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The Truth... What is it?





Parables of Jesus the Messiah

The four Gospel books, between them, contain 55 or more parables (an earthly story illustrating a spiritual lesson). So, the parables may be interpreted...on one hand...(1) as if there were no Savior (Messiah) and (2) on the other hand because there is a Savior (Messiah). Why the difference? 

The four Gospels were written at different times & probably with a view to different audiences: Matthew to the Jews, Mark to the Romans, Luke to the Greeks, and John to all gentiles (non-Jews). In general, the "parable" having been part of the Hebrew culture (see Nathan & David, 2 Samuel 12:1-7), nuances of meaning may be discerned by way of knowledge of the culture of those times. Here is a list to include old testament parables as well as those of Jesus. All were spoken (not written) "on the fly" to the apostles and crowds following Him. Thus, they must be capable of transferring meaning to regular folk (and later generations) & not just learned scholars. And there existed, at that time, only the Old Testament writings of the Jews, God's "chosen people" at that point in the history of mankind. Also, all parables were written down in the first century AD (CE).  And, of course, the parables were not written down in modern English; they have been translated. They were SPOKEN by Jesus prior to His crucifixion and WRITTEN after His resurrection, the apostles having THEN become irrefutably and unequivocally convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (most would die because of this conviction & without a single one of them renouncing Him). A scriptural phrase that troubled me for years ("and there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth") may well be a "prophet's signature" phrase7 sort of like "amen" (so be it) or a modern casual closing statement such as "pay close attention or suffer the consequences" (listen carefully to what I've just said). The world-wide mind-set was one of relationships as treaties (covenants) between UNequals (the suzerainty mindset).

While on earth, Jesus summed up all prior commands & rules with two commands: (1) love God & (2) love others (Matthew 22:37-40). That is, "The Way"  is all about "right relationships" (righteous living), which, by extension, is all about the "community"...that is, all about others and not about "self". Chart as to "righteous" . The parables addressed issues covered by the 10 Commandments & all subsequent Jewish rules of living. Yet, as a fallen "race", humankind cannot stop sinning (falling short as to those two commands), a sin being a sin even if one just thinks it! Upon the resurrection confirmation of Jesus having been & being the Savior (Messiah) by way of His  atoning self-sacrifice on the Cross to pay for the sins of mankind, there become at least two ways to decipher the parables. Jesus wanted to tell a story on which each listener in the crowd would pass a quick judgment and with the intent that the judgment would trigger the listener's personal insight into a personal situation on which the listener had been personally blind4. My own personal thought is that the parables were a way of illustrating (1) "fallen-ness" of humans & (2) what man might expect of God had there been no Savior of the type that Jesus would prove to be (see link at end of page). So, the parables may...on one hand...be interpreted (1) as if there were no Savior (Messiah) and (2) on the other hand because there is a Savior (Messiah). Why the difference?

Eternity is from the instant of creation on into an infinite future. An eternal life is in two phases, from (1) the point of conception (or entry of the soul) of a person until their earthly death and from (2) there on into that infinite future until the end of time. According to the Bible, those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God are instantly spiritually baptized by the entry of God's Holy Spirit to indwell them during this earthly phase of life. Like a never failing gyroscope or GPS, that indwelling Holy Spirit signals (but with a wee small voice) the safe path of life choices between good & bad...between righteousness and sinfulness. The Holy Spirit indwelt Jesus believer thereby possesses a divine (though very unobtrusive) power source as a guide or pathfinder in this foreign land...this treacherous jungle...of life on earth!

 A good web source for looking up the following Bible verses is HERE [you can read as multiple Bible versions or translations].

 

Parables of Jesus Christ, alphabetically:

  1. Alert Servants: (Mark 13:33-37) Be alert! No one knows the day or the hour when the servants (workers) will see the return (or stand before to be evaluated) of the Master (boss, employer, God).

    without Jesus, the Savior
    : The "right" life is all about following ever increasing numbers of legalistic rules! The returning master must not find servants (you) "asleep at the wheel" or otherwise deficient (sinful) in your job of tending to his property (His creation). There is the implication of trouble and punishment coming to those who are caught by surprise, and you are "on your own" (1) to make your way in life with the consequences & (2) to defend yourself concerning any judgment. But Jesus died as an atoning advocate for all mankind.

    with Jesus, the savior: The "right" life is all about living in relationships "rightly"! Live each day as if the Savior would suddenly appear and find you at whatever you are doing, right or wrong. Though on His sudden & unexpected return you might be caught sinning, the Savior has atoned for mankind...the Good News. Through the grace & love of God and on the coat-tails of the Savior (Jesus), you have (1) the Divine to impute a life of joy & help for you to steer clear of the hellish consequences of your actions or inactions on earth during your remaining time on earth in this fallen world and (2) an advocate for that after-life salvation into eternity. And (3) the indwelling Holy Spirit throughout eternity assures that you relate perfectly to all of Heaven for all of eternity.

  2. Barren fig tree: (Luke 13:6-9) The keeper of the vineyard had not cultivated a fig tree there; and, for 3 years, it bore no fruit. The owner, thinking that the spot could be put to more productive use, demanded that it be cut down. The keeper pled with him to allow one more season, promising to actually cultivate the fig tree this time.
     
    without Jesus, the savior: The threat of a last chance! God will partly judge a person's record on earth according to the opportunities a person has, and uselessness invites disaster4 (think of the theory of evolution). That which only "takes" cannot last, and we are all in debt to life...what came before us4. And you are "on your own" (1) to make your way in life with the consequences & (2) to defend yourself concerning any judgment. But Jesus died as an atoning advocate for all mankind.

     
    with Jesus, the savior: The Gospel of the other chance! Jesus is all about second chances and more. As part of the "saved" life on earth, we must (1) "till the soil" when we are "keepers" of a trust or stewardship and  (2)  listen to the reasoned pleas or input of those under our care or authority when we are in authority or positions of responsibility. Through the grace & love of God and on the coat-tails of the Savior (Jesus), we have (1) the Divine to impute a life of joy & help for us to steer clear of hellish consequences of our actions or inactions on earth during our remaining time on earth in this fallen world when we fail and (2) an advocate for that after-life judgment & on into eternity. And (3) the indwelling Holy Spirit throughout eternity assures that you relate perfectly to all of Heaven for all of eternity.

  3. Bread of life: (John 6:31-38)
    Preceeded by Herod's birthday party orgy of food and dance and the beheading of John the Baptist because the dancing beauty of a daughter of Herodias asked Herod for John's head on a platter, we have "feeding" by Jesus for another reason. Following the miracle of the feeding of the 5000, the crowd missed Jesus and went in search and found Him. "When did you get here?" Jesus remarked that they hunted after Him not as the source of miracles but as one who had filled their stomachs with food. They mentioned the miracle of manna from heaven during the desert trek. Jesus clarified that God, not Moses, gave that manna even though they griped and whined all the way. The message & feeding were not about full stomachs. Manna & the feeding of the 5000 was about the grace & love of God as God provides both the caloric need and the Son with the Holy Spirit to meet all non-caloric needs.  "For the bread of God is He who comes down and gives life to the world." They grumble and remind themselves that Jesus is only (conceived out of wedlock!) that son of Mary & Joseph. Jesus then clarifies that He is the one God sent down from Heaven to do God's will and see that none is lost and that all will be raised up at the last day...that they should "eat" [Luther is said to have translated "eat" from Hebrew into German & that the Hebrew was more like "munch"...chew on...chew the cud...cogitate].
     
    without Jesus, the savior: Those who know nothing of Jesus or deny Him for being the Messiah cannot undergo the spiritual baptism that results in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, they cannot experience the part of eternal salvation that is the period of time during which that person exists on earth and can "eat" spiritually of the Gospel and truly "feed" and minister on the problems.

     
    with Jesus, the savior: The earlier chapters in the gospel of John have recounted testimonies that Jesus is the Messiah. The full and entire salvation experience is available by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit! The Gospel can be "eaten" so that the believer never goes "hungry"...never lacks the possibilty of relating "rightly". The believer even becomes empowered to truly "feed" mankind! Such a believer is truly able to experience the fulfillment of serving and the joy as she or he "passes forward" the good deed.

  4. Budding fig tree: (Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-32; Luke 21:29-33)
     
    without Jesus, the savior:

     
    with Jesus, the savior:

  5. Children in the market: (Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35)
     
    without Jesus, the savior:

     
    with Jesus, the savior:

  6. Christian light: (Matthew 5:14-16; Mark 4:21-23; Luke 8:16-18)
     
    without Jesus, the savior
    :
     
    with Jesus, the savior:

  7. Dinner guests or Feast Invitations: (Luke 14:7-24) At first, there is a meal in the home of a prominent pharisee, and Jesus notices the jockeying for seats closest to the host and comments that, rather than invite friends, invite the disadvantaged, etc. Later, a man planned to throw a great banquet. Apparently, suddenly the banquet time was at hand; and he sent out servants with (urgent ?) invitations to, presumably, those of the area in high places. All declined, making excuses. Enraged, the man then sent the servants to round up the poor, blind and disabled and compel all of them to come and fill his house for the banquet.
     
    without Jesus, the savior: All of us must weigh how we use the 24 hours in each day. Who is inviting and who are the invited? Who sits where? Why? The "right" life is about socializing between the well-connected (or at least between people of equal social standing)! There is the implication that refusal of an invitation will result in anger at you and extension of the invitation to a less deserving individual, and you are "on your own" to make your way in life with the consequences of a non-discerning, improperly engaged life & to defend yourself concerning any judgment about sinful poor choices. But Jesus died as an atoning advocate for all mankind.

     
    with Jesus, the savior: The Gospel of another chance! Jesus is all about second chances and more. When Jesus talks about meals or banquets, He is talking about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. As part of the "saved" life on earth, we must be willing (1) to have social interaction and (2) to exercise discerning and caring stewardship as to interactions and feelings of all, whether we be hosts or guests. We are try to to live Kindom-of-God-like while on earth and know that...as we fall short...God's grace is sufficient for each of us. In doing so, we execute discipleship toward that which brings wholeness to community & light out of darkness, a discipleship as the church. Through the grace & love of God and on the coat-tails of the Savior (Jesus), we have an advocate for that after-life judgment (but salvation) & the Divine to impute a life of mutually positive social interactions at all levels, living in joy & with help for us to steer clear of hellish consequences of our actions or inactions on earth during our remaining time on earth when we fail in this fallen world.

  8. Divided kingdom: (Matthew 12:24-30; Mark 3:22-27; Luke 11:14-23)
     
    without a savior:

     
    with a savior:

  9. Food (what goes in & comes out of the mouth) of Man: (Matthew 15:10-20)
    Jesus tells the gathered crowd that it is NOT what goes into the mouth ("unclean food") that counts but what comes OUT of the mouth that defiles a person. Elsewhere Jesus tells what an evil, hurtful thing "the tongue" can be. Here He focuses on the fact that what comes out of the mouth reflects the condition of the "heart" of the speaker. Wow!...think of this as we hear the public discourse of the day in the news and in our conversations!
      
    without Jesus, the savior: There is great focus on dietary issues in order to biologically live a longer, "healthier" life. It is nearly impossible to back away from hurtful, hateful speech, either by being provoked into it or just giving in and generating it.

      
    with Jesus, the savior: With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there is hope of a "heart transplant"...changing of what goes OUT of the mouth by incorporating the freely available skills of grace, toleration, and love which then can be deployed to righteous living (living with a focus on assuring "right relationships"). As usual, Jesus knew the salvation gifts He would leave for mankind. After speaking this parable, he goes to Tyre & Sidon in Canaan & is confronted by the Canaanite woman having a demon-possessed daughter. Jews and Canaanites were sworn enemies7 & detested each other (much as USA Southerners detested "yankees" from the 1850s into the first half of the 1900s!). Jesus comments to His disciples that He was sent especially to the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus seemed to even compare that mother to a filthy street dog taking in the filthiest of material into its mouth! BUT, He has compassion and cures her daughter and again extends His availability to a gentile...signifying salvation hope to all and showing that, thereby, ALL...even the unrefined... can be used to spread the Gospel of righteous living!

  10. Friend at midnight: (Luke 11:5-13)
    without a savior:
      
    with a savior:

  11. Good Samaritan: (Luke 10:25-37)
    A man was traveling alone down the road from Jerusalem (2500 feet above sea level) to Jericho (600 feet below sea level). He was robbed & beat & left half dead. The pious people and church folk saw the wounded man and skirted on by him. But an outcast of society (Samaritan...Samaria the previous capitol of Israel [the Northern Kingdom of Israel]; Judah was the Southern Kingdom of Israel & Jerusalem its capitol) stopped and helped extensively. Jesus told His audience to go and help in life as the Samaritan did.
      
    without Jesus, the savior: The "right" secular life may be all about "me" and advancing the interests of "me" and "my legacy" . The "right" life for religious people is all about the church doings & church culture! There is the implication of shamefulness & the sin of omission coming to those who don't help out in times of trouble, and you are "on your own" to make your way in life with the consequences of a disengaged life & to defend yourself concerning any judgment. Many secular & religious people do some good for others. Jesus died as an atoning advocate for all mankind & as an amazing example of God's unconditional love for all mankind. In this instance, the Priest & the Levite, the law requiring them to NOT become "ritually impure" in the presence of a corpse, assume the man is dead & strictly follow the Law (the legalistic rules)8. Further, this parable reflects the age-old schism between Israel (10 tribes) to the north (power base taken away in the Assyrian exile, 740BC) & Judah (2 tribes) to the south (power base taken away in the Babylonian exile, 580BC)8.

      
    with Jesus, the savior: The Gospel of the other chance! Jesus is all about second chances and more. As part of the "saved" life on earth, we must help those who are in trouble when we reasonably can. Through the grace & love of God and on the coat-tails of the Savior (Jesus), we have an advocate for that after-life judgment & the internal indwelling Divine to impute a life of joy & help for us to steer clear of hellish consequences of our omissions on earth & experience unexpected growth & reward from engagement during our remaining time on earth in this fallen world when we fail. These saved possess an indwelling power which they can lean upon & which will help them turn rules/law aside & to reach out & relate to others in ways that step beyond ordinary human nature. Jesus died as an atoning advocate for all mankind & as an amazing example of God's unconditional grace & love for all of mankind.

  12. Good shepherd: (John 10:1-18)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  13. Great physician: (Matthew 9:10-13; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  14. Grooms attendants: (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  15. Growing seed: (Mark 4:26-29)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  16. Hidden treasure: (Matthew 13:44) "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
      
    without Jesus, the savior:

      
    with Jesus, the savior: Now, upon understanding more about the grace & love of God for His creation, the Jesus follower is capable of forgetting Old Covenant notions of the wrath of God and comprehending that the "pearl" of this story is mankind. In essence, God sold all that He had to redeem us through Jesus7.

  17. Householder: (Matthew 13:52)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  18. Humbled guest: (Luke 14:7-11)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  19. King's war plans: (Luke 14:31-33)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  20. Laborers in vineyard: (Matthew 20:1-16) The vineyard owner brings in laborers at various times during the day...some near the end of the day...and pays all the same for a day's work (a denarius). the ones who worked longer griped & grumbled that all were paid the same. The owner says, "It's my money & my vineyard; I can pay as I like!" The "owner" seems to parallel God.
      
    without Jesus, the savior: God's love, grace, patience, and persistence (before and after death?) cannot be fathomed by us mere mortals! Our Father with complete & perfect ability to love His creation will have His will be done.

      
    with Jesus the savior: God's love, grace, patience, and persistence (before and after death?) cannot be fathomed by us mere mortals! Our Father with complete & perfect ability to love His creation will have His will be done.

  21. Landowner & tenants: (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-18)
    In a way, this is a subtle love song. While this story is clearly paralleling the story of God's outreach to humankind (& finally even sending His Son, Jesus, who would be killed), there are underlying basic things going wrong which plague mankind. Firstly, (1) there is scant communication between the parties. Secondly, being unequals, (2) there are two classes of people and both are likely ignorant of any details about life in each other's social class. Human nature being what it is, it is rare that BOTH parties in a communication truly view each other as equals. So communications...and, therefore, relationship...disasters await any mal-communication. Examples: just the inevitable tension between children in the home vs. the parents, grown children/grandchildren still dependant on parental support vs. parents, aged/disabled parents dependant on children or friends vs. children or friends, Democrats vs. Republicans, liberals vs. conservatives, etc. Relationship building and maintenance is THE key to a successful and fulfilled life. Careful attention to positive communication between the above "unequal" parties is especially critical! But it takes a will to cultivate it and then time and effort. Otherwise, people forget who is who and who is "giver" or "taker", etc.. In some ways, this parable is a metaphor for old churches & other organizations which refuse to change with the times and wither on the vine 7.
     
    without a savior: While in eternal life on earth, these folk miss the chance to have an ever-present, divine internal guide to help (1) navigate the maze of relationship building, (2) keep a person tugged in the direction of "other thinking" rather than selfish (what's in it for me) thinking, and (3) valuing and being truly tolerant and understanding of the huge variety of
    differences between people.

     
    with a savior: These saved folk claim Jesus and are charged by Him to focus on
    relationships...living in right relationships (living "righteous" lives). With them resides the huge potential for "right relationship living", potentially empowered and guided by that indwelling, divine power source, the Holy Spirit, toward living a life with relationships based on true unselfish living & gratitude. Therein comes the joyful life.

  22. Leaven: (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  23. Lost coin: (Luke 15:8-10)
    The first of three (trilogy) about "lost"... Talking to Jewish non-disciples, He tells of a woman who has 10 silver coins and loses one. She sweeps her house & hunts it until she recovers this thing of great value to her (and the friends & relatives with whom she celebrates the recovery). This is a story that parallels the persistence of God's love that His creations benefit from His eternal grace! See HERE.
      
    without a savior: Each human is of great value to God & is His (although you have never claimed Him as your God). He hunts until He finds you (in a sense, recovers you).

      
    with a savior: Each human is of great value to God &, though you have claimed Him as your God, He hunts via that indwelling Holy Spirit until He recovers you each of the 10s of thousands of times you slip away.

  24. Lost sheep: (Matthew 18:12-13; Luke 15:4-7)
    The second of three (trilogy) about "lost"... In Matthew & Luke, a man has 100 sheep; and one becomes lost. In each, the lost sheep is found; and the owner celebrates. But the settings differ 5. In Matthew, Jesus (having just been talking about people needing to humble themselves & become "little ones" in order to experience the faith) is surrounded by His disciples & assures them that The Father is not willing for any "little ones" to be lost to The Kingdom. In Luke, Jesus is surrounded by listening tax collectors and sinners (those outside of the faith) and notes how joyful any one of them would be who owned 100 sheep and found the 1 which was lost. Then He notes, "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent." This is a story that parallels the persistence of God's love that His creations benefit from His eternal grace! See HERE.
      
    without Jesus, the savior: There is no common-sense perception within mankind of an end-game status of being spared the consequences that we deserve. But, nevertheless, whethether you know of Him or not, God is not willing for any "unsaved" sinner to be lost from a place in His kingdom.

      
    with Jesus, the savior: Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Jesus follower has the potential to truly understand that God is not willing for any sin of His saved people to cost them their place in His kingdom.

  25. Mustard seed: (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)
    This parallels the parable of the wheat and weeds, below.

      
    without a savior: mustard seeds and mustard are bad, below

      
    with a savior: mustard seeds turn out to be the good guys, below

  26. Net of fish: (Matthew 13:47-50)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  27. New cloth: (Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  28. New wine: (Matthew 9:17;Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-39)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  29. Pearl of great price: (Matthew 13:45-46)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  30. Pharisee and tax collector: (Luke 18:9-14)

    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  31. The prodigal son: (Luke 15:11-31)
    This is the crowning jewel of the trilogy of parables of "the lost" (#23, lost sheep & #24, lost coin, above). "Prodigal" = wastefully or recklessly extravagant [MORE]. Jesus is speaking to the non-disciple, citizenry Jews who are gathered. The story hints to me that the setting consists of (1) the family & servants and (2) those who are away from, and not part of, the family. A man has a conformist son and an independence-minded (rebellious?) son. Not even wanting to wait for his father's death so that he gets his inheritance, this son demands his inheritance. Amazing to me, the father gives it to him. He leaves and squanders everything on wild & sinful living, even to the point of literally having to eat pig slop with pigs. He has become totally "lost". He decides to return to his father, even if only as a slave. To his amazement, his father has heard of his impending return, sees him in the distance, and literally runs to greet him, overwhelmed with love & joy to meet & greet him and welcome him back into the family (a response totally against the customs of the day 6). The good son, in true human-nature form, resents the celebration. The central theme is the contrast between the father's attitude and the brother's attitude6. And this is the story parallel of the patience of God.

    without a savior: If the parable applies to all humans (as do the first two in the trilogy), then there are those "of" God and those who deny or reject or just never thought of God. I don't sense that the "away" ones are "the condemned". And I see no indication that the "away" are hell bound. So, if you insist, God will not stand in the way of your desire to be away from Him and His ways. But He loves you and desires you to be close & in His family and will celebrate & be joy filled with your return (He does not have you locked out). But, rather than rejoicing (1) that God loves all people & (2) all who come to Him (God), don't many (us "brothers") people of religion begrudge many (they are just TOO sinful!) who claim the God of Abraham and/or His son Jesus? No?...think hard about saying "no" (if you say "no", I think that you are not looking inward deeply enough). Jesus died as an atoning advocate for all mankind & as an amazing example of God's unconditional love for all mankind. This is the basis for human compassion

      
    with a savior: Even though you have chosen Jesus and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, if you insist, God will not stand in the way of your desire (deliberately or inadvertently) to be away from Him and His ways. But He loves you and desires you to be in His family and will celebrate & be joy filled with your return. Rather than rejoicing (1) that God loves all people & (2) about all who come to God, don't many (us "brothers") people of religion begrudge those who claim the God of Abraham and/or His son Jesus? No?...think hard about saying "no" (if you say "no", I think that you are not looking inward deeply enough). Jesus died as an atoning advocate for all mankind & as an amazing example of God's unconditional love for all mankind. This is the basis for human compassion.

  32. Rich man & Lazarus: (Luke 16:19-31)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  33. Rich fool: (Luke 12:16-21)
    The land of a certain rich man produced great crops, and he didn't have enough storage space. He thought to himself about himself and what this meant for his future, as he would have plenty of value stored up for years to come. He dreamed of a future in which he'd eat, drink, and be merry! Then God came to him and told him that he was a fool and would die that very night. He'd only thought of himself and not of his community. In 2011, I was stimulated to think of the situation in America where lack of focus on people as individuals and our communities has (1) lead investors to short-term thinking and (2) businesses needing to breathlessly report quarterly performance and (3) even move businesses to other countries to get cheap labor and avoid the costs of government regulations. Politicians and governments are not truly discerning as to the effects of their laws and decisions on "community". Before selling a business off, do any people who have built successful small, local businesses ever truly think about the long term effect on their community before they sell out to the highest bidder? Or will any business, even a pathology group, ever seek primarily to sell out to those who might continue to be stewards to the community that they arose to success in rather than for the quickest and highest buck?
      
    without a savior: Human nature is self-centered, and this man seems to be a nearly totally self-centered man! Though he may do some generous things in his life, I doubt that he will even try for what Jesus came to teach about right relationships (righteousness). Why?...because he does not have the power to truly resist that human nature gyroscope that pulls tenaciously back to self-centeredness.

      
    with a savior: Human nature is self-centered, and this man seems to be a nearly totally self-centered man! But, a man who follows Jesus has the indwelling of the all-powerful Divine in the form of the Holy Spirit with the power to help that follower rise strongly against the forces of human nature. Though he may do some truly good and generous things in his life, I doubt that he will even try for the full extent of what Jesus came to teach about right relationships (righteousness). Why?...NOT because he does not have the power to truly resist that human nature gyroscope that pulls tenaciously back to self-centeredness. It will be because it is truly politically dangerous for pastors (1) to really cut through the routine of church habits and (2) to really dwell on the Gospel's focus on righteous living (living for community...living for right relationships) with enough focus and emphasis that we followers actually & firmly step out of our comfort zones with sustained emphasis on right relationships and community.

  34. Salt without flavor: (Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34-35)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  35. Servant's (slave's) duty: (only in Luke 17:7-10) “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’? 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’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 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.’”

    without a savior: Being without a savior, a modern employer may well be a non-religeous but "good" person. The servant in ancient Greco-Roman times worked a long day10. In a modern free society, a reflex response...fair and just...egalitarian...would be that the employer should invite the servant to his own table and share the meal and express one's thanks for a job well done. Instinctively, such thinkers would read this parable and conclude that it is unfair and mean-spirited10. Again, this parable seems diametrically opposed to "The Watchful Servant" parable, below (#51)10.

      
    with a savior: This parable is about Divine-human relations & discipleship: He is transcendent & perfect & Lord of the univers; we humans are not10. In the earlier history of the Christian faith, many Christians used verses such as this one to justify slavery10. This parable seems diametrically opposed to "The Watchful Servant" parable, below (#51)10. And it seems opposed to the first sermon by Jesus which was in Nazareth about releasing the oppressed (Luke 4:16-21)10. So, for the believer, "the deal" of this parable could be that: in Divine-human relations, we believers are to go beyond human-like relationships to one in which we believers are slavish in devotion to our triune Creator who might viewed as multifaceted, sort of like a 4-part choir: sopranos (the "almighty Creator" voice or facet of the choir), altos ("Heavenly Father" facet), tenors ("incarnated Friend" facet), and basses ("divine Master" facet), together blending & harmoniously creating a wonderful chorale10. An attitude of "surrendering" from our attempts...our battle...to balance our spiritual and secular lives may be what this parable indicates for us.

  36. Sheep and goats: (Matthew 25:31-46)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  37. Sign of Jonah: (Matthew 12:38-42; Luke 11:29-32)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  38. Tares (weeds) in the crop field: (Matthew 13:24-30...part #1 & 36-43...part #2)
    Who are the weeds? This parable is only in one Gospel book. Matthew was definitely a "weed"7! He was a despised tax collector for the Roman oppressors of the Israelites. Yet Jesus chose him as an apostle, and Matthew wrote one of the 4 Gospels! So, it is no wonder that Matthew alone was so struck by this parable as to know the incredible importance to record it! Additionally...as to "weeds"...look at a few surprising (especially to those who think The Kingdom is only for the squeaky clean) "weed" situations buried in the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus was born among a people who placed so much importance in the family pedigree. But, here are some in His human-side pedigree: Tamar (Judah's daughter-in-law who tricked Judah into getting her pregnant with twins, one being Pharez, ancestor of David), Rahab the gentile Canaanite prostitute (who married Salmon who sired Boaz with her), Ruth (a gentile Moabite who is destitute enough that she "gleans" from the fields & marries Boaz), and King David 7 (who lusted for Bathsheba while her loyal spouse was away leading David's war & ultimately set Uriah up to be killed in war so that he might have Bathsheba for himself in adultery, and she ultimately bore David the son, Solomon)! Or, rather, was Jesus actually hinting that His followers were viewed by Jews and Romans as weeds? If so, was He letting them know that his Gospel was so powerful when people "believed" that the followers of The Way (followers of Jesus) would be spreaders of the Gospel with a penetration and invasiveness like the most invasive and persistent of weeds?...that what God's chosen people had thought was good (wheat) was ripe for change to true goodness (rightly relating...the true "goodness" revealed by Jesus) by what they had thought were weeds?
      
    without a savior: Human experience of thousands of years in agriculture finds a nearly 100% belief that weeds are worthy of fighting against and of destruction! There is no other rational fate for a weed. Why would anyone without the Savior desire an alternative interpretation? The success of the sown crop (example = wheat), however, would likewise be nearly 100% viewed as a positive, desirable outcome (except for the enemies of that people). It readily seems fully justifiable for the "weeds", weeping & wailing and gnashing teeth, to be thrown into the fire...a well-deserved ending indeed!

      
    with a savior: BUT, with The Savior, an amazing thing happens. During the "age" of the crop growth, the weeds still cause their negative effects (or their good effectcs?). But at harvest, though the weeds may have been "bad" in the "age" (or the invasive good?) of crop growth, they are deemed part of the harvest on the purposeful coat tails (the atoning blood) of the saving grace of the Savior and justified as worthy for The Kingdom. Heck!...the Harvest is actually of weeds and wheat affected rightly by weeds!

  39. Ten minas: (Luke 19:11-27) [The servants of a kingdom are entrusted with equal amounts, a mina being about 3 months' wages.] While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’“The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?  Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior: Could the buried minas be a sort of metaphor for the commands of God buried under The Law ?

  40. Ten talents: (Matthew 25:14-30) The servants of a master are entrusted with unequal amounts of his property as he leaves for a long period. As this prior chapter (24) opens, Jesus knows The Cross is "around the corner". As the disciples point with pride at The Temple (signifying The Old Covenant which has been distorted into multilayered exclusionary legalistic rules), Jesus forecasts (1) the destruction of mans' rules & customs excluding people and (2) the New Covenant of inclusiveness. The disciples will not "get it" until the Resurrection. Their thinking is still locked into the worldwide thinking of treaties between unequals. And their mindset is on keeping things "as is" with the rules but with inclusiveness of Gentiles. We think of "talents" in terms of money & material gain. Jesus always was/is thinking of people ('the folks"). Jesus was reflecting that God is way more interested in who is "in" rather than keeping folks "out". The servants symbolize growing of the Kingdom of God. To be fearful to grow (one-talent servant) is NOT the right response! Jesus wants investment in growth! Then Jesus closes with what is known to be a prophetic type closing that basically means "this is NOT the right way"!
      
    without a savior: People, by human nature, tend to be groupish & exclusionary, a nearly impossible inclination to overcome in the long run.

      
    with a savior: On becoming a believer, one then has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a focusing power source that can be recruited within oneself to help as one wills oneself toward investing more of oneself to be more inclusive to one's surrounding community. This can positively build the community through relating of the citizens to each other "rightly". Could the buried talents be a sort of metaphor for the commands of God buried under The Law so that the value of relating rightly is completely obscured?

  41. Ten virgins: (Matthew 25:1-13)
    Five foolish brides (virgins) went to meet their grooms with lamps but forgot the oil; five were wise & brought both lamp and oil . The grooms coming from afar, the brides fell asleep. When the cry went out that the grooms were near, the wise virgins did not want to share their lamp oil. While the foolish went back to buy oil, the wedding banquet started; the wise entered and the door was shut. The door guard claimed not to know the foolish ones when they returned and wanted to enter. It is a story about conserving valuable stuff instead of sharing.
      
    without a savior: this message would suggest exclusion without hope of a change of mind for those (all of us?) who are not properly prepared.

      
    with a savior: since Jesus is all about inclusiveness, this suggests that Jesus is illustrating to His disciples what CAN happen when there is a lack of divine love and grace and that, if we would share, all are included.

  42. The seeds & soils (probably the very first parable 5): Is this about scattering seeds or about soil (or both)? (part #1: Matthew 13:3-9 & explained in Matthew 13:18-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:4-15)
    Jesus explains that this is how His ministry works & that lack of abundant yield is the active & deliberate result of the enemy in the Heavenly realms 6. In addition to seed & soil, a harvest depends on weather conditions (warmth & water). Humans would assume that a great harvest is about abundance. A planter (Jesus 6 [& by extension, any follower trying to spread the Gospel]) scatters the planting seed everywhere 7, and some falls on rich or prepared soil (and yields a bountiful harvest) and some on poor (compacted soil on path; thin soil over limestone undersurface; soil with weed seeds mixed in, etc.) or uncultivated soil (and sprouts but does not produce & withers and dies). The "seed" is like "hearing". The bountiful yield: this is akin to good news (or tips on the key to the great life) being heard, understood, and applied by those with rich "soil": prepared (positively or by trials) & ready to hear and with truly unimaginable 7 results of 100, 60, or 30-fold results. The short yield: Good news failing to yield such an incredible7 harvest in 3 ways: (1) (on the compacted path) coming to a compacted & beat-down person's spirit with no good effect at all on the disengaged, unprepared, and uninterested person, resulting that the hearer can be deliberately or inadvertently  easily mislead vs. (2) (thin soil) going shallow into one ear and out of the other, maybe due to the underlying things in that hearer's life that have "compacted" an underlying hardness beneath a favorable but thin exterior surface vs. (3) amidst the weeds of too much business & distraction (rendered so by the enemy) in life vs. etc. But, in today's world, what are the "seeds" & the "soil"; and who has the control over where the seeds fall or the condition of the soil? Seed scattering is only one (but the most important ) step in the end result of a worthy harvest that measures up to its initial potential. The parable of the lost sheep suggests to me that a worthy harvest may not depend on the numerical amount. In fact, the harvest of a single seed, no matter what soil, is possible if it is God's will. And that single seed may sow again & produce a harvest of note whose produce plays a role in future harvests.


    without a savior: Charitable seeds of "help" may be cast about by people with disengagement or even high-minded intent and often primarily to serve to make the "planter" feel good about (1) his/her "caring" or (2) imagining getting "points" with God & "man". They may cast seed but may not cast seed everywhere. AND, they are unable to do anything much about soil...they are more into attempting a safety net.
      
    with a savior: The great good news of Christ is that everyone has a chance; so, seeds are scattered widely and with abandon (because one can never dismiss what God might cause to positively happen if He chooses). And the seed are cast relentlessly...over & over. Also, knowing what positive impact the Savior has meant to his/her own life, charitable "seeds" may be carefully sown in proper kind & amounts for the currently perceived  state of the "soil" & efforts made to engage & cultivate that soil. And with continued interest in learning successful planting & cultivation skills, such might cause a "saved" person to be very engaged & discerning as to causing long-term, positive impact with his/her "donation" to a cause or a life. But, let's not forget that it is Jesus who knocks on the door of a human's life & not the other way around. Jesus (1) may be the Factor that can change any seed's chances...no matter the soil. And, (2) with Jesus, each life indwelt through Him by the Holy Spirit constitutes an abundant harvest for that previously lost soul! And, since these seeds sprout within a system that both casts seed again and nurtures the crop, the soil is replenished and improved.

  43. Two debtors: (Luke 7:41-43) Preceeded by the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-40) washing the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair, annointing them with her most prized perfume and them kissing them, Jesus talks about debt relief and forgiveness. He had gone to super at a pharisee's home. Jesus proposed: Two persons owed money to a moneylender. One owed 500 denarii and the other 50 (a ten-to-one difference). They were both broke, and the moneylender forgave the debts of both. On which debtor did the moneylender extend the greater forgiveness? Jesus asked Simon, the pharisee host, "Now [for the forgiveness of the debt] which of them love him most?" Simon choses the one with the largest debt; Jesus answers, "You have judged correctly." And Jesus continues, "But he who has been forgiven little loves little." And, as with the prophet, Nathan, setting King David up to hear the bad news of God's judgement on David (2 Samuel 12:1-30) for having devised the death of his military leader, Uriah, there are positive & negative consequences to be worked through following God's judgements.
      
    without Jesus, the Savior: Of those humans having any interest in a Higher Power, there is a strong tendency to see that power or God as (1) completely detached from mankind and/or (2) as one who makes a "black or white" judgement and discards (moves on).

      
    with Jesus, the Savior: But, the one true God of Abraham moves through His judgements. He does not discard after His judgements! The Jesus follower, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, has a huge earthly advantage in rolling with the consequences of decisions and actions.

  44. Two sons: (Matthew 21:28-32)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  45. Unclean spirit: (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  46. Unjust judge: (Luke 18:1-8)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  47. Unjust steward: (Luke 16:1-13)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  48. Unmerciful servant: (Matthew 18:21-35) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold [one bag is a talent, 15 years of one slave labor] was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’“ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
      
    without a savior:
    Without any understanding of a loving God...much less Jesus, one could say that the king was incredibly generous to forgive such a massive debt and probably overboard in his punishment.
      
    with a savior: Jesus followers are familiar with God's grace and mercy bought by the crucifixtion of Jesus. But this parable gives an astounding example of the extent of the forgiveness God offers and provides mankind. Three (3) 15-y3ar periods of slave labor, 45 years, would have been worth 3 bags (talents) of gold. Yet, in this parable, God forgives 10,000 fifteen-year periods (10,000 talents...10,000 bags of gold)! This is more forgiveness than a person could require in the longest of human lifetimes. In the broad sense, this parable of forgiveness falls under the broader heading reconciliation12...a key arena of opportunity in the Christian community. What friends or family are you on the "outs" with? What divisions are there which need to be healed toward unity? As to the number 77, it is "said" that there are 77 generations from Adam to Jesus; and Genesis 4:24 notes about Cain avenged 7 fold, then Lamech 77 fold.

  49. Unprepared builder: (Luke 14:28-30)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  50. Vine & branches: (John 15:1-17)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  51. Watching (watchfulness) servants: (Luke 12:35-40) “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior: This parable seems diametrically opposed to "The Servant's (slave's) Duty" parable, above (#35). But, it makes more sense if this is interpreted as a parable about human to human realtionships which then cautions to also be ready for the return of The Son of Man (Jesus).

  52. Wise builder: (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  53. Wise servant: (Matthew 24:45-51)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  54. Wise steward: (Luke 12:42-48)
      
    without a savior:

      
    with a savior:

  55. Marriage feast or wedding banquet: (Matthew 22:1-14) The Hebrew culture thrived on celebration! A king prepared a wedding banquet for his son, but the friends all had other plans and refused to come, some even eventually killing the servant messengers who came with reminders. Enraged, the king sent his army & destroyed the murderers and burned their city down. So, the king dispensed messengers to the streets and invited all & filled the wedding hall with them. But one did not wear a proper wedding clothes; enraged, the king had him thrown out. And Jesus ends the parable, "For many are invited but few are chosen."

    As Jesus tells the parable, He is ever aware that His time is short before He will be crucified. By custom, the king would have graciously (by grace) provided the wedding clothes for the guests. Knowing that Jesus has the ears of the Chief Priests and Pharisees, He adds on a whammy of an exclamation point to the story; and it harks back to the mindset of those times (cultures of "treaties"...covenants...between unequals). So, acting the way the Chief Priests and Pharisees and the culture would normally react to a guest who refused to wear the wedding clothes provided by the host (refusing the graciousness of the host), the parable has the king ordering his attendants to tie that guest up and toss him out into the darkness. And Jesus uses a standard closing phrase of the times for someone either experiencing or being possibly liable for punishment, "...where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."7

      
    without a savior: This parable sounds brutal and would seem to make no sense to a casual, secular reader. In wanting to be gracious, the king stumbles over his humanity and strikes out at both minor and gross social snubbs & imperfections. The potential joybof the wedding banquet is ruined.

      
    with a savior: From the Christian believer's viewpoint, this parable seems to reflect God inviting His chosen (Israelites) to the wedding with His Son, Jesus.Tthey did not accept the invitation. So, the Apostles & Disciples carried the invitation to all people and vast numbers showed up. Look out for the punch from the blind side! But the wedding banquet was marred when the King (God) seems to focus wrath on one guest improperly clothed. Rather than letting this parable indicate how God would really act, Jesus is letting the Chief Priests & Pharisees get a glimpse of themselves and their legalistic ways which always search for and punish the fault and evil in people rather than notice and amplify the good as it begins to build up in a follower. The Israelite temple leaders would behave like this: God would not.
     


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For any one of us, "eternal salvation" covers the entire span of time from the moment of our conception into the infinity of all future time (an earthly component & an after-life component). If any of the above has caused you to be curious as to what this Good News...this "Salvation"...is, check out this brief schematic chart or check out this brief bullet-point outline.

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References:

  1. Much of the above is my own personal analysis & viewpoint as an adult layman, serious believer since 1992 and with eyes opened significantly wider by my pastor (Tim Bupp) between 2010-13.
  2. Richard Q. Ford, The Parables of Jesus: Recovering the Art of Listening, Fortress Press, 1997, 183 pages. [a clinical psychologist's interpretation of 8 parables from the viewpoint of the ways of listening practiced by psychotherapists]
  3. William Barclay, The Parables of Jesus, Westminster John Knox Press, 1970 (republished 1999), 223 pages. [A popular Scottish interpreter of the New Testament steeped in knowledge of old Greco-Roman & Jewish history & culture, he was Professor of Divinity at Glasgow U. and wrote many commentary books and with the hope to convey meaning to the common man, this one covering about 30 parables.]
  4. William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, Westminster John Knox Press, 1953 (republished 1975 & 2001), 355 pages. [A popular Scottish interpreter of the New Testament steeped in knowledge of old Greco-Roman & Jewish history & culture, he was Professor of Divinity at Glasgow U. and wrote many commentary books and with the hope to convey meaning to the common man, this one covering the parables in Luke, Luke having the viewpoint of a physician.]
  5. Robert C. McQuilkin, Our Lord's Parables, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980 (originally a portion first published in 1929), 203 pages. [Dr. McQuilkin was the founder & President of Columbia Bible College near Columbia, S. C. His book studies 17 parables from the viewpoint of a theological Christian who believed that there was only ONE central truth in a parable. He also notes some Old Testament parables on page 21.]
  6. Rev. Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson, First Presb. Church, Columbia, S.C., fall 2007  sermon series, "The Sting in His Tale: The Parables of Jesus"[10 sermons, MP3 formatted CD].
  7. various sermons or discussions by various preachers.
  8. The Great Courses, Holy Land Revealed, Professor Jodi Magness (archeologist & historian).
  9. Pastor Timothy L. Bupp.
  10. free Wikipedia on-line resource, Parables of Jesus.
  11. Alec Hill, "The Most Troubling Parable: Why Does Jesus Say We Are Like Slaves?, Christianity Today, page 76-, July/August 2014.
  12. Pastor Larry Hagerty's sermon (amazing reconciliation with his estranged father) at Zion Lutheran Church, Lexington, S. C., 14 Sept. 2014; video posted HERE on YouTube.

 

 

 

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(begun posting 30 December 2010; latest addition 23 September 2014)