Sat, 16 February 2008
Chapter 15 contains three classic parables, each targeting the self-righteous and speaking of the need to rejoice and repent. Jesus likens his close contact with sinners to that of a shepherd who risks death to save his lost sheep. Unlike the murmuring Pharisees, we must seek the lost, encourage our pastors to seek out the lost and then rejoice when sinners repent. The parable of the woman who finds her lost silver coin emphasizes our need to rejoice at the finding of the lost.
In the famous parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus describes a man and his two sons. One of these sons squanders his inheritance on a sinful lifestyle before hitting rock bottom, and, coming to his senses, returns to his father. At this, the father calls for a great feast and reinstates him into the family. The other son, obedient throughout his entire life, has irrational hatred towards his brother and refuses to enter the feast. The father closes with, "It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found."
In Chapter 16, Jesus continues to teach in parables. The shrewd but dishonest steward who regains his master's approval illustrates the superior ability of worldly men to make friends among their own kind. Jesus encourages us to devote considerable time and money for the sake of the Kingdom, reminding the money-loving Pharisees "you cannot serve God and mammon."
Verses 14–18 show that the law has not passed away but that the new covenant heightens its requirements. For proof of this, one only needs to look at His interpretation of the law in regards to entering the Kingdom and the question of divorce. He then says, "the law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently." By "violently," Christ does not mean we work for salvation, but that we must be willing to toil as we embrace a radical discipleship.
The parable of poor Lazarus and the Rich Man shows the ease with which those who in their lifetime receive many good things without any concern for the poor lose their place in the Kingdom.
Chapter 17 provides firm warnings against sin and the punishment that is due those who lead others into it. His teachings are so strong that the disciples ask, "Increase our faith!" To this He responds, "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, 'Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."
Of the ten lepers Jesus heals in verse 13, only one, a foreigner, returns to thank him. May we awaken to realize that we too often are like one of the other nine: greatly blessed but thankless. Jesus wishes for us to thank Him for all we have and then realize that "we are unworthy servants; we have only done what is our duty."
Verses 20-37 juxtapose the final, triumphant coming of the Son of man with the current generation that rejects Him. In these He also warns His disciples not to speculate about time of the parousia, a destruction that will come quickly when men will be taken out of the world. Note how Jesus' statements do not confirm a sort of pre-millenial "Rapture" that is popular among some Christians, but that He will sustain those who are truly faithful throughout epic tribulations.