Study 10 – Luke 17:11-18:30 (17:20-37)

The Coming Kingdom

Context

An overarching theme in the middle section of Luke is the question: ‘Who is worthy of the kingdom of God?’ Back in Chapter 9, a Samaritan village rejected Jesus on the basis that he was a Jew heading toward Jerusalem. The Pharisees were outraged at Jesus’ association with ‘sinners’ and insulted at his teachings against them. The challenges were given to choose between money or God; and family or God. Jesus also described the kingdom as abounding in forgiveness and the reality that the unworthy are invited.

One question remaining is, “When will this kingdom come?” What is the urgency to follow Jesus? Can we choose money now and leave the kingdom for later? Can we embrace this world with all it has to offer and concern ourselves with the next life in our third stage of life?

This study will focus on Luke 17:20-37, therefore, you may choose to read the whole section or just read the text we are delving in to.

Read

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosyh met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” [36]

37 “Where, Lord?” they asked.

He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ ”

6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Observation

What an impressive collection of teachings from Jesus! As Jesus travels toward Jerusalem (17:11), we see the theme of discipleship continue. He highlights a Samaritan as the example among the lepers; he says that the kingdom of God is not something you can observe like a walled city, but there are people already in the kingdom now and they might be picking grain in the field right next to you; the faithful disciple will pray continually while they wait for the Son of Man to return (exercising prayer is an indication of exercising faith); God expects sinners to be more aware of the kingdom than self-righteous folk; the humility and dependence of a child is a good example of kingdom people; the rich will find it almost impossible to enter but those who have given up everything to be in it will be rewarded because they have chosen the greater treasure.

We are going to look at 17:20-37 only; the words that Jesus spoke about his first and second coming.

Structure

  • 17:20-21 A question from the vultures.
  • 17:22-25 The Son of Man must leave us behind.
  • 17:26-30 Comparing the second coming to The Flood and Sodom.
  • 17:31-36 Already left behind.
  • 37 A question for the vultures.

17:20-21 A question from the vultures.

“Once…” Not necessarily chronological but Luke places this account here for thematic reasons.

“…on being asked by the Pharisees…” I’ve titled this section, “a question from the vultures” mainly because it feeds into the imagery of Verse 37 and since our interaction with the Pharisees has been growing in negativity – wanting to trap Jesus rather than join him. They would like to see Jesus fail and die. (See Luke 5:21; 6:7, 11; 7:30; 11:42, 43, 53; 12:1; 14:1; 16:14).

“…when [will] the kingdom of God would come…” So, the question of this narrative is about when the kingdom will come. Not what, or who, but when. Many will be satisfied to simply consider their question as meaning, ‘when will we see a kingdom like David and Solomon again as promised?’ That is, a kingdom that you can see and approach but has the power and blessing of Almighty God to build it and sustain it, rather than the power of men. It is worth noting, however, that the whole of the bible can be threaded together on the theme of Kingdom. This is the concept that God reigns and he promises to establish an eternal kingdom that will never end. 2 Samuel Chapter 7 is one of the most significant passages in the bible where God promises to establish the kingdom of David forever and his throne will endure without end. But how will this happen since Israel is now run under Roman rule? The question from the Pharisees sets Jesus up to describe a kingdom that is not in the future but is in the present but cannot be described with walls and a castle.

Jesus came to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43; 6:20; 7:28; 8:1; 9:2, 27; 10:9; 11:20; 13:18, 20; 16:16; 17:20, 21; 18:29, 30; 19:11; 21:31) but he was also aware that not everyone would understand him and enter (Luke 8:10; 9:60, 62). Some heard and responded with open ears (Luke 9:11; 13:29; 18:16, 17; 23:51) while others who were given the option will reject it (Luke 10:11; 13:28; 18:24, 25). The question of when is wrapped up in the work that Christ is will on the cross and at the resurrection to establish the kingdom – not that he is not already the king, but he is yet to redeem his people to bring them in (Luke 21:31; 22:16, 18).

“…not something that can be observed…because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” This is Jesus’ answer. Understand what he is saying and you’ve understood the kingdom. He will go on in Verses 22-36 to expand on this and flesh it out but unless we grasp the concept that you don’t travel to the kingdom of God, it comes to you, we will never get it. You can’t poke at it or measure it. But the entry point is Jesus, the centre of it is Jesus, the owner of it is God the Father who has put all things under the feet of Jesus and the seal of entry or membership is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All this is fleshed out in the remaining pages of the New Testament as the Apostles explain how the kingdom has come in Jesus Christ (Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Ephesians 5:5; 2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 1:8; James 2:5).

17:22-25 The Son of Man must leave us behind.

“…to his disciples…” Notice his changing attention away from those who are not in the kingdom to those he is entrusting the kingdom to. Also note that I am not condemning every individual Pharisee but the body of people who the gospels label as being against him almost from the beginning. Nicodemus was a Pharisee who appears to have heard Jesus teaching and entered the Kingdom of God (John 3; 7:50ff; 19:39).

“The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.” The Son of Man is a title that Jesus uses of himself and it is a reference to God’s chosen One who will reign on his right hand side. See Daniel 7 and Psalm 80:14-19. The disciples are with Jesus now but he speaks of a time coming when they will long to see him again. Commentators debate about when these ‘days of the Son of Man’ refer to and most conclude that it is the second coming. While this fits with the context and truth, I feel like it is too clean. They are not longing for that time as they are listening to Jesus speak to them. He is with them. He is talking about a future when he will be gone from this earth (ascended) and his disciples will long to be with Jesus again. This then refers both to the Second Coming when that happens, but also to the raw desire for his disciples, including all who will follow Jesus, to long to be with Jesus again. The disciples did not see those days once Jesus had ascended. Perhaps we will or perhaps a future generation will see his coming. We live now in the same longing state that the disciples found themselves in once Jesus had ascended to heaven. Some theologians will put emphasis on what the world looks like leading up to the second coming and call those the days when the disciples long for the days of the Son of Man, but I am not convinced that there will be a unique period like that – I hold the view that we are in the last days and have been for 2000 years.

“…the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning…” God only knows how this will come to pass, but the fact and truth is that when Christ returns, there won’t be a soul who is unaware of it. The analogy is like the lightning which is seen across the sky. It is a singular sparked event that does not go unnoticed. Don’t be mislead by rumours of secret knowledge of his coming.

“But first he must suffer…and be rejected.” The cross. The fact that he must suffer before he is exalted speaks about the sin of humanity. Why our King and Creator must undergo suffering in order to win us back is because we rejected his authority and power from the beginning. And even the disciples who hear him speak about his coming kingdom will struggle to stand beside him. This generation will reject him but future generations will long to see him return in victory.

17:26-30 Comparing the second coming to The Flood and Sodom.

“People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day…” What warning did the people in Noah’s day get about the coming flood except in observing Noah prepare for it. Noah did not see any signs of the coming except for God’s word coming to him and I suppose the miracle of all those animals being gathered as God had asked. We live in days like that! Eating, drinking, marrying, and expecting generations to come after us. But we have the knowledge of his second coming to prepare for. We have the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and that everybody must give an account of what they have done with Jesus.

“It was the same in the days of Lot.” The story of the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 19 has the same lesson. Nobody saw any signs that the city would be destroyed. The second coming of Jesus Christ will not be preceded by 6 consecutive signs except that he has already come and shown us the kingdom of God and how to enter it. If we are not in it when he returns, then it is too late.

“But the day Lot left Sodom…it will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” The chosen people of God will not suffer on the last day. Just as Noah and Lot were spared from the disaster, so too the children of God who have entered the Kingdom of God will not endure the terrible time of judgment. Here is where raptures and stories of ‘left behind’ find their traction. The day of Judgment will be swift and quick, however (2 Thess 2:8; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 20:11-15).

17:31-36 Already left behind.

“Remember Lot’s wife!” When the Day of the Lord comes, the true disciple will abandon all of this temporary stuff and be glad that it is here. Our kingdom is already established in our minds and in our hearts and this world we are in is just temporary. Genesis 19:26.

“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it…” This is not a thought to have stored in a glass case and broken open on the Day of the Lord. Our mind must already be on putting to death this earthly home and treasuring the kingdom of God. If we try to save our life we will lost it. Nobody holds on to a sinking ship, but they cling to the life raft! Jesus is that life raft and we are living on the Titanic. This is a basic understanding of the Kingdom of God – we cannot serve two masters, we cannot postpone the RSVP to come, unless we give our life to Christ, we cannot be called a disciple.

“…two people will be in one bed; one taken and the other left [behind]…” The question that the vultures/Pharisees asked was when will the Kingdom of God appear. The answer is that it already has appeared (although Christ must first go to the cross and conquer sin and death). Two people can be sharing their life together here on earth and yet one of them is in the Kingdom and the other is not. When the Day of the Lord comes, the one who is left behind will get a shock. Books and movies have been generated over this illustration and I fear that they take a clear and startling picture from Jesus and push it into a franchise. The point is to be in the kingdom now! Don’t wait for Jesus to turn up again! Be one of the disciples who have put aside the things of this earth and are longing for the day when Christ will return – the days of the Son of Man.

37 A question for the vultures.

“Where, Lord?” My first question is: where what? Do they want to know where the Kingdom of God will be? Where Jesus will return? Do they want to know where the righteous will be taken? Or do they want to know where the other people will be left? That is, where they will be judged. The response that Jesus gives concerning vultures leads us to view this as a judgment question. What happens to those that are not part of the kingdom?

“Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” Isn’t it true that sometimes things that sound profound can take time to truly understand? This is an image of death. Classically, you might visualise an old Western scene with someone seeing vultures circling and they conclude quite easily that death and a finished battle lies beneath. The vultures come after the shooting. The answer that Jesus gives is layered. He is saying, everywhere. He is saying, when judgment comes, it’ll be final. Those who were not taken will not have a second chance. He is saying, leave the answer to that question to the likes of vultures. But you, be concerned about entering the Kingdom of God.

Meaning

Jesus is asked about the when and where of the Kingdom of God. His answer is that it is everywhere now and those who are in the Kingdom will be ready when Christ returns. When that Day comes, it will be too late. Nobody will miss it and everybody will be either saved like Noah and Lot or they will undergo death that is swift and everywhere.

Application

Topic A: Remember Lot’s wife. How quickly can you walk away from your possessions in your mind? The things we have in this life serve their purposes and when we lose them it can be quite heartbreaking or sad to say the least. But if you had to walk away from it right now for the sake of keeping the Kingdom of God, could you do it? Lot’s wife knew she had to get out of the city and run for her life but she turned around and is remembered to this day as a metaphor for looking back instead of looking forward at the goal. As we grow in our Christian faith, we can continue to test ourselves on what we are clinging hardest to – the things of this world or are we running hard for Christ and His kingdom. Perhaps you can share as a group how you respond to this.

Topic B: Remember Noah. The world around Noah were mostly unaware and uncaring about the judgment to come. If only they had known and believed beforehand that their entire existence would be wiped out by water. Well, Noah knew. And he told his family. He preached to others in his day, presumably that the wrath of God was coming (2 Peter 2:5). If Lot’s wife is a metaphor for not looking back, Noah is a metaphor for being sure of what is coming. And if we are convinced that Jesus will return like a thief in the night and that time will be over then for people to repent – what do we do about that? If you knew everyone was dying of a deadly virus and only our church had the antidote for the cure, would we keep that to ourselves?

Topic C: Left behind theology. This is not a salvation issue, but the way we view the end days can make a difference in the way that we form our faith and communicate to others about it. The ‘Left Behind’ theology which was famous back in the 1990’s and has made a very small comeback with a new movie, does have quite a large following with high profile American preachers. Two issues that I see is a) the difference between being fearful of Christ’s return or looking forward to it and b) how we can allow one theory of the future invade our reading of the bible. On the first issue, the bible, particularly in this passage, states that we need to be ready and eager for the days of the Son of Man now. That’s it. No more story. No more epic battle at the end of the age where we fight for the name of Christ. Jesus has come, paid for our sins, and is ready to return at his will to take us home. Those who remain are left for the vultures. On the second issue, the bible must interpret the bible and feed our doctrine and conclusions. Our conclusions must not feed our reading of the bible as if we must force a pre taught, preconceived, spectacular idea of the end of time into every passage that talks about the end days. This point is about reading the bible well rather than being lead by the most attractive argument that preachers put forward. Do you know how to read the bible for all it’s worth or do you rely on preachers to convince you of their point of view. If the latter, then I hope that they are good, grounded, born again AND well trained teachers who, although have a big church behind them, could do with some better reflection on the end of days theology.

Study 9 – Luke 16:1-17:10 (16:1-15)

The One You Serve

Context

Jesus has much to say to the crowds who are surrounding him. To each audience, he speaks a word that is meant for them. While his teachings are for us also, the purpose of each lesson has a different problem in mind. His teachings come sometimes in parables and sometimes as metaphor and sometimes in straight talk. He aimed to teach but also for his audience to think hard to learn his message. We are told to make every effort to enter through the narrow gate. We are told, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (14:35) His teachings in this week’s section can be tricky to understand, however it will pay for us to have ears to hear and time to meditate on his purpose for teaching each part.

Read

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

6 “ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.

“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’

7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’

“ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.

“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

17 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

Observation

This entire section has some very puzzling statements – shrewdness with money, a disjunct statement about divorce, a faith that moves mountains and so on. A shorter study should focus on either 16:1-15 or 16:19-31. However, a theme is spread across 16:1-17:10 regarding good management, duty and our rightful service to God. We’ll step through the passage to uncover the various pieces.

Structure

  • 16:1-13 – Money as a means, not an end.
    • 1-2 – The dishonest manager is busted
    • 3-7 – What the manager did
    • 8-13 – Jesus teaches on the parable
  • 16:14-17:10 – Watch yourselves
    • 14-18 – The evil of justifying yourself
    • 19-31 – The story of a rich fool
    • 17:1-4 – Watch yourselves
    • 5-6 – Faith is faith, no matter how small
    • 7-10 – Watch yourselves part 2

16:1-13 – Money as a means, not an end.

This section uses Verses 14 and 15 to transition into the next section. So, when studying 16:1-13, you may want to include those next two verses as well.

1-2 – The dishonest manager is busted

“There was a rich man…” There is a timeless attraction to ‘the rich man’ who sums up success in this world. The rich man in this parable, however, is not the focus of the story, but the manager who is entrusted with the rich man’s wealth. We’ll get onto another ‘rich man’ in Verses 19-31. The main characters change but the question of how you deal with your (or someone else’s) possessions is present.

“…whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.” Here is the problem to the story, what will the rich man do and what can the manager do with this predicament. He was accused of mishandling the rich man’s property. He was unfaithful in his job. When the manager is confronted, he doesn’t show that he was not wasteful but looks for a way out of his punishment.

“Give an account of your management…” This is probably a very revealing line. Jesus is taking our minds to think about what we have done with the goods that we have. What kind of a manager have you been? The manager is put on the spot and needs to think or act quickly.

3-7 – What the manager did

“My master is taking away my job…” The manager has an internal dialogue in Jesus’ story. He lays down his options and he thinks he has three: 1) get a real job! But he is not a labourer. 2) Become a begger! But that seems below him. 3) See this rebuke as an opportunity. He win his way into people’s hearts.

“…when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.” He may have made an enemy of the rich man, but he intends to make friends and influence people with what he’s got. With the power still in his hands, he calls in two debtors and gets some money back for the rich man.

This manager is either a) returning less money to the owner and so making the owner look bad and generating friends for the manager, b) stripping away any excess interest and taking the final money back to a more reasonable value that equates with Mosaic law (commentators have looked long and hard into this and make a case here but not proven), or c) the manager removes his own commission from the rate so that everyone wins, except him, but he gains friends beyond this job. No matter which view, the motive of the manager is clear: to lesson the burden of the debtors and so create a better standing with them.

The first debtor owed, according to Darrell Bock’s commentary, over three year’s salary and the second debtor owed about 8-10 year’s salary for the average laborer.

8-13 – Jesus teaches on the parable

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” Since this is a story focused on the manager, and that the master stands in place of judge, his response needs to be treated carefully. It appears that Jesus is saying, good job, to the shrewd manager.

‘Shrewd’sharp powers of judgment; astute; clever. Often the same word in the Greek is translated as wise, but with particular sense of exercising foresight – acting now in preparation for what is to come. See Luke 12:42; Matthew 7:24; 10:16; 24:45; 25:2, 4, 8, 9.

So, what is Jesus getting at then? The parable itself concludes with the statement in Verse 8a. Jesus’ response to the parable is found in Verse 8b.

“The people of the world are more shrewd…than people of the light.” The two people groups are not hard to understand. Those who live for this world only, compared with those who have had the light of Christ shine on them. But what is Jesus’ accusation of them? It seems to boil down to this: People of this world are very good at forecasting their future and making clever deals to place themselves well. They show worldly wisdom. The people of light, on the other hand, can be accused of not being so clever with their own future – eternal future that is! Imagine what we could do in this world if we could allow ourselves to believe that we will outlive our money and possessions! We may then actually begin to be more shrewd with our possessions and use them for kingdom growth! I accept that Jesus has phrased this lesson in a confusing way. But I hope that boiling down to a) Jesus is praising the cleverness of the manager who saw the writing on the wall, b) he used the money to leverage the best outcome, and c) the people of the light have a vastly different view of the future than the people of this age. So, be a bit shrewd, wise with our possessions.

“…when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” We must not believe that this verse means, win friends and you win eternal life. No. The future for us is eternal in Christ Jesus. So, use your resources here on earth with the kingdom in mind. Gaining friends is about doing good. Don’t do evil with your money! Don’t hoard it! Spend it generously on others. But this does not earn you eternal welcome in the kingdom of God. Rather, it is what is expected of someone who is born again into the kingdom.

“…worldly wealth…true riches.” Our interest is in eternal riches. Not coins stored in heaven but in the value of heaven itself – eternity at peace with God. Perhaps Jesus aludes a little here to all of our possessions on earth being borrowed possessions. How are you handling that? If the answer has anything to do with greed, dishonesty and untrustworthiness, then this is not the nature of someone who will inherit eternal life.

“You cannot serve both God and money.” So, what seemed confusing at the beginning with talk of shrewdness and dishonest gain has all boiled down to this simple and trustworthy saying: you cannot serve both God and money. Money is not evil, but worshiping it is. Our possessions provide us with potential for the kingdom of God. What are we doing with our borrowed money? How are we investing it for the future kingdom? It is an good act of worship to give all of you money, in thought, back to God and ask Him for wisdom, knowing what our future is, on what to do with it.

16:14-17:10 – Watch yourselves

The transition occurs in Verse 14 to move from this discussion of money and onto the Pharisees and their worldly view of things.

14-18 – The evil of justifying yourself

“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others.” It is too common these days to hear people affirm exceptions to rules as if it is ok in your case to do xyz – anybody in your situation would have done the same. The question in a Christian’s mind ought always to be something like: what is the right thing to do here. The Pharisees are now accused by Jesus of being able to find loopholes to justify their actions. Like when someone says they do not ‘honour their mother and father’ because they decided to give their time or money to God.

“…but God knows your hearts.” We can justify our actions a million times over but God knows our hearts and the intentions behind our thoughts and actions. It’s useless to think that we get away with things – even poor judgment – because nobody saw it or noticed or was hurt by it. God knows. Deut 8:2; 1 Sam 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chron 28:9; Ps 7:1-; 44:21; Prov 21:2; 24:12; Jer 11:20; 17:9-10; Acts 1:24; 15:8)

“What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” This should not be understood as God finding everything we like or love as detestable. The insinuation is that ‘people of this world’ love things which are detestable to God. We love the praises of one another. We celebrate evil. We love money! Wealth! Riches!

“The Law and the Prophets…” This is shorthand for The Old Testament. Sometimes the Psalms are included in this phrase. In the Jewish tradition, the Law refers to the first 5 books of the bible and the Prophets refer to everything else. The Law establishes who, what, how and why of God’s good promises, and the Prophets defend God’s actions in the context of blessings and cursings coming from the Law. Jesus said that the Law and the Prophets speak about Him (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44-47; see also 2 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Peter 1:10-12)

“…everyone is forcing their way into [the kingdom of God].” This is best to be understood as everybody is justifying their own right to be in the kingdom. In context, Jesus has spoken about the narrow door which is the only way and yet many are trying to get in through other means. And in the immediate context, Jesus is moving to make the point that people are reinterpreting the scriptures to show that their evil hearts are in the right. They are modifying or re-interpreting the Law of God to make their works righteous before God. But Jesus says…

“…easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” Heaven and earth will indeed disappear, but at the command of God at the final trumpet (Rev 21). But no man will bring about either the new heaven nor a different law. Many Christians get stuck in this area, trying to work out then, which laws do Christians still keep and which are contextual to the Jews. This approach ignores the idea that the Law of Moses is much more than ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ – they are expressing the character of God, the outworking of grace, and the difference that holiness makes. The Pharisee will ask “what is lawful?” while the Christian will ask, “am I trusting in the goodness of God in every way?” What follows is just an example of how people can rework the word of God to justify their own desires, but we must remember what Jesus said in Verse 15: “God knows your hearts.”

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery…” This is a very sensitive issue which I am nervous to write only briefly about, fearing that I may be misunderstood. Here are some thoughts to help you develop your own understanding in this area.

  1. Jesus is laying out this statement in the context of Pharisees justifying their own decisions and calling themselves righteous. God knows our hearts. The question is more about why we come to a conclusion on the topic of divorce and remarriage more so than what your conclusion is. Are we wishing to justify our decisions or are we seeking to serve God and love him first (see Luke 14:25-27; 1 Corinthians 7).
  2. God allowed divorce of marriages to occur lawfully. This does not mean that he praises divorce. It is God’s desire that a marriage be a commitment for life (1 Cor 7:10-11). However, God has permitted divorce in cases where there are no other options. If God hates divorce (NB that this is a very poor, incorrect translation of Malachi 2:16), it is not because it is unlawful, but because it demonstrates the brokenness of humanity in sin. Deut 24:1ff.
  3. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well in John Chapter 4, he did not degrade her for her multiple husbands/partners but led her to a new life in him.
  4. If a man or a woman is in a marriage and entertaining the idea of loving somebody else, this is already adultery and they should repent and ask God to strengthen their commitment. Matthew 5:27-28.
  5. The scriptures endorse commitment that consists of an other-centred love for one another. Remember the wife of your youth. Do not neglect the wife of your youth. Rejoice in the wife of your youth! Proverbs 5:18.
  6. Jesus’ statement in Luke 16 is a comment on a divorce-for-the-purpose-of-remarriage situation. A man cannot divorce his wife purely on the basis of no longer being pleased by her and then seek a new marriage.
  7. While God’s design for marriage is to be permanent in this life, domestic violence is unacceptable and everybody should have a safe home to live in. Anybody who feels unsafe in their own home ought to seek help.
  8. The staff at our church are available to discuss this important issue with anybody (especially members of our church).
  9. Most importantly, the goodness of God begins and ends with grace. The world that he created is under the curse of sin which includes a strain on relationships (Gen 3:16) and our first priority is to be reconciled to the God who pours out his mercy on sinners. He is the God of relationships and the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about repentance and forgiveness. This last point applies to all readers in whatever situation they find themselves in.

19-31 – The story of a rich fool

I will not go into the details of this parable but make a few simple statements.

  1. This parable is very different to others that Jesus tells. He does not introduce it as a parable (the kingdom of heaven is like…). He also rarely, if ever, gives characters in his parables names. He calls people farmers and rich men and labourers but he names the poor man Lazarus.
  2. Lazarus means: God is my help. He is probably named because the poor man does not trust in his riches but in God.
  3. It is interesting that Jesus seems comfortable to use imagery of the after-life that is found the Jewish traditional writings we call the apocrypha. That is to say that we don’t need to take Jesus’ imagery as revealing anything new or literal of the afterlife but he is using existing Jewish writings to make his grander point. He adopts well known language to make his spiritual point.

17:1-4 – Watch yourselves

We can be in the wrong by leading others into sin and we can be a stumbling block in allowing people to be restored through forgiveness. Paul talked about using our Christian freedom only in the context of loving others and not causing others to stumble (Romans 14). We must also watch our self-righteous judgment on others and not allow for forgiveness to repair relationships.

5-6 – Faith is faith, no matter how small

The question from the apostles (Luke refers to them as apostles since he writes after the resurrection), may come because Jesus has instructed them to forgive over and over again!

Faith is not like muscle growth. It is about the object of our faith. Jesus is not declaring that we can have super-powers if we have enough faith but saying: you are putting your trust in God, so trust in God. Even small faith is still faith in a huge and mighty God.

7-10 – Watch yourselves part 2

Finally, Jesus puts our discipleship in the position of humbleness rather than privilege. We will follow Christ because he is LORD of all, not because he deserves us to be in his kingdom.

Meaning

“Watch yourself” is quite a brief but ample summary of this section. Christians may very well mismanage their borrowed wealth by failing to view it with eternity in mind. Likewise, the Law of God, or the Scriptures, point us to the heart of God and reveal the heart of mankind. It must not be misused to justify our own sin. God is our help and our faith in him will help us to act with clarity for the future, and humbly for today. Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Application

Topic A: My money is borrowed from God. As the manager in Jesus’ parable was in charge of looking after the rich man’s property, we have been given all things by God. The truth of this is communicated right through the Scriptures as we learn about the God who made everything from nothing and who makes a nation who were slaves to be a great nation with many blessings. We too, can look at our bank balance and our net worth and declare in an act of worship that all things belong to the Lord. Then, we can begin to treat our possessions, not as ours, but as assets of the Lord that we are managing. Job 1:21.

Topic B: Ideas on being clever with money. The shrewd manager was praised for being wise and clever with his money – he was NOT praised for being dishonest. With that in mind, what are some ways that we can use our money for the good of others and the building up of the kingdom of God?

Topic C: Do the means justify the ends? Almost conversely, Jesus states that we can try and justify our actions by saying that all is done for God or that God’s word does not strictly forbid it, etc. The character of God does not change and these are displayed in the character of the Christian as fruit of the Spirit who lives within. Pray for God to look at your heart and lead you into righteousness. You might use Psalm 139:23-24 to base your prayer around.

Study 8 – Luke 14:25-15:32

The Decisive Disciple

Context

Entrance into the kingdom of God is described as narrow and those who enter it will not be those who presume on God but those who hear the words of Jesus and follow him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law have been fueling their disapproval of Jesus while the crowds listening to him have been growing. Jesus has spoken about the coming judgement that pivots around him – if you are not for him then you are against him. He has come to bring division in households rather than peace. As our series title suggests, “On Board With Jesus”, means being a disciple that has made a decision to be for Him.

Read

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Observation

Structure

  • 14:25-35 – Counting the cost of discipleship
    • 25-27 – The principle given: such a person cannot be my disciple
    • 28-30 – The principle illustrated 1: Building a tower
    • 31-33 – The principle illustrated 2: Fighting a battle
    • 34-35 – Salt that is not salty is no longer salt
  • 15:1-32 – God the Father rejoices when a sinner comes home
    • 1-2 – The issue raised: Jesus welcomes sinners!
    • 3-7 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost sheep
    • 8-10 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost coin
    • 11-32 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost son
      • 11-24 – The lost son
      • 25-32 – The bitter son

We will spend most of this article on Luke 14:25-35 with some small commentary on Luke 15:1-32. These two sections make a great double-sided lesson: Discipleship is Costly, but God the Father is cheering for you! For the sake of time, it is recommended to choose one of the sections for study rather than try to get through all of it.

14:25-35 – Counting the cost of discipleship

What we see in these verses from Jesus is his description of what we might call the cost of discipleship. He lays out the principle and uses two illustrations to show what he means. Then finally gives us the ultimatum: a disciple is like salt: when it has no qualities of salt, can you still use it like salt?

25-27 – The principle given: such a person cannot be my disciple

“Large crowds were travelling with Jesus…” We are really used to this background by now in Luke (4:42; 5:15; 6:17; 7:9; 8:4, 42; 9:37; 12:1). Luke not only mentions the crowd support or curiosity but also the reminder that Jesus is travelling (to Jerusalem Luke 9:51).

“…and turning to them he said…” Jesus addresses the whole crowd now. He has spoken to the disciples with the crowd listening in before but now he wants everyone to hear. He doesn’t want numbers, he wants commitment. We recall the excuses given in 14:15-24 for what else was more important than coming to Jesus. This teaching follows directly on from that. If people in the crowd are contemplating their allegiance to Jesus, Jesus wants them to know what a commitment means. He begins with a huge challenge!

“…If anyone come to me and does not hate….even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” Bible reading principle: if a statement in the bible appears to directly contradict another clear teaching, then we must look at the two statements again and listen to what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. 1 John 4:20 condems hatred of others (brother and sister) as a sign that they do not love God. Luke 14:26 has the meaning of “loves more”. That is, whoever loves father, mother, wife and children, brother and sister and even your own life MORE than you love God, you are not worthy to be a disciple. Look at it this way: the bible uses two words to describe commitment: love and hate. We use hate almost always to mean that you wish something were dead! But the bible uses it also as a description of choice. “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated (Malachi 1:2,3; Romans 9:13). Our love for God must exceed our love for our family. Abraham left his home in obedience to God’s instruction to go to another place that he had never seen. He took his wife and servants with him BUT he denied them the comfort and security of staying in the home that they knew. He loved God more than he loved his family – but he did not stop loving his family.

“…take up their cross and follow me…” The hearers of Jesus don’t know yet that Jesus himself will carry his own cross to his own death. BUT they do know what the reference is regarding since crucifixion was a common death sentence. It was a hugely shameful way of dying. The whole process was humiliating and even after death, your family would be ashamed to speak of you. Following Jesus is akin to leaving the security of being respected and loved in this world and committing to being different and choosing to be at odds with the world. Little did Jesus’ hearers know that he was not speaking figuratively altogether. He would literally take up his cross. Many of the disciples died serving the mission of Jesus. All of us must be baptised/buried and reborn into a life of commitment to Jesus.

“…cannot be my disciple.” Stop and breath in this warning. See also Luke 9:23.

The principle Jesus has laid out is this: following Jesus means a 110% commitment to him above all other things. A disciple ought to be aware of this before they go any further in following Jesus. The cost of discipleship is that Jesus comes first.  Following Jesus comes with a warning label: beware the cost of following Christ.

28-30 – The principle illustrated: Building a tower

“…first sit down and estimate the cost…” It is important to acknowledge that following Christ comes at a cost. Many projects in life never begin because the cost is known and is too much. If anybody begins their walk with God before knowing what’s at stake, they may come to a time quickly when they choose to ignore God and put family first.

“…enough money to complete it.” When we match this illustration with the gospel, the expense on our behalf is simply perseverance – keep the faith. To run the race as though you will reach the end. Acts 20:24; 1 Cor 9:24; Gal 5:7; Heb 12:1; 2 Tim 4:7.

31-33 – The principle illustrated again: Fighting a battle

“…first sit down and consider whether he is able…” This second parable begins very similar to the first and so does have the same principle in mind: know what it will cost you to follow Jesus. Will the king act foolishly without calculating the risk or will he be wise and work out how this will play out for him.

“If he is not able, he will send a delegation…” Here is where the second parable differs from the first. The calculation results in failure. The sums do not add up: he is outnumbered 2:1! An army stronger than his is coming. Remember the parable of the strong man and the stronger? Two kingdoms are going to war and one of them is vastly outnumbered. But, what if there was a way to diffuse the war and so you did not have to go at all. The first king avoids defeat but it comes at the cost of a kind of surrender.

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” We need to reconcile the difference between the two parables while allowing Jesus to say: in the same way! What did the king give up? His pride. His self-sufficiency. His self-made triumph over the enemy. He surrendered to someone greater than he. Is Jesus not teaching us that the cost of discipleship includes surrendering to Christ?

34-35 – Salt that is not salty is no longer salt

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” This reminds me of the joke: What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk! What do you call salt that is not salty? Can it actually be called salt? It’s dead salt. It’s expired. It’s ex-salt. We are not to be ex-salted (could not resist that!) If comes to Jesus to be included in the kingdom of God and yet remains in their own kingdom here on earth, aren’t they forfeiting their inheritance? If a king goes to battle on their own and loses to the enemy and dethroned, they are no longer a king are they? A disciple, by definition, is someone who aligns their life with Christ. It is no longer they that live but Christ that lives in them (Galatians 2:20). Salt has qualities that make it salt. Without those qualities, it is no longer desired or used as salt.

A note to bible readers: keep the meaning of the text as your goal and read the text in its context. Jesus talks of salt in other passages and sometimes that will shed light on what we are reading here, but Luke has given us enough to go on. A disciple must be a disciple or else they stop being a disciple. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot be a part time disciple. Darrell Bock, in his commentary on Luke writes, “Failure to pursue discipleship can indicate that faith is not really present, even though it was thought to be.”

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Rather than just a random tack on to the end of his lesson, Jesus is indicating what is really required. Many ears will be present that day to hear Jesus speak but they will not really hear. They will continue to travel with him for a while before scattering and giving up on him. The moment of Jesus’ trial and execution will be too much for the best of the disciples. Jesus’ warning is concluded with this call to listen.

Meaning of 14:25-35

Jesus is not interested in great numbers but in great commitment. Better a few that will take up their crosses to follow than a great multitude who will not give their life to Him. Following Jesus comes with a warning label: followers will lose themselves in order to gain eternal life.

15:1-32 – God the Father rejoices when a sinner comes home

In contrast to Jesus’ warning about discipleship, He expresses how excited God is when a sinner repents.

1-2 – The issue raised: Jesus welcomes sinners!

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.” Remember the previous verse (14:35). Who are the disciples who will have ears to hear? Answer: the tax collectors and sinners. This couplet is shorthand for “everyone that the Pharisees and teachers of the law would consider unworthy for the kingdom of God.”

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Conversely, the Pharisees and teachers of the law do NOT have ears to hear. They say this as though it is an evil accusation but this is actually the gospel! And it is the theme of the rest of this chapter. Jesus will answer their mutterings with a celebratory YES!

3-7 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost sheep

“…more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” God is ecstatic over the right choice of a sinner to repent! We must never be slow to come to him and say sorry. He is not seeking self-righteousness, so why do we overlook grace and keep pursuing what we cannot obtain! 1 Timothy 1:15 – Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS! (and I am the worst!). Jesus will not respect those who feel that they have nothing to repent over. The parable of the prodigal son from verse 11 teaches this exact lesson.

8-10 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost coin

“…rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” The lost coin parable has the same message as the lost sheep story. Notice that the searcher looks high and low for their precious thing. We hear a reference to God not being alone in the kingdom of heaven. The angels will rejoice with God. The angels were thought very highly of in the first century (Hebrews 1 illustrates this by arguing that Jesus is better even than angels). Creatures as special as the angels will be amazed when a lost person is found.

11-32 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost son

Commonly referred to as the Prodigal Son story, it is actually a story about two sons and the love of the Father. He has equal love for both brothers but the one who was lost is then found, while the one who presumed on the Father and grumbled against him remained outside of the banquet celebration.

11-24 – The lost son

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filld with compassion…” The love of the Father and the quickness of forgiveness is important in this story.

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This is the model of a repentant prayer. Jesus’ theme here is that he is not looking for righteous people but he is looking for those who are ready to repent.

“Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again…” Like the lost sheep and lost coin stories, this is a story of the lost son. The parable is brought closer to an emotional connection of relationships rather than lost possessions. But the conclusion remains: God is ready to celebrate when we come back home to him and REPENT! He welcomes sinners and eats with them (Verse 2).

25-32 – The bitter son

“Meanwhile, the older son…” The parable turns to look at the heart of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They believe that they have been faithful to the Father but actually they do not know Him and are unable to understand the celebration that is necessary.

“Your brother has come…” Notice how the relationship is emphasised in this story. There is no care from the Pharisees and teachers toward the lost sinners. But Jesus says that these are your brothers!

“…refused to go in.” The nature of those who do not enter the kingdom of God is an unwillingness to enter. Two wills are required, the will of the Father and the will of the sinner. Either of them missing will result in failure. The doctrine of election and predestination expresses that this is true and that even our own change of will is an act of grace on God’s behalf. But God does not force our wills against our own willingness. Notice in the story how the Father goes out to plead with the older brother.

“But when this son of yours…” The older son does not see his own relationship with the younger brother but labels him as a son of yours.

“My son…this brother of yours was dead and is alive again;he was lost and is found.” The Father will not allow his first son to disown his own brother. The story ends with the Father making the same statement as the stories of the lost sheep and lost coin. What was lost is now found. We don’t hear another word from the eldest son since the parable is a lesson for them. How will the Pharisee respond? Given their history and what lies ahead for Jesus at their hand, probably just what the parable gives: silence.

Meaning of 15:1-32

God the Father welcomes sinners and eats with them! He has not come for the self-righteous who do not hear the call to repent. He has come to seek and to save the lost.

Application

Topic A: “Hate” as “love less”. Explore what Jesus means when we are to hate our family and even ourselves. What does this look like for you? Can you share how you have seen this play out in your life? Perhaps you can describe a situation where you are unsure how to apply this which your group can help you with. What does it look like to put Jesus first in life?

Topic B: It’s time for some perseverance. The builder of the tower may have started to build but ran out of resources. Those around him laughed at him. Do you feel like someone who has started out as a disciple but is feeling the difficulty now? Let your group encourage you to keep listening to Jesus who is barracking for you. How can you encourage someone to keep on growing in the faith?

Topic C: Being the king who surrenders. The gospel says that we are all doomed to destruction if we try to go to battle on our own apart from Jesus. Repentance means admitting that you cannot do this on your own. Have you ever had a moment of true repentance? It is a very healthy practice to repent regularly. Using the Lord’s prayer and the Ten Commandments as a guide for your thoughts, you can come to Christ and confess that you fall short of his glory but give thanks and praise knowing that a repentant sinner means more to God than a thousand proud Pharisees.