July 4, 2015.
Daily Reading: Luke 15-16.
Background: Luke 13-14.
Concepts and Connections.
1. The parables of the lost sheep and lost coin: Jesus tells two short parables at the beginning of this chapter when the scribes and Pharisees criticized Him for eating with tax collectors and sinners. Each parable had the same message in the end. The first was the parable of the lost sheep, who had wandered away from the flock of 99 into the dangerous wilderness. Jesus makes the point that each one of them would go after that lost sheep instead of just staying with the 99, and when he found the sheet, he would bring it back with great joy, calling his friends together for a celebration. The same with the woman who had lost a coin in the house. After having swept the whole house looking for the coin, and finding it, she calls her friends together to celebrate. So it is in heaven when one sinner repents, for he or she who was lost was then saved. Jesus came to save lost souls, which was the picture that the scribes and the Pharisees had missed.
2. The parable of the prodigal son: The latter half of this chapter contains the well known parable of the prodigal son. Luke is the only gospel writer to record this parable. In the story, there is a man who has two sons, and the younger son asks his father for his potion of his inheritance, as he wants to leave home and go out and experience the world. Note that the father divides the inheritance out to both of his sons, each to whom it was due, not just the younger son. The younger son went out and squandered his money, living a life of pleasure, but when his money ran out, so did his friends. Eventually he found himself helping a swine keeper (one of the lowliest jobs in Jewish thought) and times got so bad that he would eat what the pigs ate for food. Then the parable says that the man came to himself and resolved to go back to his father, where his father’s servants were even living better than he was, and repent and say that he was no longer worthy to be called his son, but would ask to come back as a hired servant to his father. When he was a far way off, however, his father saw him, felt compassion, ran to meet him and kissed him. There are two interesting things that we should get from this statement. First, for the father to see him a long way off, this would imply that the father was ever watching for his son to return, probably from the day that he left. Our heavenly Father has no interest in the death of the wicked (see Ezekiel 18:23, 32, 33:11), but is ever wanting the wicked to turn from his ways and come to Him. Secondly, this is the only time in scripture that we ever read that God runs. When the Father saw his lost son, he doesn’t wait for the son to get all the way back, but rather runs out to meet him, not even letting the son finish his speech that he has prepared to say that he wants to come back as a hired servant. When a sinner repents, he or she just needs to take a few steps in the right direction, and the Father will run to meet them, embrace them and help them back. The father in this story threw a great celebration at the return of his son, just as in the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin above. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t stop there, for there is another son who has lost his way, though he never left the father. The older son, when he hears about the celebration and what it is for, instead of being joyous that his lost brother had returned, he gets angry and jealous at the merry making that was going on for his brother. The father also goes out to entreat him. The older son claims that he has worked hard for his father, and yet there has never been a celebration like the one that was going on for the younger son (who had not worked like he had, of course). However, the father reminds him that all that he has was his son, and we should also remember that the inheritance was divided to both sons at the beginning of the story, not just the younger son. But the reason for the celebration was the younger son’s return from death. He was lost, and was found. He was dead, but had been made alive again. And that is always cause for celebration.
1. The parable of the dishonest manager: This parable is one of the most difficult parables to fully understand in the book of Luke, and there are several different schools of thought as to how the parable makes the point that Jesus is trying to make. We will not spend a lot of time discussing the different thoughts here, but rather will just expound on one and leave the rest to further research. Regardless of the way the parable makes the point, however, the message is clear: Use your money wisely, but generously, so that people see your kindness and compassion. The dishonesty manager was in charge of his masters money, and he was wasting it, which caused his master to fire him. Before he was completely cut off, however, he goes to his master’s debtors and cuts down their debt, so that they would receive him favorable for his generosity when he was out of the job. One view is that the dishonest servant was collecting more money than was due as commission, and keeping the extra for himself. Thus, when he cut the prices, he was really only cutting the commission he was making and not making his master lose any money. This would fit well with the fact that the master doesn’t get mad at him for cutting the debts, but rather praises him for his shrewdness. He was wise with his money and position, preparing for the time when he would need help. Jesus comments that those of the world knew how to use their money better than the disciples, and that they should learn how to use their money wisely. Yet they must always remember that money could not become their master, for they couldn’t serve both money and God.
2. Interlude: There is a short interlude in Luke’s gospel here between two longer parables where Jesus addresses the Pharisees for their ridicule (for they were lovers of money). Their hearts were not in the right place, for they exalted themselves above others and still clung to the law. The Mosaic Law and the prophets, however, were only until John came, because they would all be fulfilled at the coming Messiah that they prophesied about, for whom John was preparing the way. The Messiah was here, teaching and doing great signs and wonders. But even in His midst, the Pharisees would not listen; they were unwilling to see, and yet clung to the law without seeing what was written within it. Then Jesus tells them that whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery, which was not written in the Law (though it was this way from the beginning), showing Jesus’ authority.
3. The rich man and Lazarus: In the midst of the above context, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man lived will in his life, eating find food and wearing fine clothing, but Lazarus was a poor man, feeding himself from the crumbs that fell from the table. Both men died, however, and their roles were reversed. The rich man lifted up his eyes being in torment, while Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s bosom. While he was alive, the rich man did nothing to help Lazarus, whom he apparently knew, judging from verse 24. The rich man was in torment, and there was no relief for his soul. We should remember that what we do while we are on this earth, how we use our possessions (whether for the glory of God or for our own glory) really does matter in the end. It won’t matter what we had, but rather how we used it. The rich man, knowing that his brothers are on the same path that he was on, asks Abraham to send back Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his brothers, but Abraham says that they have Moses and the prophets. The rich man is convinced that if one came back from the dead that they would listen, though they did not listen to Moses and the prophets. However, Abraham tells the rich man that if they would not listen to Moses and the prophets, they would not listen to one, even if he came back from the dead. This could have been a direct message to the scribes and Pharisees that were here, as they refused to listen to what their own law said about the Messiah, refused to note the obvious miracles that Jesus was doing were from God, and when Jesus would arise again from the dead, they still would not listen. Stubbornness can be a very bad thing, especially when we are wrong (though we can’t see that we are wrong because of the stubbornness). May we ever be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit as He guides us in this life.
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Thessalonians 1-3.
Grace and peace.