The Life Of Jesus:
The Final Parables
Tell Us Plainly
Jesus is very careful never to call himself Christos, the Messiah. In public, he always refers to himself as the “Son of Man.” The Jews understand this is a Messianic title, but the Romans do not, so the religious leaders keep pressing Jesus to be plain--to call himself “Messiah.”
What he says in reply nearly gets him stoned. Again.
Jesus is the guest of honor at a hoity-toity Sabbath meal with high-ranking lawyers and Pharisees. I bet you can guess that Jesus says some pretty uncomfortable things to them, and he does it with parables. Jesus is down to his last few months. He’s got to get his points across in a way these folks will remember.
John 1:9-18; 10:22-42
A Prodigal Son & A Dishonest Manager
Each and every one of us is known by God. We are seen and we are cherished. When the scribes and Pharisees deride Jesus for hanging out with unworthy people, Jesus tells them three parables demonstrating the prodigal love of God (“prodigal” means wasteful, reckless extravagance)!
The most famous of these is the story of the prodigal son. As with most parables, there’s more to it than you might remember from childhood stories.
Jesus follows this with a really crazy parable directed at the disciples, where he tells them to be more like a dishonest manager. Say, what?!?
Matthew 18:10-14; (6:19-24 reprise)
Luke 15; 16:1-15
The Rich And The Poor,
The Harsh And The Forgiving
Jesus tells the story of a rich man and a poor man and what happens to them after death. It’s an old familiar story drawn from the culture of the Ancient Near East, but Jesus gives it a new punchline.
Then he talks about how serious it is when we lay traps for other people and for ourselves. This is apparently a VERY big deal to God, with roots all the way back in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus ties it all to the importance of forgiving each other.
We talk some more about life after death vs. life now. There’s a lot of meat in here.
Matthew (5:17-20 reprise); 18:6-9, 21-35
Luke 16:16-31, 17:1-4
Justified & Elect
Jesus teaches a lot about the difference between being self-righteous and actually doing righteousness. “Righteous” in Greek is synonymous with “justice,” so it makes sense that Jesus uses a parable about a poor widow in court.
He warns the disciples not to be proud. He reminds them they are just doing their job. They must not be like the self-righteous Pharisee who prays out loud that he is so thankful he’s not like the sinners in the room!
In fact, Jesus says it is people like the widow who are “elect” and people like tax-collectors who humble themselves to pray for God’s mercy who are “justified.” This is the first time we encounter these terms, so we begin to unpack some of the baggage many Christians carry over this.
Luke 17:5-37; 18:1-30
Lazarus Is Raised From The Dead
Jesus raises one of his best friends from the dead and thoroughly awes the crowds, which in turn sets off alarm bells for all the powers that be. Fearing that Rome is about to step in and crush the Jewish nation, the religious leaders call an emergency meeting. Caiaphus, the High Priest, declares that Jesus must die so the entire nation does not perish. There’s just one problem--they have to catch him alone, away from the crowds who increasingly believe he is the Messiah.
Jesus calls his disciples aside to give them the bad news (again) that he will die soon. They, like the people, still have trouble believing it. The mother of two of the disciples even asks Jesus to be sure to give her sons places of honor as soon as he gets to be King.
There's Enough Mercy For Everyone
Jesus is trying so hard to teach his disciples to be as humble as servants. He tells a parable about a landowner who hires day laborers throughout the day and gives a full day’s wage to everyone. The ones who worked only one hour get the same as the ones who worked all day! He tells his disciples, “Don’t resent the blessings of others. Just do your job.”
Then he heals a blind man or two--or rather, their own faith heals them. And we wind up this class series with the story of Zaccheus--one of the most amusing stories in the New Testament.
Matthew 20:1-16, 9:27-31; 20:29-34
Luke 18:35-43; 19:1-10