daily hectic lives, it is difficult to slow down and care for those less fortunate than us.

The first issue that I need to address is my attitude towards my brother, the ones who may have fallen on hard times, struggled with an addiction or sickness, been burdened with a disability. My attitude towards them is to be of acceptance, to see them as loved by God, and not rejected.

The second concern is the practical outworking of this story. Wisdom is needed to understand who to show mercy to, who to bend to and to help. There is a wisdom that my wife often reminds me of in that we are not to cast our pearls to the swine, and this is the rub for me.

Our expression of love is to be with wisdom. Rejection of the downcast is not acceptable towards anyone who is in need, yet the application of our resources needs to be applied with wisdom. Many times the mercy may be provided to those who reject it in the end, but that is not to be our goal. The expression of mercy is an end to itself for it reflects, in a small way, the way of the Master.

May we have grace to express mercy to those less fortunate than ourselves, and find someone even this week to be a blessing to.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Guest at a Wedding

This parable has provided a guiding principle for me for years and in many areas, but especially when I attend any business, social or religious meeting. Sure I am of the type that holds back, and this teaching tends to reinforce that thinking.

Yet this parable speaks of honor amongst others, and the authority of others when you seek your own honor, that may end up as shame! For you see, there will always be someone more distinguished than you in the room!

Let’s read the parable.

Luke 14:7-11

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Jesus spoke this parable to a group of party-goers. These party-goers were jockeying for a place of honor. (Quick question – Who deserved the place of honor?)

With Jesus seeing this behavior in this social environment it seems like a story that would definitely kill a good mood. I don’t think His intentions were such, (who am I to know that!) but the pride and arrogance that Jesus taught against must have been stifling. Imagine a group of successful religious leaders mentally searching out the room to find advantage over others and to attain for self glory. This is so upside down to the gospel we know, yet religion breeds this competition.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was taught within 3 months of entering Jerusalem on His final week.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

This parable was taught while the Lord and His disciples were in Perea.

Why did the Lord give this message?

As I mentioned above, this parable might have come off as a bit of a kill-joy for certain of the party-goers, but the message was definitely modelled for the situation Jesus and His disciples found themselves in.

What was the message for the original audience?

I suppose the message for the original audience is obvious. Status climbing attitudes, or as I heard it stated in Quebec when we lived there, to be “stepping on heads” was doomed to result in shame.

Self promotion brings shame. Self love and self focus results in glory for someone else. A very uncomfortable position to be in for the one who is so proud of his state of being!

As an aside, this parable speaks to the self love movement within the modern church, or which you may be interested in reading What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 22:39.

Humility brings honor. Self humbling is the prescribed method to find your worth, and in the midst of it, honor will attach to you, though you will find it an uncomfortable condition! A truly humble one seeks the blessing of another and not himself. When honor comes, the humble tend to be uncomfortable with it.

What is the message for us today?

Note that we are not to wait to be humbled. We are to initiate this attitude. When you feel pride welling up in your heart about all the good things you have done, and can compare favorably with others, give yourself a kick in the head. Sure you may be successful in some area, yet it is the Lord who has provided you the opportunity, skill set, energy, and desire to do the work.

Any many others are exactly the same.

And you nor I can judge properly, because, at least for me, I always emphasize my goodness and all others their badness, therefore skewing the truth. No, the safe attitude is of humility, of considering yourself less that your brother, even less than all your brothers and sisters.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Someone else may exalt you. Give them the opportunity. If I exalt myself, no-one else can!



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Friend in Need

Impudence. Jesus told this story with the result that impudence was more powerful than friendship. To be impudent. What in tarnation is that? Following are a number of synonyms

  • To be offensively bold.
  • Impertinent.
  • Insolent.
  • Disrespectful.
  • Rudeness.
  • Ungraciousness
  • Shamelessness

Let’s read the story Jesus told thousands of years ago, and find truth in it for us today.

Luke 11:5-8

5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

The disciples had seen the Lord pray, and connected His power to His prayer life, and being the disciples they were, they wanted the power. So they asked Him to teach them to pray. The verses preceding this parable are what is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s prayer”. Immediately after giving the disciples a model prayer to use for their own time with the Father, Jesus taught of the power of impudence.

What? I’ve heard of cleanliness being next to Godliness, but this implies Impudence is next to Godliness. My momma never told me that in all my years of listening to her wisdom, nope never said that!

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given near the end of a period of withdrawal from Galilee, approx. 6 months prior to entering into Jerusalem for the last time.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Jesus and His disciples were in Galilee

Why did the Lord give this message?

As mentioned above, this parable was spoken to the disciples to augment the model prayer. To emphasize an aspect of prayer that is not emphasized enough nowadays. At least in my life!

What was the message for the original audience?

The man in need prevailed (by nagging) in his request to his friend’s apathy, even though they had relationship, knew each other and would see each other in the marketplace in the near future.

Please noticve that the response was curt, short and to the point. The man in bed did not respond out of love, by addressing the one in need by calling him “Friend” or “Brother”. Essentially he told the one at the door to get lost – it is too late. Go away.

When the audience heard this mans response, what might their reaction have been? I don’t know about y’all, but once my feet get under the covers, I turn a deaf ear to many requests. (My wifey and children are the exceptions, and maybe a close friend, but not much more than that!)

But the fellow outside wouldn’t give up. Like go home and come back the next day buddy, give your “friend” a night’s sleep. But noooo. This guy was shameless. He needed some food for another of his friends that showed up on his doorstep, and this was very important in the ancient near east. Hospitality was a cultural requirement in those days, and gave honor to the house which gave the hospitality. This man seeking food was fighting for his visitor, and for his own honor. (Kinda sad that he wasn’t prepared better, but that topic will come up in a later parable).

He nagged the fella in bed until he couldn’t stand it anymore. The mans shamelessness caused the one in bed to get up and supply his need. But let me ask you – was the man who was roused out of bed, do you think he had some anger issues going on? Is that a fair assumption? I think so.

The point is the method of attaining answers in prayer has to do with tenacity, never giving up. The “man in bed” is likened to God in this parable, but remember the differences

  • God never sleeps
  • God doesn’t give excuses about providing our requests
  • God doesn’t get angry by our properly asking for our needs and desires. (He may be disappointed about our lack of consistency in prayer, but that isn’t directly in this parable either!)
  • God seeks to answer our prayers. Let us not blame our Father for our lack of response from Him

If a reluctant sinner won’t get out of bed for his friend due to love, he will get out of bed due to irritation! How much more our Father in heaven?

What is the message for us today?

Is the message that we need to come to God with impunity, nag Him and shamelessly badger Him with requests? Maybe, but I think we need to remember Who we are dealing with in prayer.

He is a loving God, who has sent His only Son to deliver us from the destructive sin in our lives. He has not only forgiven those who trust His Son, He has invited us into His home, into His Body, and allowed us to have relationship as children. (Even as the children in the parable?)

Our invited access to the Father is intimate, personnel, continual, and established. The attitude of nagging is not necessary, yet the attitude of dire need may be the point of the parable.

At least it is for me!


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Good Samaritan

Everyone knows this parable, or at least the term “Good Samaritan”. Everyone wants to be the Good Samaritan, claim the title or use it to challenge others to be so. Its just that the characteristic of the good Samaritan is so rare nowadays.

Lets play a game – Before you read the passage, tell me the characteristic that the good Samaritan exhibited that Jesus used as an example for others.

Let’s take a look at

Luke 10:30-37

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

The primary audience was a lawyer who had asked the “big question”, on how to inherit eternal life. The surrounding audience was of course the disciples and those who followed the Lord at the time, but also scribes that were with the lawyer, along with a local population that had gathered.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Jesus gave this parable in His third year of ministry.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Jesus enters into the Judean countryside with His disciples. He has journeyed from Galilee, and will spend approximately 3 months in the area

Why did the Lord give this message?

The Lord was addressed by a lawyer in verse 25, being asked on how to inherit eternal life? Jesus referred to the lawyers understanding of the Old Testament. The lawyer answered by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. The lawyer recieved commendation from the Lord,

You have answered correctly, do this and you will live

Jesus answer troubled the lawyer, as it was intended to do, I’m sure. The lawyer wanted to blunt the impact of the response. The lawyer pushed on, asking –

And who is my neighbor?

What was the message for the original audience?

For the lawyer who asked the question the message was – Don’t try to wriggle out of your responsibility to others. Not just those who live in your vicinity, or that you rub shoulders with. Exercise mercy to those who are in need.

That, I think is the primary message of this parable. But as I sit here pondering, I would like to suggest an underlying message.

As the lawyer was seeking to justify himself, (in other words to make himself look righteous), Jesus uses the most unrighteous example (at least in a good Jew’s eyes) to straighten him out. The ever existing undercurrent of self righteousness is definitely dealt a blow in this parable, especially when the Lord refers to a priest and a Levite passing the victim by. Even the most religious members of God’s nation are cast as the villians in this parable, with the outcast Samaritan looking like the hero! The difference? Actions, and not belief systems.

What is the message for us today?

Many in this current culture may try to associate the man who was robbed with some who are under oppression today, and this is a valid connection. The Social Justice movement is rampant in our culture and some of the causes need to be addressed, while others are simply foolish, even sinful.

For the believer in todays culture, this parable gives no encouragement to any to join a group or “gang”, an organization or chapter, a church committee or neighborhood society to fight a systemic cultural injustice. No no no

The Lord said to the lawyer “go and DO likewise. He placed responsibility on the individual to perform acts of mercy on the hurt, the weak and the defenseless.

One other thing – Was there any definition of who the robbed man was?

None.

This allows the believer to offer mercy to any soul he finds.

But Carl – what about justice for the one who deserves justice, even a murderous, thieving, cheating, lying, wifebeater? Justice is the purview of the government and it’s officers. Jesus didn’t seem to limit the Christian about who he may provide mercy to. The character of the “wounded man” is not a point of concern for the believer.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Unmerciful Servant

This parable has caused me many hours of concern and confusion, once I let it speak to me without a set of doctrinal lenses attached to my reading eyes. May only those who are brave enter!

Let’s take a look at

Matthew 18:23-35

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Peter asked for it. Oh not directly, but Peter wasn’t the quiet one, and we can be thankful for his impetuousness, since this parable is so instrumental, so foundational for a believer. But I am getting ahead of myself.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given near the end of a period of withdrawal from Galilee, aprox. 6 months prior to entering into Jerusalem for the last time

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Jesus and His disciples were in Galilee

Why did the Lord give this message?

Peter was trying to justify himself. Peter, I believe was intending to impress the Lord, you know, he was going to offer up the effort of forgiving his brother seven whole times! Very impressive!!!

What was the message for the original audience?

Jesus responds to this “impressive” claim of Peter’s with a very surprising requirement. Forgive 490 times. 490 times, and this begs the questions, that I have to keep count? At the 491st I can withhold forgiveness? Don’t be foolish Carl!

Let’s look at how the original audience may have heard this parable.

Jesus speaks of forgiving a brother 490 times and then gives this parable. And remember, He is speaking to a disciple!

Servant #1 is bankrupt and owes a trillion bucks to his master. Servant #1 begs for patience from the master, and claims he will pay everything. There is no way the man can pay the debt! Here we see servant #1 in his ignorance.

The Master forgives servant #1 of all his debt. Note that not only did the master forgive him of his debt, he released him. To release may be referring to simply dismissing the servant. The term may also refer to setting a servant free, as in releasing a servant or slave from ownership. This is not expressly stated, but the generosity of the master is such that this may entirely be the intent of the term. The master released servant #1 of his financial debt, his legal obligation of servanthood, his family’s impending sale into slavery. Imagine this unbounding generosity!

Servant #1 went out. He went out and expressed an unchanged character. Prior to his time before the master, he had fallen into massive debt, which implies to me that he was a greedy man, seeking to cut business deals to have an easy life, a life of luxury and excess, and it all backfired. (Totally my imagination running wild here!)

Servant #1 went out and continued in his life of greed. This greed brought him to servant #2. Servant #2 owed servant #1 owed him 0.000000014th of the amount he had been forgiven. He had a legal right to demand payment, and was seriously looking for the buck. He actually started choking servant #2. What is with this guy?

Servant #2 spoke the very same words to servant #1 that servant #1 had spoke to the master. The very same words! Servant #2 ended up in prison. How dense is servant #1?

Servant #3 and his buddies saw this going on and ratted servant #1 out. How could they not?

So the master called in servant #1 to his office, reminded him of the forgiveness shown to him, and threw him in jail.

His forgiveness was repealed! WHAT????

By the way, those that oversaw the jail were sometimes called torturers, so this is turning out some bad for servant #1.

What is the message for us today?

So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Master and His Servant

Responsibilities and how we relate to them. Let’s get it straight.

Luke 17:7-10

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

It appears the reason this parable was given was to respond to the apostles request for increased faith. Luke is teaching of the necessity to forgive a brother is he trespasses seven times in a day, and the responsibility of the disciple to forgive.

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. Since this parable was given to the disciples specifically, it may have been a time when they were simply walking and talking after a general teaching was supplied to the masses. This particular time is more likely in the midst of a dedicated time of teaching for the disciples and likely away from the crowds.

Why did the Lord give this message?

The disciples asked for it. So often we ask for a right or privilege (or even a reward) without considering the responsibilities and labor required to attain it. We so often want the crown before the cross!

The responsibilities of the disciple are to be aligned with reality. Responsibilities prior to reward. As a matter of fact, the parable speaks nothing of reward, and yet the disciples asked for the benefit, the reward of greater faith. Did the Lord avoid the topic of the question?

The disciples realized they did not have it in them to forgive their brothers offense 7 times in a day. (I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle with forgiving once!) I can surely identify with these men as the Lord instructs these men to rebuke and forgive a brother of a sin against them.

What was the message for the original audience?

Faith is compared to a mustard seed, yet it is not described as becoming a great tree, as in an earlier parable. This mustard seed is so tiny, and spoken of as simply existing. No growth is referred to, or being used to define an attitude, or a mind set.

Jesus then tells the story of the Master and His servant, emphasizing the responsibility of the servant. The servant works all day in the heat of the sun, and when the day is over, is required to feed the Master. No “thank you” is offered the servant. After all the Masters needs and wants are supplied, the servant can eat and drink. He gets the remains of the Masters supply.

And he is to realign his judgement to realize that he doesn’t deserve the treatment he gets. The treatment of a slave. He is to do his duty and be happy.

There is more than simple forgiveness spoken of in this parable. As if the challenge to forgive an erring brother wasn’t shocking enough for the disciples (and me). Yes he speaks of my responsibility to forgive a brother if he sins against me seven times in a day. And there are other responsibilities that I hadn’t taken notice of previously.

The responsibility to rebuke a brother. It seems the disciples had some practice at this responsibility, at least from thier viewpoint. Often they would argue amongst themselves. This teaching the Lord provides may not be encouraging this type of correction process within the group.

What is the message for us today?

I want to be honest with you – I am struggling with this parable because the intended recipients, the disciples, were later called friends, and not servants.

John 15:13

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:15

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Doh – I missed this verse that fits between the two above. I think it is of importance in the consideration of this parable, don’t you?

John 15:14

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

You know, my momma used to tell me, especially when I had to cut the lawn when I was a youngin, that “It is not for us to reason why, it is simply for us to do and die.” I realize that is a bit of a stretch for my momma to use that saying in relation to simply cutting the lawn , but there is a similar sentiment in this parable.

My momma loved me and yet she demanded work out of me, and through that work I felt the smile of my momma. She would never disown me, or abandon me. She loved me, yet she “had the nerve” to point to that lawn every Saturday morning.

And when I was done, I felt good! A bit proud of my accomplishment. At peace with my momma, at least in my mind – I don’t think she felt any animosity towards me prior to the “cutting”! But I don’t remember her thanking me.

And there is the rub. The lawn was squarely my responsibility and gratitude wasn’t considered part of the deal. Now don’t get me wrong – I never considered myself a slave to my momma, so the parallel with the parable breaks down a bit – but you get my point.

Get your attitude right Carl. You are not super spiritual, either in God’s eyes, (or more pointedly from this parable even your own eyes) if you forgive your brother for an offence. It is a bare minimum! A responsibility that is a base requirement of the Christian life. Harboring unforgiveness is unacceptable and is to be considered a very serious offence.

But the challenge is greater than simply forgiving a brother. Notice that the Lord, in Luke’s passage, includes the responsibility to rebuke a brother. This necessitates the need to stand firm in your convictions and to be dependent on God (and not to fear the loss of relationship with a brother). It also requires the data needed to know when the offence is simply a personal matter or a biblical matter. Let me explain.

Based on my past experience and personal leanings, I find giving youngsters sugary treats to be non-beneficial. This practice not only provides garbage into the child’s physical body, but creates an erratic pattern of behavior in the child. The child may experience poor health, become a demanding child, requiring another “hit” of sugar, slip into erratic sleeping patterns, and potentially experience separation from social graces in the result of becoming a “picky” eater.

That is my personal bias. I have not found a specific verse that states “Feed no sugar to 2 yr olds”. Do I have the responsibility to rebuke a brother if he feeds his kid sugar?

Based on the Word, if this same brother begins to cheat on his wife, do I have a responsibility to rebuke him?

This difference between feeding sugar to a child and breaking covenant is my way of defining the difference between knowing God’s Word in relation to rebuking a brother. Adultery is sin! Rebuke is non-negotiable. Feeding sugar to a child is preferential (I still think it is wrong!!!)

One on these sins needs to be rebuked, due to the command in the Scriptures. The other is preferential. Each may have different intensities of responsibility, but with each situation my attitude is critical.

A bit earlier I mentioned that the original disciples had no problem rebuking each other as they walked with the Savior.

Yet Jesus teaches them to forgive and rebuke. They are already masters at rebuking!!! Why the teaching?

A rebuke from a believer is to be handled, not from a position of superiority, but from an attitude of gentleness, of realizing we are all in a position of weakness.

Consider

Galations 6:1

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

In all of this, in the forgiving and the rebuking, it is this parables intent to remind us that these duties of the believer are not base level responsibilities. Let us not get puffed up with pride (Remind me to tell you of my first effort at rebuking!), or eaten up with a victim’s attitude of requiring some thank you for performing the task at hand.

He loves us.

Out of His great abounding love toward us, get the work done and be content!



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Owner of a House

Another short parable, but I’m gonna warn you that this one also is a bit of a challenge!

Matthew 13:52

52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

The disciples were the audience. Just previous to this parable the Lord asked His men a pointed question, which brought forth this instruction.

Matthew 13:51
“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.”

The disciples answer prompted this instruction. The Lord then equated them with the title of “scribe”. This is no small compliment and responsibility. But I am getting ahead of myself.

A few posts back I warned my gentle reader that there would be a test, a question regarding the parables that had been explained to the disciples. This test, if you will accept it, can be for you too. These men were learning of the Master. We are learning of the Master. Consider the question for your own possession.

Have you understood all these things?

When did the Lord give this parable?

See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As noted in earlier posts, this teaching was provided for the disciples “in the house”, after the day of telling parables to crowds. Those that were attentive, that were teachable, they were allowed to hear explanations, get understanding, and with it, receive responsibility.

Why did the Lord give this message?

In short, He gave this parable, not of the kingdom, but of the disciples, (of all disciples?), that are to be considered as scribes trained in the Kingdom of God. He laid a story down (a parable) beside the disciples experience, in describing them as scribes. But – what did that mean for the disciples, to be classified as a scribe?

To be a scribe was to be skilled in the Word of God.

Ezra 7:6

Ezra …. was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses

Combined with a priestly calling

Nehemiah 8:9

Ezra the priest and scribe.

And a duty to instruct the people, priests and Levites

 Nehemiah 8:13

all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law.

To be a scribe was a high calling, and when the Lord mentioned that every scribe, trained for the Kingdom of God (which training these disciples just received), they are to be like a master of a house. But again I am getting ahead of myself. Lets leave the message for the original audience for the next section, and suffice it to say the Lord gave this parable to inform His men of their (and our) responsibility as scribes for the Kingdom of God.

What was the message for the original audience?

The message for the disciples is the responsibility of one who had been trained (lit. in the Greek “who has become a disciple”) of the Kingdom of God, is like one who is in charge of a house, a manger of a house, that is responsible to provide foods, or resources as required for those residents within the house.

But I think there is a bit more than simple distribution to those in the household in a strictly efficient manner being spoken of here. I’m referring to the Lord’s choice of wording when He speaks of the master who “brings out” of his treasure. The manner of providing of his treasure is my point.

This term in Greek is ekballō (G1544) and can be translated (with a notion of violence), as in being cast out, or to draw out with force, (and without the notion of violence) to lead one forth.

I read one study that described the action being described as “flinging out”. To distribute without reservation, to have treasure that is not to be hoarded, hid heaped in the corner, but cast out from the masters treasures liberally and unreserved.

But what are the disciples to “fling out”? Why did the Lord bring up the concept of “new and old”? What is going on here? Is He hinting of two covenants? Of two messages? Of two types of treasure?

It seems obvious (to me) that the reference to old and new would imply to the disciples that what they are hearing from the Lord’s mouth was qualitatively different than the treasure previous scribes were provided to distribute. The old treasure contained truth, yet the new treasure shines light on the old that none could see before. (I’m thinking 1 Peter 1:12)

Remember that the disciples had some training, as children at least, of the Torah and of Sabbath and of the sacrifices. Every Jewish boy learned learned these truths. This “old” treasure would be the basis for the new, yet the new was so much more than expected. And the challenge for the disciples would be to interpret the old to provide teaching in the new. The old applied in a “new” way.

And on top of this task of interpreting of the old, the Lord Jesus was supplying new revelation that hadn’t been hinted at in the Old Testament. This new revelation was to become a portion of their treasure they could and would “fling out”.

What is the message for us today?

With the apostles gone, and with their writings left behind for our instruction, the responsibility of being a “scribe” is just as applicable to us nowadays.

Of course the disciples/apostles gave us examples of the way to look at the old.

One example would be the Passover.

In the old economy, a little lamb was sacrificed to cover the sins of the people (temporarily). The Apostles saw this Old Testament sacrifice fulfilled in the Person of the Lord Jesus, and His death on the cross. The covering of sin became forgiveness of sin, even redemption, and the temporary status was turned to eternality, the granting of everlasting life through His resurrection.

This is, from our perspective, so obvious, since we have their writings and it is so clearly taught in the New Testament. My challenge to present day disciples, who are called out as scribes even today is to search the Old Testament with the attitude of the disciples and pull out truths that reflect the Lord Jesus, and the revelation of the New Testament given by the Apostles. This ain’t no small potatoes as a task, but the rewards are genuine, most enjoyable and a proper response to the teaching of the Lord in this parable.

By the way, how is your treasure increasing?

Study the OT & NT, find the connections and differences, store your findings and then fling ’em around. It is surely a challenge but once your storehouse of knowledge grows, the flingin becomes second nature, since it is a treasure that you want to share.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Fishing Net

Wow – this is a big One. I spent some time yesterday just dwelling on this parable. I hope I can transfer some of the message!

Matthew 13:47-50

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

The audience Jesus is teaching are the disciples, and not the crowds. See Parable Surprises – Growing Seed. Now we have a group of folk hearing a message that are allowed to “get it”. Did they get it? I think the best way to describe their reception of the truth is that they were introduced to it!

If you consider yourself to be one who “get’s it”, that is great. But remember, there will be a test coming up. (See Matthew 13:51)

When did the Lord give this parable?

See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

He left the crowd and entered “the” house. This is no geographical adjustment, other than being within four walls without the crowds being present. See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed, for the geographical location if interested

Why did the Lord give this message?

The Lord is teaching about the Kingdom of God. It is His message.

He is reiterating the coming judgement, the safety of those which are righteous (v 49) and the judgement of those who cause sin, the law breakers and all those that are bad (vs 48). The angels will throw away the bad (fish).

“Bad” is an interesting word, where a number of times the Greek word is translated as corrupt, rotten, putrefied, of poor quality, unfit for use and worthless. “Bad” seems to have a scent of “no value” as opposed to “of evil character”.

(Should I have used the term scent when relating to rotten fish? You get me point!)

Whether this discussion on “bad” is of any consequence in this parable is left for the reader to consider.

No matter – Jesus is speaking of the end of the age and the coming judgement. Two times He brings this subject up, with two parables sandwiched in between, speaking of the value of a treasure in a field or a great pearl. The concept of value seems to be a theme through this passage, don’t ya know?

What was the message for the original audience?

The last two parables (The Treasure and the Pearl) were somewhat similar in theme, that is the purchasing of something valuable. This parable has a twin to it also, in the first parable explained, (Parable Surprises – Tares among the Wheat) which hails back to Matthew 13:24-30.

As a quick refresher, it had to do with an enemy sowing weeds in the wheat field, and the owners method of harvesting the good product.

This parable, as in the Tares parable, speaks of the end of the age, separation of the evil from the righteous, servants/angels doing the harvesting, of burning fire, and and finally, of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

A bunch of parallels, but for the sake of our edification today, I would like to consider some of the differences between the two parables.

But first, I got something gnawing at my thinking.

What is the “end of the age”?

Is the Lord speaking of next month? Next year? Could it be in 2195?

When is this “end of the age”?

Could it be, might it be, a time that the disciples would experience?

This is a very difficult question since I have spent most of my Christian life considering the end of the age as referring to the culmination of the church age. You know, when the rapture hits and we abandon this old world to watch it go up in flames.

The general thought is that we get taken out of the world for our judgement and the world waits a period of time until their judgement comes. But even within this parable, the Lord seems to be directing His disciples to a time when the “bad” will be judged at or before the righteous are rewarded.

Consider

Matthew 13:41-43

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Notice the “then” there. Golly I never noticed it before. The righteous continue on after the “bad” are destroyed.

The next parable implys the same order of judgement

Matthew 13:49-50

So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It seems the pile of fish have the “bad” removed from the “righteous” and are destroyed. No mention of the circumstances of the righteous in between. It just doesn’t seem to be important – The fish will simply wait for the evil fish to be taken care of.

But I digress on the relative timing of the judgement between the “bad” and the “righteous”. I started down this rabbit path questioning “the end of the age” concept. So lets get back to the original question.

A couple years ago, I ventured into the topic of eternal and everlasting within the Word and coming up with some interesting finds ( See A Study of Eternal / Everlasting) Two of the Greek words studied in that post is aion (G165), and aionios (G166). Aion (G165) is the word we find in this parable, that is translated as “age”.

If Jesus, before the resurrection speaks of “this age” could He be referring to the Jewish Theocratic kingdom, established at Sinai, and existing (at least in part) through His life, and beyond. Could the Roman annihilation of the nation of Israel in AD 70 be the end of the age Jesus refers to in His message to the disciples? It would allow the disciples to not only understand the message somewhat, but also some may experience the end of the age in AD 70. (At least a few of the disciples made it to AD 70!)

This begs the question as to what the next age would describe, and if “this age” is properly defined as the Jewish age, then the church age may be considered the age to come. Does that ruffle your feathers? It sure did mine when I first studied it out and came to this tentative conclusion.

So the message for the disciples in this parable is that the Jewish age is coming to a close. Later the Lord mentions “another age”, and extending for many many days (Any one want to venture how many days?)

Well, if you are still with me after this rabbit trail, thank you. You are a most tenacious reader!

What was the message for the original audience? Judgement is coming and the bad/worthless will be destroyed. The righteous will be saved. Destruction of the current (Jewish) age is sure to come. Don’t be a part of it!

What is the message for us today?

Eschatology is so interesting. At times I have used it to beat people into submission to my way of thinking. So foolish! I have spent bunches of my time trying to figger it out and I make no claim that any eschatological system is the pure message.

I simply want to remember that the Lord Jesus is the saving God, that He is coming back, that there is a judgement coming and that He is the One who took my sin penalty away.

He is so good!

BUT

If you have a certain fearful looking for of judgement and fiery indignation, repent and believe the gospel. Follow the Messiah and listen for His voice. His death was not to be in vain, but your rejection of His life giving grace will leave you without any answer.

Remember, if a man could save his soul any other way than through the suffering, sacrificial death of the Messiah, God the Father is a fool for giving up His beloved Son.

But if you think you can save yourself without the suffering sacrificial death of the Messiah, you are the fool.

One way or the other, someone is a fool. Wanna take bets who may be the fool? Don’t be a worthless fool!



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Valuable Pearl

In our last parable, I suggested that a short parable is an easy parable. That may have been a bit foolish, since quantity does not necessarily imply quality.

These two tiny parables (Hidden Treasure and Valuable Pearl), although seemingly similar, have important distinctions that are instructive.

Lets take a second to read our parable today.

Matthew 13:45-46

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

No longer is Jesus teaching the masses, the crowds. Starting with our previous parable, the audience shifts to the disciples only. See Matthew 13:36. Now we have a group of folk that are allowed to “get it”. If you consider yourself to be one who “get’s it”, note that there will be a test coming up. (See Matthew 13:51)

When did the Lord give this parable?

Matthew gives me the impression that this day was a very busy day of teaching for the Lord. See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

The Lord entered “the” house. It is assumed He stayed in the local area and entered a house of a disciple. See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed, for the geographical location if interested

Why did the Lord give this message?

At first blush, this parable and the previous one seems to be identical. But for the estimation of the value of the treasure/great pearl, there are a few items that make this parable a bit different.

With this parable, the “man” is a merchant. A bit more specific. The subject is skilled in the estimation of value and has made a living out of successfully trading items and producing profit.

With this parable, the merchant is searching for treasure. The man in the earlier parable appears to find the treasure without intent, simply “tripping” over the treasure, but he makes every effort to secure the treasure legally. The merchant finds the pearl of great value in the possession of another, and, like the man in the previous parable, sells all that he has in order to secure the treasure.

In the previous parable, the kingdom of heaven was likened to the treasure. In this parable, the kingdom of heaven is likened to the merchant.

This is the big one, the major difference that adds a layer of truth that needs to be considered.

What was the message for the original audience?

The kingdom of heaven is on the hunt. During the days of the Lord’s pilgrimage on enemy turf, He taught us that the kingdom of heaven was in search of fine pearls. For millennium, the kingdom of heaven has been on the search for pearls.

Although nothing in the New or Old Testament gives a direct connection with the Old Testament saints, I would like to suggest that the fine pearls may represent Old Testament saints like Abraham, Isaiah, and Daniel. Men and women that sought to honor God’s name and His loving mercy in their lives. Men and women within the remnant of Israel, hanging on to His promises and living for His glory and honor.

Until One Man came along that completely overshadowed every previous pearl. When this Man came on the scene, the Kingdom of God quit hunting, and realized that all effort could be ceased, for all the potential and realization of the Kingdom could and would be centered on this Man.

He is the Pearl of Great Price. And all that encompasses the kingdom of heaven is found in Him, and not another.

What is the message for us today?

The kingdom of heaven sold all that “it” had in order to pin “its’ hopes on the One who was the Pearl of Great Price. He is the only worthy One and has shown His great worth in the expression of His self sacrificial love not only for those who sought Him but also for those who fought Him, who spit on Him and eventually betrayed Him and crucified Him.

Where are we on the spectrum of self sacrificial love to those we rub shoulders with. Self analysis may be healthy, but staring at the Pearl of Great Price, considering His character and life, His heart is what will transform us.

2 Corinthians 3:18

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.

Take time to stare.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Hidden Treasure

A hidden treasure in a field. A parable describing relative worth in a Man’s life, and the natural reaction of the Man who estimates the worth of a treasure greater than all else.

Matthew 13:44

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Up until this parable, the audience Jesus was teaching were the masses, the crowds. See Parable Surprises – Growing Seed.

Starting with this parable, the audience shifts to the disciples only. See Matthew 13:36. Now we have a group of folk that are allowed to “get it”. If you consider yourself to be one who “get’s it”, note that there will be a test coming up. (See Matthew 13:51)

When did the Lord give this parable?

See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

He left the crowd and entered “the” house. This is no geographical adjustment, other than being within four walls without the crowds being present. See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed, for the geographical location if interested

Why did the Lord give this message?

This is always the hardest question for me to try to answer, since it speaks of motive, why a message was given.

I’m thinking Jesus gave this parable to only His followers to communicate their worth. They had left all, had followed the Messiah for months now, and were actively, positively and with intent seeking to understand.

Yes they missed the message much of the time, but they came and asked, showed interest, sought to figger it out.

Have you ever tried to teach an empty chair? No life, no emotion, no passion. Speaking the truth in a prosperous society is discouraging, since so many distractions and deceptions are available. When hard times come, ears open up, at least for a time, and hopefully some accept the truth. It is exciting when there is an interest in the things of God!

Although this may not be perfectly parallel with the Lord’s experience, to have some eagerly follow Him when He knew most rejected not only His message but His own Person, this must have been a tremendous encouragement to Him. They were His treasure, with all the bumps and cuts and bruises they exhibited. They were His.

What was the message for the original audience?

They, the disciples are the treasure. The disciples were a treasure to the Master. He has found them in the world, and will “sell” everything He has in order to purchase the field from it’s usurping prince.

He will purchase the entire field in order to own the few disciples that were following Him.

What is the message for us today?

Of course, this great love that He expressed for His disciples may apply to us today. Are you actively, positively and with intent seeking to understand?

Remember Carl – this Christian thing is a relationship! Show a bit of interest! He definitely has proven His interest!



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Yeast

This parable is short and sweet. Nothing difficult nor complicated. Just my type!

Matthew 13:33

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

See Parable Surprises – Growing Seed

When did the Lord give this parable?

See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

Why did the Lord give this message?

If you have been following this series, you will remember the previous parable (Parable Surprises – The Mustard Seed) and the teaching the Lord gave on the extent of growth, no better yet the unexpected relative growth of the Kingdom.

A tiny seed that grows to become larger than all the garden plants and eventually a tree, providing protection, even a home, for the birds of the air.

This parable also teaches about the growth of the Kingdom, but not the eventual size and purpose of the Kingdom, but of the power of the growth. The leaven in the flour is mixed in until all the flour is affected, till all the flour has been leavened.

What was the message for the original audience?

The Lord gave us a direct link as to what the leaven is equal to in this parable. The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven.

Ok – So I was recently asked a great question (thanks Andy) about the birds of the air in the previous Parables post and what they represented. I provided an answer that included discussing the leaven of our current study, and leaven’s association with sin throughout much of the Bible. I concluded how I am reluctant to find direct associations beyond the parable’s intended point.

With that said, what does the flour represent? I realize the point of the parable is the continual growth of the loaf, but now I’m wondering what the flour represents.

Church?

Does it represent the future church? If so, I’m confused about what the church is comprised of. Is not the church, the body of Christ, all believers that have received the Spirit of God, been born from above. That would also differentiate the Church from the Kingdom of Heaven, which would continue my confusion. No, that ain’t right!

World?

Ok, so it represents the world the church will be called out from, yet be in, affecting the world and providing the Kingdom’s influence throughout the world?

The implications of this are somewhat surprising.

The Lord stated that the leaven would be kneaded until the entire three measures of flour (entire world?) would be leavened. This parable speaks of the energy for the growth of the Kingdom, which we know after the resurrection and Pentecost that the Spirit of God is the One who provides life and growth. Will the entire world/flour be influenced by the Holy Spirit? Will the entire world eventually be the Kingdom? Am I going too far with the point of the parable?

What is the message for us today?

As with the previous parable, the message could be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on your eschatology. Suffice it to say, that this parable is to give us confidence in the outcome, the unstoppable growth of the Body of Christ. It is easy in our decadent, self loving North American church, to watch the church seemingly shrivel up, ready to die. And my fears are that is a present reality, but let us not be dismayed. Though many may decide through selfish ambition, pride or desire for comfort to abandon their faith, it is a personal decision on each of our parts to follow, to seek to hear His voice, to stand up for His ways, and to encourage one another, as we see the Day approaching.

The Kingdom IS growing. The Messiah said so. “The woman” is still kneading the flour, and that may not be a comfortable condition for the believer (speaking as a flour particle, that is!!!)

But we are to walk by faith, even when sight seems to be screaming at us that all is lost.


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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Mustard Seed

The Lord used the tiny mustard seed to illustrate two truths during His ministry. One truth was regarding the size of the disciples faith, and the other, the nature of the Kingdom..

11 – Mustard Seed

Matthew 13:31-32

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

See Parable Surprises – Growing Seed

When did the Lord give this parable?

See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

See Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

Why did the Lord give this message?

As the Lord was walking this earth, teaching, healing and challenging those that would hear His message, it became apparent that the message was not being received well, and that the size of the following would expand greater than all could imagine.

There may have been two motives for this, and I am totally imagining this scenario, so judge as you may, but the first motive may have been to encourage the disciples. The movement may not have been growing at the rate they expected. It is good to remember that these men left their livelihood to follow this King, and many times we tend to get anxious about the expected results. This may be a motive for this message.

A secondary reason the Lord supplied this teaching was for the disciples in the future. Remember that often the Lord provides teaching of the future to give confidence after the prophecy has been fulfilled (see Purpose of Prophecy).

Again this was for the benefit of the believing crowd. The masses were not catching the parable teaching (see Parable Surprises – Why?) and until they came to faith, it was so much “pie in the sky”.

May it be that the Lord taught this parable to “show off”, to tell those listening that He was going to have a bigger kingdom than anyone, that “His Father could beat up their father”?

You know – it doesn’t fit in with the meek and lowly Jesus, the One who simply states a truth and let’s the truth do it’s work. Don’t get me wrong when I refer to meekness as weakness. Or lowliness as a shyness in His character. He isn’t shy, or a “wilting flower” – no no no. He enters into environments where the animosity is thicker than pea soup, states the truth and stands His ground. But He doesn’t argue a point, get heated in a verbal “wrestling match”, or enter into “back and forths” with his adversaries. He is confident in His standing before God. He is stating a truth of the Kingdom, not “showing off” He doesn’t need to enter into a vain display of importance. He is Lord.

What was the message for the original audience?

At the risk of sounding like an MLM salesman, Jesus was giving the disciples information of being in on the ground floor of a “tremendous opportunity”. Jesus was (re)introducing the Kingdom to Israel, and this Kingdom would expand beyond the borders of a small middle eastern nation, to envelop the world.

Within 300 years, every king and nation had fallen to the Lord Jesus, with His followers spreading the Kingdom and it’s influence far and wide. Was Jesus hinting at the gentile inclusion into the Kingdom – highly doubtful. Looking back it seems obvious, but the disciples were struggling with the Kingdom’s relationship within Israel at the time!

The Kingdom of God, that was (and is) principally the message of Jesus, started out seemingly insignificant, tiny, and without impact. Sure a dozen or so men and a few women travelled with the Messiah, but these types of groups fell away after the leader was gone. (Consider Acts 5:35 – 38)

What is the message for us today?

We are in the middle or end of the growth cycle of the mustard seed, depending on your eschatology. No matter, the realization of the Kingdom has been accomplished in many ways, and we are to maintain (better yet – expand) the Kingdom. We are to be that “tree” that offers shelter to the birds, that they make their nests in our branches. We are to be a blessing, a sanctuary of protection to those who would seek it.

Birds don’t make nests in trees that are poisonous, full of hazards and insecurities. They avoid trees that are weak and unstable.

Something to consider.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Growing Seed

The Growing Seed is a short parable, and straight to the point! It is only found in the gospel of Mark, and it is, like our previous parable, concerning growth.

Mark is a gospel that is efficient. quick and nimble in the way truth is provided. I remember like it was yesterday, when I found out the most frequent word in the gospel of Mark was not Jesus, nor God, but “immediately”

It is as if Mark is on a mission to get the news out. Everything seems to have a time dependency in his gospel, and of course this parable is in no way lacking when it comes to the time factor. But alas, let us read it for ourselves prior to my entering into the story

Mark 4:26-29

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

This is likely the same crowd that heard the parable of the sower. Matthew 13 was a busy day of pouring truth out to the crowds through the medium of parables. Many in the crowds were receiving teaching that would challenge men and women for millennium, and that for past saints, had been precious truth they based their lives on. But for the most part, the audience were deaf to the message being provided on this day.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Check out my previous post.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Check out my previous post.

Why did the Lord give this message?

During the previous teaching, one element seems to be a recurring thought. The mystery of the Kingdom, especially in the way of growth, and fruitfulness.

Sprouting seeds in the earth is a mysterious action. We don’t see it, or pay any attention to the process, unless you study botany, but that is not the usual setting for those in His audience! Jesus admits to this ignorance on the part of the audience in vs 27, where He states “he knows not how” The process of seeds sprouting and developing into a full plant, able to produce seeds for food (and the next generation) is mysterious to those in His audience. To be fair, although modern man has much knowledge of the process of a seed sprouting, the understanding of the process has much to be desired.

Nevertheless, the Lord’s purpose in providing this short parable seems to point to the mystery and culmination of the Kingdom. And that somewhat startles me, since the Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, am I correct in stating this parable speaks of it’s culmination?

I think I may be getting ahead of myself, for that questions may be better responded to under the next heading

What was the message for the original audience?

The message for the original audience seems to be simple – the kingdom is like any other growing season. There are a number of elements brought out in this teaching that are worth considering

Time

As mentioned above, time is a critical factor in Marks telling of the good news. This parable does not disappoint in that regard. Jesus adds the description of sleeping, and rising day and night, describing a somewhat anxious farmer. The farmer may be anxious, but the earth is not. The earth, by it’s own ability, produces the growth, and that growth is very orderly, methodical and direct.

Responsibility

The Lord minimizes the farmers role, other than in the initial spreading of the seed, and the harvesting at the end. In the middle, the process is wholly dependent upon the earth. The earth produces by itself.

It is the earth that is responsible for the growth of the grain. The earth is the provider of the energy and sustenance providing growth to the seed.

The Lord is introducing to this audience a truth that has been expressed throughout the ages, and that is that growth comes from God, the uncaused cause, the eternal One who alone is life. He is the giver of life, as Jesus describes “the earth” in this parable.

Purpose

The purpose of a farmer, in spreading his seeds, is not to feed the birds! (My apologies to all those ornithologist’s out there!) The purpose of the farmer in spreading his seed is to produce enough seeds to supply grain for his family, crop to harvest for his income and to store enough seeds for the next year.

The purpose is clearly defined in this parable, where the harvest is described. All in the audience were either farmers or had intimate knowledge of the agricultural life.

Note that the harvest in initiated when the grain is mature. The grain, to be harvested, to meet its intended purpose, needs to be mature, fully grown and in it’s adult stage. At that point the farmer has use of the plant. Until then, the farmer would not think of laying a sickle to the plant, for he would lose all potential for any food or profit.

Maturity is a goal. And the reward of the grain upon reaching this goal is it’s death.

What is the message for us today?

What is the message for today? I can’t help but think that the message we need to consider is two fold.

Maturity

That last phrase is getting “stuck in my craw”, as my momma used to say. “When the grain is ripe…”

The purpose of the grain was found in it’s harvesting. The only indication that harvesting was the correct phase to enter into was the ripeness of the grain, it’s maturity.

Notice, that although the gospel of Mark considers time to be a factor in his telling of the story, this parable does not define the time taken for the grain to ripen. It does refer to time in relation to the farmer, in his anxiousness, but not in relation to the grain itself!! This may not be the focus of the parable, but I can’t help but think that the earth, in this parable, does not worry. The earth provides and produces, it does not fret or worry, for it (the earth) is more than sufficient to meet its responsibilities. (BTW, consider the parallels between the earth in this parable and God the Father in your life!)

Purpose

The purpose of the seed being strewn into the field is the growth and multiplication of the same seed.

Is the Spirit of God being replicated in your life, and extending to others, actually multiplying its effects and influence on those around you?

Remember – the farmer went to harvest when the seed had been duplicated many times over. Consider.



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Tares Among the Wheat

This parable of good seed in a field of weeds is surprising in a number of ways.

Let’s take a look at

The Parable of The Tares among the Wheat

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

This is the same crowd that heard the parable of the sower. Matthew 13 was a busy day of pouring truth out to the crowds through the medium of parables. Many in the crowds were receiving teaching that would challenge men and women for millennium, and that for past saints, had been precious truth they based their lives on. But for the most part, the audience were deaf to the message being provided on this day.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Check out my previous post.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Check out my previous post.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Aw – the big question! Initially, a story of bad seed after the story of the sower seems a bit confusing, but the topic is different. The seed is not a metaphor for truth, or the gospel, but of how the kingdom of God would grow.

The kingdom would grow, but with enemies within it. It seems the reason for the existence of the enemies is due to the servants sleeping, and how true this is of the modern church. So many enemies of the gospel, parading about as representatives of the Messiah, growing, and seemingly thriving in the church, sucking the life out of it. But alas – I digress.

What was the message for the original audience?

Your expectations for an earthly kingdom is wrong.

Many of His audience were looking for Messiah ben David, a Messiah that would conquer the Romans and bring Israel to dominance in the world. An earthly kingdom, where all those gentile “dogs” would be dominated and ruled over, controlled and taxed, with revenge and power being available to every Israelite.

Wow Did I get carried away there for a minute? But you get my point.

Jesus was continually bringing a message that challenged the “earth bound” mindset. Jesus is Messiah ben David, the ruling King, but His subjects have to understand His Kingdom, and this kingdom would have enemies within it that are allowed to exist alongside them. Jesus ben Joseph, the suffering King was on display for all to see and to follow, if they could hear His message

How counter intuitive.

What is the message for us today?

Our expectation for the end may be incorrect – Notice that the weeds are gathered first. How does that jive with the common teaching of the saints being gathered first, that is with the common teaching of the pre-tribulational rapture. I don’t get it! But that is such a minor issue, for it does not impact a greater, a somewhat troubling truth.

The enemy has a purpose within the Kingdom. What do you say Carl?

Notice the Land owner’s concern over the wheat, the good seed and how He restricts any damage to their existence. And yet the enemy, the weed, is within their presence, their very life is effected by the weed. Now I have always been told to never make a parable walk on a hundred legs, but their may be some truth to the concept of the enemy being in the church for the sake of keeping us alert, of winnowing out the false believer, of showing to the world the difference of a true believer with the hypocrite.

Consider your own walk with Him.

Are their “weeds” in you life, weeds that fight against you in your Christianity? By this I mean folks that are a hindrance, or are blatantly against you in your faith.

We need these “enemies” amongst us, for we are not to be “out of the world”, where we could not rub shoulders with those who know not the Master.

No. We need to be amongst them, loving our enemies, blessing those who curse us and praying for those who persecute us.

Matthew 5:44, 45

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Those weeds will get pulled soon enough, but until then, we got some loving to do!



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New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The Sower of the Seed

This is the big one. Of all the parables the Lord taught, I think this one is the most known, with the possible exception of the prodigal son. It is also one of the more complex ones, since it is dealing with four types of soil, and the recurring results of the soil.

Let’s take a look at

The Sower of the Seed

Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23

3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. …

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Great multitudes gathered to the Lord, to hear of His teaching. This was a general audience, a large crowd that had accumulated

When did the Lord give this parable?

Based on the parallel version of the parable in Mark, this teaching was provided after His confrontation with the scribes who came down from Jerusalem, claiming He was possessed of the prince of demons, and that He was casting out demons by Satan’s power.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As the text tells us, He was in a boat, off the shore in order to teach the large crowd. Most believe He was on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, near the village of Gennesaret

Why did the Lord give this message?

I had always considered the parables as a unique method of teaching, a method that would reach all those who heard it. But as my momma used to say, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” Jesus was finding out with this parable, and all parables, who was thirsty.

He taught this parable to multitudes and the disciples had had it. They weren’t getting it, and they came to the Lord to ask why. This is the parable that prompted the explanation of why the Master taught in parables throughout His ministry. I addressed this explanation in an introduction to this series here. I would encourage you to read the post – it may surprised you what I found out

What was the message for the original audience?

Naming this parable the parable of the sower is somewhat distracting, since it is concerning the soil that the seeds fall on that is the message. I will not address whether this parable describes four different levels of Christian, or the difference between true and false Christianity. This is not clearly defined in the parable, though some may claim it is. This is a results parable – What results from the same seed landing on four types of soils?

Four types of soil are described in this parable.

  • Hard Soil
    • The seed became food for birds. It didn’t have the chance to germinate. The soil was trodden down, packed by the constant pressures of foot path, of the day to day pressures of being used for travel. The soil itself was unable to receive the seed, and it was taken away.
    • No life.
  • Rocky Soil
    • Along the edges of fields, a farmer would pile rocks and stones that he had pulled from the field. Rows of stones were common along a farmers property, being used to mark out a field, or his property. I had always translated this thinking into the verse, yet most would consider “rocky ground” to be describing shallow earth that received the seed, and yet lurking so close to the surface, an impenetrable material that refused any growth. This condition allowed initial growth, but not continual growth. This seed germinated, but continuous life was not to be experienced for this plant – The ground had not depth, no support!
    • Life, but not continuous.
  • Thorny Soil
    • This ground was not necessarily shallow. It had the depth to support continuous life, and the proof of this was the thorns that became an impediment for this soil. The thorns choked out the good seed. It is interesting that the term choked describes a “crowding out” of the good seed. Yes the seed germinated, yet the seed did not come to maturity. In the Greek, this term “choke” conveys the idea of strangling, of taking by the throat. To choke is a very apt description of the action of the thorns. This is a competition for sustenance.
    • Life, but not continuous
  • Good Soil
    • This soil produced grain. Multiplication occurred in this soil. The one seed produced many seed.
    • Life.

What is the message for us today?

I have been reluctant to sit down and consider this parable, since my “general” thoughts have condemned my own experience. You see, when I first became a believer on Feb 19th, 1981 I saw a future of impeccable faithfulness to the Master, a life of constant obedience to a Master who loved me and gave Himself for me. As I have hit 40 years of walking with Him, I realize the “truth” of the thorny soil, since I have not been the believer I anticipated. I am a weak and inconsistent follower, that has had much less impact on my world than I had hoped.

But as I was working outside yesterday, considering this passage in my thinking, I realized that I am, by nature a greedy guy. I wanted a hundredfold multiplication, and yet in my dark days, I fear there is more thorn in my life that life. I was looking only at, what I considered the obvious signs of life from my walk.

He has kept me based on His grace and not on my efforts. He has sometimes dragged me through some difficult times, giving me only a slight glimmer of hope, and yet He still is very present, very real and is continuing His work.

As you read this parable, don’t be greedy and compare your life with a famous evangelist, teacher or flamboyant showy believer.

If you have produced one seed, one grain, give thanks.

And get the weed whipper out.



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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 BibleTimeLines.com 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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