Luke chapter 14-16
These two chapters of the Gospel of Luke are largely all parables, though they begin with Jesus being closely observed while attending a dinner at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. A man came in with a bodily ailment and Jesus, under close scrutiny, asked if it was legal to heal on the Sabbath. Having no answer, Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way. Jesus then noticed the disparity in how different people at the dinner were given different places of honour and tells the Parable of the Wedding Feast.
Going further, Jesus tells the Parable of the Great Banquet, Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Prodigal Son, and the Dishonest Manager. He also speaks on the cost of discipleship saying “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple,” (14:26). He also mentions divorce and remarriage, followed by the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
It is no question that the Gospel of Luke is full of parables, indeed some of the most famous parables known not only to those who have read the Bible but those who have never opened the book. The story of the Prodigal Son permeates even secular media with it’s beauty and loving message, along with countless other parables. It is impossible to interpret even one of these parables in one blog or a thousand blogs, so instead we’ll stay focused on the big picture.
We can find ourselves so familiar with these parables that we can read them and gloss over their significance, missing their value. Something I noticed that helped me get a fresh read on what Jesus said and taught was the setting in which this all took place, a dinner with the Pharisees! When we remember to hear these teachings as pointed directly at the religious elite, they take on an entirely different meaning and tone. The Pharisees were sticklers for rank, order, dress, prestige, the law, and so much more. They loved being seen as the most zealous and religious, but Jesus continually lambastes them for following the law so closely that they actually miss the Spirit, the over-all picture of what God is all about. Jesus goes out of His way to make sure that He describes in great detail the nature of God and His Kingdom, pointing directly to the Pharisees saying “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your heart. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God,” (16:15).
The point of these Parables is to reveal to us the Kingdom of God, so let us read them again with fresh eyes!
Application and Question:
Picture the setting in which Luke 14-16 took place. Put yourself at the lowliest place at the table at which Christ and the religious elite ate and sense the tension in the room as a group of over-zealous elders try and trap the Messiah in His own words. Take note of the mix of tender love and frustration in the voice of Christ as He is spelling out what should be obvious to the people of Israel – the rebuke and the care. Smell the food being passed around in silence as one man or another speaks, decades and generations of religion and law being stood on its head by this simple tradesman from Galilee.
With all this in mind, read the words of Jesus slowly and imagine just how much He would have made some of the Pharisees bristle with indignation while others fall into deep thought. In such a great time of social pressure, Jesus doesn’t back down but instead lays out some of the most beautiful parables in the Bible; the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, would have stricken the heart of some and hardened the hearts of others. The stern and simple rebuke quoted above would have provoked an outcry from those who thought themselves justified by the law, yet are revealed to have gained nothing by it.
Read all this – take a bit of time and use the imagination God gave you and know that Jesus spoke these words not just for them but for you today. Soak yourself in the beautiful and humbling truth that you are a sheep on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, the Son or Daughter that was still a long way off when you see your Father running to you, and at the end of it all, let us pray to go the way of Lazarus, despising the things of this world and clinging only to the hand of God Almighty.
Father God, I thank you for the words and example of your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for revealing the Kingdom of Heaven to the broken in heart and spirit. I pray that everyone who reads these incredible parables will approach them with new eyes and a fresh heart, rinsed well in prayer and repentant of all sins. Please walk with us today and let us be an example of the only Truth and Reconciliation that can make a difference – that is, a new life and new heart in Jesus Christ. Amen!
Contributors to The Bible Blog include: