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The Parables of the Lord Jesus (3)

A Wiseman, Bournemouth


In considering the Lord’s parables in Luke’s Gospel, we find an immediate affinity with the tone of the Gospel, so far as the Lord Jesus is concerned. The Saviour is presented by the beloved physician (Col 4.14) as the tender, compassionate, and sympathetic Son of Man who came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk 19.10). Although some of the parables in this Gospel are also found in Matthew and Mark, others are not, and it is particularly those exclusive to Luke that claim our attention in this paper. They serve to illustrate man’s helpless and hopeless condition apart from the intervention by God in grace, and so the Lord Jesus comes with divine ability as well as with deep compassion to bring fallen man into the blessedness of salvation. In this connection Luke uses repeated phrases such as, "a certain man" in connection with the parables.

Parables demonstrating the truth of salvation

The Two Debtors (7.41-48) demonstrate that man is a debtor with no ability to pay. Sin has rendered men and women spiritually and morally bankrupt, although some such as Simon the Pharisee find it hard to accept that. The parable of The Good Samaritan (10.30-37) teaches that man has been robbed, critically wounded, and left to die. Those to whom he might have looked for help pass by on the other side! The parable of The Lost Things (15.1-32) has been described as one parable in three movements. It shows that mankind is lost! All have gone astray, with solemn consequences. Yet all ends happily because a Saviour has come to reach them with forgiveness, healing, and recovery.

In the last of these parables it can be seen that the entire Godhead is at work in the matter of the salvation of the lost. The shepherd who goes after the sheep is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus, the woman who, with the lighted lamp, diligently searches the house for the lost silver provides a lovely picture of the work of the Holy Spirit, whilst in the case of the lost son, it is the father who gladly welcomes him home and fits him for his presence. All the parties, with the exception of the elder brother (15.28-30), rejoice when that which was lost has been found!

The responsibility of men and women to God’s overtures of grace is graphically outlined in the parable of The Great Supper of Grace (14.16-24) where many were invited. Alas, when the word was sent, "Come; for all things are now ready…they all with one consent began to make excuse" (14.17-18). Those who were invited displayed an attitude of thankless indifference. However, others took advantage of the gracious provision, and the house was filled. They shared the blessings provided whilst the religious and self-sufficient suffered loss.

The Lord Jesus also used parables as a means of warning of the dangers of living as if there were no eternity. The story of The Rich Farmer (12.16-21) was set against the background of covetousness, and teaches both saint and sinner that "a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (12.15). This man had a wealth of earthly possessions, and longed for even more. Sadly, he had nothing to prepare him for an eternal future where earthly currency has no value. He was rich in the eyes of men, but not rich towards God (12.21). His was the tragedy of living from day to day without taking into account the God in whose very hand his breath was, and when the summons came he was found wanting.

The Lord also speaks of the folly of trusting in earthly wealth and neglecting eternal riches in the account of The Rich Man and Lazarus (16.19-31). There He permits us a glimpse of what lies beyond our brief sojourn on earth so that those who are wise may adjust their priorities. Details such as the names of the men involved are provided, making it difficult to regard this as a parable. It is, we believe, a factual event involving real persons living at the time. How privileged is the contented believer who simply trusts "in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Tim 6.17).

Parables stimulating persistent prayer

Luke’s Gospel beautifully sets forth the perfect manhood of Jesus, and he puts more emphasis on His prayer life than do the other Evangelists (3.21; 5.16; 6.12; 9.18; 9.29; 11.1; 22.32; 22.41-44; 23.34). His unbroken communion with the Father caused those who were near Him to ask that He would teach them also to pray. Therefore He leaves them the "pattern prayer" (11.2-4) followed by the parable of The Friend at Midnight who came to borrow three loaves. It was not because he was a friend that his request was granted, but because of his "importunity" – his shameless persistence. The Lord assures the disciples that to those who knock, the door will be opened, and that those who ask will receive according to the wisdom of our heavenly Father (11.9-13).

Again, the Lord teaches that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint", and uses the parable of The Unjust Judge to illustrate the point (18.1-8). The widow seeking relief from her adversary was granted her desire, lest by her continual coming she wearied the judge.

Another parable involving prayer follows. It is that of The Pharisee and the Publican who went up to the temple (18.9-14). Here the emphasis is upon the attitude of heart and mind which brought about such different results.

Parables encouraging faithful stewardship

The Parable of The Unjust Steward (16.1-12) teaches that there will be a day of accountability, and for that every servant ought to be prepared. It was his master (not the Lord Jesus) that commended him, and not for his unjust actions, but for his forethought regarding his future well-being.

Faithful stewardship is also the lesson in the parable of The Nobleman giving Pounds to his Servants (19.12-27). The background is that Jesus had come to Jerusalem and with Him the disciples who thought that the Kingdom of God was about to appear. They have to learn that their Master is journeying on towards the cross and that the time for this Kingdom to be manifested is not yet!

This picture of a certain nobleman leaving for the far country to receive a kingdom and return clearly refers to the Lord Jesus returning to heaven. He is to receive His Kingdom from the hand of the Father and will return for its administration. The promise of His return is as sure as that of His going away. In view of the absence of the nobleman he gives his ten servants ten pounds (one pound each) with the instruction, "Occupy till I come". Each was given the same measure of responsibility; each was given the same encouragement, and each was aware that the nobleman would come again! We too have been given gifts and are asked to "redeem the time" and to be busy in the Lord’s interests. When He returns, each will give account, and diligence and faithfulness now will impact upon a larger sphere of responsibility in the coming Kingdom. Sadly, one of these servants in the parable had a misplaced estimation of his lord; and therefore never used that which was committed to him. He wrapped it in a sweat cloth, and left it untouched! Nothing here is said about the man’s future destiny, but so far as his works were concerned he suffered loss, whilst others gained reward. The same principle is found in Paul’s letter to Corinth (1 Cor 3.12-15). The day of review will reveal that which abides and that which is to be burned up with consequent reward or loss.

In the parable (v.14), the Lord Jesus speaks of the citizens as well as the servants - they "hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us". The Lord’s servants operate in the time of the Lord’s absence, and also in the place of His rejection! The King’s return to set up His Kingdom (not here the Lord’s coming for the church) brings compensation to His faithful servants, and also just retribution to His enemies (v.27).

You and I are privileged to be linked with the Lord Jesus during the time and in the place of His rejection. We are assured, however, that the day will come when "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev 11.15). May we therefore, as enabled by Him, "Occupy till He come".

To be continued.


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