New Testament Week 18: “Lord, Increase our Faith” – Luke 12-17, John 11

A number of things that are contained in the Luke chapters of this week’s readings have been discussed in previous posts. However, some of the most famous parables are contained in these chapters as well. The teachings in these chapters most likely happened in Galilee or on the Savior’s journey to Judea during the Feast of the Tabernacles.

The format for this week’s story section will be discussing the new teachings contained in Luke, as well as a focus on the parables. We will conclude with Jesus’s greatest miracle, and its consequences, when He raises Lazarus from the dead.

Also, I will not be doing the question section this week, as I have ended each parable discussion with questions we can ask ourselves about our discipleship.

CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 18 – Luke 12-17, John 11

Focus:
– In order for faith to be increased we must embrace the cost of discipleship.

– We all get lost, it is a crucial part of life’s journey, and being found is the source of some of our greatest joys.

– Resurrection is necessary for our faith in Christ to have true trans-formative power.

Context and Timeline:
– Parable – a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease the mind into active thought.

– There are repeats in the Luke chapters on the cost of discipleship. It is imperative that we let those challenges sit in our mind when we are trying to become close to the Savior.

– A rabbi would have been expected to settle disputes.

– A steward was usually a slave that was entrusted with the management of the estate. If the master of the estate did not live at the estate it was common, and even expected, that the stewards make money for themselves and even multiply their wealth.

– When reading Luke chapter 15, read the three lost parables as a conversation the Savior is having with the Pharisees, in fact read it out loud.

– Riotous living is better translated as excessive living. This is important because instead of the lost son’s living being immoral because he was doing immoral things, it is more likely the Lord meant it was immoral for him to waste and live in excess. I think this tells us how important using our resources is when it comes to morality.

– Offenses is more accurately translated as stumbling blocks.

– Signs of Jesus Divinity – There are seven signs of John and last week we studied the 6th and this week the 7th:

1. Changing water into wine – John 2:1-11
2. Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
3. Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-15
4. Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
5. Jesus walking on water in John 6:16-24
6. Healing the man blind from birth in John 9:1-7
7. The raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

– There is an interesting thing that is often overlooked about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Unlike most of Jesus’s disciples, they were not asked to leave their lives behind and follow Him. They were very influential in Jewish society and they serve as an important base camp for Jesus.

– Nations of the world is more accurately translated as Gentiles.

– When looking at a map, Bethany would have been east of Jerusalem, but west of Jericho on the road to Jericho. Bethany can also be translated as the House of the Poor and was a place where many sick, and poor people were gathered.

– Caiaphas is the son in law of Annas and was made High Priest after Annas was removed from the High Priest position in 18 AD. This was important as the significant business interest that came with the High Priest stayed in the Annas family. The fact that Caiaphas became involved in the conversations about Jesus indicates that the situation was getting serious in the mind’s of the Sanhedrin.

Story:
We will begin with 4 primary teachings contained in the Luke that build upon our focus of discipleship:

  • Be Watchful (Luke 12:35-48)
    • Faithful disciples are always ready for the Lord to come, they are constantly seeking to be prepared. Whether things are good, bad, or indifferent.
    • Where the Lord gives us knowledge, responsibility, or experience much more is required from us.
      • Our current society is pushing off the need for moral responsibility, and instead only focusing on our individuality. However, on top of the need for us to be ourselves, the Lord requires us to continue on the path of becoming our best selves.
  • Humility (Luke 14:7-14)
    • Whomever exalts himself will be humbled, but whomever humbles himself will be exalted. We must seek to humble ourselves at all times.
    • When seeking to enjoy our life and resources, make sure to invite those who cannot repay you in kind, so they can also benefit from the resources we are blessed with.
  • Unprofitable Servants (Luke 17:1-10)
    • It is impossible to go through life without having stumbling blocks, either caused by others, or us causing them for others.
      • We must forgive others for this reason, and in return we can be forgiven.
    • If we want to increase our faith, then we must understand that doing the basic things required still leaves us as unprofitable servants.
      • Faith is therefore increased by finding greater ways to serve the Lord, and different ways to connect with Him.
  • Kingdom of God is Within Us (Luke 17:20-37
    • Jesus teaches a powerful lesson here that the Kingdom of God is inside of each of us. It cannot be found from external things.
      • He teaches that prosperity accompanied so many different people in advance of their destruction, and that is because the Kingdom of God was not within their hearts, but other things were their treasure.
      • We do not know when the Savior will come again, but we do know that there will be many distractions in the world around us, many that are good, that will challenge us to keep the Kingdom of God in our hearts.
    • Having the Kingdom of God in our hearts is the key to happiness, but also the key to our salvation.

In addition to the direct teachings of Jesus, there are several parables that also teach us about our discipleship that I think would be good for us to dig into:

  • Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)
    • A man accumulates so much wealth that he has no room to store it, so he builds greater storage. Then the man dies, and Jesus asks who has possession of the wealth now?
      • The man is a fool, not because he is wealthy, but because of how he views his wealth and how he uses it.
      • How should we view and use our temporal resources?
  • Wedding Feast (Luke 14:15-24)
    • A master invites his friends to a wedding feast and those who are invited give a litany of excuses to not attend. The bridegroom then sends his servant out to gather all the poor, sick, and despised to attend the wedding. When these people arrive there is more room, but instead of gathering those invited, he again sends the servant to gather anyone else who will attend.
      • Those who are invited are clearly those who could be disciples, but let’s look at their excuses:
        • Purchased a Field
          • Indicates taking on a new intense responsibility – the field would need to produce to be worth the purchase.
        • Purchased Five Oxen
          • Indicates taking on a new less intense responsibility – the oxen would have made the work easier that the person was responsible for.
        • Married a Woman
          • Indicates that someone else is above the master’s most important moment.
        • How do these excuses factor into our discipleship and commitment to Jesus Christ?
  • Lost Parables (Luke 15)
    • Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin
      • Jesus explains, quite plainly, that if a person has multiple possessions and loses one, that they will seek as hard as needed to find the one possession lost. In addition, when found, the joy that will come will be the greatest kind of joy.
        • What does this say about how Jesus looks at each of us?
        • What does this say about how we should look at each other?
    • Lost Sons
      • One son asks for his inheritance early and leaves his family, only to waste away his inheritance in an excessive lifestyle. At some point after he wasted everything a famine hit the land and he could no longer survive. He became a servant for pig farmer and we desperate to even eat what the pigs were eating. Eventually, he decided it would be better to humble himself and return to his father. At least with his father, he could be a servant and survive. However, as he came close to his home, his father ran to meet and embrace him. The son offers to be a servant, but the father exclaims that they will celebrate the son’s return and the son will have his place with his father.
        • Why is the moment when the first son humbles himself and is willing to admit his mistake so important in his journey?
        • How does his willingness to be the lowest of low in his father’s house impact his final status in his father’s house?
        • There is not a better picture in my mind of returning to heaven than the visual of the son being embraced by his running father in the middle of a road.
      • The second son also receives his inheritance at the same time as the lost son. However, this son serves his father the entire time. When he sees his brother return and celebrated, he is angry and refuses to join the party. His father comes to him and seeks for him to participate. The son then complains that despite serving his father like a slave all these years, he never had a party thrown for him. He also exaggerates his brother’s actions to include prostitution when comparing their behavior. The father responds that it is the right things to do in celebrating the return of a lost son; one who was dead and now alive, lost and now found.
        • Why does the son feel so angry at the celebration of his brother’s return?
        • What does it say about the son when he compares his service to slavery?
        • Why is it so tempting to compare our sins to other’s sins?
        • In the story the father is still compassionate to this son despite his anger yet pleading for him to forgive and embrace the lost being found.
      • Why is the parable so popular, and what can we learn from it?
  • Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13)
    • A master has realized that his steward has been mismanaging his business affairs. The steward is afraid for his situation after being fired and decides to act in his best interest. He goes to the master’s debtors and agrees that they can pay less now than they owe. This helps the debtors and makes him some friends for after he leaves the masters service. The steward also convinces the master that he was acting in his best interest and is commended.
    • Jesus goes on to explain that being faithful in little things is an indicator of faithfulness in most things, while being dishonest in little things indicates dishonesty in larger things. If we cannot be trusted in the stewardship over temporal riches, then how can we be trusted with spiritual riches.
      • Our stewardship in life is a test for our eternal stewardship.
      • In what ways can we apply this parable to how we treat each other? in our business relationships?
  • Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
    • A rich man lived a lavish lifestyle and just outside his gates was a poor man named Lazarus, who was diseased and starved. They both died, but the rich man found himself in the torment of hell, while Lazarus found himself in the arms of Abraham. The rich man begged for Lazarus to be allowed to cool his torment, but Abraham informed him that the gulf between them prevented interaction. Seeing his fate was set, the rich man begged to be able to warn his rich family, but Abraham informs him that they have the prophets and their words as a warning. If they will not hear those words, then the return of a dead man will do nothing either.
      • Three points of importance are found in this parable:
        1. The rich man who ignored the plight of the poor man went to hell.
        2. The decisions of the rich man in life had eternal consequences.
        3. The words of the prophets, and of Jesus Christ, are a warning to us that we must help and love each other in addition to following the prophets.
      • Some believe that the poor man represents Lazarus whom Jesus will raise from the dead, and Caiaphas is the rich man.
      • What can this parable teach us about our choices when we have the words of the prophets?

To finish up the story this week, we will jump into the brief narrative portion of the chapters. Jesus has been teaching on his journey to Jerusalem. In one of the villages he heals 10 lepers, but only one of the lepers declares gratitude for the healing. Not coincidentally, the only leper to declare gratitude was a Samaritan. Jesus continues on his journey, and as we have already recounted sets up camp in Bethany.

In John’s chapter we are told the story of Lazarus. While in Jerusalem, probably still in the winter, Jesus is informed that Lazarus is sick and may die. Jesus knows that Lazarus will die and so he continues to minister for a few days before returning to Bethany.

It was very dangerous for Jesus to return to Bethany, as the Jews who had recently tried to kill Him and were seeking His arrest, were also going to be at Lazarus home to pay respects to the influential family. Upon arrival Lazarus had been dead for four days. The tradition among the Jews was that the spirits of the dead remained near the body for three days after death, and this would mean that to everyone there Lazarus was truly dead.

When Martha sees the Savior, she is distraught, her faith has been tried to the breaking point, and yet she asks the Lord for help with whatever faith she has left. He lets her know that Lazarus will rise from the dead, to which she responds with her faith that Lazarus will rise again in the future and declares her faith that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all humankind, but she is likely not expecting anything to happen to Lazarus at this point in time.

Eventually Mary comes to Jesus on his journey to the tomb of Lazarus and declares regretfully that if Jesus would have been there Lazarus would have been healed. The Jews that are with Mary also complain that if He had been there, He might have healed Lazarus. Jesus weeps as He prepares himself to perform His greatest of miracles, but also because he loved Lazarus so much.

When Jesus arrives at the tomb, He demands that the stone be removed from the tomb. Martha is aghast and says that the tomb will stink since Lazarus has been dead for four days already. The Lord reminds her of the declaration she made of her faith and then prays to the Lord for confirmation of His actions. He thanks God audibly so the crowd will know that His power comes from God and then commands Lazarus to come out of the tomb.

It is impossible to imagine how being present for this miracle would have felt, but we know that this was the fulcrum of Jesus’s ministry. This is when those on the fence finally believed in Him, and when those who were seeking His demise found the nerve to finally put an end to His life.

Many of those most loyal to Caiaphas reported the truth of this miracle to him and Caiaphas quickly realized the impact this miracle would have. It would be impossible for many people to refute the Messianic nature of Christ. Jesus would obtain the power of the people and that would threaten Caiaphas’s place with the Romans. He justifies his plan to kill Jesus as a means of protecting the people from the Romans, who he believes will surely wipe the Jews out if Jesus takes control of the people.

From this point forward, the plan for Jesus’s murder was moving forward and so Jesus did not openly preach again until the final week of His ministry.

Key Moment or Scripture: Luke 17:5-10
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Will any one of you who has a servant[a] plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 
Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly,[b] and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 
Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 
10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants;[c] we have only done what was our duty.’”

When I was a missionary, I remember my mission president teaching us about this section of scripture. As I wrote a few weeks ago about the need to keep going forward despite our unbelief I was thinking in the back of my mind about the upcoming opportunity to talk about increasing our faith.

The Lord is challenging the disciples at this point. He is basically saying that if we just do the things that are basically expected, the things that we are used to doing, that our faith cannot increase. Doing our duty, especially the things that come easy to us because of the environments we have built to protect us, are not going to increase our faith. We must be challenged, we must challenge ourselves, and more importantly, we cannot congratulate ourselves for doing what comes easy to us in the gospel. I think this scripture gives us a useful list of ideas that can help us to increase our faith.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. ” Ether 12:27

1. Recognizing our weaknesses instead of congratulating our righteousness.
2. Bringing our weaknesses to the Lord instead of beating ourselves up that we have weaknesses.
3. Grace from Jesus Christ is sufficient for ALL people, not just some people
4. Let our weaknesses be open and then work on them and then ask God for help.
5. With time and patience our faith will grow, and our weakness will get stronger. The time is important because our expectations and the weird pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect can thwart this process.

Our faith can be increased, but it requires patience, humility, and openness that we aren’t perfect and that we all need help.

Final Thoughts:
Next week will be the final chapters we will discuss before the final week of Jesus Christ’s mortal life. I think it is important that we all think about our journey these first 4 months of the year and how we feel our relationship with Jesus Christ and His life have improved. I hope these posts are helpful to you as they have been so beneficial for me and my family.