In the context section this week I will present a recap of the timeline and some information about the upcoming chapters from a chronological point of view. The chapters we are reviewing today, however, occurred in the same time as the last few weeks. The parables and stories from the three Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke) have much in common, but their placement in the narrative can be different and confusing. The only thing we know for sure is that these stories are occurring during Jesus’s ministry in the areas around Galilee. It can also seem like the events happen in quick succession, but in reality, we are approaching two years since Jesus began His ministry and probably over two years since He was baptized.
As we have learned from the gospel accounts, Jesus’s family is divided on His mission, leading Jesus to claim He has nowhere to lay his head. It isn’t something we think about very often, but how was Jesus surviving? He couldn’t always be eating wheat in the field and sleeping in boats at night, could he? Fortunately, Luke gives us some insight into this situation at the beginning of Luke 8.
“And it came to pass that he went through the towns and villages, declaring and teaching the good news of the Kingdom of God with the twelve, and some women were with Him who had been healed from evil spirits and illnesses: Mary called Magdalane, from whome seven demons had gone out; and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Susanna; and many others, who served them from their own resources.”
I have already brought attention to Jesus’s unorthodox interactions and relationships with women compared to other religious leaders of His time, but this passage is startling. Not only were the twelve declaring and teaching the good news, but so were some women. Luke even names the women. We have Mary, who we know Jesus loved very much and had a special relationship with. We have Susanna, who don’t know much about, and Joanna who was the wife of one of Herod’s most important political subordinates. She must have been determined and faithful to be in that type of conflict.
Another thing that really stands out to me is that these women, and many others who were with Him, were supporting Jesus and the twelve from their own resources. These people were giving of their worldly resources to support the beginning of the movement. I have never noticed this before, but it is humbling to think about how much these women sacrificed and gave to help spread the message of the gospel.
This week’s story and lesson will focus on some of the parables in these chapters. If you haven’t gone over the Parable of the Sower already, it is discussed twice in these chapters, so now would be a good time to do that.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 10 – Matt 13, Luke 8, 13
– Jesus is looking for disciples of all kinds, those who want to bring peace, relief, and joy to all of God’s children.
– The Kingdom of God is not for those who believe they are righteous because they follow the rules, but for those who follow the rules because they Love God and want others to make it back to Him as well.
– Even though we may wander, the Lord is always willing to gather us into His rest.
Context and Timeline:
– Timeline of events up to Christ sending his Apostles on their first mission:
End of 26 AD – Temptation by Satan, Miracle at Cana
27 AD – First trip to Temple in Jerusalem, Journey back through Samaria, Rejection in Nazareth, First part of ministry in Galilee, Selecting Twelve Apostles
28 AD – beginning of 29 AD – Sermon on the Mount, Calming of the storm, Healings and Miracles in Galilee, Parables, Sending Apostles on their first mission.
– It is difficult to determine the exact timing of the events above, but some of the moments that provide markers are Jesus location during festivals and feasts. However, one event that is very difficult to date is the death of John the Baptist. We will be dealing with that event next week, but I bring it up here because based on last week’s readings it seems that John’s emissaries to Jesus came around the time that Jesus was preparing the Twelve Apostles for their mission. This makes it likely that John was executed after that time and around the beginning of their mission. The commencement of the Apostle’s mission is also the beginning of the final year of Jesus life. The book of John has Jesus’s ministry spread out over at least 4 Passover feasts. The third of which occurs shortly before the feeding of the five thousand, which was shortly after the Apostles were sent on their mission.
– Mark and Matthew seem to indicate that when Jesus returns to Nazareth after His first rejection, He is rejected again. This time His rejection is accompanied by many of His own family.
– In Matt 13:17, the word righteous is meant to indicate someone who believes they are justified by living the Law of Moses. I think this is a parallel to our way of viewing “self-righteousness”, or when people believe they are better than others because they follow the most obvious rules, while missing the intent of morality.
– In Luke 13:1, we learn that Pilate committed terrible atrocities among the Jews. I think this is important as we eventually spend time studying and learning about Pilate in future chapters.
We are nearing the end of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee. He has been preaching and ministering in this area for close to two years now and has built a signifcant following. More importantly, He has accomplished the goal of getting the ruling class’s attention. Not only are the local and regional Sanhedrin aware of Him, but so is Herod and likely Pilate. The apostles have been sent on their mission to other Jewish settlements and so we have some chapters that will recount many of Jesus’s parables and doings that were likely taught before their mission.
Luke also gives a window into the people who supported Him in Galilee, specifically calling out many women who were with Him and His disciples in their time ministering. I hadn’t really thought about how much those men and women sacrificed to assist the movement, but it had to be more than just their temporal resources. No doubt, it included losing relationships, power, and status in their communities.
We already discussed several parables in previous weeks so this week we will jump into parables we have not discussed previously.
- Parable of the Barren Fig Tree – Luke 13 (Only in Luke)
- A fig tree has been barren for three years and the master thinks it should be cut down.
- The worker of the orchard asks for one more year to trim, fertilize, and work on the tree and if it still bears no fruit then it can be cut down.
- Is the tree us, or those who should believe? Is it something else? Is Jesus the master or the orchard worker? Are His disciples the orchard workers?
- Parable of the Wheat and Tares
- A field has been planted with good seeds, but while they were not aware the enemy planted seeds of tares in the field. The master saw this early on but wanted to wait until they grew to fruit so they could distinguish the good from the bad. Then at harvest the tares will be gathered and burned, while the wheat will be gathered and brought to the master’s storehouse.
- Jesus explains that the master is Jesus, the field is the world, the good seed are those who are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, the bad seed are those who follow the wicked one (Satan), and the harvesters are the messenger angels that will come at the end of time to separate them.
- Jesus is typically about love and compassion, in this parable he seems to be drawing a line in the sand, what makes us a good seed or a bad seed? This is following the Parable of the Sower in Matthew, is that important? Does it show what it means to be the good seed? Is it important that Jesus states that the messengers who separate the wheat and tares are angels? I think sometimes people in the church take it upon themselves to separate who they think are wheat and tares, but it seems to me that Jesus is reserving that job for Him and His angels.
- Four Parables about the Kingdom of Heaven
- The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that causes the dough to raise.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is like a great treasure hidden in a field that when a man discovers it, he goes and sells everything he has and buys the field.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man seeking fine pearls, finding one very valuable pearl, and then selling all he owns in order to buy that pearl.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net cast into the sea gathering all sorts of fishes. Then when brought to shore and sorted, some are good and kept, while others that are bad will be cast out.
- It seems like Jesus is saying the Kingdom of Heaven is something we can experience now in life, is that true? What do you think the Kingdom of Heaven is to you? What makes the difference between good and bad fish? Are you willing to give up what you have for the Kingdom of Heaven in your life right now?
Getting back into the narrative, Luke recounts some of the healings and miracles we have already discussed. After teaching about entering the narrow door or strait gate (explanation below), Jesus receives his first overt threat from some Pharisees who are listening to Him teach. They warn Jesus that he needs to depart from Galilee because Herod Antipas (ruler of Galilee) wishes to kill Jesus. We don’t know for sure whether Jesus knows John has been killed at this point, but He likely has been, and now with Jesus movement still growing it is upsetting Herod even more.
Probably to provoke them, but possibly to build confidence in those around Him, Jesus tells the Pharisees to let “the fox” (Herod) know he is healing and teaching today and tomorrow, but He will finish His work on the “third day”. He is obviously referencing His resurrection, but they would not have understood that. He then continues that He will continue His ministry for now because a prophet will only be killed in Jerusalem and not here. Jesus then laments Jerusalem’s fate. He expresses His everlasting love toward them but grieves that they continually reject Him which will lead to their desolation.
With the threat made toward Jesus, and then as Matthew recounts a second rejection and threats in Nazareth, it seems Jesus time in Galilee is at an end. From here Jesus will head north for a time before finishing up his mission in and around Jerusalem.
When Jesus teaches parables about the Kingdom of God, do they represent hard and fast explanations, or are they for us to think about and apply to our own lives? It is easy to place other people into categories when listening to parables, but is it more impactful to think about ourselves?
Do you find it valuable that so many miracles and parables are recounted in multiple testimonies? Why do you think that is important?
What do you think was going through the minds and hearts of those who were afraid or opposed to Jesus?
Key Moment or Scripture: Luke 13:22-30 ESV
22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” .
I think this is a very misunderstood scripture passage. The question that is asked by the follower is, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” This is a legitimate question, that I think is relevant today. Will lots of people make it or just a few? Jesus then tells a story before answering the question.
He says that we should strive to enter through the narrow door, or strait gate (We believe this to baptism), but then states that many people will enter the gate only to be turned away at the door by the Master of the house. I have always thought, or been taught, that the narrowness of the way is what prevented their entrance. However, in this story, that doesn’t stop them at all, they all find the entrance (we believe that all will have the chance to be baptized), but the Master of the house refuses their entrance.
After talking about how the people will feel who are left out, He finally answers the question by saying that people will come from east and west, from north and south, and recline at the table of the Kingdom of God. From what that means to me, A LOT of people are going to make it and finished by saying the last will be first and the first will be last. So there must be something about the people who are left out that brings this kind of reaction from the Master. It isn’t that they didn’t find the door, it was that they were workers of evil. More importantly it is really a culmination teaching of everything Jesus has been teaching for the past two years. The Sermon on the Mount, the parables, the rebuking of the Pharisees, the teachings about discipleship. We must change our hearts and Love God with all our hearts, but also Love our Neighbor as ourselves. If we think we deserve the Kingdom of God we will find ourselves left out when we approach the door, but if we know we need Jesus then we will likely be welcomed into His embrace.
When Jesus laments how often he would try to gather His people together, but they would not come it really hits me hard and makes me think of my favorite hymn: Come Thou Font of Every Blessing (link below). How easy it is for our hearts to wander away from God, and yet He will always be there to take us back if we will just turn back to Him.