Archive for category Parables
Once there was a newly wed couple who only weeks after their wedding day inherited their grandfather’s beautiful old house in the country. Overflowing joy filled the old house on the day they moved in to begin their new life together. To their great surprise, they discovered in the attic left a magnificent hand carved old grandfather clock of enormous value and beauty. They were certain that this clock was to be a treasure they would cherish together forever.
What they did not yet realize was that this grandfather clock was a very complex machine comprised of endless knobs and switches and levers and other finely tuned mechanisms that all needed to be in working order for the clock to perform as designed.
It wasn’t more than a couple weeks until they were rudely awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of uncontrollable gonging and clanging and ringing. The newly weds grow impatient with the situation, began yelling and screaming, and pushing every button and pulling every lever trying anything to get the clock to be quiet and work properly. Eventually the noise stopped and all was calm again.
After a few similar episodes with the malfunctioning clock, the newlyweds asked grandma if she could help figure the old grandfather clock out. “Oh, yes,” grandma answered, “The original instruction manual for the clock is hidden inside the back of the clock and will help you get it working properly.” Read the rest of this entry »
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
To summarize the main thrust of this allegorical parable, Douglas Hare writes:
“This is an allegory of salvation history. The king is clearly God; the wedding eeast or his son represents the messianic banquet (cf. Rev. 19:7-9). Those sent to invite the guests are God’s prophets, including Christian missionaries. The reference to the mistreatment of the king’s slaves recalls the tradition concerning Israel’s violent treatment of God’s prophets. The burning of the rebel’s city seems to be an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., an event that Christians regarded as God’s punishment upon Israel for its rejection of Jesus and the gospel. The invitation offered to others, “both bad and good,” signifies the Gentile mission of the church” (Hare, Interpretation Commentary, 251).
Now, near the end, we find the banquet hall full and a surprising punishment for one guest who failed to wear proper wedding attire. What’s going on here? Didn’t this poor person just get grabbed last minute off the street? Is not the hasty last minute invitation of the king to blame for his not having time to go home and dress up? Here we must remember that we are not dealing with an ordinary story but an allegory.
So, what is the spiritual truth behind image of the wedding garment? What does it represent? Read the rest of this entry »
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
In the original context of this parable of the King throwing a wedding party for his son, there were grievous consequences for refusing the king’s invitation. This was a great insult to the king.
I am struck with the king’s unrelenting determination to have the wedding hall filled with guests. These images point to a God who also is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” and be saved. Those who are excluded from the Kingdom and the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus, are excluded by their own choice.
Yet, O, how the church needs to imitate the King’s desperate attempts to fill his house for the party! God wants his churches filled with worshipers today as well. He is not content with a hand full of the faithful while many pews sit empty Sunday after Sunday. And we, his servants, are called to “go to the street corners” and invite anyone we can find! We are not to show partiality in our invitations. We are not to discriminate saying, “Oh, they would never come to church.” We need to invite “the bad as well as the good” — and that means risking the invitation to our coarse coworker, our foul-mouthed neighbor, our too-busy, excuse-ridden friends, the town gossip, and the brawler from the bar.
But the bottom line message for the church today in this parable seems to be: Go. Go out. Go out into the streets. Go out into the streets and make disciples. This is a timely reminder as Easter approaches when people are more open to coming to God’s banquet to celebrate the Risen Son!
Let us go. Let us go.
While the day is aglow.
Let us get back to our fishing!
Ever been rejected? It hurts. Ever put yourself out there so far, and having been rejected so bad, you vow never to risk it again? Perhaps we can take some consolation in the fact that even God experiences rejection. I believe God doesn’t force his will on anyone, but rather desires for us to freely choose Him.
But we can refuse. This parable is filled with rejection. Listen in:
“He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business”(Matt. 22:3-5).
God is throwing a party, and instead of using e-vites, wedding invitations, or a postcard reminder, he sends his servants to personally invite people to the banquet. Do you realize that God is still taking the same approach today? Yes, he’s still relying on ordinary Christians like you and I to go out and extend the invitation. And the most effective invitation is still the most personal one. And that means we’re the lucky ones who get to be rejected sometimes.
Have you invited someone to church lately? Have you invited a friend to a concert, or conference, or any event that you thought might bring them closer to God, “but they refused to come” (v.3)? It hurts. Church planting is all about word-of-mouth invitations — and, therefore, many rejections. I need not remind my MainStreet friends that of the 100+ people I had hoped would join the MainStreet adventure, almost none of them did. Read the rest of this entry »
Our modern American church culture is obsessed with the big and flashy. This “bigger is better” mindset usually cuts right against the Kingdom way of Jesus that celebrates small looking things that appear unimpressive- – like mustard seeds. But one thing Jesus and our churches both can unite around is throwing a big party! We love big parties. God loves big parties.
So, let’s explore the parable of the Wedding Banquet.
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son…” (Matt 22:1-14)
As a child, for me church = boredom. I didn’t mind church. I didn’t hate church. I didn’t complain about going to church. I was never hurt by the church. I made the most of it. I just never got goosebumps and lost sleep the night before because I was so excited to go to church.
How about you? If you were completely honest, what image might you use to describe your idea of church. (Yes, Jesus is talking about ‘the kingdom’, not church; but I’m assuming that church is what happens when a bunch of Kingdom people get together to talk about and do kingdom stuff.)
I can imagine many people I’ve talked to — especially teenagers — beginning their own parable with something like:
“The kingdom of God / going to church is like a dentist appointment…..it’s good for your but it never feels good.”
“The kingdom of God / going to church is like visiting your great-grandma at the nursing home….it’s the decent thing to do but you’d rather be doing something else.”
“The kingdom of God / going to church is like pulling off a band-aid….it’s best to get it over with quickly and not linger too long.”
When Jesus wanted to describe the Kingdom of God, what image did he use? Read the rest of this entry »
“…Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4:3-8, 13-20)
Parables are not so much designed to inform but to provoke us and prod us into a place of healthy discomfort. This place of discomfort is God’s way of giving us a “reality check”, to see where we’re at in relationship to God and the Kingdom. This parable throws a net over us all, and we’ve no place to run and hide. Each one of us fits somewhere into this story of 4 soils. The big, eye-opening question is: WHO ARE YOU in this parable?
Chances are we all fit into one of the four categories better than the others. Here they are: Read the rest of this entry »
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.” (Mark 4:3-8)
We’re looking at the parable of the sower. Last time we focused on the sower/farmer. Next time we’ll tackle the different soils. Today we set our thoughts on the seed itself — which is the Word of God. But what exactly do we mean by the “Word of God”?
First, we are certainly not referring to the Bible in general, as we often call the whole of Scripture the “Word of God.” Second, we must be clear that for the writers of Scripture “the Word” is a personal power that takes on a life of it’s own. In some cases the Word is Jesus Christ himself (cf. John 1:1). Third, in this parable as in the one that follows it (Mark 4:26-29), the Word that is sown is the faith awakening message of God’s saving activity in and through Jesus’ Kingdom mission (which will culminate in his death and resurrection, but this is beyond the knowledge of Jesus’ original hearers of this parable).
The proclamation of this Word, this sowing and reaping activity, does not just inform people of new spiritual truths like students taking notes in a lecture hall. Jesus is not swapping moral truths at an ethics seminar or waxing eloquent on lofty philosophical ideals. This “seed” is potent with supernatural power and potential to either awaken saving faith and alter one’s life forever, or to provoke hostility, unbelief or indifference in it’s hearers. This Word of the Kingdom is confrontational to the core. But the power is in the content of the message and the one to whom the message points — i.e., Jesus the Messiah. That is, the Living God is at work in supernatural ways producing supernatural results as the seed is scattered about. Read the rest of this entry »
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
…Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4:3-8, 13-20)
Anyone like myself, whose great privilege and responsibility it is to be the farmer/sower in this parable and share the Word of God with people weekly, may find rest and refuge in this parable of Jesus. I know I always need reminding of where my role ends and the Holy Spirit takes over.
Good news: This beloved parable reminds preachers and teachers, and all who desire to be faithful messengers of God’s saving gospel, that the determining factor in seeing God’s Word go forth and have its transforming effect is NOT primarily the sower. Of the these three — the sower, seed and soil — the sower is least consequential it would seem from this parable; though the sower is still necessary to enable the other two to play their role.
What does this parable say to those regularly involved in the scattering of God’s Word? What particular reminders does this parable offer the pastor in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday? And the youth pastor Wednesday after Wednesday? Today we’ll look at the sower. In the next two posts we’ll look at the seed and the soils. Read the rest of this entry »