Weekly Word: Lesson 8
Luke: Message of Hope
PARABLES OF HOPE:
I like a good story. If the story teaches me a lesson, I like it even better. I find that often when I see a principle in the New Testament illustrated by the life of a person in the Old Testament, both make more sense. Jesus was a master storyteller. His parables taught truth in a way that people in the eastern culture of His day could understand, and which we in the West can also relate to.
Parables are stories set in an earthly context which teach spiritual truth. We enjoy them because they engage both our thoughts and our feelings. Parables are not the source of our doctrine, but they may illustrate doctrinal truth. For the truth seeker, they stimulate a desire for deeper understanding. To the truth-rejecter, they hide truth, and thus some believe, lessen to a degree their accountability.
The three chapters and parables we are studying this week are almost totally unique to Luke.
DAY ONE: The Parable of the Great Banquet. Luke 14:1-24
A. Jesus’ invitation to dinner at the home of a prominent Pharisee on the Sabbath led to three lessons being taught. The first related to a trap that had been laid for him. Knowing Jesus’ compassion, they had no doubt He would be caught! Read verses 1-6.
- The bait for the trap was a man suffering symptoms of what may have been end-stage heart or kidney disease. Actually, both Jesus and the Pharisees were on trial.
- Which of them showed compassion? What did the Pharisees actually value? How did Jesus’ questions reveal their hypocrisy? What lesson do you see?
B. When it was time to eat, the guests seated themselves. In that culture, nearness to the host indicated one’s importance. Read Jesus’ observations in verses 7-14.
- Jesus is not advocating a false humility but true humility in his advice to the guests. (verses 8-11)
- Jesus also had advice for the host in verses 12-14. Jesus is not saying you can’t invite your friends to dinner, but they shouldn’t be the only ones. How could inviting the needy produce true humility in the host? True hospitality doesn’t look for a reward.
- Perhaps like me you have found joy in offering hospitality to strangers. Particularly when we move away from family and friends, rather than bemoaning lost relationships and traditions, what a delight it is to create new ones – especially when they include people who have no ability to reciprocate. That is a true blessing!
C. This prompted a pious-sounding response by a person who assumed he would be included in the kingdom at the feast with Abraham. Jesus used it to teach a spiritual lesson.
- In that day, someone planning to give a banquet would invite the guests ahead of time, giving them the date. When the time grew close he would send his servants to the invited guests giving them the specific time. This is not unlike the way some people now send out notes asking friends to save the date of their wedding. In this case, the people in the parable had agreed to attend the banquet, but when the servants came with the details of the invitation, they had changed their minds and gave many excuses.
- As you read this parable in verses 16-24, consider that the “certain man” in verse 16 is God and the guests who were invited ahead of time are the Jews. The people of verse 21 might be the “lost” that Jesus came to seek and to save, with those on the roads and country lanes in verse 23 being the Gentiles.
- How does this parable reveal God’s compassion for all people, Jews and Gentiles?
- Although many are invited, there is a day coming when it will be too late to respond. What urgency does this place on you as an invited guest? …as a servant extending invitations?
DAY TWO: Parables of Discipleship. Luke 14:25-35
A. Remembering that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and the cross, this passage carries extra weight.
- Although large crowds were still following Him, what do you think their motives were?
- The word “hate” in verse 26 is not a word of emotion but of comparison. One’s love for Jesus must be greater than one’s love for one’s family or even one’s own life.
- What does it mean to “carry one’s cross?” (This does not refer to illnesses or other problems we face because we live in a fallen world. See II Timothy 1:8.)
B. Jesus gives three parables on why the cost of discipleship is so high.
- Explain verses 28-30. How have you done this?
- There are two ways of interpreting the parable of verses 31-33. The first relates us to the king. Another interpretation has the king being Jesus and we his soldiers. After reading these verses carefully, which makes the most sense to you? Regardless of which interpretation you prefer, what are the implications for you personally?
- The third parable in verses 34-35 relates to the quality of the life of the disciple. Name 3-4 characteristics or uses of salt. Spiritualizing this, which of these traits are true of you?
C. We in the West somehow think we should be exempt from paying a price to follow Jesus. Considering how many times Jesus emphasizes a cost, shouldn’t we take this seriously? (Remember also Luke 9:23-26; 57-62)
DAY THREE: Parables of Salvation. Luke 15:1-32
A. These parables illustrate the truth of Luke’s key verse (19:10). There are several things that stand out to me in these parables. One is how valuable I am to God. Another is how He rejoices over me. A third is that while God seeks me out, He doesn’t force me to come to Him. There is a point at which I must choose to respond to Him. These parables also may be illustrating the roles the members of the Trinity have in our salvation.
B. The Parable of the Lost Sheep is told in Luke 15:3-7.
- Sheep aren’t the smartest of animals. A sheep can get lost just by wandering off. How are you and I like sheep? (I Peter 2:25)
- How is Jesus like the shepherd? (John 10:11-18)
C. The Parable of the Lost Coin is told in Luke 15:8-10.
- In that time, when a Jewish girl got married she began wearing a headband with ten silver coins. To lose one of those coins would be like losing the diamond from one’s wedding ring. Whereas the sheep was lost because of its own carelessness, the coin was lost because of the carelessness of the person who wore it.
- Could my carelessness cause someone in my care or my circle of influence to become lost?
- How might the Holy Spirit be like the lighted lamp (John 16:8-14; Ephesians 1:17-18)?
D. The parable of the lost son is one of the most well-known in all Scripture. Read Luke 15:11-31.
- Who was responsible for this son becoming “lost”?
- In this case, the father did not go out and search for his son. Why do you think that was? What did he do instead?
- How do verses 17-20 illustrate what true repentance is? (A functional definition of repentance could be “a change of mind that results in a change in behavior.”)
- What was the father’s response to the son’s repentance?
- The older son’s response in verses 25-30 is disturbing. What do you think is the root cause of his anger? How does the father show equal love for this older son? Do you think the older son came in?
- There are several ways of interpreting this parable1. The most common is to understand the father as God, the younger son as a sinner and the older son as a religious person (such as a Pharisee). Notice that the younger son comes to the father by faith, while the older son is trying to earn his father’s favor by works.
- There are probably times in our lives when each of the characters represents us. If you have at some point realized that you are a sinner, helpless to save yourself, and have trusted totally in God’s love and forgiveness, what is God’s attitude toward you from this parable?
- If you are more like the older brother, trying to earn God’s favor by being good or obeying religious rituals, would you take this opportunity to humble yourself like the younger son and receive the love, forgiveness, and benefits of son-ship God freely offers to you?
DAY FOUR: The Parable of the Shrewd Manager. Luke 16:1-18
A. The parable of verses 1-8a is puzzling. What is being taught, and why would the master of the unfaithful but shrewd manager commend him?
- Commentators suggest that the manager who had complete control of his master’s possessions had added a “commission” to the total amount owed by each person. When he realized his predicament, he subtracted his “commission” from each bill. It is uncertain whether or not he also defrauded his master, and this may or may not have been legal, but he did use the means at his disposal to insure good will for himself with the creditors, protecting his future. (He was going to need that good will very soon!)
- Jesus comments on this situation in verses 8b-13 with three principles.
- Disciples should be wise in their use of money and possessions. From verses 8b-9, how might you need to change your thinking from how you “spend” your money to how you “invest” it? There are many legitimate ways to invest one’s money, including personal needs and those of your family, the needs of those around you, kingdom needs, etc. It’s been said that one’s true wealth is not what one has but what one gives away. Are you currently living on a prayerfully and wisely thought out budget so that you have money available for all these needs? If not, perhaps a co-worker could help you develop one.
- The disciples may have thought that as poor people they were exempt from responsibility in financial areas. What principle in verses 10-12 speaks to them? Additionally, can a person who is irresponsible in handling their material resources be trusted to handle spiritual resources?
- In the USA, the money states, “In God We Trust.” The recent economic crisis and the relation of the dollar to other currencies reveals that for most people our trust is in something else. What principle does verse 13 state? Which are you serving? Examine your feelings about your financial situation. What do they reveal about where your trust is truly placed? Read I Peter 5:6-7 and Philippians 4:6-7 and do what these verses say.
B. The Pharisees, ever critical of Jesus, received a response from Jesus in verses 14-18.
- Perhaps they saw their wealth as evidence of God’s blessing. However Jesus penetrated their heart attitudes toward money and toward God. See verse 14-15.
- The Pharisees pointed to their strict observance of the letter of the Law as proof of their piety. Jesus, in verses 16-17, affirms the Law, giving an example in verse 18 showing a moral law given in the Old Testament which continues in the New Testament. Jesus goes beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit of the Law 2.
DAY FIVE: The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Luke 16:19-31
A. This last parable tells of another man who valued money and prestige more than God and people. Because the poor man’s name is used, this may actually be a true account.
- In life, the rich man was self-serving. How do you see this character trait continue after death?
- Verses 29-31 indicate that there is sufficient truth in the Old Testament for a person to repent and turn to God in faith. What leads you to think this man rejected that knowledge?
- These verses also imply that it was not the rich man’s wealth or Lazarus’ poverty which determined their eternal destiny, but rather their response to God through the truth of Scripture. (Their response to God was demonstrated in their treatment of people.)
- Verses 30-31 are stunning. The rich man is certain that if someone would rise from the dead and give first-hand information about what is on the other side, men would repent. Would they? How have people responded to the well-documented resurrection of Jesus?
B. What can we learn about life after death from this story? Find phrases which prove the following points from this passage:
- Punishment includes very real physical agony.
- There is conscious awareness of one’s condition.
- There is an unbridgeable separation between the righteous dead and the unrighteous dead. The decision one makes in life regarding faith in Jesus determines one’s destiny after death, and that decision is irrevocable and eternal. (Also see John 3:36; II Thessalonians 1:5-10; Hebrews 9:27)
- For the believer, life after death meant conscious enjoyment in “Abraham’s bosom” (or a seat at the banquet in heaven referred to in Luke 14:15. Jesus called it Paradise in Luke 23:43.)3
- Jesus “came to seek and to save what was lost.” That theme jumps out at me through these parables. What impresses you about the lengths to which Jesus went to seek us as illustrated by these parables? What impresses you about God’s attitude toward us being found?
- Of the many lessons in these parables, which one stands out to you? How will you begin to apply it today? Journal your plan and pray for God’s guidance as you begin.
1 Another interpretation sees both boys as believers because they are called “sons” in the parable, but with both out of fellowship with the Father. The younger son demonstrates that a true believer cannot remain happily in sin indefinitely. The older brother is like a believer who is impoverished because he will not reach out and take the spiritual blessings God has provided for him.
2 More is said about this specific law in other places: Matthew 19:9; I Corinthians 7:15.
3 Life after death for the believer is also described in John 14:2-3; Romans 8:16-18; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; Revelation 21.
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