Part III - The Parables
PART III - THE PARABLES
- Parable of the Sower
- More about Parables
- More Parables by the Sea
- Parable of the Bridge
- The Lily and Foundations
- Parable of the Great Supper
- Parable of the Lost Son
- Parable of the Shrewd Steward
- The Rich Man and the Beggar
- Parable of the Pounds
- Parable of the Two Sons
- Parable of the Absent Landlord
- Parable of the Marriage Feast
- Parable of the Talents
Wheat and Tares.
Treasure in Field.
A. TIME: A.D. 29
B. PLACE: Bethsaida
C. OCCASION: This was the first pretentious parable Jesus presented. Jesus was in a boat near the shore meditating. About one thousand gathered on shore this Sunday morning. Peter came out to the boat and wanted to preach to the multitude, but Jesus said, “I will tell them a story.”
E. THE PARABLE: “About this time Jesus first began to employ the parable method of teaching the multitudes that so frequently gathered about him. Since Jesus had talked with the apostles and others long into the night, on this Sunday morning very few of the group were up for breakfast; so he went out by the seaside and sat alone in the boat, the old fishing boat of Andrew and Peter, which was always kept at his disposal, and meditated on the next move to be made in the work of extending the kingdom. But the Master was not to be alone for long. Very soon the people from Capernaum and near-by villages began to arrive, and by ten o’clock that morning almost one thousand were assembled on shore near Jesus’ boat and were clamoring for attention. Peter was now up and, making his way to the boat, said to Jesus, ‘Master, shall I talk to them?’ But Jesus answered, ‘No, Peter, I will tell them a story.’ And then Jesus began the recital of the parable of the sower, one of the first of a long series of such parables which he taught the throngs that followed after him. This boat had an elevated seat on which he sat (for it was the custom to sit when teaching) while he talked to the crowd assembled along the shore. After Peter had spoken a few words, Jesus said:
“‘A sower went forth to sow, and it came to pass as he sowed that some seed fell by the wayside to be trodden underfoot and devoured by the birds of heaven. Other seed fell upon the rocky places where there was little earth, and immediately it sprang up because there was no depth to the soil but as soon as the sun shone, it withered because it had no root whereby to secure moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns, and as the thorns grew up, it was choked so that it yielded no grain. Still other seed fell upon good
ground and, growing, yielded, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold.’ And when he had finished speaking this parable, he said to the multitude, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’
“The apostles and those who were with them, when they heard Jesus teach the people in this manner, were greatly perplexed; and after much talking among themselves, that evening in the Zebedee garden Matthew said to Jesus:
‘Master, what is the meaning of the dark sayings which you present to the multitude? Why do you speak in parables to those who seek the truth?’ And Jesus answered:
“‘In patience have I instructed you all this time. To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to the undiscerning multitudes and to those who seek our destruction, from now on, the mysteries of the kingdom shall be presented in parables. And this we will do so that those who really desire to enter the kingdom may discern the meaning of the teaching and thus find salvation, while those who listen only to ensnare us may be the more confounded in that they will see without seeing and will hear without hearing. My children, do you not perceive the law of the spirit which decrees that to him who has shall be given so that he shall have an abundance; but from him who has not shall be taken away even that which he has. Therefore will I henceforth speak to the people much in parables to the end that our friends and those who desire to know the truth may find that which they seek, while our enemies and those who love not the truth may hear without understanding. Many of these people follow not in the way of the truth. The prophet did, indeed, describe all such undiscerning souls when he said: “For this people’s heart has waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed lest they should discern the truth and understand it in their hearts.”’
“The apostles did not fully comprehend the significance of the Master’s words. As Andrew and Thomas talked further with Jesus, Peter and the other apostles withdrew to another portion of the garden where they engaged in earnest and prolonged discussion.
“Peter and the group about him came to the conclusion that the parable of the sower was an allegory, that each feature had some hidden meaning, and so they decided to go to Jesus and ask for an explanation. Accordingly, Peter approached the Master, saying: ‘We are not able to penetrate the meaning of this parable, and we desire that you explain it to us since you say it is given us to know the mysteries of the kingdom.’ And when Jesus heard this, he said to Peter: ‘My son, I desire to withhold nothing from you, but first suppose you tell me what you have been talking about; what is your interpretation of the parable?’...
“The Master permitted this confusion to pass the point of most intense expression; then he clapped his hands and called them about him. When they had all gathered around him once more, he said, ‘Before I tell you about this parable, do any of you have aught to say?’ Following a moment of silence, Thomas spoke up: ‘Yes, Master, I wish to say a few words. I remember that you once told us to beware of this very thing. You instructed us that, when using illustrations for our preaching, we should employ true stories, not fables, and that we should select a story best suited to the illustration of the one central and vital truth which we wished to teach the people, and that, having so used the story, we should not attempt to make a spiritual application of all the minor details involved in the telling of the story. I hold that Peter and Nathaniel are both wrong in their attempts to interpret this parable. I admire their ability to do these things, but I am equally sure that all such attempts to make a natural parable yield spiritual analogies in all its features can only result in confusion and serious misconception of the true purpose of such a parable. That I am right is fully proved by the fact that, whereas we were all of one mind an hour ago, now are we divided into two separate groups who hold different opinions concerning this parable and hold such opinions so earnestly as to interfere, in my opinion, with our ability fully to grasp the great truth which you had in mind when you presented this parable to the multitude and subsequently asked us to make comment upon it.’
“The words which Thomas spoke had a quieting effect on all of them. He caused them to recall what Jesus had taught them on former occasions, and before Jesus resumed speaking, Andrew arose, saying: ‘I am persuaded that Thomas is right, and I would like to have him tell us what meaning he attaches to the parable of the sower.’ After Jesus had beckoned Thomas to speak, he said: ‘My brethren, I did not wish to prolong this discussion, but if you so desire, I will say that I think this parable was spoken to teach us one great truth. And that is that our teaching of the gospel of the
kingdom, no matter how faithfully and efficiently we execute our divine commissions, is going to be attended by varying degrees of success; and that all such differences in results are directly due to conditions inherent in the circumstances of our ministry, conditions over which we have little or no control.’
“When Thomas had finished speaking, the majority of his fellow preachers were about ready to agree with him, even Peter and Nathaniel were on their way over to speak with him, when Jesus arose and said: ‘Well done, Thomas; you have discerned the true meaning of parables; but both Peter and Nathaniel have done you all equal good in that they have so fully shown the danger of undertaking to make an allegory out of my parables. In your own hearts you may often profitably engage in such flights of the speculative imagination, but you make a mistake when you seek to offer such conclusions as a part of your public teaching.’ ...
“The second night of their sojourn at Gennesaret the Master again told the apostles the parable of the sower and added these words: ‘You see, my children, the appeal to human feelings is transitory and utterly disappointing; the exclusive appeal to the intellect of man is likewise empty and barren; it is only by making your appeal to the spirit which lives within the human mind that you can hope to achieve lasting success and accomplish those marvelous transformations of human character that are presently shown in the abundant yielding of the genuine fruits of the spirit in the daily lives of all who are thus delivered from the darkness of doubt by the birth of the spirit into the light of faith—the kingdom of heaven.’”
F. THE LESSON:
- Story telling is the most valuable method of teaching. This parable covers two realms of experience:
- Shows how different sorts of people receive and react to the gospel.
- Indicates how different gospel workers can expect different results from their labors.
- Remember: There are many different interpretations which can be put upon any fact or truth.
- A parable is based on a true story, not on a fable. And a parable should be treated as focused on one special point—it is not an allegory.
- Note that Jesus never did give the apostles an interpretation of the parable of the sower.
The whole of the evening after the discussions respecting the parable of the sower was devoted to a further consideration of parables. Jesus directed this discussion.
At the close of this conference, Jesus presented an additional thought to the parable of the sower, dealing with the man who planted good seed in his garden. (1691.4) 151:3.1
“The apostles were parable-minded, so much so that the whole of the next evening was devoted to the further discussion of parables. Jesus introduced the evening’s conference by saying: ‘My beloved, you must always make a difference in teaching so as to suit your presentation of truth to the minds and hearts before you. When you stand before a multitude of varying intellects and temperaments, you cannot speak different words for each class of hearers, but you can tell a story to convey your teaching; and each group, even each individual, will be able to make his own interpretation of your parable in accordance with his own intellectual and spiritual endowments. You are to let your light shine but do so with wisdom and discretion. No man, when he lights a lamp, covers it up with a vessel or puts it under the bed; he puts his lamp on a stand where all can behold the light. Let me tell you that nothing is hid in the kingdom of heaven which shall not be made manifest; neither are there any secrets which shall not ultimately be made known. Eventually, all these things shall come to light. Think not only of the multitudes and how they hear the truth; take heed also to yourselves how you hear. Remember that I have many times told you: To him who has shall be given more, while from him who has not shall be taken away even that which he thinks he has.’
“The continued discussion of parables and further instruction as to their interpretation may be summarized and expressed in modern phraseology as follows:
“1. Jesus advised against the use of either fables or allegories in teaching the truths of the gospel. He did recommend the free use of parables, especially nature parables. He emphasized the value of utilizing the analogy existing between the natural and the spiritual worlds as a means of teaching truth. He frequently alluded to the natural as ‘the unreal and fleeting shadow of spirit realities.’
“2. Jesus narrated three or four parables from the Hebrew scriptures, calling attention to the fact that this method of teaching was not wholly new. However, it became almost a new method of teaching as he employed it from this time onward.
“3. In teaching the apostles the value of parables, Jesus called attention to the following points:
“The parable provides for a simultaneous appeal to vastly different levels of mind and spirit. The parable stimulates the imagination, challenges the discrimination, and provokes critical thinking; it promotes sympathy without arousing antagonism.
“The parable proceeds from the things which are known to the discrenment of the unknown. The parable utilizes the material and natural as a means of introducing the spiritual and the supermaterial.
“Parables favor the making of impartial moral decisions. The parable evades much prejudice and puts new truth gracefully into the mind and does all this with the arousal of a minimum of the self-defense of personal resentment.
“To reject the truth contained in parabolical analogy requires conscious intellectual action which is directly in contempt of one’s honest judgment and fair decision. The parable conduces to the forcing of thought through the sense of hearing.
“The use of the parable form of teaching enables the teacher to present new and even startling truths while at the same time he largely avoids all controversy and outward clashing with tradition and established authority.
“The parable also possesses the advantage of stimulating the memory of the truth taught when the same familiar scenes are subsequently encountered.
“In this way Jesus sought to acquaint his followers with many of the reasons underlying his practice of increasingly using parables in his public teaching.
“Toward the close of the evening’s lesson Jesus made his first comment on the parable of the sower. He said the parable referred to two things; First, it was a review of his own ministry up to that time and a forecast of what lay ahead of him for the remainder of his life on earth. And second, it was also a hint as to what the apostles and other messengers of the kingdom might expect in their ministry from generation to generation as time passed.
“Jesus also resorted to the use of parables as the best possible refutation of the studied effort of the religious leaders at Jerusalem to teach that all of his work was done by the assistance of demons and the prince of devils. The appeal to nature was in contravention of such teaching since the people of that day looked upon all natural phenomena as the product of the direct act of spiritual beings and supernatural forces. He also determined upon this method of teaching because it enabled him to proclaim vital truths to those who desired to know the better way while at the same time affording his enemies less opportunity to find cause for offense and for accusations against him.
“Before he dismissed the group for the night, Jesus said: ‘Now will I tell you the last of the parable of the sower. I would test you to know how you will receive this: The kingdom of heaven is also like a man who cast good seed upon the earth; and while he slept by night and went about his business by day, the seed sprang up and grew, and although he knew not how it came about, the plant came to fruit. First there was the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And then when the grain was ripe, he put forth the sickle, and the harvest was finished. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear.’”
A. TIME: A.D. 29
B. PLACE: Bethsaida—by the seaside
C. OCCASION: Following his presentation of the parable of the sower, Jesus gave a discourse sprinkled with short parables.
E. THE PARABLES: “The next day Jesus again taught the people from the boat, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while he slept, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and hastened away. And so when the young blades sprang up and later were about to bring forth fruit, there appeared also the weeds. Then the servants of this householder came and said to him: “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Whence then come these weeds?” And he replied to his servants, “An enemy has done this.” The servants then asked their master, “Would you have us go out and pluck up these weeds?” But he answered them and said: “No, lest while you are gathering them up, you uproot the wheat also. Rather let them both grow together until the time of the harvest, when I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn and then gather up the wheat to be stored in my barn.”’
“After the people had asked a few questions, Jesus spoke another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man sowed in his field. Now a mustard seed is the least of seeds, but when it is full grown, it becomes the greatest of all herbs and is like a tree so that the birds of heaven are able to come and rest in the branches thereof.’
“‘The kingdom of heaven is also like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, and in this way it came about that all of the meal was leavened.’
“‘The kingdom of heaven is also like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man discovered. In his joy he went forth to sell all he had that he might have the money to buy the field.’
“‘The kingdom of heaven is also like a merchant seeking goodly pearls; and having found one pearl of great price, he went out and sold everything he possessed that he might be able to buy the extraordinary pearl.’
“‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a sweep net which was cast into the sea, and it gathered up every kind of fish. Now, when the net was filled, the fishermen drew it up on the beach, where they sat down and sorted out the fish, gathering the good into vessels while the bad they threw away.’
“Many other parables spoke Jesus to the multitudes. In fact, from this time forward he seldom taught the masses except by this means. After speaking to a public audience in parables, he would, during the evening classes, more fully and explicitly expound his teachings to the apostles and the evangelists.”
F. THE LESSONS: This group of six parables was designed to illustrate various phases and numerous aspects of the kingdom of heaven.
Each short parable is the nucleus for a profound discourse on the brotherhood of men.
“In entering Sidon, Jesus and his associates passed over a bridge, the first one many of them had ever seen. As they walked over this bridge, Jesus, among other things, said: ‘This world is only a bridge; you may pass over it, but you should not think to build a dwelling place upon it.’” (1735.5) 156:2.15
A. TIME: A.D. 29
B. PLACE: Tyre—Melkarth Temple
C. OCCASION: These two stories were presented in the course of an afternoon address—the only one he gave at Tyre—since he did most of his work at the evening conferences at the home of Joseph, south of the city.
E. THE PARABLES: “On this Wednesday afternoon, in the course of his address, Jesus first told his followers the story of the white lily which rears its pure and snowy head high into the sunshine while its roots are grounded in the slime and muck of the darkened soil beneath. ‘Likewise,’ said he, ‘mortal man, while he has his roots of origin and being in the animal soil of human nature, can by faith raise his spiritual nature up into the sunlight of heavenly truth and actually bear the noble fruits of the spirit.’
“It was during this same sermon that Jesus made use of his first and only parable having to do with his own trade—carpentry. In the course of his admonition to ‘Build well the foundations for the growth of a noble character of spiritual endowments,’ he said: ‘In order to yield the fruits of the spirit, you must be born of the spirit. You must be taught by the spirit and be led by the spirit if you would live the spirit-filled life among your fellows. But do not make the mistake of the foolish carpenter who wastes valuable time squaring, measuring, and smoothing his worm-eaten and inwardly rotting timber and then, when he has thus bestowed all of his labor upon the unsound beam, must reject it as unfit to enter into the foundations of the building which he would construct to withstand the assaults of time and storm. Let every man make sure that the intellectual and moral foundations of character are such as will adequately support the superstructure of the enlarging and ennobling spiritual nature, which is thus to transform the mortal mind and then, in association with that re-created mind, is to achieve the evolvement of the soul of immortal destiny. Your spirit nature—the jointly created soul—is a living growth, but the mind and morals of the individual are the soil from which these higher manifestations of human development and divine destiny must spring. The soil of the evolving soul is human and material, but the destiny of this combined creature of mind and spirit is spiritual and divine.’”
F. THE LESSONS:
- The paramount lesson of the parable of the lily—the transcendence of the potential of the spiritual over the environment of the material and the temporal.
- Danger of depending on the transient and superficial while neglecting the deeper and fundamental realities of personal experience.
- Both of these parables teach us that you cannot judge correctly by appearances.
- On another occasion, the Master referred to these creations of nature which “neither toil nor spin, yet the heavenly Father cares for them.”
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: Philadelphia
C. OCCASION: This parable was called forth by a lawyer at the breakfast given by a Pharisee, and at the conclusion of Jesus’ speech.
E. THE PARABLE: “As Jesus finished speaking at the breakfast table of the Pharisee, one of the lawyers present, desiring to relieve the silence, thoughtlessly said: ‘Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God’—that being a common saying of those days. And then Jesus spoke a parable, which even his friendly host was compelled to take to heart. He said:
“‘A certain ruler gave a great supper, and having bidden many guests, he dispatched his servants at suppertime to say to those who were invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” And they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a farm, and I must needs to go prove it; I pray you have me excused.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go to receive them; I pray you have me excused.” And another said, “I have just married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” So the servants went back and reported this to their master. When the master of the house heard this, he was very angry, and turning to his servants, he said: “I have made ready this marriage feast; the fatlings are killed, and all is in readiness for my guests, but they have spurned my invitation; they have gone every man after his lands and his merchandise, and they even show disrespect to my servants who bid them come to my feast. Go out quickly, therefore, into the streets and lanes of the city, out into the highways and the byways, and bring hither the poor and the outcast, the blind and the lame, that the marriage feast may have guests.” And the servants did as their lord commanded, and even then there was room for more guests. Then said the lord to his servants: “Go now out into the roads and the countryside and constrain those who are there to come in that my house may be filled. I declare that none of those who were first bidden shall taste of my supper.” And the servants did as their master commanded, and the house was filled.’”
F. THE LESSON:
- We should not let business obligations nor family relationships interfere with our acceptance of spiritual privileges and obligations.
- If the cultured and educated—those best fitted to be recipients of divine favors—will not respond to the gracious invitation of God, then send forth the invitation to those less worthy—even to the poor and the outcast.
- The important thing: “The house was filled.” Even a third call went out to those in the highways of the countryside.
- Another case where the first shall be last, and the last first.
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: The Pella Camp
C. OCCASION: This was the last week at the Pella camp. Word of Lazarus’s resurrection had reached them and excitement was intense. This parable was related in the course of his sermon, entitled the “Grace of Salvation.”
The prelude to this parable made mention of:
- The lost sheep.
- The woman and her lost jewel.
E. THE PARABLE: “On Thursday afternoon Jesus talked to the multitude about the ‘Grace of Salvation.’ In the course of this sermon he retold the story of the lost sheep and the lost coin and then added his favorite parable of the prodigal son. Said Jesus:
“‘You have been admonished by the prophets from Samuel to John that you should seek for God—search for truth. Always have they said, “Seek the Lord while he may be found.” And all such teaching should be taken to heart. But I have come to show you that, while you are seeking to find God, God is likewise seeking to find you. Many times have I told you the story of the good shepherd who left the ninety and nine sheep in the fold while he went forth searching for the one that was lost, and how, when he had found the straying sheep, he laid it over his shoulder and tenderly carried it back to the fold. And when the lost sheep had been restored to the fold, you remember that the good shepherd called in his friends and bade them rejoice with him over the finding of the sheep that had been lost. Again I say there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. The fact that souls are lost only increases the interest of the heavenly Father. I have come to this world to do my Father’s bidding, and it has truly been said of the Son of Man that he is a friend of publicans and sinners.
“‘You have been taught that divine acceptance comes after your repentance and as a result of all your works of sacrifice and penitence, but I assure you that the Father accepts you even before you have repented and sends the Son and his associates to find you and bring you, with rejoicing, back to the fold, the kingdom of sonship and spiritual progress. You are all like sheep which have gone astray, and I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.
“‘And you should also remember the story of the woman who, having had ten pieces of silver made into a necklace of adornment, lost one piece, and how she lit the lamp and diligently swept the house and kept up the search until she found the lost piece of silver. And as soon as she found the coin that was lost, she called together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece that was lost.” So again I say, there is always joy in the presence of the angels of heaven over one sinner who repents and returns to the Father’s fold. And I tell you this story to impress upon you that the Father and his Son go forth to search for those who are lost, and in this search we employ all influences capable of rendering assistance in our diligent efforts to find those who are lost, those who stand in need of salvation. And so, while the Son of Man goes out in the wilderness to seek for the sheep gone astray, he also searches for the coin which is lost in the house. The sheep wanders away, unintentionally; the coin is covered by the dust of time and obscured by the accumulation of the things of men.
“‘And now I would like to tell you the story of a thoughtless son of a well-to-do farmer who deliberately left his father’s house and went off into a foreign land, where he fell into much tribulation. You recall that the sheep strayed away without intention, but this youth left his home with premeditation. It was like this:
“‘A certain man had two sons; one, the younger, was lighthearted and carefree, always seeking for a good time and shirking responsibility, while his older brother was serious, sober, hard-working, and willing to bear responsibility. Now these two brothers did not get along well together; they were always quarreling and bickering. The younger lad was cheerful and vivacious, but indolent and unreliable; the older son was steady and industrious, at the same time self-centered, surly, and conceited. The younger son enjoyed play but shunned work; the older devoted himself to work but seldom played. This association became so disagreeable that the younger son came to his father and said: “Father, give me the third portion of your possessions which would fall to me and allow me to go out into the world to seek my own fortune.” And when the father heard this request, knowing how unhappy the young man was at home and with his older brother, he divided his property, giving the youth his share.
“‘Within a few weeks the young man gathered together all his funds and set out upon a journey to a far country, and finding nothing profitable to do which was also pleasurable, he soon wasted all his inheritance in riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a prolonged famine in that country, and he found himself in want. And so, when he suffered hunger and his distress was great, he found employment with one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed swine. And the young man would fain have filled himself with the husks which the swine ate, but no one would give him anything.
“‘One day, when he was very hungry, he came to himself and said: “How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare while I perish with hunger, feeding swine off here in a foreign country! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no more worthy to be called your son; only be willing to make me one of your hired servants.” And when the young man had reached this decision, he arose and started out for his father’s house.
“‘Now this father had grieved much for his son; he had missed the cheerful, though thoughtless, lad. This father loved this son and was always on the lookout for his return, so that on the day he approached his home, even while he was yet after off, the father saw him and, being moved with loving compassion, ran out to meet him, and with affectionate greeting he embraced and kissed him. And after they had thus met, the son looked up into his father’s tearful face and said: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no more worthy to be called a son”—but the lad did not find opportunity to complete his confession because the overjoyed father said to the servants who had by this time come running up: “Bring quickly his best robe, the one I have saved, and put it on him and put the son’s ring on his hand and fetch sandals for his feet.”
“‘And then, after the happy father had led the footsore and weary lad into the house, he called to his servants: “Bring on the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry, for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they all gathered about the father to rejoice with him over the restoration of his son.
“‘About this time, while they were celebrating, the elder son came in from his day’s work in the field, and as he drew near the house, he heard the music and the dancing. And when he came up to the back door, he called out one of the servants and inquired as to the meaning of all this festivity. And then said the servant: “Your long-lost brother has come home, and your father has killed the fatted calf to rejoice over his son’s safe return. Come in that you also may greet your brother and receive him back into your father’s house.”
“‘But when the older brother heard this, he was so hurt and angry he would not go into the house. When his father heard of his resentment of the welcome of his younger brother, he went out to entreat him. But the older son would not yield to his father’s persuasion. He answered his father, saying: “Here these many years have I served you, never transgressing the least of your commands, and yet you never gave me even a kid that I might make merry with my friends. I have remained here to care for you all these years, and you never made rejoicing over my faithful service, but when this your son returns, having squandered your substance with harlots, you make haste to kill the fatted calf and make merry over him.”
“‘Since this father truly loved both of his sons, he tried to reason with this older one: “But, my son, you have all the while been with me, and all this which I have is yours. You could have had a kid at any time you had made friends to share your merriment. But it is only proper that you should now join with me in being glad and merry because of your brother’s return. Think of it, my son, your brother was lost and is found; he has returned alive to us!”’”
F. THE LESSON:
- God is interested in all sorts of sinners—those who have unintentionally gone astray and even those who deliberately go into wrongdoing.
- You might feel that the stay-at-home brother had some cause for feeling neglected. But you should remember that this is a parable—not an allegory. It was offered for just one purpose—to show God’s love for his lost sons and daughters.
- The parable had nothing directly to do with the case of stay-at-home sons who took life too seriously and who had little or no brotherly affection.
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: Pella
C.. OCCASION: This was an evening discussion prompted by a question asked by Simon Zelotes.
E. THE PARABLE: “One evening Simon Zelotes, commenting on one of Jesus’ statements, said: ‘Master, what did you mean when you said today that many of the children of the world are wiser in their generation than are the children of the kingdom since they are skillful in making friends with the mammon of unrighteousness?’ Jesus answered:
“‘Some of you, before you entered the kingdom, were very shrewd in dealing with your business associates. If you were unjust and often unfair, you were nonetheless prudent and farseeing in that you transacted your business with an eye single to your present profit and future safety. Likewise should you now so order your lives in the kingdom as to provide for your present joy while you also make certain of your future enjoyment of treasures laid up in heaven. If you were so diligent in making gains for yourselves when in the service of self, why should you show less diligence in gaining souls for the kingdom since you are now servants of the brotherhood of man and stewards of God?
“‘You may all learn a lesson from the story of a certain rich man who had a shrewd but unjust steward. This steward had not only oppressed his master’s clients for his own selfish gain, but he had also directly wasted and squandered his master’s funds. When all this finally came to the ears of his master, he called the steward before him and asked the meaning of these rumors and required that he should give immediate accounting of his stewardship and prepare to turn his master’s affairs over to another.
“‘Now this unfaithful steward began to say to himself: “What shall I do since I am about to lose this stewardship? I have not the strength to dig; to beg I am ashamed. I know what I will do to make certain that, when I am put out of this stewardship, I will be welcomed into the houses of all who do business with my master.” And then, calling in each of his lord’s debtors, he said to the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He answered, “A hundred measures of oil.” Then said the steward, “Take your wax board bond, sit down quickly, and change it to fifty.” Then he said to another debtor, “How much do you owe?” And he replied, “A hundred measures of wheat.” Then said the steward, “Take your bond and write fourscore.” And this he did with numerous other debtors. And so did this dishonest steward seek to make friends for himself after he would be discharged from his stewardship. Even his lord and master, when he subsequently found out about this, was compelled to admit that his unfaithful steward had at least shown sagacity in the manner in which he had sought to provide for future days of want and adversity.
“‘And it is in this way that the sons of this world sometimes show more wisdom in their preparation for the future than do the children of light. I say to you who profess to be acquiring treasure in heaven: Take lessons from those who make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, and likewise so conduct your lives that you make eternal friendship with the forces of righteousness in order that, when all things earthly fail, you shall be joyfully received into the eternal habitations.
“‘I affirm that he who is faithful in little will also be faithful in much, while he who is unrighteous in little will also be unrighteous in much. If you have not shown foresight and integrity in the affairs of this world, how can you hope to be faithful and prudent when you are trusted with the stewardship of the true riches of the heavenly kingdom? If you are not good stewards and faithful bankers, if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will be foolish enough to give you great treasure in your own name?
“‘And again I assert that no man can serve two masters; either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to one while he despises the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.’”
F. THE LESSON:
- In the affairs of the kingdom we should not neglect shrewdness, sagacity, and wisdom. Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
- Why should the children of this world “out-smart” the children of light?
- Gaining souls is the most important work; why should we allow the pagan to outdo us?
- Divided allegiance is fatal to spiritual prosperity. You just cannot serve two masters.
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: Pella
C. OCCASION: This is not really a parable of Jesus. After the parable of the shrewd steward, the Pharisees got to wrangling among themselves so that Peter took over the meeting and recited an old and familiar allegory—one which John the Baptist had so often used.
E. THE PARABLE: (ALLEGORY) “When the meeting became too noisy, Simon Peter, standing up, took charge, saying: ‘Men and brethren, it is not seemly thus to dispute among yourselves. The Master has spoken, and you do well to ponder his words. And this is no new doctrine which he proclaimed to you. Have you not also heard the allegory of the Nazarites concerning the rich man and the beggar? Some of us heard John the Baptist thunder this parable of warning to those who love riches and covet dishonest wealth. And while this olden parable is not according to the gospel we preach, you would all do well to heed its lessons until such a time as you comprehend the new light of the kingdom of heaven. The story as John told it was like this:
“‘There was a certain rich man named Dives, who, being clothed in purple and fine linen, lived in mirth and splendor every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who laid at this rich man’s gate, covered with sores and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table; yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried away by the angels to rest in Abraham’s bosom. And then, presently, this rich man also died and was buried with great pomp and regal splendor. When the rich man departed from this world, he waked up in Hades, and finding himself in torment, he lifted up his eyes and beheld Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. And then Dives cried aloud: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send over Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am in great anguish because of my punishment.” And then Abraham replied: “My son, you should remember that in your lifetime you enjoyed the good things while Lazarus in like manner suffered the evil. But now all this is changed, seeing that Lazarus is comforted while you are tormented. And besides, between us and you there is a great gulf so that we cannot go to you, neither can you come over to us.” Then said Dives to Abraham: “I pray you send Lazarus back to my father’s house, inasmuch as I have five brothers, that he may so testify as to prevent my brothers from coming to this place of torment.” But Abraham said: “My son, they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” And then answered Dives: “No, No, Father Abraham! but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent.” And then said Abraham: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded even if one were to rise from the dead.”’
“After Peter had recited this ancient parable of the Nazarite brotherhood, and since the crowd had quieted down, Andrew arose and dismissed them for the night. Although both the apostles and his disciples frequently asked Jesus questions about the parable of Dives and Lazarus, he never consented to make comment thereon.”
F. THE LESSON:
- This story is also known as the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. And on this occasion it was recited by Peter.
- The over-all purpose is to show that all of the rewards of virtue are not received in this life—they are experienced in the life to come.
- This allegory gives us a pretty good picture of Jewish theology respecting man’s state after death. Ideas of both heaven and hell were rather vague.
- This allegory teaches that the dead do not return to communicate with the living.
- It is significant that they never could get Jesus to comment on this Nazarite allegory.
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: On the road from Jericho to Jerusalem
C. OCCASION: This parable was intended for the apostles. It was based on the futile attempt of Archelaus to gain the rule of Judea.
E. THE PARABLE: “They did not start from Jericho until near noon since they sat up late the night before while Jesus taught Zaccheus and his family the gospel of the kingdom. About halfway up the ascending road to Bethany the party paused for lunch while the multitude passed on to Jerusalem, not knowing that Jesus and the apostles were going to abide that night on the Mount of Olives.
“The parable of the pounds, unlike the parable of the talents, which was intended for all the disciples, was spoken more exclusively to the apostles and was largely based on the experience of Archelaus and his futile attempt to gain the rule of the kingdom of Judea. This is one of the few parables of the Master to be founded on an actual historic character. It was not strange that they should have had Archelaus in mind inasmuch as the house of Zaccheus in Jericho was very near the ornate palace of Archelaus, and his aqueduct ran along the road by which they had departed from Jericho.
“Said Jesus: ‘You think that the Son of Man goes up to Jerusalem to receive a kingdom, but I declare that you are doomed to disappointment. Do you not remember about a certain prince who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, but even before he could return, the citizens of his province, who in their hearts had already rejected him, sent an embassy after him, saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us”? As this king was rejected in the temporal rule, so is the Son of Man to be rejected in the spiritual rule. Again I declare that my kingdom is not of this world; but if the Son of Man had been accorded the spiritual rule of his people, he would have accepted such a kingdom of men’s souls and would have reigned over such a dominion of human hearts. Notwithstanding that they reject my spiritual rule over them, I will return again to receive from others such a kingdom of spirit as is now denied me. You will see the Son of Man rejected now, but in another age that which the children of Abraham now reject will be received and exalted.
“‘And now, as the rejected nobleman of this parable, I would call before me my twelve servants, special stewards, and giving into each of your hands the sum of one pound, I would admonish each to heed well my instructions that you trade diligently with your trust fund while I am away that you may have wherewith to justify your stewardship when I return, when a reckoning shall be required of you.
“‘And even if this rejected Son should not return, another Son will be sent to receive this kingdom, and this Son will then send for all of you to receive your report of stewardship and to be made glad by your gains.
“‘And when these stewards were subsequently called together for an accounting, the first came forward, saying, “Lord, with your pound I have made ten pounds more.” And his master said to him: “Well done; you are a good servant; because you have proved faithful in this matter, I will give you authority over ten cities.” And the second came, saying, “Your pound left with me, Lord, has made five pounds.” And the master said, “I will accordingly make you ruler over five cities.” And so on down through the others until the last of the servants, on being called to account, reported: “Lord, “You negligent and unfaithful servant, I will judge you out of your this napkin. And this I did because I feared you; I believed that you were unreasonable, seeing that you take up where you have not laid down, and that you seek to reap where you have not sown.” Then said his lord: “You negligent and unfaithful servant, I will judge you out of your own mouth. You knew that I reap where I have apparently not sown; therefore you knew this reckoning would be required of you. Knowing this, you should have at least given my money to the banker that at my coming I might have had it with proper interest.”
“‘And then said this ruler to those who stood by: “Take the money from this slothful servant and give it to him who has ten pounds.” And when they reminded the master that such a one already had ten pounds, he said: “To every one who has shall be given more, but from him who has not, even that which he has shall be taken away from him.”’”
F. THE LESSON:
- Stagnation is repugnant to Deity. We cannot be neutral—we are either for God or against him.
- We either progress or retrogress. Either the tree bears fruit or it is cut down and used for firewood.
- If we cannot grow by our own efforts we should at least go in partnership with others (the banker) and thus realize gains on our natural endowments.
- This parable is unique in that it is the only one based on a known historical character.
- Sincere faith will get you into the kingdom, but only growth—bearing the fruits of the spirit—will sustain and maintain you there.
- Spiritual “growing pains” may be more or less unpleasant at times, but they are inescapable—”in the world you will have tribulation.”
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: Jerusalem—The Temple
C. OCCASION: This was after the cleansing of the temple—during the course of this Monday sermon.
E. THE PARABLE: “As the caviling Pharisees stood there in silence before Jesus, he looked down on them and said: ‘Since you are in doubt about John’s mission and arrayed in enmity against the teaching and the works of the Son of Man, give ear while I tell you a parable: A certain great and respected landholder had two sons, and desiring the help of his sons in the management of his large-estates, he came to one of them, saying, “Son, go work today in my vineyard.” And this unthinking son answered his father, saying, “I will not go”; but afterward he repented and went. When he had found his older son, likewise he said to him, “Son, go work in my vineyard.” And this hypocritical and unfaithful son answered, “Yes, my father, I will go.” But when his father had departed, he went not. Let me ask you, which of these sons really did his father’s will?’
“And the people spoke with one accord, saying, ‘The first son.’ And then said Jesus: ‘Even so; and now do I declare that the publicans and harlots, even though they appear to refuse the call to repentance, shall see the error of their way and go on into the kingdom of God before you, who make great pretensions of serving the Father in heaven while you refuse to do the works of the Father. It was not you, the Pharisees and scribes, who believed John, but rather the publicans and sinners; neither do you believe my teaching, but the common people hear my words gladly.’
“Jesus did not despise the Pharisees and Sadducees personally. It was their systems of teaching and practice which he sought to discredit. He was hostile to no man, but here was occurring the inevitable clash between a new and living religion of the spirit and the older religion of ceremony, tradition, and authority.”
F. THE LESSON:
- We are not judged by our superficial and thoughtless reactions. It is our actual performances that determine our destiny.
- The great professions of the hypocrite avail nothing when it comes to the final reckoning.
- The religion of the spirit will always clash with the religions of tradition and authority.
- Great pretensions will not save us if we are unwilling to recognize the error of our ways and repent of our refusal to walk in the pathway of light.
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: Jerusalem—The Temple
C. OCCASION: In the course of the Monday sermon in the temple and following the parable of the two sons.
E. THE PARABLE: “When the chief Pharisees and the scribes who had sought to entangle Jesus with their questions had finished listening to the story of the two sons, they withdrew to take further counsel, and the Master, turning his attention to the listening multitude, told another parable:
“‘There was a good man who was a householder, and he planted a vineyard. He set a hedge about it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower for the guards. Then he let this vineyard out to tenants while he went on a long journey into another country. And when the season of the fruits drew near, he sent servants to the tenants to receive his rental. But they took counsel among themselves and refused to give these servants the fruits due their master; instead, they fell upon his servants, beating one, stoning another, and sending the others away empty-handed. And when the householder heard about all this, he sent other and more trusted servants to deal with these wicked tenants, and these they wounded and also treated shamefully. And then the householder sent his favorite servant, his steward, and him they killed. And still, in patience and with forbearance, he dispatched many other servants, but none would they receive. Some they beat, others they killed, and when the householder had been so dealt with, he decided to send his son to deal with these ungrateful tenants, saying to himself, “They may mistreat my servants, but they will surely show respect for my beloved son.” But when these unrepentant and wicked tenants saw the son, they reasoned among themselves: “This is the heir; come let us kill him and then the inheritance will be ours.” So they laid hold on him, and after casting him out of the vineyard, they killed him. When the lord of that vineyard shall hear how they have rejected and killed his son, what will he do to those ungrateful and wicked tenants?’
“And when the people heard this parable and the question Jesus asked, they answered, ‘He will destroy those miserable men and let out his vineyard to other and honest farmers who will render to him the fruits in their season.’ And when some of them who heard perceived that this parable referred to the Jewish nation and its treatment of the prophets and to the impending rejection of Jesus and the gospel of the kingdom, they said in sorrow, ‘God forbid that we should go on doing these things.’
“Jesus saw a group of the Sadducees and Pharisees making their way through the crowd, and he paused for a moment until they drew near him, when he said: ‘You know how your fathers rejected the prophets, and you well know that you are set in your hearts to reject the Son of Man.’ And then, looking with searching gaze upon those priests and elders who were standing near him, Jesus said: ‘Did you never read in the Scripture about the stone which the builders rejected, and which, when the people had discovered it, was made into the cornerstone? And so once more do I warn you that, if you continue to reject this gospel, presently will the kingdom of God be taken away from you and be given to a people willing to receive the good news and to bring forth the fruits of the spirit. And there is a mystery about this stone, seeing that whoso falls upon it, while he is thereby broken in pieces, shall be saved; but on whomsoever this stone falls, he will be ground to dust and his ashes scattered to the four winds.’”
F. THE LESSON:
- There are so many facets to this parable, it is a temptation to make it into an allegory—rather than to look for the point of focus.
- The point is: The son of the landholder has come—and they are planning to kill him—thereby they hope to keep their religion of traditional authority and hold onto their positions of ecclesiastical power.
- We are tempted to see in the sending of the steward, after having sent numerous servants, a reference to the coming of Machiventa Melchizedek.
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: Jerusalem—The Temple
C. OCCASION: Another parable, in the course of the Monday sermon in the temple.
E. THE PARABLE: “After the scribes and rulers had withdrawn, Jesus addressed himself again to the assembled crowd and spoke the parable of the wedding feast. He said:
“‘The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a certain king who made a marriage feast for his son and dispatched messengers to call those who had previously been invited to the feast to come, saying, “Everything is ready for the marriage supper at the king’s palace.” Now, many of those who had once promised to attend, at this time refused to come. When the king heard of these rejections of his invitation, he sent other servants and messengers, saying: “Tell all those who were bidden, to come, for, behold, my dinner is ready. My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all is in readiness for the celebration of the forthcoming marriage of my son.” But again did the thoughtless make light of this call of their king, and they went their ways, one to the farm, another to the pottery, and others to their merchandise. Still others were not content thus to slight the king’s call, but in open rebellion they laid hands on the king’s messengers and shamefully mistreated them, even killing some of them. And when the king perceived that his chosen guests, even those who had accepted his preliminary invitation and had promised to attend the wedding feast, had finally rejected his call and in rebellion had assaulted and slain his chosen messengers, he was exceedingly wroth. And then this insulted king ordered out his armies and the armies of his allies and instructed them to destroy these rebellious murderers and to burn down their city.
“‘And when he had punished those who spurned his invitation, he appointed yet another day for the wedding feast and said to his messengers: “They who were first bidden to the wedding were not worthy; so go now into the parting of the ways and into the highways and even beyond the borders of the city, and as many as you shall find, bid even these strangers to come in and attend this wedding feast.” And then these servants went out into the highways and the out-of-the-way places, and they gathered together as many as they found, good and bad, rich and poor, so that at last the wedding chamber was filled with willing guests. When all was ready, the king came in to view his guests, and much to his surprise he saw there a man without a wedding garment. The king, since he had freely provided wedding garments for all his guests, addressing this man, said: “Friend, how is it that you come into my guest chamber on this occasion without a wedding garment?” And this unprepared man was speechless. Then said the king to his servants: “Cast out this thoughtless guests from my house to share the lot of all the others who have spurned my hospitality and rejected my call. I will have none here except those who delight to accept my invitation, and who do me the honor to wear those guest garments so freely provided for all.”’
“After speaking this parable, Jesus was about to dismiss the multitude when a sympathetic believer, making his way through the crowds toward him, asked: ‘But, Master, how shall we know about these things? how shall we be ready for the king’s invitation? what sign will you give us whereby we shall know that you are the Son of God?’ And when the Master heard this, he said, ‘Only one sign shall be given you.’ And then, pointing to his own body, he continued, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ But they did not understand him, and as they dispersed, they talked among themselves, saying, ‘Almost fifty years has this temple been in building, and yet he says he will destroy it and raise it up in three days.’ Even his own apostles did not comprehend the significance of this utterance, but subsequently, after his resurrection, they recalled what he had said.”
F. THE LESSON:
- The basic thought in this parable has to do with the slighting—even violent rejection—of the king’s invitation to attend the wedding feast.
- Next, when those first invited (the Jews) refused to accept—even though their status would seem to indicate they had promised to accept—then others (the gentiles) were brought in.
- But those who do finally accept the invitation must comply with the royal requirements—they must don the regulation wedding garments—the terms of salvation.
A. TIME: A.D. 30
B. PLACE: Camp on the Mount of Olives
C. OCCASION: It was Tuesday evening at the Olivet camp. They had been discussing, among other topics, the Master’s second advent. And it was to a group of about twenty that Jesus spoke the parable of the talents, in response to a question by Thomas.
E. THE PARABLE: “‘As individuals, and as a generation of believers, hear me while I speak a parable: There was a certain great man who, before starting out on a long journey to another country, called all his trusted servants before him and delivered into their hands all his goods. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. And so on down through the entire group of honored stewards, to each he intrusted his goods according to their several abilities; and then he set out on his journey. When their lord had departed, his servants set themselves at work to gain profits from the wealth intrusted to them. Immediately he who had received five talents began to trade with them and very soon had made a profit of another five talents. In like manner he who had received two talents soon had gained two more. And so did all of these servants make gains for their master except he who received but one talent. He went away by himself and dug a hole in the earth where he hid his lord’s money. Presently the lord of those servants unexpectedly returned and called upon his stewards for a reckoning. And when they had all been called before their master, he who had received the five talents came forward with the money which had been intrusted to him and brought five additional talents, saying, “Lord, you gave me five talents to invest, and I am glad to present five other talents as my gain.” And then his lord said to him: “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things; I will now set you as steward over many; enter forthwith into the joy of your lord.” And then he who had received the two talents came forward, saying: “Lord, you delivered into my hands two talents; behold, I have gained these other two talents.” And his lord then said to him: “Well done, good and faithful steward; you also have been faithful over a few things, and I will now set you over many; enter you into the joy of your lord.” And then there came to the accounting he who had received the one talent. This servant came forward, saying, “Lord, I knew you and realized that you were a shrewd man in that you expected gains where you had not personally labored; therefore was I afraid to risk aught of that which was intrusted to me. I safely hid your talent in the earth; here it is; you now have what belongs to you.” But his lord answered: “You are an indolent and slothful steward. By your own words you confess that you knew I would require of you an accounting with reasonable profit, such as your diligent fellow servants have this day rendered. Knowing this, you ought, therefore, to have at least put my money into the hands of the bankers that on my return I might have received my own with interest.” And then to the chief steward this lord said: “Take away this one talent from this unprofitable servant and give it to him who has the ten talents.”
“‘To every one who has, more shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him who has not, even that which he has shall be taken away. You cannot stand still in the affairs of the eternal kingdom. My Father requires all his children to grow in grace and in a knowledge of the truth. You who know these truths must yield the increase of the fruits of the spirit and manifest a growing devotion to the unselfish service of your fellow servants. And remember that, inasmuch as you minister to one of the least of my brethren, you have done this service to me.
“‘And so should you go about the work of the Father’s business, now and henceforth, even forevermore. Carry on until I come. In faithfulness do that which is intrusted to you, and thereby shall you be ready for the reckoning call of death. And having thus lived for the glory of the Father and the satisfaction of the Son, you shall enter with joy and exceedingly great pleasure into the eternal service of the everlasting kingdom.’”
F. THE LESSON:
- This, the last of the parables, has to do with all generations of believers who may live in anticipation of Jesus’ sometime returning to Urantia.
- Kingdomites must grow in grace and a knowledge of the truth. Atrophy and death claim all who cease to grow.
- If you do not improve your opportunity, and another does, then your potential reward goes to this other and wise person.
- This final parable is the Master’s last message to the Urantia brotherhood of the kingdom.