Luke The Beautiful Book

Each Gospel presents Jesus in a different way and we lose this uniqueness when we try to blend, mix, or create a general consensus. Their beauty lies in their difference. As a whole the four gospels present a total picture of Jesus but each inspires and challenges the reader in different ways. Matthew brings to us a Jesus who fulfills the Scripture through the authority of his words. Following the Jesus of Matthew means keeping his teachings and making other disciples. The Jesus of Mark, we find him to be misunderstood and abandoned. To follow Mark’s Jesus we must take up the cross and follow him. John’s Jesus is the word incarnate. He is the revealer, sent to make known God to us. It is a symphony of living water, the bread of life and taking our place within the community of “the children of God.” Luke presents us with a compassionate Jesus, one of deep concern for the outcasts.  It seems that Luke’s Jesus tends to tell the story of God’s redemptive power while relating to the history of Israel, the scriptures and the contemporary world of his day. Jesus is sent to save the lost and for Israel there would be tragic consequences. The religious leaders reject Jesus and hand him over to be crucified but the people in general seem to survive the harsh judgement of history. Luke brings his Gospel to end with the disciples going forth with the good news and “the rest of the story” following in Acts.

I in the past have written other blogs with scripture verses from the  book of Luke as the basis. I think one of the interesting things about this book is the author. First off, Luke is a Gentile. Luke is the only Gentile writer with a book included in the New Testament Bible. As to authorship there can be little doubt that Luke is the author. It was a custom of early writers to attach the name of a well known author or church person to increase the chance of it being accepted but Luke was never one of the famous persons of the early church. Luke wrote this Gospel and there is little chance that anyone one would have attached their name to it. We read in Colossians 4:14 he was medical doctor and it is often cited as the reason for his sympathy for all people, it gave him a gentle and caring spirit. As a doctor Luke truly saw people as they really were. Over time emblems have been assigned to the Gospel writers, interesting to note that the symbol of Luke is the calf. The calf was viewed as an animal of sacrifice and in Luke’s eye that was how he viewed Jesus….God’s instrument of sacrifice who broke down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, a Savior for all people, all the world. Luke wrote his Gospel mainly for the Gentiles. Luke is writing in one sense to most likely answer a request or question from Theophilus, he himself a gentile. Luke was a trusted companion of Paul and most likely knew or knew of all the great figures of the church. His was a life of walking through history and he was meticulous in his recording of it. He was careful in all he wrote and it is evident his careful research included the opportunities he had to ask questions of these figures. Luke very seldom quotes the Old Testament. Luke quite literally was writing not for the Jews but for people just like us.

Luke’s Gospel paints a picture of Jesus that gives us a side of Jesus that while noted in the other Gospels, comes to the forefront in Luke’s writings. Luke’s Gospel puts forth the picture of a praying Jesus…at the moments of great stress or challenges we see Christ at prayer. Luke believed that to open the door to prayer was a powerful thing. Luke was a native of Macedonia where women were respected more than anyplace else. It comes across in his writings about Mary, Martha and of Mary Magdalene. With Luke it was a praise thing and here in Luke’s book the phrase praising God occurs more often than all the rest of the New Testament put together. There is Mary’s song of praise Luke 1: 46-55, The Benedictus 1:68-79 and the Nunc Dimittis 2:29-32. But there is yet the wonder of the Gospel, the Universal Gospel; the Gospel of no barriers, the Gospel for all people.

These are just a few of the wonders of this beautiful book. In the DBS, Barclay takes note of this written by F.W. Faber….

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

Like the wideness of the sea;

There’s a kindness in his justice,

Which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of man’s mind;

And the heart of the Eternal

Is most wonderfully kind.

A good summation of Luke, The Book Beautiful.

God Bless,

Life is Good

jk

Christian Inclusiveness…The Latter Additions Matthew 13: 47-48

This parable we are studying today is often referred to as the Parable of  the Drag-Net or other wise known by its proper name the seine net. We note that most scholars consider vv. 47 and 48 to be where this one stops and vv. 49-50 were added later.

Matthew 13: 47-50

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I am getting ahead of myself but it is at v. 48 that the sorting out starts. In those added verses 49-50 we have the when and how those sorted out are dealt with. So now back to the net. The drag-net had corks at the top and the weights were at the bottom. When the net was dragged it formed a cone into which all creatures of the sea in its path were caught. In Galilee the net was drawn to the shore and the fishermen started the sorting out process. There were vessels there on shore that most likely contained water into which the fish were put. This was done to ensure that the fish remained as fresh as possible for the market. Those things that were useless or unusable were cast away. Our first point to be made is that the seine net gathers every kind of creature. We have seen how Jesus through these parables would paint a picture that all who had ears could hear, see and understand. We might picture the church much like that net. When we cast our net it should also bring in all people. Ours must be the invitation of Christ…all are welcome, the gospel is for all. It is an all embracing call to salvation and there can be no selective preaching of the gospel. The gospel was for everyone. We as the church have over the years accepted this with no hesitation because it is the right way and the will of our Savior. Not so in the ancient world, there were barriers and blatant contempt between the people everywhere.

In the Greek world those who could not speak that language were look on with contempt. There was the difference between slave and free man. Aristotle believed there were those that were meant to serve, so as to leave the cultured class free of any of the ordinary tasks of the day. There were those who spent their lives seeking wisdom and then those simple folk of simple minds. These people were the uneducated and ignorant and they were held in contempt. The Roman world was much simpler. There was the Roman citizen and then the rest of the world, commonly referred to as the lesser breeds. Rome in its day was truly a thing of wonder. In the latter years it became a place that used the lesser folks for the ease and comfort of the Roman citizen. The Jewish world had the most barriers. The first was short and to the point…They believed themselves to be the chosen people, the only people in the world God loved. They looked down with contempt on any other race. The next barrier was between man and woman. Pretty much a case of women being despised. There is no better proof of this than their morning prayer…The Jew thanked God, that, “Thou hast not created me a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” The attitude of most Jews was that women didn’t matter. Sadly we are not done yet. Two other groups, those who keep the law and those that did not. Those that didn’t, they were called,  The People of the Land. Most Jews would not do business with them, or allow marriage between a Jew and them. In addition to that they did not keep company with them or travel anywhere with them. The Jew had utter contempt for those who did not keep the law.  To the Jew goodness and badness was related to your keeping the ceremonial law, but they went past that. They believed there was a great joy in heaven when a sinner went down. Barclay uses the story of the woman who was caught in an act of adultery (John 8: 1-11) to make this point. She was to be stoned to death as per Jewish law. Stoning though a harsh and horrible death administered by the people was not shied away from by the people and they did not see the harshness of it. They were most eager to get on with it. The picture presented here is they seemed to find a grim and sadistic pleasure in it. This attitude prevailed among the Jews. The Jews were disappointed by the fact that Jesus was a friend to the sinners and outcasts. Let’s go to vv. 3-5 in Psalm 24.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?

    And who shall stand in his holy place?

Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,

    who do not lift up their souls to what is false,

    and do not swear deceitfully.

Without the presence of God or the grace of Christ this shuts most of us out. This was the Jewish thought and was the example of utter contempt for the sinner.

There are still the barriers of this day. The Parable tells us of an all inclusive, wide open invitation to Christ. Unfortunately the sins of exclusiveness and contempt still are part of the church today. We can find the attitude that a person can sink so low they are no longer redeemable. There is the story of the great scholar Muretus. He traveled to many cites teaching and learning, then found himself sick in an Italian city, no-one really knew who he was. The doctors treating him thought him to be a vagrant with no friends or resources. They felt no one would miss him and he was of little use. They were speaking in Latin, the scholar’s language.  At the close of their conversation he looked up and said to them“call no man worthless for whom Christ died.” We are of course in this day and in this country dealing with a race problem, the issue of color prejudice. Our attitude toward persons of color is one of condescension. That is not the Christian way of treating all people as brothers and sisters, all are equally a part of the family of God. We still as members of the church have an attitude problem. We tend toward the habit of labeling people good or bad, closing our hearts, minds and doors to the sinner because they make us uncomfortable. We must ask ourselves if we turn them away where can they go? There is and always will be a mixture in the church. If the church were for only the perfect people it would be hard pressed to seat a choir. The mixture of good and bad within the church is a testament to its purpose.

Remember the net and the fact that it gathered all in its path, then when brought ashore the sorting out of the good and bad started? The bad were cast away. We would do well to understand that when we are confronted with Christ it is at that moment. our actions judge ourselves and are judged by God. We are making the decision in which direction our lives will go. Will you be cast away?

Life is Good

jk

 

The Misinterpretation…?

Last week’s parable dealt with the Orthodox Jews belief that good deeds would enhance ones standing as a righteous person. The more good deeds the more righteous a person was in God’s eyes. That righteousness was the result of good works. We learned that good works were not to be motivated by our desire to establish credit with God but rather the result of doing our duty as expected by God. This week we look at a different view and a different assessment. It is important for you to read James 2: 14-26 at this point.

Let’s start with these verses from James 1: 22-25:

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves[h] in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

Yes, our study today is in Chapter 2 but even before we get there James lays down his assessment of faith, deeds and works. It is important to remember that the word of God can never be just one or two verses from a chosen reading, in the study of scripture context is important. James early in his book insists that his readers be not only be hearers of the word but doers. James specifically writes that one true mark of the faith would be those who care for the needs of others and it is not far into the second chapter before he is writing this:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters,[e] if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (2James vv.14-17 NRSV)

Repetitive as this is, his words continue to bring home his dedication to his belief that faith without works is dead. He made the point in the very first chapter and got no farther in the second chapter than verse 14 before writing it again. His passionate insistence that faith must be translated into works is the overwhelming theme of this section of writing. Just knowing the right truth or the holding the right position does not make us righteous. Again and again verse 14 hits us in the face…To the Jew almsgiving was a big thing. So much so that it became one and the same. Righteousness and almsgiving were looked on by some as a way to atone for their sins. I found this in my research and include it here as a telling picture of the church’s view of the importance of works and faith.

“When the leaders of the Jerusalem church agreed that Paul should go to the Gentiles, the one specific instruction given to him was not to forget the poor (Galatians 2:10). This stress on practical help was one of the great and lovely marks of Jewish piety.” (DBS page 87)

All of us at times experience the need to help someone, I believe that there is a little good in all of us. Sympathy for others needs is a fine emotion and yes we all do have that emotion from time to time. James adds the blunt assessment that if we do not act on that it is highly likely that we will ever respond to any needs. When our emotions allow us to see a need and feel sympathy, we must be willing to make the sacrifice to meet that need. The study of the parable last week led me to linger a bit beyond the words. Luther regarded Paul as the true apostle and he was at odds with James and his position that faith without deeds was dead. Luther had an enormous amount of influence on the development of the NT scholarship, he more or less demoted James, a better term I guess would be he marginalized its standing in the Gospel. There has been much written about this matter but what I found interesting is the majority opinion is that this was a matter of interpretation and lays aside the idea that Paul and James were at odds as to faith and deeds. There are few if any Christian communities in this day that would be in disagreement with James as to faith and works. We learn with James it is not a situation of “either or” but one of both and more.

James makes it plain that we should greet and welcome those less fortunate than us into our assembly, give aid to those on the street that are perennially part of an impoverished population and remember the widows and orphans. Do we set aside that lesser person, removing them from our sight and mind, replacing them with those we relate to and placing them in a position of prominence? Have we sought to cover our neglect of the hungry and ill-clad with good wishes and pious language? Have we clung to our safe orthodoxy and comfortable rituals, not stepping out and answering God’s call to feed, cloth and care for the less fortunate among us? If we can say yes to any of these questions, then we cannot meet James’s standards, nor those of Christ. It is through our faith in Christ that we are enabled to do our duty. It is the strength of our faith that brings forth the deeds that serve and preserves the faith and wellbeing of others.

God Bless, Life is Good

jk

Tally Me Good, Tally Me Bad…Luke 17: 7-10

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

There is no score card or tally sheet in heaven and we are not the master of the ship. In some ways this would be one of the more difficult parables but it is simple in its depiction of the people Jesus was speaking to at the time. We often tend to forget that in Jesus’ early ministry he was speaking to mostly Jews. These were his people and prior to the start of his active ministry he lived and worked among them. In this Parable we learn that we cannot put God in our debt. Jesus is making that very point here in this parable. The Jews had this doctrine of works, plainly put, the more good you did the more points you got, a score sheet for mortals if you will. A Godly credit account.

( I will note here that next week we will look at an interesting conflict that exists with todays subject and can be found in The Book of James Chapter 2: 14-26)

One of the lessons here is when we have done our duty there is nothing extraordinary about that, for we have only done what was expected of us. Bear Bryant, Alabama football coach said it best. A player after scoring a touchdown in a critical game engaged in some rather over the top end zone celebrations. Coach Bryant called him over as he returned to the sidelines and reminded him that was not necessary. He is reported to have said…”son that is not necessary, act like you’ve been there before.”  When we do as God would have us do we have only done what is expected of us. We are after all always and forever servants. The Jews believed that those who had done a sufficient number of good works were justified and they were the righteous. There were two other levels but to be noted here was the belief that those in the lower levels could pass into the ranks of the righteous by doing some extra good works. The Jews believed that any good deed could improve their Godly account. In short they did believe that man could put God in his debt. Barclay points out that God’s relationship with us is one of love. He points out that in reality the love a parent has for their child…so strong, so consuming,is a love that there is no way we could ever pay them back. No matter how generous that deed or gift might be, it would never be enough for the life they gave us and the love that sustains it. If we approach this from love’s view, we know it has no bounds and is not constrained by time…it is never ending and expects nothing in return.

We need to develop a servants heart. I have my own definition of a  servant. A servant serves because it is expected of him, it is a duty born of necessity and cultural  expectations. The righteous servant who serves with a servants heart, does so out of an abundance of love and expects nothing in return. We also learn here that there are no set hours for living a Christian life. There is a truth here that is very present in today’s world. I call it the faith of convince, you can’t take time off from being a Christian because it is inconvenient in a particular time or place or the company of others. As I wrote earlier this Parable can be difficult but if we look closely there is much here. God has given us his very best. God does not ask us to serve at our convince, he demands our very best at all times…..Christianity is not a part time endeavor. We are to serve, we are his servants and don’t need to engage in end-zone celebrations for doing what is expected of us.

Join us next week as we move to the Book of James chapter 2 for a different look at deeds.

Life is Good

jk

The Best Laid Plans… Luke 12: 13-21

What is your life plan? I have always believed that life is what it is and there is no set plan or reactions as to the encounters in your life which will challenge you. The strength of your relationship with God will give you the ability to endure what ever life throws at you. Here in this Parable we are introduced to a man who has had a good life and a what he believes to be a good plan for his future. This is a story that Jesus told and  resonated with many people throughout the generations. It is most commonly known as The Parable of The Rich Fool and today we read from Luke 12: 13-21. This parable warns us to take heed of those things remembered and those things forgotten. Remember the phrase all is well with my soul, …is it?

Proverbs 27: 1 Do not boast about tomorrow,for you do not know what a day may bring.

This man in our parable is consumed with himself. Here are a few snip-its from the scripture itself.

-what will I do because I have no room to bestow my fruits?”

-this will I do; I will pull down my barns and build greater and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.”

He then continues on planing on what his life will be like in the days to come. It is as if he is the only one and the cares of the world and other people are of no concern to him. Barclay makes a wonderful observation…the first person singular never occurs in The Lords Prayer. We all have the habit of overlooking the things that are important, the condition of others around us, believing we have time to do those things that matter, he forgot God. The list continues…Who or what we are is not determined by what we have. Having so much he would have to build other barns to keep it all makes one wonder if perhaps he could have shared some of his wealth with his neighbors who were struggling. He felt it more important to take it easy, eat and drink his fill, after all he had earned it. Time, that which God has allotted is not known to us. This guy acted as if he had unlimited time. Some of us never feel comfortable and are aware of time, these two extreme differences are really governed by our faith and relationship with God. We can all say with confidence that our time on this earth is limited. We do not know how many tomorrows we have but many will say tomorrow is another day. As a believer I know who holds my tomorrows, do you? In James chapter 4: 13-17 we find this:

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year doing business and making money.” 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

Those who plan and leave God out have left behind the most important thing in their lives. So many of us are obsessed with what we have, our self worth tied to the amount of stuff we have acquired and take no notice of what we have become while acquiring it. It is not my place or really anyone’s to judge another but this I can say with confidence. You will stand before God with nothing you have acquired in this life…you will be judged by the content of your soul.

Life is Good

Jk

The response to this series of Parables has been strong. We will continue in the Parables next week.

 

Your Call…Luke 10:25-37

Here is a parable that should be falmilar to most of us. First let’s set the scene. The Red or Bloody Way…The Jerusalem to Jericho Road, got its name because it was well known to be dangerous for travelers. Jerusalem sat on a hill 2,300 feet above sea level. Now the Dead Sea near which Jericho was, is 1,300 feet below sea-level; and the road descended that 3,600 feet in little more than 20 miles. There were many sharp turns and narrow passages which provided excellent hiding places for bandits. Imagine some of those old western movies with those old roads descending into the canyon below, those twists and turns were often called switchbacks, they closely resembled what we are talking about here today. The plight of this traveller we read about in the scriptures is not unusual for those traveling this road. It is interesting to note that even as recent as the nineteenth century travelers were paying the local Sheiks money to ensure safe passage. So here we have the scene…A dangerous road, populated by bad people and extremely difficult to traverse.

Next the people involved… a traveller who either did not know the stories about this road, which is highly improbable or maybe he was just careless for it was common knowledge that few traveled that road alone. People would get together and form a convoy, knowing there was safety in numbers. Next we meet the priest. Priests were divided into courses each course served in the temple two separate weeks in the year. When priests were not on duty most of them stayed in Jericho. The Priests reaction of passing by and not even checking to see if the man were dead or alive was not the result of his not caring but one of misguided priorities. When not serving in the Temple the priests were free to go about their ordinary duties and routines. The time they were called to serve in the Temple was the highlight of their lives. To touch a dead body made them unclean and they would not be allowed to serve their time in the Temple. The Temple ritual was more important than the fate of this man. Thirdly, there was the Levite. Little different line of thought here. He went over and took a quick look at the man and then moved on to the other side of the road. At play here was the fact that the Levite knew sometimes these bandits would use a decoy to draw people close so they could jump them. He chose his personal safety because of the risk involved…When have we considered personal needs over the needs of others? This next one was the Samaritan and they were hated by the Jews. This is another blog in itself but it will do to just take note of the fact that this was a quarrel that had been going on for some 450 years. He may not have been racially a Samaritan, in those times the name Samaritan was used by orthodox Jews in reference to anyone who were lawbreakers or renegades from the orthodox Jewish religion. So it is possible that he was no more than a businessman who traveled the road on a regular basis, he was a commercial traveller. That would explain why the innkeeper was willing to take the injured man in. He knew the traveller would be back through and would take care of the bill. A traveller of this type would have been viewed with suspicion, hence, in the parable he becomes a familiar figure…the hated Samaritan.

There are some questions we need to answer. The first of course has been the subject of many a sermon…Who is my neighbor? The answer is “anyone who needs your help.” To the Jew this would have been a difficult lesson and answer. I have sought many ways to explain this but the simplest would be that anyone other than a Jew was not worthy of consideration. Jew or Gentile, that being the defining factor determining their actions toward others. As Christians we are called to serve all people, period! The other question is just what is expected of me? Various commentaries always list pity. Pity is an emotional response and perhaps James states it best as too what is a proper response. We of the faith do God’s will only when that faith is put into action.

This Parable puts it straight and to the point. We are responsible for all in need. When we become so entangled in routine and doctrine that the church, ourself and connivence comes before God’s children, the church is dead to that which it is called. Our faith and the strength of our very Christianity will not be judged on our social standing but rather on our willingness to help.

See You Next Week

Life is Good

jk

Resource Material: Barclay, William. The Parables of Jesus (The William Barclay Library) (p. 79). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

The Shut Door

We return once again to the Parables, This one found in Matthew 25: 1-13. Often referred to as The Parable Of The Ten Bridesmaids we find a much needed lesson in why the maintenance of our faith is so important to the covenant granted to those who believe. It is important that you pause here and read the above verses before you continue on.

The covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ and the Cross extends to those who believe and call upon his name that hey shall be adopted into the family of God and are entitled to all the rights and benefits given through the covenant. The Jewish custom concerning marriage contained three stages. Each requiring a set number of customary actions deep in tradition.

A- The Engagement

B-Betrothal

C- Marriage

This is a parable about being prepared, looking and waiting for that moment. It applies to us this day for we have had centuries of hearing the word, studying it and opportunities to live it. We have more than any generation had full display of God’s truth and in many instances we have squandered that and at are at risk of the door being shut. It will be no ones fault but our own. We can go back in time and many of us can remember a test in school we didn’t prepare for and understand that the time of the test is not the time to start preparing for it. There is the belief that we learn best in our youth but the Grace of God and the truth of the word are always available to those who follow these wise words.”Seek and Ye shall Find”. We must prepare for the opportunity or the door will be shut. There is another thing that we best learn from this parable. Salvation is not a group activity. Each of us will be held accountable for our actions. There will be no door pass, each of us will stand alone and be judged. We must prepare and be on the watch. For those that did not the door will shut.

Are you on fire for the Lord?

Life is Good

Jk

The Tares Among the Wheat …Matthew 13:24-30

Last week we took a look at the hearers of the Parable. This week another parable which is usually called the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Tares are a weed referred to as bearded darnel and were almost impossible to tell from the wheat. It could also be poisonous, harmful to those who ate it. It had to be separated from the wheat and once more Jesus uses real life actions that would be recognized by the listeners to teach the twelve. After  speaking to the crowds Jesus went into the house and was approached by his disciples, asking him to explain the parable of the weeds of the field. As we noted last week the disciples were confused and frightened by the attitude of the people and of course felt threatened by the opposition of the Pharisees. Also with these things happening there seemed to be a gradual closing of the doors to the synagogues. You till the ground, prepare the soil and plant the seed but still somehow no matter how hard you toil there always seems to be weeds. These tares that had intertwined with the wheat… the harvest would require that they be separated from the wheat. Once separated it was tied in a bundle in the field, collected and put in the fire. The disciples were worried about the kind of people that were coming to Jesus. Many of these people the world would look unfavorable on, the whole of their lot very unsatisfactory in their behavior and activities, they would hardly stand up to a closer look. The disciples too looked for a new Israel that would conquer their enemies, and set the moral integrity of the people to a higher calling. Even the Scribes and Pharisees found the company Jesus kept to be questionable. The disciples were waiting for Jesus to sort out this mixed crowd who followed him. Jesus is painting a picture in words using the weeds among the wheat to capture their attention. Jesus welcomed all people and the disappointment of these men that Jesus had not yet made a weeding out of his followers was joined by the Pharisees who showed their disgust that he had yet to do so. It was these factors that perhaps led Jesus to tell them this parable.

Evil is among us everywhere and it not always easily recognized, much like the darnel among the wheat. There is the chance we will make the wrong decisions when we harbor intolerance and a critical spirit guides our hearts. Picture the darnel as the evil sinners among us and the wheat as the good people that they have come among. We are told in Matthew 7:1 … “to judge not, that you be judged not”. I believe that as a people we are not very good at distinguishing between good and bad. We must be patient in our actions toward others, there is the comfort of knowing that the harvest will come. We have often heard “in God’s time”, it is inevitable that God’s judgement will come. Just like the harvest used here as an example of the separation of the darnel from the wheat, so shall the sinners be separated from the good, in time, by God’s judgement.

The takeaway from today’s Pew. Be patient, in God’s time his will be done. Know that the harvest will come.

Life is Good

jk

Reference Material: Barclay, William. The Parables of Jesus (The William Barclay Library) (p. 38). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

“HE WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR, LET HIM HEAR….”

Our study to this point has made note of the good ground. The soil being deep enough and soft here, the seed could find nourishment and there would be no weeds to keep it from a healthy growth that would bring forth an abundant harvest. The parable is for the hearers of the word and we can put them into two groups of hearers. It is easily understood there will be those who hear the word and do something with it but the word also has an impact on those that preach it. As with all things biblical there are always differences of opinion. Some say that a parable is too detailed for most of the hearers to grasp the lesson within, some say the interpretation of the parable comes from the preachers of that day. Someone had to recognize that sowing of the seed and it growth depended on other factors and those factors could be compared to different human characteristics and so, why not Jesus? We must acknowledge that in some ways a parable can be a warning and the fruit of the message depends on the heart of the hearer. If the hearer has hate in their heart and are determined not to hear the truth then they will not hear and accept God’s word into their lives. So who are the hearers that are warned in this parable? Some are those whose minds are shut to the word. No seed can be planted there for their minds are like the hard ground that has been tamped down by the many feet walking by. There are people who refuse to think things out or think them through. They grasp every new craze that comes along or a phrase I like to use, they are at the mercy of the program of the month. Their emotions are easily captivated by the loudest or newest social or cultural action of the moment. There are those that have so much going on in their lives that the most important things get pushed aside. Then there are people who are like that good ground Jesus speaks of. Their minds are open, they are willing to hear and willing to learn. These are people of humble hearts and whose minds are always open and they are prepared to hear. They are never too proud or busy to listen. These are the people who understand, they get the message and most importantly, they take what they hear and put it into action. They have three things that are important to living a Christian Life. They listen, they understand and they obey.

The Parables are told in such a way that they were meant to have an impact on those who listen but there was also an impact on the inner circle of the disciples. Now what follows maybe a bit hard to understand but this was a time of bitter disappointment and discouragement in the lives of these disciples who were closest to Jesus. Let’s take a closer look. To these men Jesus was everything. Now things were happening that confused and frighten them. They were having very little success, yes the crowds kept coming but so few heard or accepted the message and left with little change in their lives. Many came just to see and experience the healing powers of this man, Jesus. The sad thing is that after all this time the church experiences such, those that come to receive but don’t stay to give. The doors of the synagogue were closing and his bitterest critics were the leaders of orthodox religion, they were out to destroy him. Here they were facing a situation were whatever they did brought nothing but hostility and even worse little if any change in the crowd. I am sure that there were times of deep disappointment for these men but in the last analysis there is a clear lesson……the harvest is for sure! Those of us who have planted a garden know that not all the seeds bear fruit but we know there will be a harvest! This is a parable of encouragement to those who sow the seed, the word, the good news. Our world today is one of instant gratification, people seek quick results but the sowing of the seed and sharing the word of God requires patience, prayer, hope and in many instances it will be years before there is a harvest.

Two things we can take away from this week’s blog. There will be a harvest, will you be a sower of the seeds? Faith will unlock the truth within the Parable. 

Stay Safe, Stay Well, Keep The Faith

Life is Good

jk

 

The Turning Point

Times change and there is no better example of that than the changes brought upon us by this virus. We are having to change the way we go about our daily routines and for those of faith, all communities of faith, we are tested to maintain our beliefs and stand firm in our commitments. For the Christian the lack of fellowship is heavy on the heart. The encouragement and strength of coming together as one in praise and prayer is an important part of staying the course, so to speak. Even Jesus found himself in a position that brought about change in his earthly ministry, more accurately a turning point.

Things were changing in the synagogues and Jesus was reminded daily of the opposition to his teaching in them.The  scribes and Pharisees and elders watching every action and  word, seeking to turn them into an accusation that would give them the opportunity to challenge his teachings. They had not completely shut the door to the synagogues and there was always a warm welcome from the ordinary people but Jesus was not a man of wait and see and he sought other directions and ways to do the Father’s will. He would soon be shut out of them and it is a sad thing to imagine Jesus being banished from the church of his day. Jesus would not be stoped from bringing his invitation to all men and women. Even as the doors were closing he took the Temple to the outdoors, teaching in the open air, village streets, roads or by the lake side; even into the peoples homes. As Christians we can learn from this that we too must always find a way to pass Jesus’ message on.  It is in the 13th Chapter of Matthew that we see Jesus starting to use his characteristic way of teaching in parables. This isn’t the first time he had used this method in his teachings. Jesus would use things that people were familiar with to tell a story, thus creating a truth in pictures. These were the first use of what was to become a fully developed and vivid way to bring the message to God’s people. My view of a parable is that of a short story, with a message within and the hearer is challenged to find that message. Jesus was a master of the short story. With Jesus there were advantages to this method of teaching.  A parable is effective for many reasons, a few we consider here. A story well told always sets truth to the front and in concrete. A great story of here and now, that which is familiar, will take us to there and then. We must be careful because most of us are a bit lazy and prejudice blinds us from seeing the truth. The one great teaching virtue of the parable is that it compels interest, so much so, that it enables and compels us to discover truth for ourselves. The wonderful thing about a parable was it was spoken, not read, allowing the hearer to feel the full impact. Not necessary for a long study or pulling truth out of a commentary, like a flash in the night it brings to the darkness of the mind a flash of light and the virtue of truth. That then in short was the one most important fact about the Parable. One undeniable truth that stabs you in the heart the moment you hear it.

One commentary I often use challenges us to amass as much detail as possible about the life in Palestine. To understand the things in their lives so that we can go back in our minds to that time and those people and what they were thinking and visualized as Jesus spoke to them. The Parable of the sower found in Chapter 13 of Matthew is an example of using the spoken word to paint a picture of truth, let’s break it down. Here Jesus presents a picture that anyone living in Palestine would understand. They go from the actual here and now to the picture Jesus has painted in his words to the then and there.

The Sower – In their minds eye they can picture the sower sowing the seed. It was something they have always seen. There were two ways the seed could be sown. One you and I may have done at one time or another. The sower could walk the ground while throwing the seed out, that is called broadcasting. If the wind, even a slight wind were blowing, some of the seed could be caught up and blown into all kinds of places, even completely out of the field. In Palestine the ground to be sown was laid out in long narrow strips, separated by ground that was used as a common path and was beaten down hard by the feet of many passing by. The second way was to tie a sack of seed on the back of a donkey, cut a hole in one corner of the sack and walk the donkey up and down the field. With the hard ground between each strip, some of the seed would fall there when crossing over to the next strip. Now about that ground, the stoney ground. This was common in Palestine which for the most part was composed of a thin layer of earth resting on a shelf of limestone rock. There would be enough dirt for the seed to germinate but the rock would not allow the roots to set and thus no growth. Then Jesus came to the thorny ground which is hard to judge as most of us that have planted gardens in the past know. You can prepare the soil and ground and all looks well but lurking below that newly tilled ground are the roots of weeds and other vermin that can kill a young plant. Weeds grow faster than most seeds you plant the result is that the seed and the dormant weeds grow together but as noted the weeds grow faster, thus stoping the seeds growth and it will die out. Many times I have heard the phase good ground and here  within this parable Jesus paints a picture that all who heard would understand.

So, we can safely say that second observation of this parable is the hearers. Next week we will pick up there and continue our study of this particular parable.

Stay Safe, Keep The Faith and Remember,

Life is Good

jk   

Source: DBS