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May 15, 2020

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Bible Gemz 1058 - The Unfinished Parable (Luke 15:1-32)

June 30, 2019

And all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to Him, to hear Him. 

And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, This one receives sinners and eats with them.

And He spoke to them this parable, saying,

Suppose one of you having a hundred sheep, and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety nine in the deserted placeand go after the lost oneuntil he finds it?

And finding it, he puts iton his shoulders, rejoicing.

And coming to the house, he calls together the friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that had been lost.

I say to you that so is joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance.

Suppose a woman has ten drachmas, if she loses one drachma does not light a lamp and sweep the house, and look carefully until she finds it?

And finding it, she calls together the friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I lost.

I say to you, So there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

And He said, A certain man had two sons.

And the younger of them said to the father, Father give me that part of the property falling to me. Andhe divided the inheritance between them.

And not many days after, gathering up all things, the younger son went away to a distant country. And there he wasted his property, living dissolutely.

But having spent all his things, a severe famine came throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

And going, he was joined to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

And he longed to fill his stomach from the husks which the pigs ate, but no one gave to him.

But coming to himself he said, How many servants of my father have plenty of loaves, and I am perishing with famine.

Rising up, I will go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I sinned against Heaven and before you,

and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.

And rising up, he came to his father. But he yet being far away, his father saw him and was moved with pity and he ran andfell on his neck and fervently kissed him.

And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you, and no longer am I worthy to be called your son.

But the father said to his slaves, Bring out the best robe and clothe him, and give a ring for his hand and sandals for hisfeet.

And bring the fattened calf, slaughter and let us eat and rejoice;

for this son of mine was dead, and lived again, and was lost, and was found. And they began to be merry.

But the older son was in the field. And having come, as he drew near to the house, he heard music and dances.

And having called one of the children, he inquired what this may be.

And he said to him, Your brother came, and your father killed the fattened calf, because he received him back in health.

But he was angry and did not desire to go in. Then coming out, his father begged him.

But answering, he said to the father, Behold, so many years I serve you, and I have never transgressed a command of you. And you never gave a goat to me, so that I might be merry with my friends.

But when this son of yours came, the one devouring your living with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.

But he said to him, Child, you are always with me, and all of my things are yours.

But to be merry and to rejoice was right, for this brother of yours was dead, and lived again; he was lost and hewas found.

 (Luke 15:1-32)

 

 

I don’t intend to tie up all the loose ends. It is too complex for that. So if you were expecting a final definitive closing where Ian ties it all together with a bow and presents it all to you, then you had better stop here; that way you won't be disappointed. It is too complex for that. It would require me to go on for another series of Gemz to make all the statements that would be needed to tie off the tapestry. Besides which, what then would be left for you to do? This parable is a masterpiece in story telling from the Master Story Teller Himself. It has such depth to it that it holds my attention every year when I look at it as I read through the Bible year after year. It is simply amazing in its grandeur and in its simplicity. One is left in open-mouthed amazement at the skillful way Jesus has retold the Pharisees favourite story, in answer to their challenge about Him relating to and eating with sinners. 

 

We are still left with two major questions which I have alluded to several times throughout the Gemz covering this parable. Now is the time for me to tie off on these two questions which are:

  1. Why is there no refrain in the Lost Son segment related to calling the friends and neighbours together? 

  2. Why is the parable unfinished?

I laid out the complications of the use of the Greek word [kaleo] for you in Gemz 1054. There are two occasions when Jesus includes the element of calling the friends and neighbours together and saying rejoice with me. [Luke 15:6 and 15:9] but there is no such element in the Lost Son section. One would think that the father would call together the friends and neighbours to celebrate the return of the son. Well, in fact he does, but the repeated element including [sun-kaleo] is not used. Instead we have [pros-kaleo] and [parakaleo] - summon and plead with. The older son summons the youth and the father pleads with the older son. It seems to me that this is a literary technique to highlight the fact that there is no calling together - no togetherness at all. Family relationships are in tension. What will happen? Will the shocks continue or will things return to normalcy? 

 

If things don’t come together as they should, the villagers expect the father to get tough with the petulant older son. But will he? This father is not known for heavy handedness. Instead he pours out love and acceptance on those who don't deserve it. 

 

Watch this space. Watch the continuing episode of this "Family in Crisis".

 

But of course there is not going to be a continuing episode because that is all Luke wrote. No, there is not a missing part to the manuscript. The last segment of Luke 15 hasn't dropped out of the Bible. The simple reason is that Jesus didn’t finish the story. I told you in Gemz 1032 that this parable is like a movie without the ending. The ending has been deliberately omitted. The story hasn't finished. There is still some action to take place. I told you yesterday that Jesus retold the Pharisees favourite story with some hooks or sharp bits in it. In switching the focus to the older son, He is drawing attention to the Pharisees themselves. The crowd of listeners are waiting to hear the closing segment again to cap off the story -"I say to you that there is joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance."Only in this case it might be changed to,"I say to you that there is joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over another sinner who refuses to repent". Is it that the older son has no need of repentance? No,all human kind are in need to repentance.It is just that some think they are more righteous than others. Hence, Jesus crafted the first refrain at the end of the sheep segment in these terms -"than over ninety nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance". Does He really mean there are 99 righteous ones? No, I think He is using "righteous" in this case in an ironic or sarcastic way. The Pharisees certainly think themselves righteous, but in reality that is far from the truth. Hence the older son is painted as being just as guilty as the younger one in taking the inheritance prematurely and staying home under his father's nose as it were. Every day he is a reminder to his father of what he and his brother have done. Yet his father is still willing to forgive him. Oh, the magnitude of the father's grace. 

 

Why is there no closing refrain to the story? Because we are waiting for the final player to repent. The older son. There is no closing refrain to this story because the older brother has not yet repented. One brother has, the other remains aloof and cold, refusing to admit he has done anything wrong. The "older brother" is symbolic of the Pharisees. In fact, as I told you yesterday, that is what they call themselves. The older brothers are unwilling to bow the knee in repentance. They are also unwilling to allow sinners to come back to their Father. They get in the way of the salvation process and make any potential disciples "twice as much a son of hell as they are". They exclude real sinners coming to God and refuse to have anything to do with such people. In so doing they cut themselves off from the very salvation they supposedly offer to others. 

 

In using the link to the sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Jesus is skillfully reminding them that the older brother in that case remained bitter toward his younger brother as long as he lived. So much so that he turned a whole nation against Israel and God had to chastise them. Interesting isn't it, how our own strong sense of injustice can be the very thing that prevents us from softening our hearts. By not closing the story with the refrain we are all waiting for, Jesus is making it clear that the ball is in the Pharisee's court. What will they do? Will they repent or will they continue to harbour their grudges, their sense of pride, to the detriment of their own souls? 

 

What will they do?

What will you do?

The story is unfinished; the ball is in your court. 

 

There is much more to be said but I will leave you to say it. I would suggest you take the time now to go back over the Gemz I have offered you on "this parable", 1029 to 1058 and reread them. Then having all the pieces clearly in your mind, read back through the parable. Take your time and let the Holy Spirit speak to you as you sift through it all again and put the pieces in perspective. Let Him speak to you about your relationships, if you dare. To enable you to do that I will give you time to do so. The timing of this is fortuitous. Therefore, you have some time to ponder on these things and treasure them in your heart. I am sorry that my coverage of "this parable" has been rather interrupted, by travel, Christmas, two computer crashes and now ministry time away. But it does give you a chance to assimilate this and make it yours. I usually do this kind of thing at the end of a biblical book for you to consolidate your understanding. But because this is a significant section with lots to say to us, I will take a break here and pick up the Gemz again when I come back and as we start Luke 16.

 

If by chance you don't wish to delve into the prodigal parable in any more depth, thinking you know already all it has to offer, then spend some time looking for the sense unit in what follows (Luke 16:1 ff). Don't forget to keep the big picture in mind as well. Happy hunting. 

 

I would love to hear from you if you have any insights or flashes of inspiration you wish to share with me on this parable. I deliberately have not highlighted any of these Gemz on Luke 15 but have hidden them. They are for those who have a mind to dig for the answer. That is what remez and midrash are all about. Jesus spoke (and still speaks) in parables to hide deeper truth from the uncommitted.    

 

 

You'll ultimately loose what you don't understand. Jeffrey Rachmat

 

Its faith first and last; It’s grace always and forever. Ian

 

Until you know how God feels about you, you'll know neither your worth as an individual nor your life's purpose. Ian

 

We are significant, not because of what we do, but because of whose we are. Max Lucado

 

His mercies are new this morning. And since they are, so are you. Go forth in grace, not guilt. Max Lucado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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