kingdom, Holy Spirit, our hearts, joy, Jesus, discipleship, feast, marriage

The Parable of the Wedding Feast, #22

Luke 14:16-24, Message

16-17 Jesus followed up. “Yes. For there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.’

18 “Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses. The first said, ‘I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets.’

19 “Another said, ‘I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets.’

20 “And yet another said, ‘I just got married and need to get home to my wife.’

21 “The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and down-and-out you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.’

23-24 “The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’”

There is danger here, and it gives this parable an edge. It seems that there are two kinds of people in this story: the well to do, and the misfits. Each plays an integral part–something that must be understood. We may not like what we see.

But the edginess that cuts in this parable is the real frustration of a man who has invited the respectable as guests to a wedding feast. But there’s nothing but good excuses. On the outward, they seem appropriate. In this story; three men justify their absence with what seems like reasonable.

But there’s more here. To refuse a wedding invite—was never done. It was the ultimate snub.

The overseer is outraged (obviously) by the conduct of these men.

He directs his servants to do something quite radical. He knows that the feast must have guests; the quantity reflects the quality. He orders that the servants scour the city, the streets and the alleys. He must have guests.

He doesn’t really care whether they’re misfits or not.

He’ll take misfits and rascals, losers and the homeless—it doesn’t matter, he wants warm bodies. He’ll take anyone at this point. He has decided that there will be guests, no matter what.

It’s grace—pure and simple.

The parable is a direct indictment of the religious situation of his day. Since the Jewish leaders have decided to reject Jesus, to spurn the invite to join in—he’ll invite the outsiders, the Gentiles. That is the first and obvious interpretation.

The second would be the “open door” given to the undeserving. We’re the ones who get to eat bbq lamb, and drink the best wine. It’s grace—pure and simple. And guess what, Jesus has room for more. There is a place at his table for you!

“Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These words of God are true.'”

Rev. 19:9

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An Unworthy Servant, #14

Luke 17:7-10

“Which one of you having a servant tending sheep or plowing will say to him when he comes in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? Instead, will he not tell him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, get ready, and serve me while I eat and drink; later you can eat and drink’?” 

“Does he thank that servant because he did what was commanded? 10 In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we’ve only done our duty.’”

“The will of God for your life is simply that you submit yourself to Him each day and say, “Father, Your will for today is mine. Your pleasure for today is mine. Your work for today is mine. I trust You to be God. You lead me today and I will follow.”

    Kay Arthur

Really now. What little we give determines so much, since we owe him so much. The service that we can give to our master is just a small repayment for everything. Settle that now and God will use you.

Question: Is the master unfair? Does he lord his authority over the servant–taking advantage of him? Every time I read this passage, questions like this always comes up.

#1, the Holy Spirit really hasn’t taught me yet. That’s very possible. Until he does, the parable isn’t truly understood.

#2, I’m a product of my country, no such things like slaves, we’re a democracy. Equal rights and all that jazz.

#3, It’s purposefully constructed to create issues in my mind and heart. Something that “irritates” me–but in a good way.

And maybe they’re all true. But no matter how I “squeeze” out this parable, I always hit this spiritual speed bump. But I like it, and I love reading it, no matter what it does to me.

We owe everything to him. Plain and simple.

Jesus wants to be my master. I’m his servant (at least I really want to be). Reading this parable puts this idea into a real perspective. I do like this verse, 1 Corinthians 6:20, in the CEV:

“God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God.”

A transaction has been made for your soul. God has intervened, and he’s given you salvation. We have a life now that will give us life, eternally. Since he is our master, we can no longer direct our own lives. Like the “unworthy servant” in verse 10, we now walk forgiven and very much redeemed. And we owe it all to him, he’s our savior and our master.

“The question in salvation is not whether Jesus is Lord, but whether we are submissive to His lordship.”

   John MacArthur

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A Father Who is Running, #10c

The Father Runs

Luke 15:20-24, (part three of four)

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

“Cursed is the man that feeds the swine.” That’s the commentary on Jewish ritual cleanness. The prodigal knew this, but when you’re starving, tradition is thrown out the window. It’s really hard to be spiritually correct when your stomach is growling. In verse 17, we see that the prodigal suddenly realized his condition. Notice the change:

It took sometime for this to happen. But it was a true and a complete repentance. A total alteration of his mind and heart took place at that point. And I must assume, when he finally made the decision to return, he didn’t even say ‘good bye’ to the pigs.

It’s the Father’s reaction that fascinates me.

How does God see us? Is he angry or frustrated? And yes I suppose, there is ample reason for him to treat us with caution. Deep down, we know exactly how dark we are, and on a superficial level we realize our dirt doesn’t belong in heaven. And yet the father is in a party frame of mind. That isn’t rational.

And there were no tests given to evaluate the son’s sincerity. Did he really repent, or was it all for show? The text tell us that he was hungry, maybe he just wanted a hand-out? Did he meet the criteria needed for reinstatement? It amazes me, there wasn’t a 30 day waiting period to determine whether the prodigal had truly repented. No, the party started when the father hugged his son.

Do you see the “suddenness” of this part of the story?

At least for me, the pace quickens, and I imagine the whole household jumped up to get in the act. Verse 10 explains the joy that reverberates through heaven at this, Just so, I tell you, “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Joy seems to be the key thought to really “get” these verses. If we can’t see it saturate (like a sponge) we’ll never understand this parable. Its not hard if you can read it with excitement and anticipation. If you decide to do so, it’ll make a lot of sense, and it’ll be less mysterious.

This story is as much about the father as it’s about the son.

In it we see the character of the Father revealed. We see his joy, and excitement over his son’s return. Right from the start we see him running, (v. 20) moving to his son. I can see a weeping father giving his son a big bear hug and lots of kisses. He has hoped and dreamed about this moment.

Golly, there is so much to be said: there’s rings and shoes and roasted calves. But I think that the tremendous lesson is the joy of the father. It tells me much about what he’s like–and he’s not at all what I thought he’d be.

He’s the Father who is always moving, and he runs to meet us. He’s the One who is filled with joy at our return. And honestly, aren’t we always returning?

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A Very Lost Son, #10a

Painting by Rembrandt, 1667

Luke 15:11-32, part 1 of 4

11 He also said, 

“A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 

14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one would give him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ 

20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants, questioning what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’”

28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’

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

Magnificent, defined

adjective

  1. impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking/ “a dramatic landscape of magnificent mountains”
  2. very good; excellent/ “she paid tribute to their magnificent efforts”

This is one of the most exquisite passages in all of scripture. If the Bible is a mountain range, then this would be Everest. This is the third parable–all in Luke 15, and all dealing with lost things. Everything is lost in this chapter, but we could also say that everything is found, and we wouldn’t be in error. This story is one artists love to paint, and preachers like to preach.

They say that every actor dreams about playing “Hamlet,” and Jesus’ story is a dream for every reader and thinker or actor. As a writer I don’t really know how to begin, I could easily produce a library with this simple parable. (And some have tried.)

There are just three characters here: the Father, the son and the elder brother–and each play an integral part of the story. The prodigal is the main character, but the father is the main focus. The son is a wastrel, a good-for-nothing rascal who blows his father’s inheritance on parties, booze and prostitutes. He lives for the moment, he seeks pleasure in those things which destroy him.

Haven’t we all done that; at least to a degree?

The father represents God, who represents the loving patriarch of the parable. He’s the one who has turned over the prodigal’s portion of the inheritance. To a degree I suppose he has funded the prodigal’s descent into depravity, and yet it was the son who decided to go crazy. The father is not to blame.

But in this story, the father is vital. His actions are very difficult for us to grasp. He behaves outrageously, his behavior is quite difficult to understand or fathom. Who acts this way? Granted we think our earthly fathers might do this, but on a superficial level it doesn’t make any sense at all. This parable describes how God feels about sinners.

But don’t blame dad.

This post is merely an introduction. I intend to do a couple of posts based on this parable. Obviously, I can’t begin to do this justice, and even with two or three more posts I’ll be only skimming the surface–most likely, inadequately. I covet your prayers. I love this parable, perhaps more than any other, I definitely want to do it justice.

“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”  

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son

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Losing Your Coin, #9

Luke 15:8-10

 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

She’s completely lost it. It’s commonly understood that the coin had a hole in its center, and it was given to her (along with other coins) on her wedding day. Most likely it was put on a silver chain that she wore on her forehead when she left the house. It was sort of like us wearing a wedding ring. It marked her as a married woman. It was her treasure. It was valuable.

Archaeologists digging in houses have found coins in the cracks of the rocks of floors. They discovered these while excavating out the houses dating from New Testament times. These weren’t wedding coins, but it’s interesting nevertheless.

The listeners to this story would’ve clearly understood Jesus.

Each one knew exactly how frantic she would be over this. Perhaps these were the most precious thing she owned, and losing that coin would of pretty much consumed her until she found it.

She’s thinking, “Where did I have it last?” The house was most likely the place. She lights a lamp to see better, and to hopefully find it. She searches diligently, and there might have been fear involved–but definitely worry and concern. She was totally absorbed in finding that missing coin.

Searching over and over–sometimes at the same spot, once, twice or three times, as if something may’ve changed since they last time she looked. She was getting frantic now.

And suddenly, there it was! Not where she expected it, but that doesn’t matter. The entire situation seemed laughable now that she held it. But now, she was ready to do cartwheels. Incredible relief flooded throughout her heart, nothing really had mattered–or taken precedence over finding it.

And that’s what the Father is like.

He’s been searching for us–oh so diligently. He’s brought out an extra lamp, and a broom–he’s been searching the corners, and examining the cracks. The coin is his. Notice verse 5, “I have found my lost coin.’” The word ‘my’ seems to jump out, and that’s significant.

Another key word is joy. Or “rejoice.”

Joy is his heart. And all of heaven responds to its discovery, and oh my, there is one heck of a party when it’s found! How valuable the human soul must be, that both God and Satan are pursuing to possess it. And I honestly don’t really understand God’s passion for finding us, or Satan’s hate.

“Come and celebrate with me’, she says, ‘for I have found that coin I lost.’ I tell you, it is the same in Heaven—there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner whose heart is changed.””

Verse 10, Phillips

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The Pearl, #6

Matthew 13:45-46

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

This is subtly different than the previous parable (verse 44). The central issue seems to be of value. The pearl was magnificent. This merchant had never seen one like this.It gleamed in his hands, and he knew he must have it. It wasn’t an option, he had to buy it. His response–sell everything to the highest bidder (of course) and buy it.

O.K. I’m going to take an entirely different approach then the last entry. It just might be not so much us seeking the treasure in the field–the kingdom of Heaven, rather it’s Jesus seeking us. This different interpretation isn’t as weird as it seems.

We know that Jesus loves the Church.

Rather the people who make up the body. He loves everyone, but he’s crazy about his people. I have a shirt, and I’ll wear it sometimes when I feel like it could touch someone, it says “Jesus Loves You, but I’m His Favorite.” I know it’s funny, but maybe (?) it’s true. I know that he loves me–crazy-like. I love that he loves, even me.

We’re the pearl.

Jesus sees, and he must have us. So he comes, and pays the price, he sells it all just to possess us. Now we certainly don’t feel possessable (I invented a new word). We know that there is nothing remarkable about us, and actually we know our sinfulness, we’re spiritually evil all of the time. The theologians call it “the depravity of man.” (Ecclesiastes 9:3; Job 15:14-16; Matthew 15:19).

We become the “elect”(2 Timothy 2:10) when we really put our faith in what Jesus did for us, and believe me, that’s not what I feel or sense about myself. But it’s what he sees, and he desperately wants me to be his own–and I don’t know why he would do such a thing. It makes no sense to me at all.

“Love has reasons which reason cannot understand.”

    Blaise Pascal

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Getting Rich, #5

Treasure!

Matthew 13:44

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

From rags to riches. We like that kind of story, the newspaper boy turned into a publisher, C.E.O. This parable, only a single verse is almost the same thing. A poor man is walking through a field, and viola! He finds a treasure chest, and it’s packed full of golden coins, diamonds and emeralds.

He looks around, and seeing no one, he re-buries it. (After all, when you accidentally discover a treasure chest, you must take certain precautions.)

A key I suppose–the word “joy.”

And that really isn’t something we really know–unless something wonderful happens to us of course. He has joy, he can’t believe it. I think he was a bit dazed by it all, and he must of walked in an unreal sort of bubble. After all, these things never really happen.

It’s sort of like finding you’ve got the winning numbers of the Lottery, and you just won $10,000,00!

It’s this kind of unreal “luck” that this guy knows what he must do. Now the owner of the field owns everything, including the chest. The finder realizes he can’t just sneak the chest off to his home–there would be too many questions. (Where did a poor guy like you get a gold coin?) His neighbors would figure it out. And besides, he would be a thief. There has to be a better way.

Suddenly he has an idea. If he sells everything he has, he probably could buy that field. And then everything that was there would be rightfully his. Selling all isn’t a problem, he knows that whatever he gives up is nothing close to the treasure in the field.

The listener (them), and the reader (us), should understand two things about the treasure that can be found by “poor” men:

  • It’s about the Bible–the promises in the scriptures are often compared to wealth, at least the spiritual kind. Psalm 119 describes finding treasure in God’s Word. What he speaks is valuable, very much so. There are hundreds of verses that bear this out, Here’s one: “Your teachings are worth more to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver” (Psalm 119:72).
  • It’s about Jesus–the Bible is constantly aware of him, and his presence is seen in every chapter and book. He’s the treasure we find, knowing him, is the most valuable thing a person can ever have (by far). “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36).

To be his disciple means we give everything else up. We sell it all to get spiritual riches. There’s a field that we find that is worth everything, and the only way we can have the treasure is by giving up everything. There really isn’t any other way.

“You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Mark 10:21, (context vv. 17-33)

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