Luke 17:20-37 The Coming of the Kingdom

October 11, 2009
Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now

The Coming of the Kingdom

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” [1]

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them.24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. [2] 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife.33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” [3] 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse [4] is, there the vultures [5] will gather.”

  • Apocalypse now!!!  Jesus brings up images of apocalypse when he refers to Noah and the Flood and Lott and Sodom.  Why does Jesus recall these images?
  • Look at verse 34, “one will be taken, the other left behind.”  Recent best selling books would have us believe that this means that one will be taken up to heaven leaving the other behind to live in a frightening world where all Christians have been removed.  This is not what Jesus meant.  He meant the exact opposite.  The one who is taken is the one who is in danger not the one left behind.
  • It is possible that Jesus is warning the Pharisees (as he has done throughout Luke thus far) of the coming invasion of Jerusalem by Roman forces.  He is not necessarily referring to a far off supernatural event at the end of times but may actually be referring to the near future.  When the Romans come it will be both sudden and catastrophic.
  • What does it mean when Jesus refers to “the days of the son of man” in verse 22?  This could be a reference to Daniel 7 where the “one like the son of man” will be vindicated by God after suffering.  The sign of this will be the destruction of the oppressor.  This is the “fourth beast” in Daniel.  What force has most oppressed Jesus and his ministry?  The leaders of Israel, the Pharisees, and the scribes.  Vindication will come when Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed by Roman forces.  The disciples and the Pharisees would be quite familiar with this prophecy in Daniel.
  • The key to the passage is in verse 21, “God’s Kingdom is within your grasp.”  Israel and the Pharisees could avoid destruction.  The Kingdom of God was there for them to take hold of.  They just had to do something about it.  “It is ‘within your grasp’; it is confronting you with a decision, the decision to believe, trust, and follow Jesus.  It isn’t the sort of thing that’s just going to happen, so that you can sit back and watch.  God’s sovereign plan to put the world to rights is waiting for you to sign on.  That is the force of what Jesus is saying.” N.T. Wright
  • In Ad 70, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans.  However, the promise of God’s Kingdom still remains.  It is within your grasp.  Will you reach out and take hold of it or will you watch it pass by?  Life is short, if you wait to long it may be too late.

Luke 17:11-19 Ten Lepers Healed

October 7, 2009

Only one returned.

Only one returned.

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, [1] who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” [2]

  • Which is more surprising: the fact that one person came back and gave God the glory?  Or the fact that nine didn’t?
  • Of course the one who does come back is a Samaritan, a foreigner.  Once again, a Samaritan puts to shame his Jewish counterparts.
  • Why didn’t the other nine return?  They could have many excuses, but the fact is they just were not grateful.  After a lesson in humility comes a lesson in gratitude.
  • “It is not only the nine ex-lepers who are shown up.  It is all of us who fail to thank God ‘always and for everything’ as Paul puts it (Ephesians 5:20).” N.T. Wright
  • Make a list of all the things you are grateful for and thank God for them one by one.
  • The word Jesus uses when he says “get up” in verse 19 refers to resurrection.  This man was dead and is alive again.  Just like the prodigal son.
  • Faith and healing go hand in hand.  Not just any faith but faith in Jesus as the Son of God.  With faith also comes gratitude.
  • Am I returning to give God the glory for the ways he has healed my life?  Am I grateful?  Do I have faith in the work of God through Jesus?  How easy it is to walk through life completely blessed by God while forgetting to give Him the glory.  How has God healed/blessed you recently?  Have you stopped to praise him and thank him?  Do it now.

Luke 17:1-10 Forgiveness, Faith, and Obedience

September 25, 2009

Temptations to Sin

17:1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin [1] are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. [2] 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Increase Our Faith

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Unworthy Servants

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant [3] 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, [4] 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; [5] we have only done what was our duty.’”

  • Humility.  This is the common thread that connects the sayings in this passage.  All true servants of Jesus Christ must learn humility.
  • Consider the warning about tripping people up.  “The little ones” may refer to the outcasts from the previous two chapters that Jesus was welcoming but whom the Pharisees were rejecting.
  • We will all be tested.  We will all face temptation.  Our faith will be tested, perhaps beyond what we can bear.  But we should be careful not to inflict such a test on someone else.  Consider the consequence.  When Jesus says it would be better to drown at the bottom of the sea with a large stone tied around your neck then face the punishment reserved for those who cause people to struggle in their faith.  It can’t be good.  This is a serious warning.
  • “Christian leaders and teachers need this warning on a regular basis.  It is possible for them to do and say things which make others think, ‘Well if that’s how God’s representatives behave, I suppose the whole things a waste of time!’  How can you avoid putting someone in that situation? Humility.” N.T. Wright
  • Now look at the call to repeated forgiveness.  To forgive someone once or twice is easy.  But to continually have to forgive someone over and over again can be quite challenging.  Why continue to forgive if the one forgiven keeps abusing your kindness?
  • Again the answer is humility.  To forgive someone is to become their servant, not their master.  It shouldn’t be harder and harder to forgive each time.  How often do we blow it and require God’s forgiveness?  All the time.  Does God struggle with forgiveness?  No!!!  This is the true source of humility.  God’s grace.  We must consider the amazing grace that God has demonstrated to us when we struggle to forgive others.
  • Of course the disciples realize that what Jesus is saying will require a lot of faith.  “Jesus is quick to respond.  It’s not great faith you need; it is faith in a great God.” N.T. Wright  This faith requires humility.  We are weak, God is strong.
  • “Finally, the shocking lesson that all we do, even the hard work we do for God, never for a moment puts God in our debt.” N.T. Wright  I am only a servant doing my duty.  When we serve God, we do it out of gratitude and not out of selfish ambition.  We should not desire to be acknowledged or praised before men but we should be content knowing that we will be acknowledged by God when the time comes.  Once again this requires great humility.
  • How humble am I?  This is not an easy question to answer.  The moment I say I am humble is the moment I am no longer really humble.   But am I causing others to stumble in their faith?  Am I struggling to forgive?  Do I have a little faith in a great and mighty God?  Do I have the heart of a servant?  These questions I can answer.

Luke 16:19-31 The Parable of the Richman and Lazarus

September 23, 2009

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. [1] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers [2]—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

  • “We all know Lazarus.  He is our neighbor.  Some of us may be rich, well dressed and well fed, and walk past him without even noticing; others of us may not be so rich, or so finely clothed and fed, but compared with Lazarus we’re well off.  Hew would be glad to change places with us, and we would be horrified to share his life, even for a day.” N.T. Wright
  • A story of how wealth and poverty is reversed in the future life.  These types of stories were quite common in Jesus’ day.  However, Jesus’ story is different.  Most stories would allow for a message to be sent back to those people still alive on earth, but in Jesus’ story no such message is allowed.
  • This is a parable and not just a moral tale about wealth and poverty.  Some might argue that it is better for the poor to stay poor, since they will be rich in heaven.  That isn’t the point of the parable.
  • The key to the parable is in the last verse, “Neither will they be convinced, even if someone were to rise from the dead.”  Compare this to the parable of the prodigal son when the father says, “This brother was dead and is alive again.”  The older son was not convinced.  The older son is like the rich man in this passage.  They both don’t want to deal with the poor and ragged brother or neighbor.  But Jesus did want to deal with them.  He wanted to deal with them now.  Jesus was incorporating what was done in heaven in to his ministry on earth.  He was accepting the Lazarus’ and the prodigal  sons.
  • The Pharisees were behaving like the rich man.  They weren’t accepting the people Jesus was reaching out to.  Jesus was warning them to change their tune or else they will be sorry.
  • Not even someone rising from the dead will help them if they refuse to see how God is fulfilling the law and the prophets through Jesus.  This story points to Jesus himself and his death and resurrection.  Jesus did die  and did rise from the dead.
  • Am I like the rich man?  Am I walking past people and ignoring their needs both physically and spiritually?  Am I accepting/inviting all people into God’s kingdom?

Luke 16:10-18 Teachings on Stewardship

September 21, 2009

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The Law and the Kingdom of God

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. [1] 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Divorce and Remarriage

18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

  • From a parable about money, now Luke gives us Jesus’ actual teaching about money.  Jesus gives us a strong warning about the dangers of wealth.  Has the Church or the world taken this warning seriously?  “Some where along the line serious repentance, and a renewed determination to hear and obey Jesus’ clear teaching, seems called for.” N.T. Wright
  • The key to this passage is that it is about faithfulness.  “Money is not a possession, it’s a trust.” N.T Wright  Our money is entrusted to us by God and should be used to His glory not for our glory.  Money also leads to true wealth (verse 11) in the life to come but we must first learn faithfulness.
  • Without faithfulness we will be torn between two masters.  The Pharisees believed their wealth was a blessing from God.  Jesus already warned back in chapter 14 verse 33 that this was not so.  How easy it is to look at my own material wealth and just assume these are God’s blessings?  The Pharisees looked to the law and the prophets to validate their belief.  The prosperity gospel is not a new concept.
  • Was Jesus contradicting the law and the prophets?  No!!!!  The law and the prophets were not God’s last word.  After John the Baptist, God’s word has come again, in a new way.  But this doesn’t negate what came before.  “They (the law and the prophets) are a true signpost to what God is going to do, even though they cannot themselves bring about the new day, the new world, that God is creating through Jesus.” N.T. Wright
  • The last verse on divorce (verse 18) is mainly an example of a commandment that was being set aside by many within Judaism at that time.  Jesus was highlighting  the unfaithfulness of the religious leaders to God’s law.   The Pharisees believed Jesus was contradicting the law, when in fact it was them.
  • I must be faithful.  Faithful with money, faithful to God, faithful to the Kingdom, faithful to my wife and children, and faithful to my friends.  “As soon as we begin to think of money, or land, or other people, as commodities we might own or exploit, we take a step away from our vocation to be truly human beings, God’s true children, and towards the other master, who is always ready to accept new servants.” N.T. Wright
  • Which master do I serve?

Luke 16:1-9 Parable of the Shrewd Manager

September 16, 2009

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures [1] of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures [2] of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world [3] are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, [4] so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

  • What does this passage mean?  Ezekiel 18 teaches that it is wrong to make money by lending at interest.  “Was the Bible against making money out of other money, or was it – was Jesus, indeed – telling us we should use any sharp financial practices we could to get ourselves out of difficulties.” N.T. Wright
  • How does this story work? 1.  The master in the story was not totally innocent.  It was unlawful to lend money at interest, but to get around this you could lend in kind with commodities, such as oil and wheat.  2.  It seems that what the steward deducted from the bill was the interest, leaving only the principal to be paid.  In this way, the debtors would be happy and the master couldn’t fault the steward without revealing his shady business practices.  The master could only admire the clever steward.
  • Remember that this is a parable and not some piece of moral teaching about money and how to use it.  Although, there is a moral lesson to be learned.
  • OK then, let us dissect the parable.   The master in the story is God; the steward is Israel.  Israel is meant to be God’s property manager, the light of God’s world, responsible to God and set over his possessions.  But Israel has squandered God’s property and God is not pleased.  What should Israel do?
  • The Pharisees answer was to become more holy by micromanaging the law.  They created these strict rules to follow and forced all to follow them.  By doing this they were excluding the very same people Jesus was reaching out to.  From this parable, Jesus is telling the Pharisees that instead of pushing people away, they ought to make friends.  This was the only way to avoid the coming crisis.
  • Therefore, instead of being a greedy miser, we should be generous to all people in order to make friends for ourselves.
  • So what do we make of this passage in our day?  “Obviously it has nothing to do with commending sharp practice in business or personal finance.  Rather it advises us to sit light to the extra regulations which we impose on one another, not least in the church, which are over and above the gospel itself.” N.T. Wright
  • Am I excluding people from God’s kingdom?  Am I doing whatever I can to make friends?  Am I using all my resources to introduce people to the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Have I become a Pharisee that only follows a list of rules?  God has trusted me with his property.  Am I squandering it?

Luke 15:25-32 The Parable of the Prodigal: The Father and the Older Son

September 9, 2009
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Pompeo Batoni

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

  • Sometimes we can miss the beauty in life because we are so focused on the ugly.  That was the problem with the older son.
  • The story of the older son was Jesus’ response to his critics.  They were so focused on the wickedness of the tax collectors and sinners and the fact that Jesus would eat and associate with them, that they could not see the light of God’s love shining through all of it.
  • The older son fails to refer to the younger son as his brother.  When talking to his father, he refers to the younger son as “this son of yours.”  But the father reminds him that the younger son is indeed his brother by replying, “this brother of yours.”
  • The older brother complains, “I’ve been slaving for you.”  When in fact, him and his father were working partners since the father had already divided up the inheritance.  The older son was really being greedy and selfish because he knew that since the younger brother’s share of the inheritance was already wasted, anything that was spent on his brother now would have to come out of his inheritance.
  • Next the older son boasts, “I’ve never disobeyed a single command of yours.”  “This was the Pharisees boast (compare Philippians 3:6); but the moral superiority which it appears to give melts like snow before the sunshine of God’s love.  Where resurrection is occurring – where new life is bursting out all around – it is only appropriate, it is necessary to celebrate (verse 32).  Not to do so, is to fail to meet generosity with gratitude.  It is to pretend that God has not after all been at work.  It is to look only at the garbage and refuse to smell the flowers.” N.T. Wright
  • The older son was selfish.  He was only focused on himself.  He shows no respect for his father when he lectures him in front of his guests.   And then he refuses his father’s plea to join the party.  Again, as with the younger son, the father is generous and gracious with his older son.  The point is that Jesus was trying to reason with the Pharisees and scribes telling them that yes God’s generosity was reaching the tax collectors and sinners but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any left for them.
  • “If they insist on staying out of the party because it isn’t the sort of thing they like, thats up to them; but it won’t be because God doesn’t love them as well.” N.T. Wright
  • This passage points forward to the eventual challenge that the early church would face when trying to integrate both Jewish and Gentile Christians.
  • How does this story end?  Does the older son join the party and reconcile with his younger brother?  Does the younger son remain faithful to his father?  Jesus doesn’t answer these questions.  He leaves it to us to think it through and see where we fit in the story.  Am I the younger son?  Am I the older son?  Am I the father?  I used to be the younger son, that is for sure.  However, have I slowly become the older son over time?  Am I celebrating with the father?  It is time to celebrate and welcome all into the kingdom of God.  There is no room for greed, selfishness, self-righteousness, or prejudice in this party.  Leave those things at the door and come on in.

Luke 15:11-24 The Parable of the Prodigal: The Father and the Younger Son

September 7, 2009
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to [1] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [2] 22 But the father said to his servants, [3]‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

  • The main point:  The wonderful love and forgiving grace of God, ready to welcome back sinners at the first sign of repentance.
  • That is the obvious point.  However, there is deeper meaning to this parable.
  • The younger son brought shame and disgrace to the father.  To ask for his inheritance before his father was dead was like saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead.”  Then to sell the his share of the land to some stranger for money was shameful.  Possession of land was extremely important to Jewish families in Jesus’ time.  To just go and sell it for money was unheard of.  Imagine the pain and shame the Father felt.  But he allows this to happen without argument.  He just hands over the son’s portion of the inheritance without question.  No father in Jesus’ day would allow that to happen.
  • And to add insult to injury, the younger son leaves home for the big city abandoning his family.  In our culture it is quite common for children to leave home in the country to make their way in the big city, however in Jesus’ culture sons didn’t leave their families.  This would be viewed as even more shameful.  Again, the Father lets the son go without question.
  • Finally, with all his money wasted the younger son lands a job feeding pigs.  Jewish people and pigs don’t mix.  This would not be viewed as an honorable profession.  To the Jewish son this would be the lowest of all possible lows.
  • But how remarkable is the Father?  Or should we say the Running Father?  He was the father, the head of the family, a distinguished elder in his community.  But he sees his son and runs to greet him.  Jewish elders did not run for anyone.  To run would be considered undignified, an act that was beneath his position in life.  But this Father runs as soon as he says his son far away in the distance and doesn’t stop until he reaches him.
  • “His lavish welcome is of course the point of the story: Jesus is explaining why there is a party, why it’s something to celebrate when people turn from going their own way and begin to go God’s way…..the father’s closing line says it all. ‘This my son was dead and is alive.  He was lost and now is found.’  How could this not be a cause of celebration?” N. T. Wright
  • There is another dimension of this story that exists.  Consider the exodus from Egypt and then the subsequent exile into Babylon many years later.  Although many of the exiles returned, most of Jesus’ contemporaries believed they were still living in virtual exile under pagan rule.  They were all waiting for a new exodus, to be liberated from the pagan powers.  The story of the prodigal son would be seen by many as a reference to the hope of Israel.  The concept of resurrection was used commonly to refer to the true return from exile.  This point would be nailed home when the Father says, “This son was dead and is alive.”
  • Jesus was declaring that the new exodus was happening at that very moment.  When people repent and turn to God they are returning from exile.  God was fulfilling his promise to Israel but not in a way that was expected by the religious leaders.  Wasn’t that a good reason to throw a party?  Jesus thought it was.
  • So back to the main point of this parable, God’s costly love.  There is probably no better illustration in all the Bible of what God’s love is like (aside from the Cross).  It is now up to me to imitate and share this love with all those lost sons in the world.  Will I imitate the father or will I act like the older son?  We will deal with that question in the next post.

Luke 14:12-24 The Parable of the Great Banquet

September 3, 2009

Somehow I skipped this passage so I’m posting it up now.

The Parable of the Great Banquet

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 [1] 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.”

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 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 [2] 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, [3] none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

  • vs. 12-14 Once again, Jesus tells people to do something contrary to normal thinking.  Don’t invite family and friends, but invite the poor and disabled.
  • Jesus means for this advice to be taken literally.  This first part is not a parable, the parable follows in verses 15-24.  Who am I inviting to dinner?
  • vs 15-24 The parable of the great banquet.  Those who are invited to the party refuse to come.  They have excuses.  They may seem legitimate but they are unacceptable.  The master will have guests at his party and therefore goes and invites those in unconventional locations.
  • The first level of meaning.  Jesus has been traveling around inviting people to God’s great banquet.  But more often than not, he is refused.  Recall the parable of the sower, most of the seed falls on soil which is unfruitful.  However, some have accepted the invitation; the poor and disabled.
  • The second level of meaning.  The expected guests at God’s banquet are the Jewish people.  They are the invited ones.  But like the parable, they have too many excuses and refuse the invitation.  Of course, many Jewish people in Luke’s time did accept the invitation but the majority of them did not.  Therefore, God’s messengers went out to the Gentiles and to the entire world to invite people to the party.
  • The third level of meaning.  To join the party you have to accept and welcome all who are there.  God’s banquet is for all people.  There is no room for prejudice or self-righteousness.
  • “Once again, therefore, the challenge comes to us today.  Christians reading this, anywhere in the world, must work out in their own churches and families what it would mean to celebrate God’s kingdom so that the people at the bottom of the pile, at the end of the line, would find it good news.  It isn’t enough to say that we ourselves are the people dragged in from the country lanes, to our surprise, to enjoy God’s party.  That may be true; but party guests are then expected to become party hosts in their turn.” N.T. Wright
  • What a great quote.  Party guests are to become part hosts.  Am I just a guest or am I a host?  Am I being selective in who I invite to the party?  Do I see people at the party and wish they weren’t there?  These are serious questions I need to answer.  These are serious questions that any true disciple of Jesus Christ needs to answer.

Luke 15:1-10 The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

September 2, 2009

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

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

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

The Parable of the Lost Coin

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, [1] if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

  • One person’s celebration can be really annoying for someone else, especially if they don’t understand the reason for the party.” N.T. Wright
  • Jesus was celebrating.  The pharisees and the legal experts were annoyed.  Why was Jesus celebrating and why were the Pharisees annoyed?
  • The Pharisees and legal experts were annoyed because of who Jesus was celebrating with.  Tax-collectors and sinners.
  • The tax-collectors were disliked for obvious reasons.  No one really likes them.  They collected money for either Herod or the Romans, or both.  In addition they would most likely be in contact with Gentiles which would make them unclean.
  • The term sinners here in verse 1 could mean an assortment of people.  However, they were people who the self-appointed experts deemed irreligious and unrighteous according to their version of the Mosaic law.
  • Of course Jesus is not implying in this chapter that such people (tax-collectors and sinners) should be accepted as they stand.  They were expected to repent.  The lost sheep and lost coin were found.  However, Jesus’ understanding of repentance was different from his critics.
  • To the Pharisees repentance meant that people must adopt their standards of purity and law-observance.  To Jesus, one only had to follow him and follow his way.  Jesus also seems to be implying in this passage that the Pharisees and legal experts themselves need to repent.  Read verse 7, perhaps there is some sarcasm in this statement. The ninety-nine righteous persons who don’t need to repent.  Yeah right.
  • “The point of the parables is then clear.  This is why there’s a party going on: all heaven is having a party, the angels are joining in, and if we don’t have one as well we’ll be out of tune with God’s reality.” N.T. Wright
  • The Jews believed that heaven and earth were meant to be together.  What happened in heaven should happen on earth.  The closest the Jews could get to heaven was the Temple.  But only the priests could access the Temple and only through strict purity requirements.  The closest the non-priests could get to heaven was to maintain a strict purity and observance of the law in every aspect of their life.
  • Jesus was now declaring that heaven was having a great party every time a single sinner repented.  If we want to get close to heaven then we better have a party too.  That is exactly what Jesus was doing.
  • The sheep and coin weren’t themselves special.  However, they were lost.  Imagine how these parables made the repentant tax-collectors and sinners feel.  God went searching for them even though they were sinners.  And then celebrated when he found them.   How encouraging!!
  • “And what Jesus did – this is the deepest point of these parables, and the ultimate reason why the Pharisees objected to them – was what God was doing.  Jesus’ actions on earth correspond exactly to God’s love in the heavenly realm.”  N.T. Wright
  • Does the world see me celebrating and get annoyed?  Am I actively searching for those lost sheep and lost coins?  Do my actions on a day to day basis correspond with God’s love?  Its time to throw a party.