Archive for the 'Parables' Category

Matthew 22:1-14 ( NASB)

In Part 1, we saw that the words for “generation” (Hebrew, dowr; Greek, genea) can have more than one meaning, and one of the meanings is a group of people with like characteristics, especially a group characterized by negative traits, as in “this crooked and perverse generation.”  We saw examples in the Old Testament, and we saw that this sense was in fact used more often than the literal sense in the Gospels.

The seeming discrepancy between the announcement of the Kingdom and the fact that it did not appear is, as mentioned, one of the major reasons for the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Similarly, the long delay since the announcement of the Kingdom has caused some to question the validity of that announcement. But it is not necessary to redefine the Kingdom in order to solve these discrepancies. The new light he shed concerning the Mysteries of the Kingdom and the New Covenant provides the solution. The kingdom is “present” in a preliminary, preparatory phase for a time, prior to its establishment, and certain aspects are previewed. During that time, the King is identified, and the news of the New Covenant which he made available is proclaimed. Those individuals who are heirs of the inheritance experience a foretaste of Kingdom power as they grow and receive training and preparation for their roles in ruling with Jesus the Messiah. It is in that proleptic sense that any reference to a present kingdom must be understood.

Ever since Jesus Christ’s first coming, the period of anticipation and preparation for the Kingdom has been in effect. While the Kingdom has not begun yet, it is “present” in the sense that the New Covenant has been ratified, the good news and the promises of the Kingdom are proclaimed, and the power and authority of the Kingdom are seen in a foretaste.

There are a few verses which are often taken to mean that the Kingdom had indeed arrived, but in a different form than foretold by the Prophets. Perhaps no verse is more frequently used this way than Luke 17:21. It is often thought that the idea of an earthly kingdom was carnal and spiritually immature, and that Jesus was correcting that wrong thinking when he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” But let’s look at where he said that.

Jesus often spoke in parables that revealed previously unknown aspects of the Kingdom of God. Yet he confirmed the prophecies at other points. He did not deny that it would come with a cataclysmic event that would end this present evil age and usher in God’s judgment, and the resurrection of the faithful. He did not deny that the evil systems of this world would be overthrown and that he would rule the world from the throne of God in Jerusalem. However, he revealed that before that time there would be a preparatory period during which the news of the Kingdom was to be preached and the power of the kingdom could be tasted.

One of the most striking teachings of Jesus is about forgiveness. The Sermon on the Mount teaches simply that as we forgive others, God will forgive us. And if we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us. This isn’t a karmic design of the universe. Forgiveness is part and parcel of the Gospel, of that we are sure. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are all about forgiveness as well. In Matthew 18 Jesus gives us a whole parable about forgiveness related to the Kingdom. There are a few notable parts:

“And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.” v27

The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is perhaps the most difficult section of Scripture for those of us who hold to the belief of conditional immortality (the understanding that immortality is contingent on the resurrection not on the existence of an immortal soul). Before we take a look at the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus itself I think it would be best to review the texts that speak to the state of the dead.

The dead are unconscious.

I was raised in a denomination which took some comfort in the fact that only a tiny number of people held to their doctrinal distinctives and that “the Truth” had been hidden from almost all Christians. After all, didn’t Jesus say “Many are called but few are chosen”?

Indeed, in two places in Matthew’s Gospel we read of Jesus saying these words (Matthew 20:16; 22:14). Yet this saying appears to be contrary to the idea of God’s overflowing generosity which we see repeatedly throughout Jesus’ teachings. It appears that Jesus is saying that only a small number of people are actually chosen by God to enjoy His Kingdom and that even many of those who respond to His invitation will be rejected. This is so radically different from the rest of Jesus’ teachings that we need to look at this saying carefully in its context.

The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation by Brad Young

This is a fantastic book, I would recommend that all Christians read this book! It covers roughly twenty-one of Jesus parables. It looks at them in light of the other parables told regarding the subject in Judaism, and other parables which use the same elements (wheat and chaff, servants and masters, etc.) but about different subjects. It is remarkable the degree in which Jesus is truly a contemporary of his time. Young focuses on removing allegory from Christian interpretation. He suggests that Jesus is much in line with certain principles that the Pharisees already hold (not all, however). The true genius of Jesus is in his execution. For example, there are many parables and principles in Judaism, particularly held by the Pharisees, that you should help your neighbor in need. However, only Jesus took that principle and elevated it, showing just how serious God is about that idea, with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus would often use the “underdog”, or an outcast – like the Samaritan – as the hero in his parables. As an example of the rest of the book, I’ll focus on his treatment of this parable.