Parenting with the Parables – The Lost Son

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
Remember the context of Jesus’ first coming?  His contemporaries viewed the coming kingdom as a national deliverance from foreign oppression and personal deliverance for the righteous.  Jesus turned that idea on its head and proclaimed deliverance for the needy; the sick, the oppressed, the sinner.  The Jewish leaders expected judgment for the sinners, not redemption.  When Jesus ate with those considered “sinners,” it meant acceptance and recognition in their culture.  This coupled with His announcement that the kingdom had come to sinners led to many a protest from the religious leaders. One of these protests is found in Luke chapter 15, “Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.  And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Unmerciful Servant

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
In the gospels, Jesus referred to His ministry as "new wine" (Mk 2:22); not just an add-on to the old covenant, but something totally brand new.  In fact, I would say it is beyond brand new to the point of being completely revolutionary.  And one of its revolutions was the overturning of the Old Testament consequence model in favor of God's new covenant model of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Remember, the disciples would have been steeped in the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye model prior to meeting Jesus.  So Peter was actually being quite generous in Matthew 18:21 when he asked Jesus if he should forgive his brother up to seven times.  But Jesus trumped Peter's attempt at generosity by teaching that our forgiveness should be unlimited and illustrates this point with a story.…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Good Samaritan

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus is responding to a question from a lawyer, "who wishing to justify himself", asked, "Who is my neighbor?" (Lk 10:29).  Jesus answered the question with a parable. A man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho when he was attacked by thieves and left for dead on the side of the road.  When a priest, travelling the same route, came upon the man, he crossed over to the other side and continued on his journey.  Next a Levite saw the injured man and also passed by on the other side.  Finally a Samaritan - despised by the religious elite who ignored the man - came upon the casualty and, moved with compassion, stopped to tend to his plight.  He bandaged the man's…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Automatic Kingdom

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
"And Jesus was saying, 'The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows - how, he himself does not know.  The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.  But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come' " (Mk 4:26-29). Lest we become discouraged by the two kingdoms - the wheat and the weeds of our last parable - growing together, Jesus gives us a message of hope in the parable of the automatic kingdom.  And the message of hope is that the good kingdom will not be choked…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Wheat and the Weeds

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
Like so many of Jesus’ parables, the story of the wheat and the weeds (Mt 13:24-30) begins with “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  What is coming next is a word picture describing some aspect of the kingdom of God.  In this parable, the farmer planted wheat ("the good seed") in his field.  At night, his enemy came and sowed weeds.  At first no one realized the sabotage.  But as the wheat and the weeds began to grow together, it was obvious something was wrong.  The confused workers quizzed the farmer, “Did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have weeds?” (Mt 13:27).  The farmer recognizes this as the work of an enemy.  The workers respond with a willingness to immediately yank out the weeds.  But…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Humble Servant

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
Parenting is the ultimate and varied balancing act.  Balancing love and control.  Balancing grace and truth.  Balancing positive self-esteem and humility.  Balancing giving an allowance and children earning their money.  The list can be as general or specific as we choose.  Today, we are balancing generosity with duty. "Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'?  But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink'?  He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?  So you too, when you…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Workers in the Vineyard

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
Today's parable found in Matthew 20:1-16 starts with, "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out to hire laborers..."  Let me summarize the story. A landowner has a lot of work that needs done in his vineyard.  Most likely, he needs workers to gather the harvest.  He goes out at six in the morning to the place where the day laborers congregate.  He hires a group of them and agrees to pay them one denarius, the going daily wage, for a day's work in his vineyard. The landowner goes back to the gathering place at three-hour intervals; i.e. at 9 am, noon, and 3 pm.  Notice the agreement he makes with the later workers, "You go to the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give to…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Persistent Widow

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
"Now Jesus was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, 'In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.  There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, "Give me legal protection from my opponent."  For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out." '  And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said; likewise, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Two Sons

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
"Jesus said to the chief priests and elders, 'What do you think?  A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, "Son, go work today in the vineyard."  And the son answered, "I will not"; but afterward regretted it and went.  The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, "I will, sir"; but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?'  They said, 'The first.'  Jesus said to them, 'Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him;…
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Parenting with the Parables – Introduction

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
As parents, we have a mandate to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord.  "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4).  The backbone for accomplishing this training program is through the pages of Scripture.  And one of the themes that Rhonda and I found particularly appealing in teaching our children were the parables of Jesus. When Jesus was here in the flesh, He primarily taught His followers in three ways: through direct instruction (the Sermon on the Mount), by His example (washing His disciples feet), and by storytelling (the parables).  Each of these methods has an appropriate time and place in how we teach our children. In this upcoming series of posts, we will focus on…
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The Kingdom Treasure

The Parables, Thoughts
Jesus spoke many other parables, the study of which leads to a rich understanding of His secret kingdom.  We will close with a short one.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from the joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.” (Mt 13:44).  Jesus presents the kingdom of heaven as something of great value and our positive response to His offer brings tremendous joy to both us and the king.  In fact, the treasure of citizenship in His kingdom is so valuable that we “sell all that we have” to join in.  What does it mean to “sell all that we have?”  It means to consider the cost of joining…
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The Kingdom of Love

The Parables, Thoughts
As you recall from our last post, Peter begins the dialogue in Matthew 18:21-35 with a question regarding how many times he is required to forgive his brother in the new kingdom, suggesting seven times would be quite generous.  Jesus answers that seventy times seven would be more appropriate basically saying there is no limit.  Jesus then launches into another, “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” parable and describes the scene. A certain servant owed the king the equivalent of 150,000 years of wages.  The servant in question requested patience from the king and more time to repay.  The servant was essentially asking for some way to refinance the debt.  But the king, moved with compassion, set any idea of refinancing aside and, at what we…
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Seventy Times Seven

The Parables, Thoughts
Another kingdom parable involving debtors (Mt 18:21-35) begins with an interesting exchange between Peter and Jesus.  Peter and the disciples have been observing Jesus' interaction with the Pharisees regarding His "acceptance" of sinners.  They have been listening to His teaching about what life is like among the citizens of His kingdom.  They are also learning about a new commandment, "Love one another." (Jn 13:34).  This is all very foreign to their Old Testament trained ears. The Old Testament they grew up with did not carry the aura of love, acceptance, and forgiveness that Jesus taught.  They lived under the idea, clearly expounded in the Old Testament, that obedience to God's laws brought blessing while disobedience brought a curse.  They believed God would reward the righteous and strike down sinners; not accept…
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The Two Debtors

The Parables, Thoughts
Jesus continues the theme of good news to the needy in the story of the two debtors.  The context for this parable is Jesus’ invitation to the home of Simon, the Pharisee, for a dinner party.  At the dinner, a woman known to be “immoral” came and anointed the feet of Jesus.  Jesus, aware of what the host and religious guests were thinking told this story, “ ‘A certain moneylender had two debtors:  one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.  Which of them will therefore love him more?’  Simon, the host, answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged correctly.’ “ (Lk 7:41-44). Jesus goes on to equate…
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The Lost Son

The Parables, Thoughts
Finally, we come to the last story in Luke 15, commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son, or as I like to think of it, the parable of the lost son.  For again it ends with the theme of the lost discovered.  When the lost son is "found", a party ensues and the father explains the celebration to the older brother with these words, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.” (Lk 15:32).  Let’s go back to the start of the story.  A wealthy landowner had two sons.  The younger son requested his share of the inheritance from his father so he could set out on his own.  The father…
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Good News for the Lost

The Parables, Thoughts
Remember the context of Jesus’ first coming?  His contemporaries viewed the coming kingdom as a national deliverance from foreign oppression and personal deliverance for the righteous.  Jesus turned that idea on its head and proclaimed deliverance for the needy; the sick, the oppressed, the sinner.  The Jewish leaders expected judgment for the sinners, not redemption.  When Jesus ate with those considered “sinners,” it meant acceptance and recognition in their culture.  This coupled with His announcement that the kingdom had come to “sinners” led to many a protest from the religious leaders.  (See The Parables of Jesus by David Wenham for a longer explanation of the comparison between the self-righteousness of the religious leaders and the self-recognized spiritual poverty of the "sinners.") Jesus’ three parables of the lost things, from Luke…
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Good News for the Needy

The Parables, Thoughts
The gospel writers often described the coming of the kingdom, as proclaimed by Jesus Himself from day one of His ministry, as good news.  "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom..." (Mt 4:23).  To whom is the coming kingdom good news and how do we get in on the good news?  Jesus consistently taught that the coming kingdom was good news to the needy; and the requirement of its citizens to acknowledge their need.  Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit (i.e. those who recognize their spiritual poverty), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5:3).  Good news for the needy is a recurring theme in Jesus' explanation of the kingdom of heaven. "And He also told this parable to…
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The Mustard Seed and the Mustard Tree

The Parables, Thoughts
Another kingdom parable is the story of the mustard seed.  Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Mt 13:31-32).  Again this illustration may have been designed by Jesus to assure those who had trouble reconciling the tiny beginnings of God’s kingdom ushered in by Christ (a mustard seed is about a millimeter in diameter) with the powerful and explosive revolution they were expecting from their Messiah.  But as it turns out this parable is actually a prophecy that we see…
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The Automatic Kingdom

The Parables, Thoughts
Another parable that cues us in to the nature and workings of the kingdom of God is found in Mark 4:26-29 and again begins with, “The kingdom of God is like…”  In this case the kingdom is like “a man who casts seed upon the ground; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows – how, he himself does not know.  The earth produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.  But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” This parable gives rise to our idea of the kingdom of God being a secret kingdom.  To His first century hearers, it must have…
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The Wheat and the Weeds

The Parables, Thoughts
Like so many of Jesus’ parables, the story of the wheat and the weeds (Mt 13:24-30) begins with “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  What is coming next is a word picture describing some aspect of the kingdom of God.  In this parable, the farmer planted good seed, the wheat, in his field.  At night, his enemy came and sowed weeds.  At first no one realized the sabotage.  But as the wheat and the weeds began to grow together, it was obvious something was wrong.  The confused workers quizzed the farmer, “Did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have weeds?” (Mt 13:27).  The farmer recognizes this as the work of an enemy.  The workers respond with a willingness to immediately yank out the weeds.  But…
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