(1) THE STORY OF JESUS
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John rearranged by Subject & in Date order
15 - PARABLES
and OTHER PICTURE STORIES
Sections 1-42 of Part 15 bring together all the relevant verses from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - in that order.
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An Early Explanation
15.1 WHY JESUS SPOKE IN PARABLES
(Matthew 13:10-17,34-35; Mark 4:10-12,33-34; Luke 8:9-10)
Matthew 13:10-17,34-35 - At this (after Jesus had told the parable about sowing the seed) the disciples approached him and asked, "Why do you talk to them in parables?"
"Because you have been given the chance to understand the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven," replied Jesus, "but they have not. For when a man has something, more is given to him till he has plenty. But if he has nothing even his nothing will be taken away from him. This is why I speak to them in these parables; because they go through life with their eyes open, but see nothing, and with their ears open, but understand nothing of what they hear. They are the living fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them'.
"But how fortunate you are to have eyes that see and ears that hear! Believe me, a great many prophets and good men have longed to see what you are seeing and they never saw it. Yes, and they longed to hear what you are hearing and they never heard it.
- Jesus now tells four parables about the mysteries of Heaven - "sowing the seed", "the wheat and weeds in the field", "the mustard seed", and "the yeast". He concludes:
(Verse 34 .....) All these things Jesus spoke to the crowd in parables, and he did not speak to them at all without using parables - to fulfil the prophecy: 'I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world' .
Mark 4:10-12,33-34 - Then when they were by themselves (again after Jesus had told the parable about sowing the seed), his close followers and the twelve asked him about the parables, and he told them.
"The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those who do not know the secret, everything remains in parables, so that, 'seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them'".
- Three parables follow about the mysteries of heaven. Included with them is Jesus' teaching about light and the lamp on the stand, and measure for measure. In conclusion:
(Verse 33 ....) So he taught them his message with many parables such as their minds could take in. He did not speak to them at all without using parables, although in private he explained everything to his disciples.
Luke 8:9-10 - Then his disciples asked him the meaning of the parable (about sowing the seed). To which Jesus replied, "You have been given the chance to understand the secrets of the kingdom of God, but the others are given parables so that they may go through life with their eyes open and 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand'".
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Years Two and Three - c AD28-30
15.2 JESUS HAS COME TO SAVE THOSE WHO ARE LOST - "THE DOCTOR AND THE SICK"
(Matthew 9:12-13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32)
Matthew 9:12-13 - Jesus heard this (the reaction of the Pharisees to him eating with "tax-collectors and sinners") and replied, "It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice' .
In any case I did not come to invite the 'righteous' but the 'sinners'."
Mark 2:17 - When Jesus heard this (as in Matthew), he said to them, "It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill. I did not come to invite the 'righteous', but the 'sinners'.
Luke 5:31-32 - Jesus answered them (as in Matthew and Mark), "It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to invite the 'righteous' but the 'sinners' - to change their ways.
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15.3 THE PRESENCE OF JESUS SHOULD MEAN JOY - "THE WEDDING GUESTS AND THE BRIDEGROOM"
(Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35)
Matthew 9:14-15 - Then (after Jesus had told the Pharisee's why he ate with "sinners") John (the Baptist)'s disciples approached him with the question, "Why is it that we and the Pharisees observe the fasts, but your disciples do nothing of the kind?"
"Can you expect wedding-guests to mourn while they have the bridegroom with them?" replied Jesus. "The day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them - they will certainly fast then!"
Mark 2:18-20 - The disciples of John and those of the Pharisees were fasting. They came and (as in Matthew) said to Jesus, "Why do those who follow John or the Pharisees keep fasts but your disciples do nothing of the kind?"
Jesus told them, "Can you expect wedding-guest to fast in the bridegroom's presence? Fasting is out of the question as long as they have the bridegroom with them. But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them - that will be the time for them to fast.
Luke 5:33-35 - Then (as in Matthew and Mark's accounts) people said to him, "Why is it that John's disciples are always fasting and praying, just like the Pharisees' disciples, but yours both eat and drink?"
Jesus answered, "Can you expect wedding-guests to fast while they have the bridegroom with them? The day will come when they will lose the bridegroom; that will be the time for them to fast!"
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15.4 THE TEACHING OF JESUS AND THE OLD WAYS CAN NOT BE MIXED -
"THE NEW CLOTH SEWN ONTO THE OLD"
"THE NEW WINE POURED INTO OLD WINESKINS"
(Matthew 9:16-17; Mark 2:21-22; Luke 5:36-39)
Matthew 9:16-17 - (After the question about fasting, Jesus continued ....) "Nobody sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on to an old coat, for the patch will pull away from the coat and the hole will be worse than ever. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins - otherwise the skins burst, the wine is spilt and the skins are ruined. But they put new wine into new skins and both are preserved."
Mark 2:21-22 - "Nobody," he continued (as in Matthew), "sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on to an old coat. If he does, the new patch tears away from the old and the hole is worse than ever. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine bursts the skins, the wine is spilt and the skins are ruined. No, new wine must go into new wineskins."
Luke 5:36-39 - Then he gave them this illustration (again after the question about fasting).
"Nobody tears a piece from a new coat to patch up an old one. If he does, he ruins the new one and the new piece does not match the old.
"Nobody puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins - the wine will be spilt and the skins ruined. No, new wine must be put into new wineskins. Of course, nobody who has been drinking old wine will want the new at once. He is sure to say, 'The old is a good sound wine.'"
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15.5 FORGIVENESS AND WHO LOVES THE MOST - "THE TWO DEBTORS"
Luke 7:36-50 - Then (after Jesus had described the greatness of John the Baptist) one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to a meal with him. When Jesus came into the house, he took his place at the table and a woman, known in the town as a bad woman, found out that Jesus was there and brought an alabaster flask of perfume and stood behind him crying, letting her tears fall on his feet and then drying them with her hair. Then she kissed them and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were really a prophet, he would know who this woman is and what sort of a person is touching him. He would have realised that she is a bad woman." Then Jesus spoke to him, "Simon (the Pharisee), there is something I want to say to you."
Most commentators consider this anointing to be a different incident from the one at Bethany during Jesus' last week in Jerusalem as reported in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9,and John 12:1-8. Some traditions identify this woman as Mary of Magdala or Magdalene, who became a close follower of Jesus:
"Very well, Master," he returned, "say it."
"Once upon a time, there were two men in debt to the same money-lender. One owed him fifty pounds and the other five. And since they were unable to pay, he generously cancelled both of their debts. Now, which one of them do you suppose will love him more?"
"Well," returned Simon, "I suppose it will be the one who has been more generously treated,"
"Exactly," replied Jesus, and then turning to the woman, he said to Simon, "You can see this woman? I came into your house but you provided no water to wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. There was no warmth in your greeting, but she, from the moment I came in, has not stopped covering my feet with kisses. You gave me no oil for my head, but she has put perfume on my feet. That is why I tell you, Simon, that her sins, many as they are, are forgiven; for she has shown me so much love. But the man who has little to be forgiven has only a little love to give."
Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
And the men at table with him began to say to themselves, "And who is this man, who even forgives sins?"
But Jesus said to the woman, "It is your faith that has saved you. Go in peace."
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MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Matthew now sets out seven 'mysteries' of the Kingdom of Heaven. Mark has three, with his second - 'the growing seed', bearing similarities to 'sowing the seed'. Luke also includes three
15.6 ...... (1) LISTENING AND RESPONDING TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS - "SOWING THE SEED"
(Matthew 13:1-9,18-23; Mark 4:1-9,13-20; Luke 8:4-8,11-15)
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 - The start of Matthew's Third Discourse, "Parables of the kingdom of Heaven" concluding at verse 13:53 with "When Jesus had finished ...":
It was on the same day (he spoke about his "real family") that Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the lake-side (of the Sea of Galilee). Such great crowds collected round him that he went aboard a small boat and sat down while all the people stood on the beach. He told them a great deal in parables, and began: "There was once a man who went out to sow. In his sowing some of the seeds fell by the road-side and the birds swooped down and gobbled them up. Some fell on stony patches where they had very little soil. They sprang up quickly in the shallow soil, but when the sun came up they were scorched by the heat and withered away because they had no roots. Some seeds fell among thorn-bushes and the thorns grew up and choked the life out of them. But some fell on good soil and produced a crop - some a hundred times what had been sown, some sixty and some thirty times. The man who has ears should use them!"
- At this point, Jesus explains why he speaks in parables (Matthew 13:10-17), and continues:
(Verse 18 ....) "Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a man hears the message of the kingdom and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is like the seed sown by the road-side. The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it. But it has not taken root in him and does not last long - the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message he gives up his faith at once. The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then the worries of this life and the illusions of wealth choke it to death and so it produces no 'crop' in his life. But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message. His life shows a good crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
Mark 4:1-9,13-20 - Then once again (as in Matthew) he began to teach them by the lake-side. A bigger crowd than ever collected around him so that he got into the little boat on the lake and sat down, while the crowd covered the ground right up to the water's edge. He taught them a great deal in parables, and in the course of his teaching he said, "Listen! A man once went out to sow his seed and as he sowed, some seed fell by the roadside and the birds came and gobbled it up. Some of the seed fell among the rocks where there was not much soil, and sprang up very quickly because there was no depth of earth. But when the sun rose it was scorched, and because it had no root, it withered away. And some of the seed fell among thorn-bushes and the thorns grew up and choked the life out of it, and it bore no crop. And there was some seed which fell on good soil, and when it grew, produced a crop which yielded thirty or sixty or even a hundred times as much as the seed."
Then he added, "Every man who has ears should use them!"
- Jesus again explains why he speaks in parables (Mark 4:10-12), followed by:
(Verse 13 ....) Then he continued, "Do you really not understand this parable? Then how are you going to understand all the other parables? The man who sows, sows the message. As for those who are by the roadside where the message is sown, as soon as they hear it Satan comes at once and takes away what has been sown in their minds. Similarly, the seed sown among the rocks represents those who hear the message without hesitation and accept it joyfully. But they have no real roots and do not last - when trouble or persecution arises because of the message, they give up their faith at once. Then there are the seeds which were sown among thorn-bushes. These are the people who hear the message, but the worries of this world and the false glamour of riches and all sorts of other ambitions creep in and choke the life out of what they have heard, and it produces no crop in their lives. As for the seed sown on good soil, this means the men who hear the message and accept it and do produce a crop - thirty, sixty, even a hundred times as much as they received."
Luke 8:4-8,11-15 - When a large crowd had collected and people were coming to him from one town after another (in Luke's account, as Jesus continued preaching in Galilee ...), he spoke to them and gave them this parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed, and while he was sowing, some of the seed fell by the roadside and was trodden down and birds gobbled it up. Some fell on the rock, and when it sprouted it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorn-bushes which grew up with the seeds and choked the life out of them. But some seed fell on good soil and grew and produced a crop - a hundred times what had been sown."
And when he had said this, he called out, "Let the man who has ears to hear use them!"
- Jesus again explains why he speaks in parables (Luke 8:9-10):
(Verse 11 ....) "This is what the parable means. The seed is the message of God. The seed sown by the roadside represents those who hear the message, and then the devil comes and takes it away from their hearts so that they cannot believe it and be saved. That sown on the rock represents those who accept the message with great delight when they hear it, but have no real root. They believe for a little while but when the time of temptation comes, they lose faith. And the seed sown among the thorns represents the people who hear the message and go on their way, and with the worries and riches and pleasures of living, the life is choked out of them, and in the end they produce nothing. But the seed sown on good soil means the men who hear the message and accept it with good and honest heart, and go on steadily producing a good crop.
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15.7 ...... (2) HOW THE SEED OF FAITH GROWS - "THE GROWING SEED"
Mark 4:26-29 - Then (after the "sowing the seed") he said, "The kingdom of God is like a man scattering seed on the ground and then going to bed each night and getting up every morning, while the seed sprouts and grows up, though he has no idea how it happens. The earth produces a crop without any help from anyone: first a blade, then the ear of corn, then the full-grown grain in the ear. And as soon as the crop is ready, he sends his reapers in without delay, for the harvest-time has come."
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15.8 ...... (2) FINAL SEPARATION OF THE GOOD FROM THE EVIL -
"THE WHEAT AND THE WEEDS IN THE FIELD"
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43 - Then he put another parable before them (after the one about "sowing the seed"). "The kingdom of Heaven," he said, "is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds (or "tares") among the wheat, and went away. When the crop came up and ripened, the weeds appeared as well. Then the owner's servants came up to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where did all these weeds come from? 'Some blackguard has done this to spite me.' he replied. 'Do you want us then to go out and pull them all up?' said the servants. 'No,' he returned, 'if you pull up the weeds now, you would pull up the wheat with them. Let them both grow together till the harvest. And at harvest-time I shall tell the reapers, 'Collect all the weeds first and tie them up in bundles ready to burn, but collect the wheat and store it in my barn.'"
- Now follow the parables of "the mustard seed" and "the yeast", and then:
Jesus again explains a parable to his disciples
(Verse 36 ....) Later (after these two parables), he left the crowds and went indoors, where his disciples came and said, "Please explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
"The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man," replied Jesus. "The field is the whole world. The good seed? That is the sons of the kingdom, while the weeds are the sons of the evil one. The blackguard who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of this world. The reapers are angels.
"Just as weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire so will it happen at the end of this world. The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will uproot from the kingdom everything that is spoiling it, and all those who live in defiance of its laws, and will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret. Then the good will shine out like the sun in their Father's kingdom. The man who has ears should use them!
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15.9 ...... (3) "THE TINY MUSTARD SEED THAT GROWS INTO A GREAT TREE"
(Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)
Matthew 13:31-32 - Then he put another parable before them (after the "wheat and the weeds in the field"): "the kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny grain of mustard-seed which a man took and sowed in his field. As a seed it is the smallest of them all, but it grows to be the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, big enough for birds to come and nest in its branches."
Mark 4:30-32 - Then he continued (in Mark's Gospel, after "the growing seed"), "What can we say the kingdom of God is like? How shall we put it in a parable? It is like a tiny grain of mustard-seed which, when it is sown, is smaller than any seed that is ever sown. But after it is sown in the earth, it grows up and becomes bigger than any other plant. It shoots out great branches so that birds can come and nest in its shelter."
Luke 13:18-19 - Then he went on (at a later point in Luke's Gospel, after Jesus had healed the crippled woman), "What is the kingdom of God like? What illustration can I use to make it plain to you? It is like a grain of mustard-seed which a man took and dropped in his own garden. It grew and became a tree and the birds came and nested in its branches.
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15.10 ...... (4) "THE YEAST MIXED WITH FLOUR"
(Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)
Matthew 13:33 - This is another of the parables he told them (after the "mustard seed"): "The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, taken by a woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole lot had risen."
Luke 13:20-21 - Then again he said (as in Matthew), "What can I say the kingdom of God is like? It is like the yeast which a woman took and covered up in three measures of flour until the whole lot had risen."
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15.11 ...... (5) "THE BURIED TREASURE"
Matthew 13:44 - "Again (after Jesus has explained the parable of the "wheat and the weeds", he continues .....), the kingdom of Heaven is like some treasure which has been buried in a field. A man finds it and buries it again, and goes off overjoyed to sell all his possessions to buy himself that field.
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15.12 ...... (6) "THE PEARL OF GREAT VALUE"
Matthew 13:45-46 - "Or again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he has found a single pearl of great value, he goes and sells all his possessions and buys it.
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15.13 ...... (7) "THE FISHING NET". Also "THE HOUSEHOLDER'S STORE"
Matthew 13:47-52 - "Or the kingdom of Heaven is like a big net thrown into the sea collecting all kinds of fish. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore and sit down and pick out the good ones for the barrels, but they throw away the bad. That is how it will be at the end of this world. The angels will go out and pick out the wicked from among the good and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret.
"Have you grasped all this?"
"Yes," they replied.
"You can see, then," returned Jesus, "how every one who knows the Law and becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who can produce from his store both the new and the old."
end of MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
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The next 18 parables are almost exclusively from Luke, although three are similar to three that Matthew reports after Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem. Most sources treat these parables as different, a view taken here. This enables the flow of Luke's and later Matthew's parables to be maintained:
15.14 WHO IS OUR NEIGHBOUR? - "THE GOOD SAMARITAN"
Luke 10:25-37 - Then (after the return of the 70 disciples ....) one of the experts in the Law stood up to test him and said, "Master, what must I do to be sure of eternal life?"
"What does the Law say and what has your reading taught you?" said Jesus.
"The Law says, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind', and 'your neighbour as yourself'," he replied.
"Quite right," said Jesus. "Do that and you will live."
But the man, wanting to justify himself, continued, "But who is my 'neighbour'?"
And Jesus gave him the following reply: "A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He fell into the hands of bandits who stripped off his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. A Levite also came on the scene and when he saw him, he too passed by on the other side. But then a Samaritan traveller came along to the place where the man was lying, and at the sight of him he was touched with pity. He went across to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own mule, brought him to an inn and did what he could for him. Next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the inn-keeper with the words, 'Look after him, will you? I will pay you back whatever more you spend, when I come through here on my return.' Which of these three seems to you to have been a neighbour to the bandits' victim?"
"The man who gave him practical sympathy," he replied.
"Then you go and give the same," returned Jesus.
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15.15 HOW GOD WILL ANSWER OUR PRAYERS - "THE FRIEND AT MIDNIGHT"
Luke 11:5-8 - Then (sometime after Jesus' first visit to Martha and Mary in Bethany) he added, "If any of you has a friend, and goes to him in the middle of the night and says, 'Lend me three loaves, my dear fellow, for a friend of mine has just arrived after a journey and I have no food to put in front of him'; and then he answers from inside the house, 'Don't bother me with your troubles. The front door is locked and my children and I have gone to bed. I simply cannot get up now and give you anything!' Yet, I tell you, that even if he won't get up and give him what he wants simply because he is his friend, yet if he persists, he will rouse himself and give him everything he needs."
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15.16 THE DANGER OF NOT BEING FILLED WITH THE THINGS OF GOD - "THE RETURN OF THE EVIL SPIRITS"
(Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26)
Matthew 12:43-45 - (After Jesus refuses to give the Pharisees a sign, he goes on .....) "When the evil spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless places looking for rest and never finding it. Then it says, 'I will go back to my house from which I came.' When it arrives it finds it unoccupied, but clean and all in order. Then it goes and collects seven other spirits more evil than itself to keep it company, and they all go in and make themselves at home. The last state of that man is worse than the first - and that is just what will happen to this evil generation."
Luke 11:24-26 - (In Luke, after being accused of using the devil's power to heal, Jesus continues ....) "When the evil spirit comes out of a man, it wanders through waterless places looking for rest, and when it fails to find any, it says, 'I will go back to my house from which I came.' When it arrives, it finds it cleaned and all in order. Then it goes and collects seven other spirits more evil than itself to keep it company, and they all go in and make themselves at home. The last state of that man is worse than the first."
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15.17 SEARCHING FOR SECURITY IN MATERIAL POSSESSIONS - "THE RICH AND FOOLISH MAN"
Luke 12:13-21 - Then (as Jesus continues warning and encouraging his disciples) someone out of the crowd said to him, "Master, tell my brother to share his legacy with me."
But Jesus replied, "My dear man, who appointed me a judge or arbitrator in your affairs?"
And then, turning to the disciples, he said to them, "Notice that, and be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man's real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions."
Then he gave them a parable in these words, "Once upon a time a rich man's farmland produced heavy crops. So he said to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have no room to store this harvest of mine?' Then he said, 'I know what I'll do. I'll pull down my barns and build bigger ones where I can store all my grain and my goods and I can say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty of good things stored up there for years to come. Relax! Eat, drink and have a good time!' But God said to him, 'You fool, this very night you will be asked for your soul! Then, who is going to possess all that you have prepared?' That is what happens to the man who hoards things for himself and is not rich where God is concerned."
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15.18 BEING PREPARED FOR THE COMING OF JESUS - "THE SERVANTS AND THE RETURNING MASTER"
- This parable is similar to "the faithful servant and the returning householder" included by both Matthew and Mark after Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem (15.39):
Luke 12:35-48 - (After the parable of the "rich and foolish man", Jesus goes on .....) "You must be ready dressed and have your lamps alight, like men who wait to welcome their lord and master on his return from the wedding-feast, so that when he comes and knocks at the door, they may open it for him at once. Happy are the servants whom their lord finds on the alert when he arrives. I assure you that he will take off his outer clothes, make then sit down to dinner, and come and wait on them. And if he should come just after midnight or in the very early morning, and find them still on the alert, their happiness is assured. But be certain of this, that if the householder had known the time when the burglar would come, he would not have let his house be broken into. So you must be on the alert, for the Son of Man is coming at a time when you may not expect him."
Then Peter said to him, "Lord, do you mean this parable for us or for everybody?"
But the Lord continued, "Well, who will be the faithful, sensible steward whom his master will put in charge of his household to give them their supplies at the proper time? Happy is the servant if his master finds him so doing when he returns. I tell you he will promote him to look after all his property. But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master takes his time about returning', and then begins to beat the men and women servants and to eat and drink and get drunk, that servant's lord and master will return suddenly and unexpectedly, and he will punish him severely and send him to share the penalty of the unfaithful. The slave who knows his master's plan but does not get ready or act upon it will be severely punished, but the servant who did not know the plan, though he has done wrong, will be let off lightly. Much will be expected from the one who has been given much, and the more a man is trusted, the more people will expect of him."
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15.19 IF WE CONTINUE TO REJECT GOD - "THE UNFRUITFUL FIG-TREE"
Luke 13:1-9 - (Following the parable of the "servants and the returning master", Jesus later continues ....) It was just at this moment that some people came up to tell him the story of the Galileans whose blood (the Roman procurator, Pontius) Pilate had mixed with that of their own sacrifices (... Galileans killed by the Romans, possibly in the Temple during Passover). Jesus made this reply to them: "Are you thinking that these Galileans were worse sinners than any other men of Galilee because this happened to them? I assure you that is not so. You will all die just as miserable a death unless your hearts are changed! You remember those eighteen people who were killed at Siloam (in the Lower City of Jerusalem, near the Pool of Siloam) when the tower collapsed upon them? Are you imagining that they were worse offenders than any of the other people who lived in Jerusalem? I assure you they were not. You will all die as tragically unless your whole outlook is changed!"
And hints at God's patience with the Jewish nation
Then he gave them this parable: "Once upon a time a man had a fig-tree growing in his garden, and when he came to look for the figs, he found none at all. So he said to his gardener, 'Look, I have come expecting fruit on this fig-tree for three years running and never found any. Better cut it down. Why should it use up valuable space?' And the gardener replied, 'Master, don't touch it this year till I have had a chance to dig round it and give it a bit of manure. Then, if it bears after that, it will be all right. But if it doesn't, then you can cut it down.'"
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The Last Months - c AD29-30
15.20 LEARNING HUMILITY THE HARD WAY -
"TAKING THE BEST SEAT AT THE WEDDING FEAST". Also "REAL CHARITY"
Luke 14:7-14 - Then (after healing a man with dropsy in the house of a leading Pharisee) he gave a little word of advice to the guests when he noticed how they were choosing the best seats.
"When you are invited to a wedding reception, don't sit down in the best seat. It might happen that a more distinguished man than you has also been invited. Then your host might say, 'I am afraid you must give up your seat for this man.' And then, with considerable embarrassment, you will have to sit in the humblest place. No, when you are invited, go and take your seat in an inconspicuous place, so that when your host comes in he may say to you, 'Come on, my dear fellow, we have a much better seat than this for you.' That is the way to be important in the eyes of all your fellow-guests! For everyone who makes himself important will become insignificant, while the man who makes himself insignificant will find himself important."
Then, addressing his host, Jesus said, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner party, don't invite your friends or your brothers or relations or wealthy neighbours, for the chances are they will invite you back, and you will be fully repaid. No, when you give a party, invite the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind. That way lies real happiness for you. they have no means of repaying you, but you will be repaid when good men are rewarded - at the resurrection."
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15.21 CONTINUING TO REJECT GOD - "INVITATIONS TO THE GREAT BANQUET FOR THE KING'S SON"
- Similar to Matthew's parable on the invitation to the banquet for the king's son recorded after Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem (15.36):
Luke 14:15-24 - Then, one of the guests, hearing these remarks of Jesus (about taking the best seat at the feast) said, "What happiness for a man to eat a meal in the kingdom of God!"
Men who are "too busy" for the kingdom of God
But Jesus said to him, "Once upon a time, a man planned a big dinner party and invited a great many people. At dinner-time, he sent his servant out to tell those who were invited, 'Please come, everything is ready now.' But they all, as one man, began to make their excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought some land. I must go and look at it. Please excuse me.' Another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please convey my apologies.' Another one said, 'I have just got married and I am sure you will understand I cannot come.' So the servant returned and reported all this to his master. The master of the house was extremely annoyed and said to his servant, 'Hurry out now into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' Then the servant said, 'I have done what you told me, sir, and there are still empty places.' Then the master replied, 'Now go out to the roads and hedgerows and make them come inside, so that my house may be full. For I tell you that not one of the men I invited shall have a taste of my dinner.'"
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15.22 COUNTING THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS -
"THE UNFINISHED TOWER" and "THE KING GOING TO WAR"
Luke 14:25-33 - Now as Jesus proceeded on his journey (after the parable of the "invitations to the great banquet"), great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and spoke to them, "If anyone comes to me without 'hating' his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine. The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple.
"If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn't he first sit down and work out the cost of it, to see if he can afford to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and found himself unable to complete the building, everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him, saying, 'This is the man who started to build a tower but couldn't finish it!'
"Or, suppose there is a king who is going to war with another king, doesn't he sit down first and consider whether he can engage the twenty thousand of the other king with his own ten thousand? And if he decides he can't, then, while the other king is still a long way off, he sends messengers to him to ask for conditions of peace. So it is with you; only the man who says goodbye to all his possessions can be my disciple
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GOD'S GREAT LOVE FOR THE LOST:
15.23 ...... (1) "THE LOST SHEEP"
(Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:1-7)
Matthew 18:10-14 - (After warning about temptations to sin, Jesus continues .....) "Be careful that you never despise a single one of these little ones (the children he has commended for their simplicity) - for I tell you that they have angels who see my Father's face continually in Heaven."
"What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the rest, won't he leave the ninety-nine on the hill-side and set out to look for the one who has wandered away? Yes, and if he should chance to find it I assure you he is more delighted over that one than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away. You can understand then that it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost."
Luke 15:1-7 - Now (in Luke's account after Jesus had told the parables about "the unfinished tower" and the "king going to war") all the tax-collectors and "outsiders" were crowding around to hear what he had to say. The Pharisees and the scribes complained of this, remarking, "This man accepts sinners and even eats his meals with them."
So Jesus spoke to them, using this parable: "Wouldn't any man among you who owned a hundred sheep, and lost one of them, leave the ninety-nine to themselves in the open, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will put it on his shoulders with great joy, and as soon as he gets home, he will call his friends and neighbours together. 'Come and celebrate with me,' he will say, 'for I have found that sheep of mine which was lost.' I tell you that it is the same in Heaven - there is more joy over one sinner whose heart is changed than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need for repentance.
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15.24 ...... (2) "THE LOST SILVER COIN"
Luke 15:8-10 - (After the parable of "the lost sheep ....) "Or if there is a woman who has ten silver coins, if she should lose one, won't she take a lamp and sweep and search the house from top to bottom until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbours together. 'Come and celebrate with me', she says, 'for I have found that coin I lost.' I tell you, it is the same in Heaven - there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner whose heart is changed."
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15.25 ...... (3) "THE PRODIGAL SON, THE ELDER BROTHER AND THEIR FATHER"
Luke 15:11-32 - Then he continued (after the parable of the "lost silver coin"), "Once there was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the property that will come to me.' So he divided up his property between the two of them. Before very long, the younger son collected all his belongings and went off to a foreign land, where he squandered his wealth in the wildest extravagance. And when he had run through all his money, a terrible famine arose in that country, and he began to feel the pinch. Then he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country who sent him out into the fields to feed the pigs. He got to the point of longing to stuff himself with the food the pigs were eating and not a soul gave him anything. Then he came to his senses and cried aloud, 'Why, dozens of my father's hired men have got more food than they can eat and here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go back to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have done wrong in the sight of Heaven and in your eyes. I don't deserve to be called your son any more. Please take me on as one of your hired men."'
So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still some distance off, his father saw him and his heart went out to him, and he ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. But his son said, 'Father, I have done wrong in the sight of Heaven and in your eyes. I don't deserve to be called your son any more ....' 'Hurry!' called out his father to the servants, 'fetch the best clothes and put them on him! Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and get that calf we've fattened and kill it, and we will have a feast and a celebration! For this is my son - I thought he was dead, and he's alive again. I thought I had lost him, and he's found!' And they began to get the festivities going.
"But his elder son was out in the fields, and as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants across to him and enquired what was the meaning of it all. 'Your brother has arrived, and your father has killed the calf we fattened because he has got him home again safe and sound,' was the reply. But he was furious and refused to go inside the house. So his father came outside and called him. Then he burst out, 'Look, how many years have I slaved for you and never disobeyed a single order of yours, and yet you have never given me so much as a young goat, so that I could give my friends a dinner? But when that son of yours arrives, who has spent all your money on prostitutes, for him you kill the calf we've fattened!' But the father replied, 'My dear son, you have been with me all the time and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and show our joy. For this is your brother; I thought he as dead - and he's alive. I thought he was lost - and he is found!'"
end of GOD'S GREAT LOVE FOR THE LOST
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15.26 BEING WISE IN THE WAYS OF THE WORLD - "THE SHREWD BUT DISHONEST MANAGER"
Luke 16:1-13 - Then (after the parable of the prodigal son) there is this story he told his disciples: "Once there was a rich man whose agent was reported to him to be mismanaging his property. So he summoned him and said, 'What's this I hear about you? Give me an account of your stewardship - you're not fit to manage my household any longer.' At this the agent said to himself, 'What am I going to do now that my employer is taking away the stewardship from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I can't sink to begging. Ah, I know what I'll do so that when I lose my position people will welcome me into their homes!' So he sent for each one of his master's debtors. 'How much do you owe my master?' he said to the first. 'A hundred barrels of oil,' he replied. 'Here,' replied the agent, 'take your bill, sit down, hurry up and write in fifty.' Then he said to another, 'And what's the size of your debt?' 'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. 'Take your bill,' said the agent, 'and write in eight hundred.' Now the master praised this rascally steward because he had been so careful for his own future. For the children of this world are considerably more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the children of light. Now my (Jesus') advice to you is to use 'money', tainted as it is, to make yourselves friends, so that when it comes to an end, they may welcome you into eternal habitations.
"The man who is faithful in the little things will be faithful in the big things, and the man who cheats in the little things will cheat in the big things too. So that if you are not fit to be trusted to deal with the wicked wealth of this world, who will trust you with the true riches? And if you are not trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. He is bound to hate one and love the other, or give his loyalty to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money at the same time."
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15.27 THE TIME FOR SHARING OUR RICHES IS NOW -
"THE RICH MAN IN HELL AND THE POOR LAZARUS IN HEAVEN"
Luke 16:19-31 - (Jesus talks to the Pharisees and others about money, the Law, divorce, and continues .....) "There was once a rich man (traditionally named Dives) who used to dress in purple and fine linen and lead a life of daily luxury. And there was a poor man called Lazarus who was put down at his gate. ....
Lazarus - This is the only time a character in a parable is named. Interestingly, it is the same name as the friend Jesus raised from the dead (John 11:1-44):
.... He was covered with sores. He used to long to be fed with the scraps from the rich man's table. Yes, and the dogs used to come and lick his sores. Well, it happened that the poor man died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And from among the dead he looked up and saw Abraham a long way away, and Lazarus in his arms. 'Father Abraham!' he cried out, 'please pity me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham replied, 'Remember, my son, that you used to have the good things in your lifetime, while Lazarus suffered the bad. Now he is being comforted here, while you are in agony. And besides this, a great chasm has been set between you and us, so that those who want to go to you from this side cannot do so, and people cannot come to us from your side.' At this he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house for I have five brothers. He could warn them about all this and prevent their coming to this place of torture.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets: they can listen to them.' 'Ah no, father Abraham,' he said, 'if only someone were to go to them from the dead, they would change completely.' But Abraham told him, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they would not be convinced even if somebody were to rise from the dead.'"
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15.28 UNCOMPLAINING SERVICE - "A SERVANT'S DUTY"
Luke 17:7-10 - (Jesus talks about leading others into sin and having faith as big as a mustard seed. Then ....) "If any of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep, are you likely to say to him when he comes in from the fields, 'Come straight in and sit down to your meal'? Aren't you more likely to say, 'Get my supper ready: change your coat, and wait until I eat and drink: and then, when I've finished, you can have your meal'? Do you feel particularly grateful to your servant for doing what you tell him? I don't think so. It is the same with yourselves - when you have done everything that you are told to do, you can say, 'We are not much good as servants, for we have only done what we ought to do.'"
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15.29 KEEP ON PRAYING - "THE PERSISTENT WIDOW AND THE UNJUST JUDGE"
Luke 18:1-8 - Then (after Jesus' has taught about the end-times) he gave them an illustration to show that they must always pray and never lose heart.
"Once upon a time," he said, "there was a magistrate in a town who had neither fear of God nor respect for his fellow-men. There was a widow in the town who kept coming to him, saying, 'Please protect me from the man who is trying to ruin me.' And for a long time he refused. But later he said to himself, 'Although I don't fear God and have no respect for men, yet this woman is such a nuisance that I shall give judgement in her favour, or else her continual visits will be the death of me!'"
Then the Lord said, "Notice how this dishonest magistrate behaved. Do you suppose God, patient as he is, will not see justice done for his chosen, who appeal to him day and night? I assure you he will not delay in seeing justice done. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find men on earth who believe in him?"
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15.30 PRIDE AND HUMILITY - "THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR"
Luke 18:9-14 - Then (after the story of the "persistent widow") he gave this illustration to certain people who were confident of their own goodness and looked down on others: "Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one was a Pharisee, the other was a tax-collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed like this with himself, 'O God, I do thank you that I am not like the rest of mankind, greedy, dishonest, impure, or even like that tax-collector over there. I fast twice every week; I give away a tenth-part of all my income.' But the tax-collector stood in a distant corner, scarcely daring to look up to Heaven, and with a gesture of despair, said, 'God, have mercy on a sinner like me.' I assure you that he was the man who went home justified in God's sight, rather than the other one. For everyone who sets himself up as somebody will become a nobody, and the man who makes himself nobody will become somebody."
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15.31 USING OUR GIFTS AND ABILITIES WHILE WAITING FOR THE RETURN OF JESUS -
"THE TEN POUNDS OR MINAS"
- This parable is similar to Matthew's "talents of money" (15.41):
Luke 19:11-27 - Then (having called Zacchaeus the tax collector to follow him ....) as the crowd still listened attentively, Jesus went on to give them this parable, For the fact that he was nearing Jerusalem made them imagine that the kingdom of God was on the point of appearing.
"Once upon a time a man of good family went abroad to accept a kingdom and then return. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them each ten pounds, with the words, 'Use this money to trade with until I come back.' But the citizens detested him and they sent a delegation after him, to say, 'We will not have this man to be our king.' Then later, when he had received his kingdom, he returned and gave orders for the servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, so that he could find out what profit they had made. The first came into his presence, and said, 'Sire, your ten pounds have made a hundred pounds more.' 'Splendid, my good fellow,' he said, 'since you have proved trustworthy over this small amount, I am going to put you in charge of ten towns.' The second came in and said, 'Sire, your ten pounds have made fifty pounds.' and he said to him, 'Good, you're appointed governor of five towns.' When the last came, he said, 'Sire, here are your ten pounds, which I have been keeping wrapped up in a handkerchief. I have been scared - I know you're a hard man, getting something for nothing and reaping where you never sowed.' To which he replied, 'You scoundrel, your own words condemn you! You knew perfectly well, did you, that I am a hard man who gets something for nothing and reaps where he never sowed? Then why didn't you put my money into the bank, and then when I returned I could have had it back with interest?' Then he said to those who were standing by, 'Take away his ten pounds and give it to the fellow who has a hundred.'
"'But, sire, he has a hundred pounds already,' they said to him. 'Yes,' he replied, 'and I tell you that the man who has something will get more given to him. But as for the man who has nothing, even his "nothing" will be taken away. And as for these enemies of mine who objected to my being their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence.'"
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The last eleven parables are all found in Matthew. Mark and Luke each include three of them:
15.32 FORGIVENESS HAS NO LIMITS - "THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT"
(Matthew 18:21-35, Luke 17:3b-4)
Matthew 18:21-35 - Then (after Jesus had told the parable of "the lost sheep") Peter approached him with the question, "Master, how many times can my brother wrong me and I must forgive him? Would seven times be enough?"
"No," replied Jesus, "not seven times, but seventy times seven! For the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When he had started calling in his accounts, a man was brought to him who owed him millions of pounds. And when it was plain that he had no means of repaying the debt, his master gave orders for him to be sold as a slave, and his wife and children and all his possessions as well, and the money to be paid over. At this the servant fell on his knees before his master, 'Oh, be patient with me!' he cried, 'and I will pay you back every penny!' Then his master was moved with pity for him, set him free and cancelled his debt.
"But when this same servant had left his master's presence, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a few shillings. He grabbed him and seized him by the throat, crying, 'Pay up what you owe me!' At this his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and implored him, 'Oh, be patient with me, and I will pay you back!' But he refused and went out and had him put in prison until he should repay the debt.
When the other fellow-servants saw what had happened, they were horrified and told their master the whole incident. Then his master called him in.
"'You wicked servant!' he said. 'Didn't I cancel all that debt when you begged me to do so? Oughtn't you to have taken pity on your fellow-servant as I, your master, took pity on you? And his master in anger handed him over to the gaolers till he should repay the whole debt. This is how my Heavenly Father will treat you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart."
Luke 17:3b-4 - Luke's Gospel also includes guidance on how much we must forgive:
"So be careful how you live. If your brother offends you, take him to task about it, and if he is sorry, forgive him. Yes, if he wrongs you seven times in one day and turns to you and says, 'I am sorry' seven times, you must forgive him."
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15.33 GOD'S GIFTS MAY BE GRANTED TO EVEN THE LEAST DESERVING -
"THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD PAID THE SAME WAGE"
Matthew 20:1-16 - (After Peter protests about the sacrifices the disciples have made to follow him, Jesus continues ....) "For the kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer going out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. He agreed with them on a wage of a silver coin a day and sent them to work. About nine o'clock he went and saw some others standing about in the market-place with nothing to do. 'You go to the vineyard too," he said to them, 'and I will pay you a fair wage.' And off they went. At about mid-day and again at about three o'clock in the afternoon he went and did the same thing. Then about five o'clock he went out and found some others standing about. 'Why are you standing about here all day doing nothing?' he asked them. 'Because no one has employed us,' they replied. 'You go off into the vineyard as well, then,' he said.
"When evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' So those who were engaged at five o'clock came up and each man received a silver coin. But when the first to be employed came they reckoned they would get more, but they also received a silver coin a man. As they took their money they grumbled at the farmer and said, 'These last fellows have only put in one hour's work and you've treated them exactly the same as us who have gone through all the hard work and heat of the day!'
"But he replied to one of them, 'My friend, I'm not being unjust to you. Wasn't our agreement for a silver coin a day? Take your money and go home. It is my wish to give the latecomers as much as I give you. May I not do what I like with what belongs to me? Must you be jealous because I am generous?'
"So, many who are the last now will be the first then and the first last."
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The Last Week in Jerusalem - Spring c AD30
THOSE WHO WON'T ACCEPT GOD
15.34 ...... (1) "THE TWO SONS CALLED TO WORK"
Matthew 21:28-32 - (Jesus is in the Temple and the chief priests and elders question his authority. He responds .....) "But what is your opinion about this? There was a man with two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Go and work in my vineyard today, my son,' he said, 'All right, sir' - but he never went near it. Then his father approached the second son with the same request. He said, 'I won't.' But afterwards he changed his mind and went. Which of these two did what their father wanted?"
"The second one," they replied.
"Yes, and I tell you that tax-collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God in front of you!" retorted Jesus. "For John (the Baptist) came to you as a saint, and you did not believe him - yet the tax-collectors and the prostitutes did! And, even after seeing that, you would not change your minds and believe him."
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15.35 ...... (2) "THE WICKED TENANTS OF THE VINEYARD". Also "THE REJECTED STONE"
(Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19)
Matthew 21:33-46 - "Now listen to another story (after the one about the two sons called to work). There was once a man, a land-owner, who planted a vineyard, fenced it round, dug out a hole for the wine-press and built a watch-tower. Then he let it out to farm-workers and went abroad. When the vintage-time approached he sent his servants to the farm-workers to receive his share of the proceeds. But they took the servants. beat up one, killed another, and drove off a third with stones. Then he sent some more servants, a larger party than the first, but they treated them in just the same way. Finally he sent his own son, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' Yet when the farm-workers saw the son they said to each other, 'This fellow is the future owner. Come on, let's kill him and we shall get everything that he would have had!' So they took him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard returns, what will he do to those farm-workers?"
"He will kill those scoundrels without mercy," they replied, "and will let the vineyard out to other tenants, who will give him the produce at the right season."
"And have you never read these words of scripture," said Jesus to them: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?'
"Here, I tell you, lies the reason why the kingdom of God is going to be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its proper fruit."
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables they realised that he was speaking about them. They longed to get their hands on him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who regarded him as a prophet.
Mark 12:1-12 - Then he began to talk to them (... the chief priests, elders and scribes in the Jerusalem Temple) in parables.
"A man once planted a vineyard," he said, "fenced it round, dug out the hole for the wine-press and built a watch-tower. Then he let it out to some farm-workers and went abroad. At the end of the season he sent a servant to the tenants to receive his share of the vintage. But they got hold of him, knocked him about and sent him off empty-handed. The owner tried again. He sent another servant to them, but this one they knocked on the head and generally insulted. Once again he sent them another servant, but him they murdered. He sent many others and some they beat up and some they murdered. He had one man left - his own son who was very dear to him. He sent him last of all to the tenants, saying to himself, 'They will surely respect my own son.' But they said to each other, 'This fellow is the future owner - come on, let's kill him, and the property will be ours! So they got hold of him and murdered him, and threw his body out of the vineyard. What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard is going to do? He will come and destroy the men who were working his vineyard and will hand it over to others. Have you never read this scripture - 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?'"
Then they tried to get their hands on him, for they knew perfectly well that he had aimed this parable at them - but they were afraid of the people. So they left him and went away.
Luke 20:9-19 - Then (while Jesus was in the Temple and the chief priests, scribes and elders questioned him about his authority) he turned to the people and told them this parable: "There was once a man who planted a vineyard, let it out farm-workers, and went abroad for some time. Then, when the season arrived, he sent a servant to the farm-workers so that they could give him the proceeds of the vineyard. But the farm-workers beat him up and sent him back empty-handed. So he sent another servant, and they beat him up as well, manhandling him disgracefully, and sent him back empty-handed. Then he sent a third servant, but after wounding him severely they threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do now? I will send them my son who is so dear to me. Perhaps they will respect him.' But when the farm-workers saw him, they talked the matter over with each other and said, 'This man is the heir - come on, let's kill him, and we shall get everything that he would have had!' And they threw him outside the vineyard and killed him. What do you suppose the owner will do to them? He will come and destroy the men who were working his property, and hand it over to others."
When they heard this, they said, "God forbid!"
But he looked them straight in the eyes and said, "Then what is the meaning of this scripture - 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone?'
The man who falls on that stone will be broken, and the man on whom it falls will be crushed to powder."
The authorities resort to trickery
The scribes and chief priests longed to get their hands on him at that moment, but they were afraid of the people. They knew well enough that his parable referred to them.
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15.36 ...... (3) "INVITATIONS TO THE BANQUET FOR THE KING'S SON"
- This parable is similar to Luke's invitation to the great banquet (15.21):
Matthew 22:1-14 - Then (after the story of the wicked tenants of the vineyard) Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.
"The kingdom of Heaven," he said, "is like a king who arranged a wedding for his son. He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come. Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Here is my wedding-breakfast all ready, my bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared. Come along to the festivities."' But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business. As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them disgracefully, and finally killed them. At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is quite ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it. So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.' So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike. And the hall became filled with guests. But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding. 'How did you come in here, my friend,' he said to him, 'without being properly dressed for the wedding?'
And the man had nothing to say. Then the king said to the ushers, 'Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside. There he can weep and regret his folly!' For many are invited but few are chosen."
end of THOSE WHO WON'T ACCEPT GOD
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BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS
15.37 ...... (1) "THE LESSON OF THE FIG-TREE"
(Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:29-33)
Matthew 24:32-35 - (During his major teaching about the end-times, Jesus includes three short parables. This is the first ....) "Learn what the fig-tree can teach you. As soon as its branches grow full of sap and produce leaves you know that summer is near. So when you see all these things happening you may know that he is near, at your very door! Believe me, this generation will not disappear till all this has taken place. Earth and sky will pass away, but my words will never pass away!
Mark 13:28-31 - (As in Matthew .......) "Let the fig-tree illustrate this for you: when its branches grow tender and produce leaves, you know that summer is near, at your very doors! I tell you that this generation will not have passed until all these things have come true. Earth and sky will pass away, but what I have told you will never pass away!
Luke 21:29-33 - Then he gave them a parable (again while teaching about the end-times).
"Look at a fig-tree, or indeed any tree, when it begins to burst its buds, and you realise without anybody telling you that summer is nearly here. So, when you see these things happening, you can be equally sure that the kingdom of God has nearly come. Believe me, this generation will not disappear until all this has taken place. Earth and heaven will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
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15.38 ...... (2) "THE THIEF AND THE HOUSEHOLDER"
Matthew 24:42-44 - (Teaching about the end-times, Jesus gives his listeners a second short parable .....) "You must be on the alert then, for you do not know when your master is coming. You can be sure of this, however, that if the householder had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been ready for him and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. That is why you must always be ready, for you do not know what time the Son of Man will arrive."
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15.39 ...... (3) "THE FAITHFUL SERVANTS AND THE RETURNING MASTER"
(Matthew 24:45-51; Mark 13:34-37)
- Similar to the parable in Luke on the servants and the returning master (15.18):
Matthew 24:45-51 - (Jesus concludes his main teaching about the end-times with a third short parable ....) "Who then is the faithful and sensible servant whom his master put in charge of his household to give others their food at the proper time? Well, he is fortunate if his master finds him doing that duty on his return! Believe me, he will promote him to look after all his property. But if he should be a bad servant who says to himself, 'My master takes his time about returning', and should begin to beat his fellow-servants and eat and drink with drunkards, that servant's master will return suddenly and unexpectedly, and will punish him severely and send him off to share the penalty of the unfaithful - to his bitter sorrow and regret!
Mark 13:34-37 - (As in Matthew ...) "It is as if a man who is travelling abroad had left his house and handed it over to be managed by his servants. He has given each one his work to do and has ordered the doorkeeper to be on the look-out for his return. Just so must you keep a look-out, for you do not know when the master of the house will come - it might be late evening, or midnight, or cock-crow, or early morning - otherwise he might come unexpectedly and find you sound asleep. What I am saying to you I am saying to all; keep on the alert!"
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15.40 ...... (4) "THE TEN BRIDESMAIDS"
- Matthew follows Jesus' main teaching about the end-times in chapter 24 with three final parables in chapter 25:
Matthew 25:1-13 - "In those days (when the Temple is destroyed as prophesied by Jesus) the kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were sensible and five were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. But the sensible ones brought their lamps and oil in their flasks as well. Then, as the bridegroom was a very long time, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But in the middle of the night there came a shout, 'Wake up, here comes the bridegroom! Out you go to meet him!" Then up got the bridesmaids and attended to their lamps. The foolish ones said to the sensible ones, 'Please give us some of your oil - our lamps are going out!' 'Oh no,' returned the sensible ones, 'there might not be enough for all of us. Better go to the oil-shop and buy some for yourselves.' But while they had gone off to buy the oil the bridegroom arrived, and those bridesmaids who were ready went in with him for the festivities and the door was shut behind them. Later on the rest of the bridesmaids came and said, 'Oh, please, sir, open the door for us!' But he replied, 'I tell you I don't know you!' So be on the alert - for you do not know the day or the time.
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15.41 ...... (5) "THE TALENTS OF MONEY "
- Similar to Luke's earlier parable on "the ten pounds or minas" (15.31).
Matthew 25:14-30 - "It is just like a man going abroad who called his household servants together before he went and handed his property to them to manage. He gave one five thousand pounds, another two thousand and another one thousand - according to their respective abilities. Then he went away.
"The man who had received five thousand pounds went out at once and by doing business with this sum he made another five thousand. Similarly the man with two thousand pounds made another two thousand. But the man who had received one thousand pounds went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
"Some years later the master of these servants arrived and went into the accounts with them. The one who had the five thousand pounds came in and brought him an additional five thousand with the words, 'You gave me five thousand pounds, sir; look, I've increased it by another five thousand.' 'Well done!' said his master, 'you're a sound, reliable servant. You've been trustworthy over a few things, now I'm going to put you in charge of much more. Come in and share your master's rejoicing.' Then the servant who had received two thousand pounds came in and said, 'You gave me two thousand pounds, sir; look, here's two thousand more that I've managed to make by it.' 'Well done!' said his master, 'you're a sound, reliable servant. You've been trustworthy over a few things, now I'm going to put you in charge of many. Come in and share your master's pleasure.'
"Then the man who had received the one thousand pounds came in and said, 'Sir, I always knew you were a hard man, reaping where you never sowed and collecting where you never laid out - so I was scared and I went off and hid your thousand pounds in the ground. Her is your money, intact.'
"'You're a wicked, lazy servant!' his master told him. 'You say you knew that I reap where I never sowed and collect where I never laid out? Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and when I came out I should at any rate have received what belongs to me with interest. Take his thousand pounds away from him and give it to the man who now has the ten thousand!' (For the man who has something will have more given to him and will have plenty. But as for the man who has nothing, even his 'nothing' will be taken away.) 'And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where he can weep and wail over his stupidity.'
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15.42 ...... (6) "THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS"
Matthew 25:31-46 - "But when the Son of Man comes in his splendour with all his angels with him, then he will take his seat on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
"Then the king will say to those on his right 'Come, you who have won my Father's blessing! Take your inheritance - the kingdom reserved for you since the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was lonely and you made me welcome. I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you came and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to see me there."
"Then the true men will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you lonely and make you welcome, or see you naked and clothe you, or see you ill or in prison and go to see you?'
"And the king will reply, 'I assure you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Out of my presence, cursed as you are, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was lonely and you never made me welcome. When I was naked you did nothing to clothe me; when I was sick and in prison you never cared about me.'
"Then they too will answer him, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry, or thirsty, or lonely, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and fail to look after you?'
"Then the king will answer them with these words, 'I assure you that whatever you failed to do to the humblest of my brothers you failed to do to me.'
"And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the true men to eternal life."
end of BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS
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Other parables, "word pictures", and allegories or symbolic stories are included in the following Parts:
12.2 "Disciples as "fishers of men" 16.3 "Salt and the salt of the earth" 16.4 "Light and the lamp on the stand" 16.20 "The inward light" 16.34 "The house built on the rock" 17.2 Jesus, the living water, and the harvest field 17.5 Jesus, the bread of life 17.15 Jesus, the good shepherd 17.21 Jesus, the vine and the branches 18.7 Jesus accused of using the power of the devil to heal 18.12 What really makes a person clean 18.14 The yeast of the Pharisees 21.11 Jesus, the grain of wheat that must die (John 12:24)
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J.B.Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English", 1962 edition, published by HarperCollins, is presented here with the kind permission of Mrs Vera Phillips and the J.B.Phillips estate