Our devotional studies for the next while are going to be examining the parables of the Lord Jesus recorded in the Bible. A parable was basically an illustration, a means of explaining a spiritual truth. By definition, a parable literally means a placing of one thing by the side of another; a comparing of one thing with another. It was a method of Jesus’ teachings that He used extensively. In fact, in the Gospel of Matthew, there are at least 21 examples of parabolic teaching used by our Lord.
The nature of these devotional studies demand that they be somewhat abbreviated, certainly not a detailed exegesis of the passages being considered. Hopefully they will serve as an introductory examination, stirring your heart to a more indepth look at these precious teachings of our Lord. Please look up Scripture references given, for His Word is so much more important than my own. May He open our hearts to His great teachings, and then help us to apply these teachings to our lives.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1-13
“Ye are the salt of the earth….” This parable is part of what has been called the Sermon on the Mount. An important observation must be made as to the intended audience of this sermon. Please note Verses 1-2; “…his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying….” These teachings were for the benefit of His disciples, His followers. Although there were “great multitudes” present, the Sermon on the Mount was intended for those who were His followers, His disciples.
The parables that we will be examining were for Christ’s own, those that believed in Him and were His followers. As we will see in a later study, He explained His parabolic method of teaching, revealing to His disciples that this method of teaching was aimed at, and exclusively for them. As followers of Jesus Christ, therefore, the parables of our Lord have a very special meaning, and should be examined carefully for our learning.
This first parable found in Verse 13 is a great illustration of parabolic teaching. It is obvious that His followers were not literally considered salt, but were placed beside salt as an illustration. Those being taught would readily have recognized the applications of this illustration. Salt is a natural preservative, hindering the spread of corruption and decay, and was recognized as such by this first century audience. Along with flavoring food, salt has always been considered a most valuable commodity. At times in history, salt has been used like money for trade. Jesus was here emphasizing the importance of His followers in this corrupt and decaying world, and also warning His followers of the need to maintain their “saltiness.” This is only possible through obedience to the Lord, and a maintaining of consistent communion with Him through prayer and meditating upon His Word. Beloved, the world needs the saltiness of God’s people. May the Lord ever help us to be the influence in this world He intended us to be. Amen!
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1-16
“Let your light so shine before men….” Not only does our Lord intend that His followers be agents to retard the spread of corruption in our world, it is His will that His disciples be luminaries shining for Him. This truth implies that the world is a dark place, and Scripture is very clear about that darkness. (See Matthew 4:26; 6:23; John 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; Ephesians 5:8) The Lord Jesus is Light, (John 1:4,8-9) and in Him there is no darkness at all. (John 1:5) When salvation comes to the sinner, a translation takes place taking that soul from darkness to light. (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9) Consequently, the believer is commanded to “walk as children of light,” (Ephesians 5:8) and to “Let your light so shine….”
What a great illustration of Christ’s parabolic method of teaching! And, what a challenge this is to us who have been thus enlightened by His marvelous grace! Are you shining for Jesus, beloved?
Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49
Jesus did not give this parable in order that a children’s song be written about it, but it did make a great children’s song. Children learn a great lesson from singing this song, a lesson intended for all who are blessed to hear this warning parable spoken by our Lord.
When He spoke of “these sayings of mine,” He was referring to all the teachings spoken by Him, and the personal application of those teachings. The Lord’s words were not nice suggestions that provided His listeners with an alternative way of looking at life, these were the words of the Almighty God, and were not suggestions at all. His words, as well as all the infallible words of God found in the Bible, are truth that souls desperately need, and words to which all will give account someday before God in judgment.
The illustration used was simple, yet profound. The two house builders in the parable chose the foundation site and preparation of their houses differently; one on sand, and the other on rock. The results of those choices were vastly different. That house built upon the sand collapsed when tested by flood waters. The one built upon rock stood despite the flood that beat upon it. They that hear Christ’s words and respond in faith and obedience are building their spiritual houses on the solid Rock of Christ’s words and His Person. Those building their spiritual houses on shifting sand reject Christ’s words, refusing to submit to Him in faith. Unfortunately the vast majority of individuals fall into the sand building category. How tragic! May I ask you, dear friend, what are you building your spiritual house upon? Hear our Lord’s words, and build upon Him! Trust in Him and His salvation, and do so this very day! Amen!
Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36
Aren’t fads crazy? Who would have thought just a few years back of buying a new pair of jeans that were ripped to shreds, filled with holes? Now people are seen wearing jeans that are barely strung together by the joining fraying fibers. For these fashioned minded souls this parable may have little meaning, but for anyone whose mom or wife has ever sown on a patch to extend the life of a garment it will make perfect sense.
The problem was a simple one: if you sewed a new piece of cloth on an old garment, when the new cloth began to shrink with washing and drying, the rent in the garment would be made worse. The lesson taught in the parable was also fairly simple, but it was a most important one.
Jesus did not come to sew a new patch on an old garment. He did not come to add new thoughts, commands or restrictions to the Law. He did come to fulfill “every jot and tittle” of it, present Himself as the Sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world, and to offer personal salvation to all who would trust in Him as Savior. Neither did the Lord come to patch up the old sinful lives of His hearers, but to offer them new life through His death, burial and resurrection. Notice Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17; “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Now friend, if you have endeavored to patch up your old life in order to make yourself acceptable to God, your efforts will be in vain. The Lord Jesus will not patch you up, He will make you a brand new creation. Instead of trying to patch things up, place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-39
The fresh juice of the grape was referred to as “wine” in Scripture. Proverbs 3:10 declares, “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” See also Isaiah 16:10 and 65:8, both references to grape juice, not a fermented or alcoholic beverage. Fermented wine is also dealt with in the Bible. Proverbs 23:31-35 speaks of drinking “wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright,” then proceeds to point out the ill effects of fermented wine, and the lack of wisdom shown in consuming it.
The parable Jesus gave speaks of “new wine,” or unfermented wine being stored in old bottles, or skins as it was in that day. The old skins would have had “wine” stored in them previously, and thus would expedite the fermenting process of the new juice poured into them. They would have previously expanded to their full limit, and if fermenting began to take place with the new grape juice, which involves expansion through the natural gases produced in the fermentation process, the result would be broken bottles.
Connect this parable with the previous one of the patching of garments. Jesus’ offer to humanity is not a patching up of the old, or a pouring in of new juice into an old skin. One of the last messages spoken by our Lord in Scripture is found in Revelation 21:5 where He said, “…Behold, I make all things new.” Beloved, don’t be satisfied with the fruitless efforts of trying to reform the old, allow the Lord Jesus to make you new. Be born again! (See John 3:1-16)
Lenders and borrowers have been a fact of life from the beginning. The Bible acknowledges that “the borrower is servant to the lender,” (Proverbs 22:7) encouraging Bible believers to try to keep the borrowing as minimal as possible. (Somewhat difficult these days!) Jesus used this common practice of borrowing and lending to teach an important lesson on forgiveness.
A woman in the city, which was a sinner, (Which we all are!) came to the Lord Jesus while He sat at a meal in a Pharisee’s house. She bowed before the Lord and washed His feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, and anointed them with ointment. The Pharisee was appalled that the Lord would allow a sinner such access to Him. Praise the Lord for the “friend of sinners.” This event occasioned the Parable of the Creditor and the Debtors.
Read the parable carefully. The lessons are fairly simple. First, two debtors both owed the same man money, one owing five hundred pence, the other fifty. Neither were able to pay their debt, and the good hearted creditor forgave them both. Jesus, after giving the above part of the parable, asked the Pharisee which of the debtors would love the gracious creditor most. “I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.” He was right. Then Jesus used the woman and the Pharisee in explaining the parable. The woman had been forgiven much, and she loved her Lord and showed it in her actions. The Pharisee, while he did invite Jesus to dine with him, had not even shown the customary politeness of providing water for the washing of Jesus’ feet. Neither did he greet the Lord with the customary greeting peck on the cheek, and he certainly did not provide oil for anointing the head of our Lord. Obviously, Simon the Pharisee did not love the Lord Jesus, at least not like the woman. Jesus then turned to the woman and said, “Thy sins are forgiven,” and rather than answering their incredulous questions circulating in the minds of the other guests concerning His statement, Jesus looked at the humble worshipper and said, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” The woman left that house forgiven and filled with the peace that passes understanding. Not so with Simon the Pharisee, and that’s the sad part of this parable.
Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
This parable is perhaps one of the most well known of Jesus’ parables. In the Parable of the Sower and the Soil, the Lord Jesus is teaching about the “word of the kingdom” and its workings in the hearts of those that hear it. The “word of the kingdom” is the “seed” that is sown in the parable, and the four types of soil speak of the various results of that sown seed on the hearers. One of the most interesting things about this parable is the way it has been seen playing out through the centuries with the preaching of the Gospel and its reception or rejection in the hearts of humanity.
Of the four types of soil in which the seed was planted, only one produced fruit. In the other three, something hindered the reception or development of the seed, thus rendering these of no use as far as fruit is concerned. The parable is one of a simple and common phenomenon in the area of farming and vegetation, but it is profoundly important when considering the proclamation of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus and its results. The “way side” soil speaks of those who, having heard the Word, are robbed of its effectiveness by the wiles of the “wicked one.” The “stony places” represents those who make mere professions of faith in Christ, but have no “root,” no deep penetration of the Gospel truth within their souls. When a time a difficulty arises, their mere profession of faith cannot sustain them, and they are “offended” to the point of forsaking any connection to the Lord Jesus. The seed that was sown on thorny ground teaches that “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” However, and for this we praise our Lord, some who hear the Word understand and receive it, and bring forth fruit to the glory of our God.
In forty-five years of ministry, I have watched this parable played out many times involving many souls. Many of these instances have been most disappointing, discouraging and hurtful. But then there were those whose hearts embraced the truths of the Gospel of Christ, and then proceeded to bring forth fruit, which speaks of the outward results of their inward faith in the Lord Jesus. And for these we give God praise! Amen!
Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
This parable has similarities to the previous one of the Sower and the Seed. In this parable, Jesus explained that He is the Sower, and the Seed represents the “Children of the Kingdom,” or those who, in the previous parable, were the producers of fruit, the true followers of the Lord. Throughout the world, “the field,” our Lord sows His followers. They are His representatives in the world, proclaiming His truths and living their lives as witnesses for Him. A “tare” was a plant that was very similar to wheat, but did not produce the edible fruit of wheat. These plants were difficult to distinguish from wheat until the time of the harvest. Wheat is a type of grass with a stalk, called the “sheaf,” the top of which contains the wheat berries, or seeds. These are what are harvested and used for the production of various foods for both humans and animals. During the growing stage of tares and wheat, they are not easily distinguished.
The lesson of the parable has to do with those who are “sown” in the midst of “the children of the kingdom” by the “wicked one,” Satan. The purpose of this is the defilement of the work of the “children of the Kingdom” to prevent them from successfully fulfilling their duties to the Savior, or to hinder that work through the “tares” in their midst.
When the “servants” asked the “householder” if they should endeavor to sort out the “tares” from among the “wheat,” they were forbidden to do so; with the householder answering, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” The “householder,” Who represents the Lord, knew that the true wheat could be endangered from such efforts to distinguish the tares in order to remove them from the work. He assured the servants that this would be done in “the time of the harvest.” Beloved, rest assured that the Lord knows them that belong to Him, (2 Timothy 2:19) and when the time to “harvest” arrives, only the true “wheat,” the “good seed” will find themselves blessed to be gathered into the Savior’s “barn.”
By the Lord Jesus explaining the first two of the parables, the principle behind their interpretation becomes clearer. In this parable, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a grain of mustard seed. The kingdom of heaven speaks of Christ’s rule on this earth which will be culminated during the One Thousand Year reign of the Son of God as the greater Son of David. In this present time, we are living in the days of the preparation of the kingdom, and that preparation is taking place through Christ’s Church. While the phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are used in many places interchangeably, they are really not synonymous. To distinguish the terms, compare carefully the places where they are obviously different. For instance, according to John 3:1-5, the only way to “see,” or to “enter” into the kingdom of God is through the New Birth. On the other hand, in the kingdom of heaven can be found both the tares and the wheat, the saved and the unsaved. Within the workings of the kingdom of heaven the kingdom of God can be found, but the terms are obviously different.
Having said that, notice the particulars of this parable. The kingdom of heaven is likened to the small mustard seed that when planted grows to be the greatest of the herbs. Technically, mustard is a plant, in some cases a bush, but not a tree. This seems to imply an unintended growth that Jesus speaks of in this parable. The “birds of the air” lodging in the branches of the tree reflected an undesirable presence, similar the earlier parable of the tares and the wheat. (Compare with Genesis 15:11, where Abraham’s sacrifice was threatened by the presence of the “fowls.”) This parable in no way implies that the Lord Jesus did not long for the kingdom work in this world to prosper and grow. He certainly did, but not through the presence of “tares” or “birds of the air.” The “tares” were sown by the enemy, the “prince of the power of the air,” which also introduced the unwanted growth and “birds” that lodged in the branches of the tree.
While there are many lessons and applications that can be made from this parable, including that of a prophetic nature, we can learn one thing for sure. Our Lord wants His work on earth to prosper and grow, but not at any cost. His work must be done His way, with Him receiving all of the glory. May we ever seek to obey and honor Him in all we do. Amen!
No where in the New Testament is leaven dealt with in a positive way.
We read of the “leaven of the Pharisees,” “the leaven of Herod,” (And what positive thing could be said of Herod) and “the leaven of malice and wickedness.” Paul informed the Corinthians that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” where he was condemning them for “glorying” in the sinful acts of one of their disobedient members. He encouraged them to “purge out the old leaven” of sinfulness. (See 1 Corinthians 5:6-8) With every other passage in the New Testament dealing with leaven being negative, one must assume that the “leaven” of our parable of study today is also negative rather than positive.
The kingdom of heaven, which earlier was said to have both tares and wheat and birds of the air lodging in its branches, is compared to a woman adding leaven into three measures of meal “till the whole was leavened.” As noted earlier, the kingdom of heaven speaks of Christ’s rule on earth which will be find its fulfillment during the Millennial Kingdom, and is in its preparation stage during the current church age. The Church is to be actively involved with the spread of the Gospel of Christ, preparing for that glorious day when Jesus Christ sets up His kingdom upon this earth. Unfortunately, as in every other dispensation, mankind has failed God. This is true also of the Church. Within the body of professing Christendom much error has been planted, pictured by the woman adding leaven to the three loaves. Leaven spreads, and that is exactly what has happened with the professing Church. In Revelation, the final stage of the Church is depicted in the letter to the Church of Laodicea. In reading that address, we are getting a glimpse of the overall characteristic of the professing Church of the last days. After the Rapture of the true Church, that which remains upon the earth will be fully, completely consumed with the “leaven” of unsound doctrine, carnality and sinfulness. May the Lord help us to guard against the leaven spreading through the body of professing Christendom today. Amen!
When the Lord promised blessings to Abraham and his descendants, the Jews, those promises were of an earthly nature. Those promises included the “land of promise,” the “land flowing with milk and honey.” It also included a blessed seed, or many descendants, the number of which would be as the “sand” of the sea and the “stars” of the heavens. They were promised plenty, peace and prosperity if they would simply obey and honor the Lord. Their crops would never fail, and their harvests would never be depleted. They would enjoy peace with the nations around them, and assured victory over those nations that attacked them. These were earthly blessings. This truth is depicted in the parable of the “treasure hid in a field.” The treasure speaks of God’s chosen people, the Jews.
The promises given to the Church are heavenly, not earthly. In fact, the Church is assured that there will be earthly difficulties, persecutions and hatred shown to believers from unbelievers in the world. However, the promises made to followers of Christ far exceed any earthly blessings. The Church is promised the everlasting presence and love of the Savior, His returning for them at the prophesied time and an eternity in His presence; an eternity free from sin, from suffering and from sorrows. These truths are depicted in the parable of the pearl of great price.
In both parables, the “man” must go out to sell “all that he hath” in order to purchase what He has found. So it was with the Lord’s dealings with Israel and with the Church, requiring His giving of Himself in order that He might purchase to Himself those that He loved. That “selling” speaks of His death on the Cross in order that He might pay the high price of our redemption. This suffering is depicted in the thought of the “pearl of great price,” for pearls are formed through the suffering of the creature that produces them. Praise the Lord for His great love wherewith He loved us! Amen!
Christ’s kingdom work on this earth is like “a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind….” In one of our first vacations from the work here at Good News, Lynn and I went to Myrtle Beach in September. The beaches were nearly vacant, and we were able to observe fishermen fishing a large section of the coastline using a huge drag net. A small boat came to the shore, and fastened the end of a drag net, pulling the net straight out from the shore, with others having the other end of the net fastened to the bumper of a truck. When the boat had gotten a good distance from the shore it turned and went a distance parallel to the coast, then turned back to the shore some way up the beach from us. Men on the shore hooked the other end of the net to another truck. Both trucks began pulling the net in one small section at a time until the entire net was nearly back to the shore. The many fish that had been trapped in the net were jumping out of the water trying unsuccessfully to escape. When the net was finally pulled up on the beach it was full of fishes of all kinds. The men then took what looked like snow shovels and began filling the backs of the trucks. Every now and then, a fishermen would bend down, pick up an unwanted fish, and throw it back into the water.
Christ’s kingdom work on earth is similar to that drag net. It will contain “tares among the wheat,” “leaven in the loaves,” and “birds of the air” that have “lodged in its branches.” This parable speaks of a day when the unsaved will be separated from the saved, and it is a sad reality. When we enter into that eternal day, there will no sin, and there will be none whose sins have not been removed by the gracious work of our Blessed Lord. For now, beloved, it is our job to continue casting the net of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, and praying for a catch that will bring Him honor and glory. Get busy fishing! Amen!
This is the final parable of Matthew 13, and is often overlooked as a parable. When Jesus complete the seven previous parables, He asked His disciples, “Have you understood all these things.” Their reply was, “Yea, Lord.” Jesus then proceeded to give this last parable.
The “householder” here represented the disciples, with the “treasure” speaking of the truths of the Word of God. If the disciples had an understanding of Christ’s teachings in His Word, they could take out of that “treasure things old and new” to distribute to all around them. This parable had a special application to the disciples, but also to men of God that would follow after them. It also applies to all followers of Christ, for all have the privilege and responsibility of sharing the “good news” of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is certainly an incentive for all who have followed Christ to have an understanding of His Word, the Holy Bible. The fact is that it is only the the treasures found in the Bible that souls can be reached for Christ, for “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching (His Holy Word) to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21) The more you know the Bible, the more capable you will be to be an effective witness for Christ. “Have you understood all these things.”
What an important question? “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer that asked Jesus this question may or may not have been asking it sincerely. Whatever the case, Jesus gave him an honest and truthful answer. He began by questioning the man as to how he would answer such a question based upon the Law. The lawyer (one who dedicated his life to the writings of Moses) answered by quoting what is called a summary of the Ten Commandments. When Jesus answered, “Thou hast answered right,” the man sought to justify himself by asking the question, “And who is my neighbor.” This parable answered that original question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jerusalem is referred to as the City of God. The man who left Jerusalem headed down to Jericho, which is the certainly correct according to the geography of that region. However, Jericho is considered the city of the curse, the city of the world. (See Joshua 6:17,26) Therefore, not only is the path downward from Jerusalem to Jericho geographically, it is also true spiritually. Mankind left the “City of God” and descended spiritually into the City of the World, or of the Curse. The man fell among thieves and was beaten and left half dead. What a picture of unsaved humanity! A priest passed by, representing religion, and could offer no help to the wounded soul. Next came a Levite, which represented the Law, and as before, could offer nothing but condemnation for the half dead man. Then came the Good Samaritan, which represented the Lord Jesus. He tended to the wounded man pouring in oil and wine, which speaks of the cleansing blood shed on Calvary, and the Blessed Holy Spirit. The Good Samaritan sat the cared for soul on His own beast, providing everything needed to transport the man to “an inn,” the Church, and “took care of him.” He then paid two pence for the man’s stay in the inn, and promised to return saying, “When I come again, I will repay thee.”
The original question was, “What must I do to inherit eternal life. The answer is that there is nothing anyone can do to inherit eternal life. It is the gift of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. We were stranded by the roadside, spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins when the Savior came by. He did everything for us that we could not do for ourselves, paid all debts incurred from our lives of sin, and promised to return for us at the appointed time. Praise God for our “Good Samaritan.”
By the way, a pence was a day’s wage. So, the Lord Jesus paid the innkeeper for two days’ stay, and as you perhaps know, a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. (2 Peter 3:8) Could it be that we are nearing the return of our “Good Samaritan?”
After observing his Lord praying, one of His disciples ask Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Please read the Scriptural portion carefully, as the teachings in this parable are so very important to us, the disciples of the Lord Jesus.
First, the Lord gave the model prayer for His disciples. It is erroneously called, “The Lord’s Prayer,” but that prayer is actually found in John 17. In the “Disciples Prayer,” Jesus gave us a model of what our prayers should be patterned after; not quoted, but used as a pattern for our praying. Our prayers should include praise, adoration, the seeking of God’s will for our lives, and the seeking of forgiveness. It should reflect our desire for the Lord’s coming, and should express our complete trust in His provisions for our lives. The disciples prayer should seek God’s strength and guidance so as to “deliver us from evil.” All this can be found in the model prayer, the Disciples Prayer, given in this passage.
Continuing the answer of the disciples request, the Lord gave the parable of the Importunate Friend. Because of unexpected guests, the needy host went to his neighbor’s door after bedtime seeking three loaves. While the neighbor might not have accommodated his friend because of their friendship, he did because of his “importunity.” The word means, “shamelessness.” The shameless boldness of his friend compelled the neighbor to answer his request. (Compare with Hebrews 4:16)
In the next part of this lesson, the Lord assured the inquiring disciple of the reality that God’s children that are “asking, seeking and knocking” in prayer will find answers; comparing this to a child asking of its father things that are necessary for this life. Finally, and this is the most important lesson given in answer to the original question, the Lord replied, “…how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” In essence, the Lord was informing this disciple that real prayer is impossible without the ministry and aid of the Holy Spirit. (See Romans 8:26) Our request of our Lord should ever be the same as this disciple of old, “Lord, teach us to pray!”
The “Good Seed” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as all of the Word of God, is a great mystery. It is sown through His people, the Church, in the field of the world. Just as we are at a loss in understanding the miracle of plant life being formed from the seed planted in the soil, the success of the Gospel in the salvation of souls is a great mystery. The Gospel Seed produces spiritual life through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When the “harvest time” comes, all those whose lives have been transformed by the power of the Gospel of Christ will come forth unto life eternal.
What is our part of this great mysterious equation? We are to be actively involved in the planting of the good seed of God’s Word. While we cannot cause the seed sown to produce life, it is the Lord that gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). The challenge for us is to keep sowing that others might be saved. Amen!
The Lord had been busy that day teaching those who would listen to the most important lessons of their lives. One was there who had not heard anything at all spoken by the Lord, because he was so obsessed with getting what he thought was rightfully his. “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” This occasioned the Parable of the Rich Man.
Notice the man’s expression of self-worth and self-reliance when he said, “I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” He failed to acknowledge that “every good and every perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights.” (See James 1:17) He failed to acknowledge God, or to thank Him for his many blessings. In fact, God was not at all in his thoughts. Consequently, the man most would have thought to have been industrious and wise was actually considered by our Lord to be a “fool.” “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” Such is the state of the man, regardless of his wealth, success or planning, who does not acknowledge or consider God in all of his plans.
As children of the Lord, we must ever busy ourselves in His service and ready ourselves for His coming. We must be “like men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from a wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.”
The Lord is coming! And, there is so much to do before He comes. There are souls to reach! There are missionaries to be sent to the fields of service! And, we must be ready for His coming; ready in prayer, ready in holiness and purity. He may come in the second or third watch, which was the time from about nine in the evening until three in the morning. The fact is that none of us knows the day or the hour of our Lord’s coming, (See Matthew 25:13) so we must ever be watching and waiting. Who knows? He may come tonight!
Please compare this parable with Isaiah 5:1-7, comparing this with John 15:1-8. The Lord invested much in the nation of Israel, providing them with absolutely everything they could ever want or need. They were like “a vineyard in a very fruitful field.” All that the Lord desired and required of them was fruit. He desired that they bear the fruit of thanksgiving, of praise and of faithful obedience to His Word and will for their lives. He desired that they would lay aside the foolish idolatrous ways of the nations around them. The sad fact is that they did not bear fruit for His glory, only the “wild grapes” of fruitlessness and disobedience.
In this parable, the Lord reemphasized His desire that those in whom He has invested much give Him a return on that investment in fruitfulness. This also served as a warning for those who refuse to be fruit bearers, for He said, “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground.” Listen to the words of John 15:2, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”
Beloved, fruit is the outward result of the inward grace God has worked in the heart. If we will draw close to our Lord, follow Him in our lives and seek to do those things that please Him, the natural result will be our bearing of fruit for His glory. May the Lord help us to ever be fruit-bearers, bringing honor and glory to our Blessed Lord! Amen!
Throughout Scripture, the people of God are called His “sheep,” and He their Shepherd. The most famous of the Psalms affirms this; “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Our passage today in Matthew’s Gospel gives one of the more familiar of Jesus’ parable, that of the Lost Sheep.
The Jews in Jesus’ day were not looking for a Shepherd, they were looking for a king. That day would come of course, but in the First Advent of the Lord Jesus He came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) This parable portrays that truth beautifully. Jesus saw the unsaved as sheep that had been separated from the flock and from the fold, in desperate need of being found by the Shepherd. In the parable, the Shepherd left the ninety and nine that were safe in the fold to go out into the mountains searching for that one poor sheep that had gone astray. The Lord Jesus left heaven and condescended to this earth, for the sole purpose of finding His lost sheep. This would require His death on the Cross, and His resurrection from the dead. Once completed, He began that arduous task of going out into the mountains seeking those that would respond to His Shepherd call. He called disciples and commissioned them to carry on His work of gathering lost sheep. We call that the “Great Commission” given to His Church. (See Matthew 28:19-20) If you are saved, child of God, there was a time in your life when you heard the Shepherd’s call, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) You found that soul rest when you placed your faith in His death, burial and resurrection. Thank God for the Shepherd, and for His seeking us and drawing us to Himself! Amen!
In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the Lord Jesus taught us a lesson about forgiveness; about His forgiveness of us and of the responsibility of the forgiven to have forgiving hearts. In the parable, a king’s servant was brought before him which owed the king far more than he could pay. According to custom and law of the day, the servant was commanded to be sold, along with his wife and children, in order to satisfy the debt. When the distraught servant fell down before the king beseeching his mercy, the king was “moved with compassion” and forgave the servant of all his debt. This forgiveness of the king was unmerited, but was motivated by the goodness and grace of the king. This part of the parable depicts clearly the goodness and grace of the Almighty in granting forgiveness to souls who seek that forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ. We are seen as poor servants, overwhelmed with the debt of our sins and nothing with which to pay. God’s forgiveness of so great a debt is due to the fact that He is gracious and merciful.
In the second part of the parable, the forgiven servant leaves his king free of his debt, only to go out and to demand payment from one of his fellowservants that owed him. When his fellowservant could not pay his debt, the calloused man had the authorities cast the servant into the debtor’s prison. Upon learning of the forgiven servant’s heartless deed, the king called him, rebuked him and had him “delivered to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due” the king. Jesus ended the parable with these words, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” God fully intends for His followers to have forgiving hearts! Amen!
Driving through town the other day, I noticed all of the businesses with “Help Wanted” signs in their windows. In Jesus’ day, it would appear that more people wanted jobs than jobs were available. Of course, the government wasn’t paying folks to stay home. Paul had the right idea when he wrote, “…if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) There would probably be fewer “Help Wanted” signs in business windows if that were the case today.
A householder needed workers to work in his vineyard. So, he went out early in the morning and found some labourers, agreed with them on a wage for the day, and sent them out into the vineyard. It seemed that that would not be enough workers, so he went out later to the market place and found more, saying, “Whatsoever is right I will give you.” He repeated these trips searching for laborers about noon and again at three. Finally, at five in the evening, the householder went out and found more workers, agreeing to pay them “whatsoever is right.”
At the close of the work day, the householder paid each man one penny, which was a day’s wage in that day. He was really being gracious to those hired later in the day, but totally honest with the ones he hired in the early morning hours. They had agreed to work a full day for a full day’s wage, one penny. The householder was honest, and paid them the full wage agreed upon. The early morning laborers complained and murmured because they had worked all day for a penny, and some had only worked a relatively small portion of the day for the very same wage. To answer those complaints, the householders said, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”
The religious Jews of Jesus’ day were proud of their godly heritage and of their “faithfulness” to Judaism through the years. The Pharisees were so proud of their religious fervor and dedication that they looked down on everyone else as unclean and unfit for the things of God. In their minds, their many years of dedication made them worthy of the favors that God might bestow upon them. When they saw the Lord Jesus receiving sinners, associating with them and even dining with them, they were incredulous. This parable might well have been aimed at those religious hypocrites of His day, and their murmurings against the Lord’s care and concern for sinners around Him. It might also have been designed for the purpose of showing God’s grace to the Gentiles, and His eternal provisions for those who for centuries had lived totally apart from their Creator. Of course, the main emphasis of the parable is that the Lord, He is God, and has complete authority when it comes to dispensing His blessings and favors. Praise the Lord Jesus for His favors shown toward us! Amen!
If the parables are nothing else, they are teachings that are filled with common sense, and as such should be applied to our lives as followers of the Lord. This parable was occasioned by the Lord’s observation of some who had been bidden to dine at one of the chief Pharisees’ house on a certain Sabbath day. He watched as some of those that were bidden were competing for the best seats, the most important or closest seats to the chief Pharisee. Have you ever seen anything of this nature?
The common sense of this parable is worthy of note, and worthy of applying its truths to our lives personally. The simplicity of the parable is remarkable. Jesus’ logic was, if you are “bidden…to a wedding” don’t endeavor by hook or crook to be seated in the most desirable place, or the place of the greatest importance. Just imagine how embarrassing it would be for someone to come and to say, “I’m sorry, but this seat is reserved for someone else.” (Implying, “Someone else far more important than you.”) The Lord Jesus advised, “But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sat at meat with thee.” This is great advice, and all would be wise to heed it.
There is another truth that is revealed in this parable. Followers of the Lord Jesus should never be seeking the praise and adulations of men. We should never seek to be elevated in the sight of others for the sake of our own ego. That is a human trait that should be subdued and overruled in our lives as Christ’s disciples. Jesus added to the parable the following words, “But whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Jesus then turned the parable around to deal with the host who is bidding others to a feast. Again, the lesson is simple and clear. Jesus’ counsel is basically saying that such invitations should not be aimed only at those that might be able to recompense you for your efforts. Instead, invite those who might never be able to recompense at all. I think the later lesson in this part of the parable teaches as that service we render to Christ should never be done for the purpose of elevating ourselves in the estimate of others, or of being recompensed in this life for our service. Rather, all done for Christ should be done for His glory and praise, and any recompense should be left to His discretion “at the resurrection of the just.”Friend, we must do what we do for the Lord, and not for the praise or repayment from others. Amen!
In this parable, the “great supper” speaks of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like any “great supper” the Gospel of Christ involved much by way of preparation. The plans for the Gospel span back into eternity past, for when John saw the “Lamb” in Revelation, he saw One who was seen as “slain from the foundation of the world.” Before God created all things, He made provisions for the redemption of man through the shed blood of His dear Son. Beginning in the Book of Genesis, and running all through the Old Testament, there were foreshadowings, prophesies and portraits of the One Whose death on the Cross would provide all that was needed for our salvation. Many preparations were involved in making ready the “great supper” of the Gospel of Christ.
The parable revealed the reality that many would “make excuse” for not accepting the invitation to the “great supper.” O, beloved, how many times have we heard these same types of responses to the Gospel message? “Maybe later.” “I’m just not ready.” “I’m too young for that right now.” “I’m too old for that right now.” “I don’t have time for that now.”
It also reveals that the Gospel is not just for the well-to-do, the moral or the upright. It is for them, but it is for everyone. It is a “whosoever” Gospel. And, finally, this parable reveals what God’s people should be actively doing; inviting souls to the “great supper” of grace through our Lord and Savior. Everywhere we go we should be inquiring, “Are you hungering and thirsting for something you cannot understand?” We should be sharing our faith in Christ with the goal of seeing that faith spread through the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit. What a blessing the Lord gave us when He invited us to His supper! We dined on His grace and His glorious salvation became our own. Now we must share that with others that they, too, might experience this great and gracious meal for the soul. Amen!
Beloved, much of modern day evangelism is missing the mark when it comes to presenting the Gospel of Christ in a Biblical way. Salvation is truly a simple proposition, for everything that was needed to make salvation possible was provided entirely by the Lord Jesus Christ. Being saved is truly simple, so simple that a child can understand. However, being a true follower of Jesus Christ is not such a simple thing.
Jesus taught that being a true follower, a disciple required the counting of the cost and the being willing indeed to pay that cost. In the parable before us, He likened being a disciple to the counting of the cost to construct a tower, and of the detailed military planning involved in successfully waging a campaign against an enemy. Military strategists are responsible for considering all of the logistics involved for a successful and victorious campaign. Many conflicts have been lost because no such planning was made before the conflict began. So it is in any type of construction. A building project should not begin until first a great deal of planning is done. Discipleship is nothing to be taken lightly. It does cost to be a true follower of Christ, and we must be knowledgeable of that, and willing to consider these costs before committing to be Christ’s disciple.
Modern evangelism often leaves off these costs when appealing to individuals about their relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps our altar calls ought to include a disclosure statement informing potential converts of what they might expect if they determine to become Christ’s follower. Jesus told His followers that they could expect persecution, hatred from the lost world around them and that even some of them could suffer as martyrs for their association with Him. There is a song that says, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” Hopefully, we can sing that song from our hearts, meaning every word of commitment!
The text of Chapter 15 could be treated two different ways; it could be treated as three individual parables about the same topic, or it could be dealt with as a trilogy parable given in three parts about one topic. I rather look at this as a single parable in three parts about the same topic, that of the salvation of sinners. In this parable, we see the story of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Silver and the Lost Son. In the first part of the parable, we see the work of the Shepherd, the Son of God, in the salvation of the soul. In the second part, we see the ministry of the Spirit of God in the saving of the soul, and in the third we see the part of God the Father. The Shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep, and when He has found it, He carried it upon His shoulders in the place of strength and safety. When He returned home, the Shepherd called together His friends and neighbors rejoicing over the sheep that had been found and brought safely home. The woman sweeping the house with lighted candle represents the ministry of the Holy Spirit in bringing souls to saving faith in Christ. As in the first part of this wonderful parable, she rejoiced with friends and neighbors over the lost piece that had been found. With the prodigal son, the Father continually watched for the son that had gone astray, and when he returned, the Father prepared a banquet in which He could rejoice over the son that had returned to Him. This parable depicts the ministry of the Godhead in bringing souls to salvation, and also reveals the rejoicing over souls that come to Christ.
Please read this parable, the entire chapter, noting all of the particulars given by our Lord Jesus concerning the salvation of sinners. Also, with interest note the following verse: “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” That rejoicing is not done by the angels, but in their presence. Surely there is rejoicing by saints of God that have departed this life and are in heaven. But from the parable itself, it would appear that the rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over the salvation of one sinner is done by the Godhead. Beloved, the salvation of precious souls ought to be of the utmost importance to God’s people, and there should be much rejoicing when it is learned that a soul has come to Christ through faith. May the Lord place this sense of importance in our hearts for souls that need Christ!
The parables of the Lord Jesus were about everyday, common occurrences that all could associate with. In this parable the Lord spoke of a “certain rich man” and his dealings with one of his stewards, or the manager of his household. To such a “steward” would be entrusted the management of all the aspects of the running of the household, including such things as the paying of bills and the receiving of payments due the master of the house. In this parable, the master of the house felt that the steward had “wasted his goods,” and was concerned enough that he was contemplating removing the steward from his current position. Due to the wise response of the steward, that in quickly collecting funds that were owed to his superior, the master of the house was impressed and commended his employee.
Jesus then taught His followers the implications of this parable in instructing them concerning the wise use of “the mammon of unrighteousness.” This is referring to riches or finances. He instructed His disciples to make “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” meaning that followers of Christ should be wise, honest and upright in all of their financial dealings and the handling of their finances. The logic behind this is very simple; “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” This is just common sense. If I could not trust someone’s financial dealings, if I knew they were foolish or dishonest in their finances, I certainly would not entrust to them something that is important or valuable to me. The Lord feels the very same way.
The final lesson in this parable is of the utmost importance. Followers of Christ live in the world, do their business in the world and are dependent upon the world’s finances to survive; the world’s “mammon of unrighteousness.” However, believers cannot be “servants” of this “mammon of unrighteousness.” Finances must serve the believer, but the believer must not be in service to finances. Finances are to be used, not abused, and certainly not lived for in some measure of servitude. Our faithful service must be rendered to our Lord, and our finances must be viewed as our servants and not as our lords. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Amen!
“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint….” This parable is explained in its introduction. The lesson? “…men ought always to pray, and not to faint….” To “faint” means to be wearied out or exhausted. Obviously, we face much in this world that could cause one to “faint,” but for the child of God there is an alternative; prayer. And, as followers of Christ, we are commanded, admonished and encouraged to pray. In fact, we are told to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
The lesson in this parable was not given to encourage the follower of Christ to habitually pester the Lord into finally answering prayer. The widow continued to come to the city judge repeatedly until finally he agreed to take up her cause, the judge stating, “…because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her….” It was really more of a contrast between the unjust judge and our loving and caring God. If the unjust judge answered the continual cry of the widow, how much more will our loving Lord hear and answer our prayer.
God’s people are not encouraged to keep nagging God until He answers our prayers, but we are encouraged to be consistent in our prayer, and to do so expectantly. We are to pray without ceasing, to pray believing and to pray that in all things the will of the Lord be done. Prayer is such a privilege, but it is also a duty. May the Lord help us to be prayer warriors, prayer believers and receivers of great blessings from our God through prayer. Amen!