Passion Week – Tuesday – Olivet Discourse

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian (pentru tot articolul).

Saptamana Mare – Ce s-a intamplat Marti.
~~~In drum inapoi spre Ierusalim, ucenicii vad ca smochinul blestemat s-a uscat. (Matei 21 si Marcu 11)
~~~Autoritatea lui Isus este contestata de preoti la Templu
~~~Matei 22
Pilde care ne invata despre venirea Domnului
~~~Matei 23
Vai de voi cărturari şi farisei ipocriţi!
~~~Olivet discourse – Isus invata pe Muntele Maslinilor
Luca 21 & Matei 25 vorbeste despre revenirea Lui
Pilda fecioarelor, pilda talantilor, si judecata finala

  1. On the way back to Jerusalem in the morning the disciples see the withered fig tree.
  2. In Jerusalem there are more temple controversies, and then Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse on the return back to Bethany.

„Olivet Discourse” is a name given to 4 special chapters in the Bible. It includes Matthew 24th-25th, Mark 13th and Luke 21st chapters. In all of these chapters Jesus speaks about the „End-Times” which will come upon humanity. Jesus gave these messages to the apostles while they were upon the Mount of Olives, hence the name: Olivet Discourse.

A study by Hampton Keathley IV at Bible.org

Introduction

You must be aware that these are probably the most debated parables in the Bible. Many of the books and journal articles and articles on the internet that I read said all the characters in these parables were believers. Instead of seeing that these are parables about salvation, they see them as parables about rewards or loss of rewards. It is the same argument that we dealt with a few weeks ago in our discussion of the marriage feast and the outer darkness.

Because of the context and because the punishment for the unfaithful is so severe, I see them as all dealing with salvation issues. But rewards are also taught.

These are extremely difficult parables to interpret. I’m tempted to just tell you what I think they mean and ignore all the other views, but I think it is good for you to hear the other interpretations and do your own wrestling with the details.

Context of Matthew 25

Olivet discourse – events of tribulation leading up to 2nd coming.

In Matt 24:36 Jesus begins to answer the question of when He will be returning.

It will be just like in Noah’s day when people didn’t believe Noah and were surprised when it started raining. In the same way, even when people are in the tribulation, experiencing the wrath of God, many are still not going to believe.

So, the when it says „two will be in the field, and one will be taken…” the one taken will be taken to judgment. And the appearance of the thief in the next section is to judge the unbelieving. They didn’t believe the thief was coming. They didn’t believe that God was coming to hold them accountable.

I think that this theme of judging the unbelieving is continued in these next four parables. Although the text doesn’t use the word believe, those that get judged all have actions that indicate they didn’t believe. And their judgment is severe: they get cut to pieces, locked outside, sent to the outer darkness, etc.

And in each parable those who are judged are contrasted to others who not only believed, but were prepared, faithful, fruitful, etc. And those got rewarded for their faithfulness.

We talked about it a couple weeks ago, but this is what some call „Matthew’s rejection imagery.” He always mixes rewards for some with eternal damnation for others, like it all happens at the same event. It sort of makes you wonder if perhaps it does? But then that would make us amillennial or something like that.

Anyway, I want to give you the plot up front. Because I’m going to be discussing other views mixed with my views (notice I didn’t say „the correct view”), I think it might be helpful to have the „Big Idea” in your heads as we study the parables.

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to go ahead and live our lives but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute. Because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone.

Wise and Evil Slaves contrasted

Matthew 24:45-51 also in Luke 12:41-48

Some say because these are slaves, they are both saved. And some say that there is only one slave in the parable. The slave starts off being faithful, but then changes later in life and becomes an unfaithful, evil slave. Dillow makes a big deal out of the word „that” in vs 48 saying that it proves that this is the same slave. And since the slave was once very faithful, he must now just be carnal. Since he was saved, he still is saved, but just carnal or unfaithful, he does not go to hell. He just loses rewards and is very sad.

But, concerning the idea that „since they are both slaves, they are both saved” – In all of Jesus’ parables he contrasts two or three people with the same social status. How else is he going to create tension and contrast? He always uses slaves and sons because God is the Master of all. Slaves and sons are the natural examples to represent this relationship between God and man. The idea behind all these parables is that humans have an equal opportunity to respond, believe, etc. Some do, and some don’t. And here’s what’s going to happen to them.

Concerning the idea that this is one slave who changes. The phrase „if that slave” does refer back to this hypothetical slave. This is not a story about a slave who later in life started backsliding. Jesus is just giving an example.

Jesus is saying: Let’s take a slave… If that slave does this… he will be rewarded. However, if that slave does this… he will be cut into pieces.

He is a wise slave if he believes and anticipates master’s return and faithfully carries out the master’s orders. If he does this, he will be rewarded.

He is an evil slave if he doesn’t believe his master will return.

If the slave takes no note of the coming return and deludes himself into thinking either it will never happen or that he will have time to reform, he will be severely punished. It says he will be cut to pieces.

I believe “cut off” may be a better translation because in Qumran literature this word is used for excommunication and being cut off from the rest of the group. And I think the idea of separation fits better with the context – the punishment that all the bad guys receive in this string of parables is separation from God. Either way, it is severe punishment. Perhaps too severe for a believer?

Application:

This represents a universal principle. If a person doesn’t really believe that there is a God who will hold them accountable when they die, they aren’t very likely to feel a need to “trust” in God or obey his commandments.

I’ve also heard of people who believed that there was a God and he would hold them accountable, but they didn’t want to change their lifestyle and figured they would just „get religion” later. This parable speaks to them too. You never know when God will return or if you will die in a car wreck tomorrow.

We also see the result is a lifestyle that is abusive (beat his fellow slaves) and destructive (eat and drink with drunkards.)

Speaking of „beating his fellow slaves.” Some say because he beat his fellow slaves then he must be saved because they were his fellow slaves. My question is „who else is a slave going to beat?” Free men? If he is going to be abusive to his fellow man, it has got to be another slave. We can’t read into this „a salvation relationship with God” because of his association with other slaves. Just like we can’t read into the passage that because we have two slaves, we have two saved people in view.

Ten Virgins

This is a much debated parable. No one can agree what anything means.

“Virgins” – Some say that they are called “virgins” to emphasize their purity and that this means all ten were Christians (Dillow). Most say they represent people in the tribulation.

“Lamps” People argue whether these were little bowl lamps or torches. Then they argue about what the lamps represent. Some think the lamps and their light represent knowledge. Stedman says the ladies each had light to start with. Which would equate to people having a certain degree of knowledge about the Lord’s return. But for five of them, that knowledge was just academic. It really hadn’t gripped them.

Others think the lamps represents works which are the believer’s „light” or testimony to the world.

The light was supplied by the oil, and therefore it was absolutely essential that they have an adequate supply of oil, otherwise their light would go out. So what does the oil represent.

“Oil” – Some say it is the Holy Spirit (Walvoord, Stedman), some say it is works, others say it is faith.

Here is an example of the type of reasoning you run across when reading the commentators.

In verse 3 we have one of the major interpretive problems of the parable. What does the olive-oil represent? There is a quick answer that suggest that the olive-oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. However that interpretation must be resisted because the Holy Spirit is a gift and cannot be bought. The instructions to go and buy some more would make no sense at all in the case of the Holy Spirit. I think the answer must be found in seeing that the oil is only important when it is set on fire. In other words when it is giving light. The symbol of light rather than oil helps us because then we realize that Jesus is talking about the good works of the believer which he/she does before men which constitutes them the light of the world. The foolish virgins had no oil therefore they had no works with which to greet the bride-groom.1

His argument against this being the Holy Spirit because you can’t buy the Holy Spirit doesn’t make any sense. You can’t buy works or faith either. So that is no argument. It is a good example of one’s conclusion driving his reasons. When I come across a paragraph like that, it makes me want to stop reading the rest of the paper because I question the validity of any of his arguments.

If you think the oil is works, then you have to decide if the five foolish ladies were saved or not. If they were not saved, then the lack of works proved that they were not saved (lordship view). And not getting into the banquet is the same as not getting into heaven.

If you think the ladies were saved, then you will say that the ladies didn’t get any rewards. And that the banquet represents rewards or reigning with Christ (Free Grace view).

Some say that the foolish virgins had oil to start with (Dillow) and so had faith and so were saved. But others argue that that is not necessarily so (Walvoord). It says they rose, trimmed their lamps and lit them. But since they did not have oil in them, they immediately went out. So, it is more probable that they didn’t have any oil to start with.

What do I think?

Because this parable starts off with “the kingdom of heaven is like…” I think it is a salvation parable. Matthew uses this phrase eleven times and in the other parables where this phrase is used, the parables are about salvation and getting into the kingdom of heaven. Maybe I should say that out of these eleven parables. They are clearly about salvation or debated. None are clearly not about salvation.

The term virgins is not significant. The idea is just that they were young unmarried ladies. The term “virgin” was often used that way. Perhaps bridesmaids would be a better term.

Five are prepared – have their own oil. Five are unprepared – couldn’t borrow oil. I think that the symbolism is that you can’t get into heaven with someone else’s faith.

Banquet imagery to an Israelite is a reference to kingdom with God and His bride, Israel. This is not the Bema and wedding feast with Christ and Church. Remember the context is judgment at the 2nd coming, not the rapture.

The five were left outside (never made it in banquet hall as in Matt 22). So if you go to Matt 22 and make a big deal about the fact that the guy without wedding clothes made it into the banquet and was therefore saved, then those that argue that the virgins are saved (to be consistent with their interpretation of Matt 22) have to reconcile the fact that here they didn’t get in.

The Lord didn’t know them – cf. Matt 7:21 which is the same statement and those clearly do not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Once the door was closed, it was too late to enter. Those who are shut out miss not simply a fine meal, but also the kingdom itself. Similar imagery to Luke 13:22–29 which talks about the narrow door, not being known by the Lord, banquet imagery and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Application:

Where the last parable taught that the Lord could return sooner than expected, this one teaches that there may be quite a delay before the Lord returns. We know that in fact there has been. It’s been almost 2,000 years so far. Both the wise and foolish virgins slept. But they are not condemned for it. Perhaps the point is that we need to go ahead and live our lives. Not sell everything and go wait on the mountain top for the Lord’s return.The main point of the parable is that even if it might be a long time before the Lord returns, don’t wait until the last minute to get prepared, because you never know when that last minute will be and you may miss out.

And I think preparation is faith.

Talents

Another Kingdom of heaven is like parable – “it is like” refers back to 25:1 – Some try to say this is different because 25:14 doesn’t say “kingdom,” but the “it” has to have an antecedent. What else are you going to link the “it” to?

Big debate is whether or not the slaves represent saved people or not. Some try to argue that since they were all slaves, they were all saved. We’ve already dealt with that assumption.

But, there is a big contrast going on between the first two slaves and the third slave. The third slave did not know the master. He thought he understood what was required of him, but he was wrong. Maybe it is like the person who thinks he will get into heaven for being mostly good.

When confronted by the master, this wicked slave argued beligerantly and attempted to make his laziness a necessity and a virtue. By defaming the master, portraying him as one who enriched himself by exploiting others, he attempted to excuse his own actions. When I read his response, my thought is this: There may be shame at the Bema seat when Christ reveals our deeds, but not defiance. Does this sound like a Christian at the Bema seat? Does it sound like he “knows” the Master? Therefore, I have difficulty thinking that this third slave is saved.

This man seems to have given in to some cunning reasoning. It is much like the thinking of Judas Iscariot when he sold his Lord. Judas reasoned, if He is really the Messiah, my betrayal will not hurt anything and I will get my money from the High Priest. If He is not the Messiah, then at least I get the money. This one-talent man reasoned somewhat the same way. His lord was going on a far journey. If the servant put the money in the bank, he would have to register it in his lord’s name. Then when his lord did not come back, his heirs could claim it. He reasoned, however, that if be buried it in the backyard, there would be no record. If his master did not come back, the servant would have it for himself. If he does come back, he could not accuse him of dishonesty because he could produce the talent. It was a cunning that was built upon uncertainty that the Lord was returning. He just did not believe that his lord was coming back. If he had, he would have handled the money differently. This is what the lord meant when be said that he was a wicked servant.2

The mixture of rewards and judgment – fits Matthew’s rejection imagery. He usually globs these together like an OT prophet did when looking at the 1st and 2nd advents of Christ. Also, the Bible talks about rewards and loss of rewards (1 Cor 3:15) at Bema, not rewards and judgment. So, I think we must be careful not to say that, because some got rewards, we are at the Bema and all were saved, and the third guy just lost rewards. I think his punishment is too severe.

The description of the servant’s attitude suggests something qualitatively different from the other two servants found faithful. There is a definite contrast going on here. The works are indicative of the relationship with the master. The third slave had no works which in the gospels is the same as having no faith.

Free grace people balk at this statement because Lordship people think the logical conclusion is that one has to have good works to prove that he is saved. In the gospels we do have statements like when Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say?” But when we read Paul we get in to issues such as carnality, getting to heaven as though through fire, etc. So we know that works don’t always follow. But when we are dealing with parables, we need to let them use their terminology.

Sheep and Goats

We see the Son of Man coming in glory with his angels. This is the second coming, not the rapture.

Judgment results in entrance to heaven or being sent to hell.

The rejection of the goats was not based on what they did, but on what they failed to do. It was a sin of omission toward “the least of these” (cf. the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31). God abhors not simply the performing of sinful acts but also the omission of deeds. Failure to do good is in fact to do evil. In addition the free gift of grace (as represented in Matt 20:1–16) has to be reconciled with the role of works (as here in 25:31–46 {Matt 25}). The works are the fruit that demonstrates the reality of the conversion of one’s heart. The love shown by these deeds of mercy springs from true faith. As Walvoord affirms, “What is presented here is not the basis or ground of salvation but the evidence of it…. Accordingly, while works are not the ground of justification for salvation, they can be the fruit or evidence of it.”

Since our section started off with judgment resulting in hell and Since it is clear from this parable that they are judged by their works and sent to hell for not having the works – which represent faith – why do people have such a difficult time believing that the parables in between say the same basic thing?

Summary

In summary several points are worth highlighting.

First, in each parable the judgment occurs at the consummation of this age. While the timing of that event is unknown, each follower is to be ready for and anticipate the coming kingdom.

Second, the essential nature of the judgment is soteriological. The judgment will render decisions that are eternal in nature, reflecting the status of each human being with regard to his or her eternal relationship to the kingdom. Phrases such as “the darkness outside,” the “fiery furnace,” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” describe eternal separation from the kingdom. They are not simply expressions of grief over a Christian life that did not count for much in the kingdom, for they are figures and phrases representing an eternal exclusion from the presence of God. With this in view, it has been suggested that salvation in these parables is viewed as a “whole,” not simply as a point of entry. The “sons of the kingdom” and the “sons of the evil one” (Matt 13:38) are on opposite sides of the soteriological divide. There is no room for purgatory, universalism, or a view that some may miss the heavenly “banquet” while yet retaining a right to entry into the kingdom (i.e. “salvation,” in Pauline terms). Those who are rejected are permanently excluded.

Third, the basis for this eternal judgment is the individual’s works. In some cases the emphasis is on faithfulness to a job assigned: perhaps in a picture of preparation for an event, or a picture of the fruit of the believer. But however it was pictured, works were the key to the judgment.

What complicates the problem is that the decision for rejection or acceptance is presented as a soteriological decision based on these works. Such a judgment is highlighted by the parables of the Wheat and the Tares (perhaps along with the Narrow Door and the Virgins) in which those who appear to fit into the proper categories do not do so (even when they think they do) since they were not properly prepared for the kingdom. Perhaps the clearest example is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, in which eternal life and eternal perdition are the options meted out based on how people treated the followers of the Son of Man.

Works are not separated from the faith one exercises for entrance to the kingdom for works are evidence of that faith. A true change of heart will be reflected in a person’s life. A lack of that change is apparently enough to prevent entrance into the eschatological kingdom (the goats are prohibited from entrance because of their actions while the sheep are given entrance because of their works); but works are never ultimately separated from the faith of the individual, for it was also shown that works are not in themselves enough to impress the Son of Man positively in His role as judge (cf. Matt 7:21–23).

Paul wrote with different emphases in mind, focusing clearly on the entrance requirements into salvation, namely, justification by faith. While the Synoptics support the role of faith in establishing one’s relationship with God (usually in phrases such as “repent and believe the gospel”), they tend to emphasize the whole life of faith for the believer. In other words the life of a follower of Jesus is to be a constant exercise of faith in order to obey and please God. Paul clearly recognized this same truth, for he knew that something started by faith cannot be perfected by works (the burden of Galatians).

Conclusion

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to be go ahead and live our lives (sleep like the virgins did) but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute (like the faithful servant did), because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone (parable of talents).

c

Reclame

D.A. Carson – Adams Lecture Series: Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables? Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35 Part 1

Part 1 February 11, 2014 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. D A Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

D A CarsonD A Carson: Why does Jesus tell stories? Why the narrative parables? Well, it’s easy enough to list some wrong answers, or at least, reductionistic answers.

  1. Jesus used them as illustrations. He was a good homilitician; so He’d make a point, then He would illustrate it,  tell a story. But then, you have a hard job understanding [Matthew] chapter 13:11-12. „Why do you speak to the people in parables?” the disciples ask in verse 10. And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. (verse 11) 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables. In this passage it doesn’t seem like parables are used for illustrative purposes, to make things clearer.
  2. Others say He told parables because He favors the enigmatic, the thought provoking, the open ended, rather than truths and propositions. And so, some who take this stance look at verse 34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
    “I will open my mouth in parables;
    I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” [so some will say,]”And so, if we are going to preach effectively today, then we should tell stories, in order so be enigmatic. Away with this tough propositional down the line thunder from heaven stuff. Tell stories!”

The ways in which Jesus speaks:

  • But, although Jesus can certainly be enigmatic, and He can tell stories in order to illustrate something, yet He also preaches in other genres.
  • He preaches with wisdom type utterances, where „it’s either this or that”. There are two ways, one that is broad and  large and leads to distruction. Another that is narrow and leads to life. There are 2 kinds of trees, one that produces good fruit, one that produces bad fruit. And so on. These are wisdom type structured.
  • Moreover, He can preach in apocalyptic type categories.
  • He can use provers.
  • He can use extended discourse
  • Lament
  • Exposition of Old Testament texts
  • Non-narritival extended  metaphors, as in John 10 and the shepherd, John 15m the vine.
  • Dialogue
  • Provocative questions

So whatever [Matthew] 13:34 means, it does not mean that the only way He preached was using parables. All you have to do is read the New testament to discover that’s  not true. When He says He did not say anything to them when using a parable, what it means is, in the course of His regular preaching, He regularly had parables.

Others say He told parables in order to hide things from the non-elect. After all, we did read verses 11-12, which certainly  sound as if part of the purposes of parables is to hide things. Yes, but then there is verse 34-35. All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.

At this juncture, it seems that parables are disclosing things, not hiding them. So the question is: Why did jesus tell parables? I think there is some element of truth in these  and other answers that could be given, but let me give you two overwhelming reasons why Jesus told parables. Before I do, I am going to read [Matthew] 13:10-17, and then some verses at the end of the chapter:

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Verses 34-35  34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:“I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

52 And he said to them,“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

So then, let me give 2 reasons why Jesus spoke in parables. This is not an exhaustive list:

1. Jesus tells parables because, in line with Scripture, His message blinds, deafens and hardens.

Now, reread verses 10 & 12, and you will see right away that there is a contrast  that is set up. And once the contrast  is set up, then the rest of the passage  is divided into 2 parts. So, verse 10- the question: Why do you speak to people in parables? Then, Jesus divides His answer in 2 parts, setting up a contrast: „Cause the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven has been given unto you,” that’s positive. „But, not to them.” That’s negative. „Whoever has will be given more, they will have in abundance,” that’s positive. „Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them,” that’s negative. And then, the negative is further expounded in verses 13, 14, and 15. And then the positive is expounded in verses 16, 17, and 18. That’s the structure of these verses.

But the negative side, which we’re going to focus on first, verses 13, 14, and 15  is largely cast, in terms of quotations from Isaiah 6. In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
The very foundations shake and Isaiah testifies that he is a lost man. In the previous chapters he’s pronouncing the woes of God, the condemnations of God against corruption and greed, and idolatry, against evil and all of its forms. Against drunkenness and debauchery, and lack of faith. „Woe to you, woe to you,” and now, he sees God and he says, „Woe to me, I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King.” „THE KING”, not the king who just died, King Uzziah, „My eyes have seen the KING, the Lord Almighty.” One of the seraphim takes a live coal from the altar, touches Isaiah’s lips, after all, he’s said he’s a man of unclean lips. Now, coal from the altar touches his lips to clean him up, as if to say: It takes the sacrifice that God has ordained to clean you up. And the angel said, „ “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And the, for the first time in this chapter, God speaks. Its almost as if He’s asking a rhetorical question to the counsels of heaven, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah says, „Here am I, send me.” Don’t misunderstand this. He’s nor saying, „I’m your man, God. Bring it on!” In the context it’s just the opposite. He’s saying, „Excuse me, would I do? Pleaaaaaase? Could you use me?” Away with this arrogance  with which people approach ministry. God says, „Go. This is what you have to do.”

Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

How would you like that preached at your ordination service? And [then], Isaiah says the obvious thing, „I understand there are cycles in preaching, but for how long? When will revival finally come? I mean, I preach faithfully all this time and all of these bad things are happening, when will revival start? How long, Lord? And the answer, in verse 11:

11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant,
and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

„That’s how long. You’ve got a whole life ministry where there is nothing to show  at the end of it except waste and condemnation. That’s your job Isaiah. Go.” And the only spark of hope in the entire chapter is the last two lines.
13like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump. 
When that stump left, the structure of the book of Isaiah is set up again in chapter 11, one of the great passages of hope. „A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse. And now you have a Christological promise that ends in apocalyptical transformation until  the whole world is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and the waters cover the sea.But of course, you would have to remember, that would take place 700 years after his ministry.
And these are the words that Jesus quotes, when He explains what He is doing with His parables, these words from Isaiah. Probably the closest connection in the New Testament is found in John 8:45, Jesus says to some of His opponents, „Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me.”  Note, that’s not a concessive. „Although I tell you the truth, though you do not believe Me.” That would be bad enough.  But He says, with a causal, „Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me.” In other words, it is the truth itself, for some people, that blinds. It is the truth itself that hardens. It is the truth itself  that guarantees unbelief.
If you talk to a culture which is absolutely steadfastly committed to the view that there are many ways to God, and you say the truth, that „There’s only one way to God”, you guarantee their unbelief. You guarantee that they think you’re a bigot. You guarantee that they are convinced that you are narrow minded, right wing and ignorant. It’s the very truth that causes offense, on occasion. Do you see? „Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me.” Thus, it is the faithful preaching of truth itself, which for some people , at some points in history guarantees unbelief.
So what are your options? Tell untruth? Trim the message? In effect, therefore Isaiah is commanded to harden them, not because He is saying, „I want to make you hard,” but because he’s commanded to preach the truth. And if he’s commanded to preach the truth to this particular group, at this particular point in history, then the effect is guaranteed. Namely that they will be hardened and blinded, coarsened and deafened. All he’s gotta do is preach the truth. And Jesus, we’re told, fulfills this text. He fulfills this pattern.
„In them,” verse 14 of Matthew 13 is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, of „hearing, but never understanding, seeing, but never perceiving. 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes.

Of course, Jesus had earlier in Matthew indicated [that] there is a trajectory of unbelief. At the end of the Beatitudes, in Matthew chapter 5:11-12- 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. There is a trajectory of unbelief. And Jesus brings that trajectory to fulfillment. Where Jesus is aware of how some are being blinded by light, He uses more parabolic teaching. That’s what he says in verses 11 & 12. In line with chap 7:6 He knows not to cast His pearls before swine. He is prepared to preach in such a way that they will not get it. That is part of judgment. And after all, that notion is found on occasion in the New Testament as well.

Do you recall what Paul writes to the Thessalonians in the second letter? 2 Thessalonians 2: 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. In other words, God hardens them. They love the lie? They don’t want to be saved? Can’t stand the truth? Then God, therefore, as it were, imposes the final judgment back into time. He sends them a strong delusion so they’re hardened in their delusion.

In other words, one of the reasons why Jesus tells parables is because, in line with Scripture, His message blinds, deafens and hardens. 
2. Jesus tells parables because in line with Scripture, His message reveals things hidden in Scripture. 
Now, focus on verses 34-35. We’ll come back to verses 15-18 in a moment. Once again, we discover Jesus appeals to an Old Testament text.34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.
This is a quotation from Psalm 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old Psalm 78 is one of the psalms called historical psalms. God unpacks, in a psalm, something of Israel’s history. But he does so in such a way, as to make certain points. You see, history is never exhaustive. You can’t possibly explain everything that happened, about anything. It’s inevitably selective. So that you can tell the same story from different perspectives by simply including or excluding certain details. So, it’s possible to tell the story of the civil war from the Northern perspective, and from a Southern perspective. It’s possible to tell the story of the Revolutionary war from the perspective of the Americans; it looks a little different in Britain. And in between there are… I speak now as someone born in Canada, there are the UEL’s, we call themThe United Empire Loyalists, thousands of them who went north of the 49 parallel, because they wanted to remain loyal to the crown. They look at things a little bit differently, too. In fact, some people have done their phd’s on the sermons of the UEL Christians vs. the sermons of the American Christians. And both are claiming Scripture. So, it’s possible to tell the story of America in grandiose and wonderful terms and how the pilgrim fathers came here and wanted freedom and so forth, and they wanted to build a new place where it was safe for the Gospel and to build a light, a city set on a hill. Then you can talk about their sacrifices and the way the 13 colonies grew on the east coast, and eventually moved west and settled. There was commerce and glory, they struggled with England in 1812, but nevertheless settled and yes, there was the shame of slavery, but we did get through that, and now we’ve come out the other side and we should be grateful for the grace of God in this respect, and at least we did eventually do the right thing and besides that, we came to the rescue of Europe, not once, but twice in the 20th century. And so on, and so on, and so on. We prevailed against communism simply by holding the line and being a robust economy until finally they collapsed. It’s all true. It’s wonderfully true.
But then, of course, somebody else could come along and tell a story: They came in here and took over the lands of the Indians and  they said there was freedom for all, but they still had slaves… and tell the whole story and slant it a whole different way. I could tell you similar store from Canada, of which I spring (come from). I can paint a pretty shameful story of what we’ve done to the inuit, the eskimo. I could do the same thing for the British Empire. I could do the same thing for parts of Chinese history. Because every country has some things for which to be proud and some things for which to be deeply ashamed.
So, how will Jews think of Israelite history? On the one hand, you could say, „You know, God chose us. Of all the nations of the earth, He chose us. That’s what Deuteronomy 10:7 says, He chose us because He loved us. He did choose us. And He made Jerusalem to be a city on a hill, too. He promised a great messianic King. He reveals Himself in glory at the tabernacle  that He has established Himself. He gave us a great body of law, the word of God, the books of the law. He gave us a man like Moses, raised up prophets again and again, and again. When we sinned, He rescued us. Yes, He sometime punished us, by sending us into exile, but He restored us back to Himself again and again. We are the people of God. All true.
And then you read Psalm 78. Now the psalmist presents the city of Israel in rather painful terms. They remind you a bit of Stephen’s speech  in Acts 7. That’s another sermon that begins with the history of Israel, but Stephen slants the history to show how often people rejected the revelation that God sent. God sent prophets and God sent the law, God sent various people He raised up to teach the people the way of God and they rejected them again and again, and again. So it’s not too surprising that when He sends the Messiah, they reject the Messiah too. He builds a whole theology that warrants a whole rejection of Messiah by reading Old Testament history.
And there’s something of that going on in Psalm 78. „Don’t you remember your own history?” He says. You look back at your own history, you see how many times people complained and whined and were disgruntled with God in the desert. And as a preface to this psalm, the writer says, „My people hear my teaching, listen to the words of my mouth..” Verse 2 in the NIV has, „I will open my mouth with a parable. I will utter hidden things, things of old.” You start asking: If they’re hidden, why does he go on to say, „Things we have heard and things our ancestors have told us.” If they’re things we have known and our ancestors have told us, why are they hidden things? Things that we have not known. But you see, that’s the way expounding is. Even when you know the data, as it were, the materials are there, there are new lessons that are being brought out. So that, when Steven for example, teaches from the Old Testament, the actual data that he refers to are all known. It’s common ground. It’s the raw data of history, but they’re so configured, that lessons are brought out  that we haven’t thought about at all. You see? ANd that’s what Psalm 78 is doing. It’s an historical Psalm that looks at Israel’s history to bring forth moral lessons, which most Jews at the time of the Psalmist, they’re not ready to hear about themselves. It’s a bit too hot, too privileged. They didn’t see their own history as a massive call for repentance.
And that’s what Jesus does Himself. He takes the Old Testament, and He now says things that have been hidden. Go back to verse 11. Why do you speak in parables? „Because the knowledge of the secret of the kingdom,” the NIV has, some translations have „the mysteries of the kingdom”. What does that mean „the mysteries of the kingdom”? Not the mysterious things of the kingdom. That’s not what mysteries means in the New Testament. The word mystery is used 27 or 28 times, with one variant. And in just about every case, the word mystery refers to that which has been hidden in the past, but is now disclosed. „So, I am going to tell you,” he says, „I’m going to make you understand, the mysteries of the kingdom.” Things that were hidden in the past, that are now disclosed.They’re hidden, but they’re hidden in plain sight. They’re in the text, but they’re hidden and nowI disclose them to you. The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, not to them.
That is, Jesus tells parables now because in line with Scripture, His message reveals things hidden in Scripture. What does this mean? What does this look like? Take a look at the parable of the sower, which is the context in which Jesus says these things. What’s the parable of the sower about? You have to remember that most jews expected that when the Messiah came, He would come with a bang. There would be clear differentiation between the just and the unjust. The kingdom would be established. All you have to do is read the preaching of John the Baptist to see what that would look like. When He comes, He will gather the wheat into barns, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and pass the chaff into unquenchable fire. Matthew 3:11-12. That’s what Jews expected would happen when the kingdom came. And what Jesus says is: The kingdom is a bit like a farmer, who goes out to sow . He scatters seed here, there. Some of it falls on good soil, some of it falls on bad soil, the birds take it away… some places are rocky, shallow, that soil warms up the fastest in the spring, the seed germinates, looks as if it’s gonna be the most promising crop, and then the middle east sun pelts down and the plant keels over and dies. Other seed falls over amongst thorns and  the thorns choke the life out of it. But some seed falls on good ground with various degrees of productivity. That’s what the kingdom is like.
What? I thought it came with a bang. I thought God was gonna clean up the whole mess. You’re just making things confusing. And so, the parable is not understood by the people who are hearing it. And even the christians to be – believers, they don’t understand it as well, though Jesus does carefully unpack it for them in the following verses. How does that come from the Old Testament? But it does. It does. Take a look, for ex., at Daniel 2 -The great vision of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Daniel interprets the dream. The various body parts, then verse 2:34 „While you were watching,” Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar, describing a dream, „a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron , the clay, the bronze, the silver, and gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the sumer. The wind swept away without leaving a trace.” Here’s a vision of the kingdom of God, coming with a bang. And then, in the vision we read, „The rock that struck the statue  grew to become a whole mountain and filled the whole earth.” Now you got growth, not a bang.  But where is the evidence that jews got those bits put together as coming explanations of Christ?
Or, to take an example that’s better known, yet. In Caesarea Philippi (later in Matthew chapter 16), Jesus says, „Who do people say that I am?” Some say this, some say that. So he asks his own apostles, „What do you say?” Peter says, „You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus responds, „You are blessed Simon, son of John, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Great. But, does Peter mean by his confession what you and I mean? Do we confess that Jesus is the Christ? Nope. Because when you and  I confess that Jesus is the Christ, we cannot help but think of Christ crucified. Christ on the cross, dead, buried, risen again, ascended to the Father’s right hand. You see, we cannot help but think of the Father in these holistic categories. But those are not category that Peter understands, because when Jesus then goes on n the context of Matthew 16, to talk about His own impending death, Peter, having scored once theologically thinks to try again. „Never Lord, this shall never happen to you, Messiah’s don’t die, they win. Especially one like you, you can do all these nice miracles. This will never happen to you. You’re wrong on this one, Jesus.” Jesus wheels on him and says, „Get behind me Satan, you do not understand the things of God.” So then, why is Peter told he is blessed because he understands, because he confesses that Jesus is the Messiah? Because, while others are doubting that Jesus is the Davidic Messiah, the promised King, Peter, anointed by God Himself, really does grasp that Jesus is the Messiah, but he doesn’t have all the categories for Messiahship. He doesn’t see that this King must also be the suffering servant. He doesn’t see that this king will reign from a cross. He doesn’t see that. And the proof that he doesn’t see it carries on in the entire Gospel. He and the disciples are in the upper room. He still doesn’t know that the Messiah must die, even though 5 times, in Matthew’s Gospel alone, Jesus has unpacked that He’s the sort of Messiah  who must die and give His life. Well, tell me, is that announced in Scripture? Well, there’s the Passover, there’s Yom Kippur, there are passages like Isaiah 53. There are psalms, like Psalm 69 where the Davidic King is broken and crushed, betrayed by his own familiar friend. But you really cannot find any jews  of Jesus’ generation, before the cross, who simply got it together and believed that Jesus was simultaneously  the Davidic promised triumphant king and the suffering slaughtered  damned servant. But it was there in Scripture. They just hadn’t gotten it together.
One of the reasons Jesus tells parables, He says, is to unpack  this change slowly. In a way analogous  to what the historical psalms do: „I will open my mouth in parables, where you tell stories, compare things with things. I will utter things secret since the creation of the world.” But nevertheless, things  in the context of Psalm 78, your father knew about Isaiah 53,  and could get it together. Which is why when you read on in verse 16 „Blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because you hear, for truly, I tell you, many prophets and righteous people long to see what you see, but did not see it. And to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Even the Old Testament saints could not put all the pieces together, which is why at the end of the chapter, verse 52 „Therefore every teacher of the law, who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house that brings down in the store room new treasures as well. You open the Old Testament Scriptures, and now you’re putting them together in  things you haven’t seen before, they are truly there, but they have not been put together. They’ve been hidden a little bit.
Now, what can we learn from these passages? We could easily spend a half hour unpacking this. Let me summarize.
  1. We should gain wonder in worship where there is a fresh grasp about how God has put the Bible together. I have my professors here and they’re all trying to get me to read the Old Testament is a Christological way, and I see it, I’m beginning to understand what typology  is and I’m beginning to understand what the trajectories are that run from the New Testament to the Old Testament and all , but I don’t wanna be blasphemous or anything, but couldn’t God have done it a little more simply? Why not be just a bit more straightforward? God in His great wisdom reveals so very much, but he shadows and types and structures, and you don’t really get them all together until after the events and those with eyes to see look back and say, „Spectacular. Here is the mind of our God. First thing is wonder in worship where there is a fresh grasp about how God has put the Bible together.
  2. We should gain gratitude in humility, for the gift of seeing the truth about Jesus and His Gospel, because so many people do not see it. That’s a gift.
  3. We should gain discretion in witness where there is a hostile environment. For we, too, understand as I understood, as Jesus understood, as Paul understood that sometimes the environment is so hostile, that you must approach these things with a certain kind of discretion, understanding that the truth itself can blind and harden, and deafen, as well as reveal.

At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

D.A. Carson – Adams Lecture Series: Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables? – Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35 from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

The Parables of Jesus Christ

Here is a handy list of all the parables that are actually named ‘Parables’ in the New testament by the Gospel writer. photo via http://thechurchsite.net/ For a complete list of Jesus’s 46 parables see list at the bottom of the article.

Mark 4:33-34

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Jesus often taught in parables, an ancient Eastern literary genre. The prophet Ezekiel, for example, wrote in parables, such as the eagles and the vine (17:1-24) and the parable of the pot (24:1-14). The word parable in Hebrew מָשָׁל is present in both vignettes (17:2 and 24:3). A parable is a story that presents comparisons to teach an important moral lesson. The root meaning of the word parable means a placing side by side for the sake of comparison. A parable envisions the whole narrative to generate the spiritual message, whereas a proverb, metaphor, simile, or figure of speech focuses generally on a word, phrase or sentence. The Gospel writer identifies a narrative with a spiritual meaning by specifically calling the lesson a παραβολή (parable). At times the Gospel writer begins the story with the term like, as „The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1).

The Parables are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Some parables are common to all three Synoptic Gospels, such as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15). Matthew relates ten Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven, seven of which occur in Chapter 13 and are central to his Gospel. Examples of parables unique to each Gospel are the Weeds Among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16); the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29); the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37); the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31); and the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14) .

The word parable does not appear in the Gospel of John. The related word παροιμιαν (figure of speech) appears in 10:6 and refers to the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). Jesus, by calling himself the Good Shepherd, recalls the imagery of Psalm 23, „The Lord is my Shepherd,” and the Prophets (Isaiah 40:1-11, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Ezekiel 34). By doing so, he fulfills Old Testament prophecy as he identifies himself as the Messiah. The word παροιμίαν also appears in John 16:25 and provides insight into the message of Jesus: „I have spoken to you in figures of speech; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but tell you plainly of the Father.”

The following chart lists the important parables of Jesus Christ.
This list primarily includes those parables specifically named as such by a Gospel writer. (Via source JesusChristSavior.net)

THE PARABLES OF JESUS
PARABLE MATTHEW MARK LUKE
The Speck and The Log 7:1-5 6:37-42
New Cloth on Old Garment 9:16-17 2:21-22 5:36-39
The Divided Kingdom 12:24-30 3:23-27 11:14-23
The Sower 13:1-23 4:1-20 8:4-15
The Growing Seed 4:26-29
The Rich Fool 12:16-21
The Barren Fig Tree 13:6-9
The Weeds Among the Wheat 13:24-30
The Mustard Seed 13:31-32 4:30-34 13:18-19
The Leaven 13:33-34 13:20-21
Hidden Treasure 13:44
Pearl of Great Price 13:45-46
The Net 13:47-50
The Good Samaritan 10:29-37
The Invited Guests 14:7-24
The Heart of Man 15:1-20 7:1-23
The Lost Sheep 18:10-14 15:1-7
The Prodigal Son 15:11-32
The Rich Man and Lazarus 16:19-31
The Persistent Widow 18:1-8
The Pharisee and The Publican 18:9-14
Laborers in the Vineyard 20:1-16
The Tenants 21:33-45 12:1-12 20:9-19
The Wedding Feast 22:1-14 14:15-24
The Fig Tree 24:32-44 13:28-37 21:29-33
The Faithful or Wicked Servant 24:45-51 12:35-48
The Ten Virgins 25:1-13
Ten Talents or Gold Coins 25:14-30 19:11-27

source JesusChristSavior.net photo below via parables.png

and here is the complete list

  • The Sower and the Seeds (Mark 4:3-9; Matt 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8)
  • The Grain of Wheat (John 12:24)
  • The Weeds in the Grain or the Tares (Matt 13:24-30)
  • The Net (Matthew 13:47-50)
  • The Seed Growing Secretly (Spontaneously) or The Patient Husbandman (Mark 4:26-29)
  • The Mustard Seed (Matt13:31f.;Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18 f.)
  • The Leaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20 f.)
  • The Budding Fig Tree (Matt 24:32 f.; Mark 13:28 f.; Luke 21:19-31)
  • The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
  • The Birds of Heaven (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24)
  • The Flowers of the Field (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 12:27f.)
  • The Vultures & the Carcass (Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37)
  • The Tree and its Fruits (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:43-49)
  • The Weather Signs (Luke 12:54-56; cf. Matthew 26:2 f.; Mark 8:11-13)
  • The Closed Door (Luke 13:24-30)
  • The Doorkeeper (Mark 13:33-37; cf. Matt 24:42)
  • The Thief in the Night and the Faithful Servants (Matthew 24:42-51.; Luke 12:32-48.)
  • The Strong Man Bound (Matt.12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21 f.)
  • The Divided Realm (Mark 3:24-26; Luke 11:17-20)
  • The Unoccupied House or The Demon’s Invasion (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26)
  • The Importunate Neighbor (Luke 11:5-8)
  • The Son’s Request (Matthew 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13)
  • The Unjust Judge or The Importunate Widow (Luke 18:1-8)
  • Master and Servant (Luke 17:7-10)
  • The Servant Entrusted with Authority or The Faithful and Unfaithful Servants (Matt. 24:45-51; Luke 12:42-46)
  • The Waiting Servants (Luke 12:35-38; Mark 13:33-37)
  • The Laborers in the Vineyard or The Generous Employer (Matt.20:1-16)
  • The Money in Trust or The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27)
  • The Lamp (Matt 5:14-16; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16, 11:31) and The City Set on a Hill (Matt. 5:14b)
  • The Body’s Lamp (Matthew 6:22 f.; Luke 11:34-36)
  • The Discarded Salt (Matt 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34 f.)
  • The Patch and the Wineskins (Matt. 9:16 f.; Mark 2:21 f.; Luke 5:36-39)
  • The Householder’s Treasure (Matthew 13:52)
  • The Dishonest Steward (Luke 16:1-12) Revised!
  • The Defendant (Luke 12:58 f.; Matthew 5:25 f.)
  • The Unforgiving Official or The Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:23-35)
  • The Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21)
  • The Wicked Vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16)
  • The Two Builders (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49)
  • The Two Debtors (Luke 7:41-43)
  • The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
  • The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45 f.)
  • The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
  • The Prodigal Son or The Loving Father (Luke 15:11-32)
  • The Two Sons, The Apprentice Son, and The Slave and Son (Matthew 21:28-32; John 5:19-20a; John 3:35)
  • The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10)
  • The Lost Sheep (Matthew 28:12-14; Luke 15:4-7)
  • The Shepherd, the Thief, and the Doorkeeper (John 10:1-18)
  • The Doctor and the Sick (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5: 31 f.)
  • The Sulking Children or The Children in the Marketplace (Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35)
  • The Arrogant Guest (Luke 14:7-11)
  • The Bridegroom’s Friend (John 3:28)
  • The Bridegroom’s Attendants (Matt.9:15a; Mark 2:18 f.; Luke 5:34)
  • The Bride’s Girlfriends or Ten Virgins (Matt25:1-13)
  • The Tower Builder and The Warring King (Luke 14:28-32)
  • The Wedding Feast or The Unwilling Guests (Matt 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-24)
  • The Wedding Garment (Matthew 22:11-14)
  • The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
  • The Sower and the Seeds (Mark 4:3-9; Matt 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8)
  • The Grain of Wheat (John 12:24)
  • The Weeds in the Grain or the Tares (Matt 13:24-30)
  • The Net (Matthew 13:47-50)
  • The Seed Growing Secretly (Spontaneously) or The Patient Husbandman (Mark 4:26-29)
  • The Mustard Seed (Matt13:31f.;Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18 f.)
  • The Leaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20 f.)
  • The Budding Fig Tree (Matt 24:32 f.; Mark 13:28 f.; Luke 21:19-31)
  • The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
  • The Birds of Heaven (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24)
  • The Flowers of the Field (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 12:27f.)
  • The Vultures & the Carcass (Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37)
  • The Tree and its Fruits (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:43-49)
  • The Weather Signs (Luke 12:54-56; cf. Matthew 26:2 f.; Mark 8:11-13)

D. Passion Week – Tuesday – Olivet Discourse

James Tissot painting Photo credit www.joyfulheart.com Jesus curses fig tree

  1. On the way back to Jerusalem in the morning the disciples see the withered fig tree.
  2. In Jerusalem there are more temple controversies, and then Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse on the return back to Bethany.

„Olivet Discourse” is a name given to 4 special chapters in the Bible. It includes Matthew 24th-25th, Mark 13th and Luke 21st chapters. In all of these chapters Jesus speaks about the „End-Times” which will come upon humanity. Jesus gave these messages to the apostles while they were upon the Mount of Olives, hence the name: Olivet Discourse.

A study by Hampton Keathley IV at Bible.org

Introduction

You must be aware that these are probably the most debated parables in the Bible. Many of the books and journal articles and articles on the internet that I read said all the characters in these parables were believers. Instead of seeing that these are parables about salvation, they see them as parables about rewards or loss of rewards. It is the same argument that we dealt with a few weeks ago in our discussion of the marriage feast and the outer darkness.

Because of the context and because the punishment for the unfaithful is so severe, I see them as all dealing with salvation issues. But rewards are also taught.

These are extremely difficult parables to interpret. I’m tempted to just tell you what I think they mean and ignore all the other views, but I think it is good for you to hear the other interpretations and do your own wrestling with the details.

Context of Matthew 25

Olivet discourse – events of tribulation leading up to 2nd coming.

In Matt 24:36 Jesus begins to answer the question of when He will be returning.

It will be just like in Noah’s day when people didn’t believe Noah and were surprised when it started raining. In the same way, even when people are in the tribulation, experiencing the wrath of God, many are still not going to believe.

So, the when it says „two will be in the field, and one will be taken…” the one taken will be taken to judgment. And the appearance of the thief in the next section is to judge the unbelieving. They didn’t believe the thief was coming. They didn’t believe that God was coming to hold them accountable.

I think that this theme of judging the unbelieving is continued in these next four parables. Although the text doesn’t use the word believe, those that get judged all have actions that indicate they didn’t believe. And their judgment is severe: they get cut to pieces, locked outside, sent to the outer darkness, etc.

And in each parable those who are judged are contrasted to others who not only believed, but were prepared, faithful, fruitful, etc. And those got rewarded for their faithfulness.

We talked about it a couple weeks ago, but this is what some call „Matthew’s rejection imagery.” He always mixes rewards for some with eternal damnation for others, like it all happens at the same event. It sort of makes you wonder if perhaps it does? But then that would make us amillennial or something like that.

Anyway, I want to give you the plot up front. Because I’m going to be discussing other views mixed with my views (notice I didn’t say „the correct view”), I think it might be helpful to have the „Big Idea” in your heads as we study the parables.

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to go ahead and live our lives but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute. Because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone.

Wise and Evil Slaves contrasted

Matthew 24:45-51 also in Luke 12:41-48

Some say because these are slaves, they are both saved. And some say that there is only one slave in the parable. The slave starts off being faithful, but then changes later in life and becomes an unfaithful, evil slave. Dillow makes a big deal out of the word „that” in vs 48 saying that it proves that this is the same slave. And since the slave was once very faithful, he must now just be carnal. Since he was saved, he still is saved, but just carnal or unfaithful, he does not go to hell. He just loses rewards and is very sad.

But, concerning the idea that „since they are both slaves, they are both saved” – In all of Jesus’ parables he contrasts two or three people with the same social status. How else is he going to create tension and contrast? He always uses slaves and sons because God is the Master of all. Slaves and sons are the natural examples to represent this relationship between God and man. The idea behind all these parables is that humans have an equal opportunity to respond, believe, etc. Some do, and some don’t. And here’s what’s going to happen to them.

Concerning the idea that this is one slave who changes. The phrase „if that slave” does refer back to this hypothetical slave. This is not a story about a slave who later in life started backsliding. Jesus is just giving an example.

Jesus is saying: Let’s take a slave… If that slave does this… he will be rewarded. However, if that slave does this… he will be cut into pieces.

He is a wise slave if he believes and anticipates master’s return and faithfully carries out the master’s orders. If he does this, he will be rewarded.

He is an evil slave if he doesn’t believe his master will return.

If the slave takes no note of the coming return and deludes himself into thinking either it will never happen or that he will have time to reform, he will be severely punished. It says he will be cut to pieces.

I believe “cut off” may be a better translation because in Qumran literature this word is used for excommunication and being cut off from the rest of the group. And I think the idea of separation fits better with the context – the punishment that all the bad guys receive in this string of parables is separation from God. Either way, it is severe punishment. Perhaps too severe for a believer?

Application:

This represents a universal principle. If a person doesn’t really believe that there is a God who will hold them accountable when they die, they aren’t very likely to feel a need to “trust” in God or obey his commandments.

I’ve also heard of people who believed that there was a God and he would hold them accountable, but they didn’t want to change their lifestyle and figured they would just „get religion” later. This parable speaks to them too. You never know when God will return or if you will die in a car wreck tomorrow.

We also see the result is a lifestyle that is abusive (beat his fellow slaves) and destructive (eat and drink with drunkards.)

Speaking of „beating his fellow slaves.” Some say because he beat his fellow slaves then he must be saved because they were his fellow slaves. My question is „who else is a slave going to beat?” Free men? If he is going to be abusive to his fellow man, it has got to be another slave. We can’t read into this „a salvation relationship with God” because of his association with other slaves. Just like we can’t read into the passage that because we have two slaves, we have two saved people in view.

Ten Virgins

This is a much debated parable. No one can agree what anything means.

“Virgins” – Some say that they are called “virgins” to emphasize their purity and that this means all ten were Christians (Dillow). Most say they represent people in the tribulation.

“Lamps” People argue whether these were little bowl lamps or torches. Then they argue about what the lamps represent. Some think the lamps and their light represent knowledge. Stedman says the ladies each had light to start with. Which would equate to people having a certain degree of knowledge about the Lord’s return. But for five of them, that knowledge was just academic. It really hadn’t gripped them.

Others think the lamps represents works which are the believer’s „light” or testimony to the world.

The light was supplied by the oil, and therefore it was absolutely essential that they have an adequate supply of oil, otherwise their light would go out. So what does the oil represent.

“Oil” – Some say it is the Holy Spirit (Walvoord, Stedman), some say it is works, others say it is faith.

Here is an example of the type of reasoning you run across when reading the commentators.

In verse 3 we have one of the major interpretive problems of the parable. What does the olive-oil represent? There is a quick answer that suggest that the olive-oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. However that interpretation must be resisted because the Holy Spirit is a gift and cannot be bought. The instructions to go and buy some more would make no sense at all in the case of the Holy Spirit. I think the answer must be found in seeing that the oil is only important when it is set on fire. In other words when it is giving light. The symbol of light rather than oil helps us because then we realize that Jesus is talking about the good works of the believer which he/she does before men which constitutes them the light of the world. The foolish virgins had no oil therefore they had no works with which to greet the bride-groom.1

His argument against this being the Holy Spirit because you can’t buy the Holy Spirit doesn’t make any sense. You can’t buy works or faith either. So that is no argument. It is a good example of one’s conclusion driving his reasons. When I come across a paragraph like that, it makes me want to stop reading the rest of the paper because I question the validity of any of his arguments.

If you think the oil is works, then you have to decide if the five foolish ladies were saved or not. If they were not saved, then the lack of works proved that they were not saved (lordship view). And not getting into the banquet is the same as not getting into heaven.

If you think the ladies were saved, then you will say that the ladies didn’t get any rewards. And that the banquet represents rewards or reigning with Christ (Free Grace view).

Some say that the foolish virgins had oil to start with (Dillow) and so had faith and so were saved. But others argue that that is not necessarily so (Walvoord). It says they rose, trimmed their lamps and lit them. But since they did not have oil in them, they immediately went out. So, it is more probable that they didn’t have any oil to start with.

What do I think?

Because this parable starts off with “the kingdom of heaven is like…” I think it is a salvation parable. Matthew uses this phrase eleven times and in the other parables where this phrase is used, the parables are about salvation and getting into the kingdom of heaven. Maybe I should say that out of these eleven parables. They are clearly about salvation or debated. None are clearly not about salvation.

The term virgins is not significant. The idea is just that they were young unmarried ladies. The term “virgin” was often used that way. Perhaps bridesmaids would be a better term.

Five are prepared – have their own oil. Five are unprepared – couldn’t borrow oil. I think that the symbolism is that you can’t get into heaven with someone else’s faith.

Banquet imagery to an Israelite is a reference to kingdom with God and His bride, Israel. This is not the Bema and wedding feast with Christ and Church. Remember the context is judgment at the 2nd coming, not the rapture.

The five were left outside (never made it in banquet hall as in Matt 22). So if you go to Matt 22 and make a big deal about the fact that the guy without wedding clothes made it into the banquet and was therefore saved, then those that argue that the virgins are saved (to be consistent with their interpretation of Matt 22) have to reconcile the fact that here they didn’t get in.

The Lord didn’t know them – cf. Matt 7:21 which is the same statement and those clearly do not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Once the door was closed, it was too late to enter. Those who are shut out miss not simply a fine meal, but also the kingdom itself. Similar imagery to Luke 13:22–29 which talks about the narrow door, not being known by the Lord, banquet imagery and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Application:

Where the last parable taught that the Lord could return sooner than expected, this one teaches that there may be quite a delay before the Lord returns. We know that in fact there has been. It’s been almost 2,000 years so far. Both the wise and foolish virgins slept. But they are not condemned for it. Perhaps the point is that we need to go ahead and live our lives. Not sell everything and go wait on the mountain top for the Lord’s return.The main point of the parable is that even if it might be a long time before the Lord returns, don’t wait until the last minute to get prepared, because you never know when that last minute will be and you may miss out.

And I think preparation is faith.

Talents

Another Kingdom of heaven is like parable – “it is like” refers back to 25:1 – Some try to say this is different because 25:14 doesn’t say “kingdom,” but the “it” has to have an antecedent. What else are you going to link the “it” to?

Big debate is whether or not the slaves represent saved people or not. Some try to argue that since they were all slaves, they were all saved. We’ve already dealt with that assumption.

But, there is a big contrast going on between the first two slaves and the third slave. The third slave did not know the master. He thought he understood what was required of him, but he was wrong. Maybe it is like the person who thinks he will get into heaven for being mostly good.

When confronted by the master, this wicked slave argued beligerantly and attempted to make his laziness a necessity and a virtue. By defaming the master, portraying him as one who enriched himself by exploiting others, he attempted to excuse his own actions. When I read his response, my thought is this: There may be shame at the Bema seat when Christ reveals our deeds, but not defiance. Does this sound like a Christian at the Bema seat? Does it sound like he “knows” the Master? Therefore, I have difficulty thinking that this third slave is saved.

This man seems to have given in to some cunning reasoning. It is much like the thinking of Judas Iscariot when he sold his Lord. Judas reasoned, if He is really the Messiah, my betrayal will not hurt anything and I will get my money from the High Priest. If He is not the Messiah, then at least I get the money. This one-talent man reasoned somewhat the same way. His lord was going on a far journey. If the servant put the money in the bank, he would have to register it in his lord’s name. Then when his lord did not come back, his heirs could claim it. He reasoned, however, that if be buried it in the backyard, there would be no record. If his master did not come back, the servant would have it for himself. If he does come back, he could not accuse him of dishonesty because he could produce the talent. It was a cunning that was built upon uncertainty that the Lord was returning. He just did not believe that his lord was coming back. If he had, he would have handled the money differently. This is what the lord meant when be said that he was a wicked servant.2

The mixture of rewards and judgment – fits Matthew’s rejection imagery. He usually globs these together like an OT prophet did when looking at the 1st and 2nd advents of Christ. Also, the Bible talks about rewards and loss of rewards (1 Cor 3:15) at Bema, not rewards and judgment. So, I think we must be careful not to say that, because some got rewards, we are at the Bema and all were saved, and the third guy just lost rewards. I think his punishment is too severe.

The description of the servant’s attitude suggests something qualitatively different from the other two servants found faithful. There is a definite contrast going on here. The works are indicative of the relationship with the master. The third slave had no works which in the gospels is the same as having no faith.

Free grace people balk at this statement because Lordship people think the logical conclusion is that one has to have good works to prove that he is saved. In the gospels we do have statements like when Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say?” But when we read Paul we get in to issues such as carnality, getting to heaven as though through fire, etc. So we know that works don’t always follow. But when we are dealing with parables, we need to let them use their terminology.

Sheep and Goats

We see the Son of Man coming in glory with his angels. This is the second coming, not the rapture.

Judgment results in entrance to heaven or being sent to hell.

The rejection of the goats was not based on what they did, but on what they failed to do. It was a sin of omission toward “the least of these” (cf. the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31). God abhors not simply the performing of sinful acts but also the omission of deeds. Failure to do good is in fact to do evil. In addition the free gift of grace (as represented in Matt 20:1–16) has to be reconciled with the role of works (as here in 25:31–46 {Matt 25}). The works are the fruit that demonstrates the reality of the conversion of one’s heart. The love shown by these deeds of mercy springs from true faith. As Walvoord affirms, “What is presented here is not the basis or ground of salvation but the evidence of it…. Accordingly, while works are not the ground of justification for salvation, they can be the fruit or evidence of it.”

Since our section started off with judgment resulting in hell and Since it is clear from this parable that they are judged by their works and sent to hell for not having the works – which represent faith – why do people have such a difficult time believing that the parables in between say the same basic thing?

Summary

In summary several points are worth highlighting.

First, in each parable the judgment occurs at the consummation of this age. While the timing of that event is unknown, each follower is to be ready for and anticipate the coming kingdom.

Second, the essential nature of the judgment is soteriological. The judgment will render decisions that are eternal in nature, reflecting the status of each human being with regard to his or her eternal relationship to the kingdom. Phrases such as “the darkness outside,” the “fiery furnace,” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” describe eternal separation from the kingdom. They are not simply expressions of grief over a Christian life that did not count for much in the kingdom, for they are figures and phrases representing an eternal exclusion from the presence of God. With this in view, it has been suggested that salvation in these parables is viewed as a “whole,” not simply as a point of entry. The “sons of the kingdom” and the “sons of the evil one” (Matt 13:38) are on opposite sides of the soteriological divide. There is no room for purgatory, universalism, or a view that some may miss the heavenly “banquet” while yet retaining a right to entry into the kingdom (i.e. “salvation,” in Pauline terms). Those who are rejected are permanently excluded.

Third, the basis for this eternal judgment is the individual’s works. In some cases the emphasis is on faithfulness to a job assigned: perhaps in a picture of preparation for an event, or a picture of the fruit of the believer. But however it was pictured, works were the key to the judgment.

What complicates the problem is that the decision for rejection or acceptance is presented as a soteriological decision based on these works. Such a judgment is highlighted by the parables of the Wheat and the Tares (perhaps along with the Narrow Door and the Virgins) in which those who appear to fit into the proper categories do not do so (even when they think they do) since they were not properly prepared for the kingdom. Perhaps the clearest example is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, in which eternal life and eternal perdition are the options meted out based on how people treated the followers of the Son of Man.

Works are not separated from the faith one exercises for entrance to the kingdom for works are evidence of that faith. A true change of heart will be reflected in a person’s life. A lack of that change is apparently enough to prevent entrance into the eschatological kingdom (the goats are prohibited from entrance because of their actions while the sheep are given entrance because of their works); but works are never ultimately separated from the faith of the individual, for it was also shown that works are not in themselves enough to impress the Son of Man positively in His role as judge (cf. Matt 7:21–23).

Paul wrote with different emphases in mind, focusing clearly on the entrance requirements into salvation, namely, justification by faith. While the Synoptics support the role of faith in establishing one’s relationship with God (usually in phrases such as “repent and believe the gospel”), they tend to emphasize the whole life of faith for the believer. In other words the life of a follower of Jesus is to be a constant exercise of faith in order to obey and please God. Paul clearly recognized this same truth, for he knew that something started by faith cannot be perfected by works (the burden of Galatians).

Conclusion

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to be go ahead and live our lives (sleep like the virgins did) but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute (like the faithful servant did), because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone (parable of talents).

Don Carson preaching at the Chinese Conference in Los Angeles (2 sessions)

The Good Samaritan

The Rich Man and Lazarus

These 2 sermons are from October 26-28, 2012: held in Los Angeles, CA- Chinese Conference sponsored by Kernel of Wheat Ministries. The text is in

Luke 16:19 The Rich Man and Lazarus. Carson: How shall we understand this story? Is Jesus saying that there is always a simple reversal?-

  • live life well, end in hell
  • suffer pain, enjoy great gain
  • if you’re happy here, you’ll be miserable there
  • if you’re miserable here, you’ll be happy there

d a carsona simple reversal? Now, clearly, there is some kind of reversal here. But, so much of Scripture stands against any notion that there’s always reversal. For example, in Scripture, there are at least some Godly rich people. Think of Abraham, Job, Esther, at least in his early days, Solomon, Philemon, probably Theophilus. Moreover, there are at least some poor who are wicked. The Bible is very compassionate against those who are poor through no fault of their own. And, especially compassionate towards those who are poor because they are oppressed. But, the Book of Proverbs can also consider some poor, who are poor because they’re lazy. The sarcasm drips off the page.

Moreover, one has to integrate this passage with the rest of the Gospel of Luke. All four Gospels, including Luke are rushing towards the cross. If our eternal destiny is founded on the simple reversal theme, we don’t need the cross, all we need is poverty. (That is why) it is important to read our passage within the context. (5:02)…

What is the very essence of idolatry?

Obviously, it’s possible to serve two masters, if neither one is asking for absolute control. But, where there are competing interests, only one can win. And, the particular application Jesus makes here is you cannot serve both God and money. Of course He could have made other applications: You cannot serve both God and power, you cannot serve both God and sex. Now, in all three cases- money, power and sex- there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Money can be very useful and do a lot of good. Power, rightly exercised can be reforming. And sex, within its God ordained constraints is everywhere pictured as a good gift. But, even a good thing becomes a bad thing, that (eventually) becomes the supreme thing. That is the very essence of idolatry. For idolatry, you don’t necessarily have to follow a bad thing. All you have to do is make a good thing the supreme thing.

That’s why elsewhere Paul says covetousness is idolatry. Because when you covet something, that’s what you want the most, so that becomes God for you. But Jesus tells us that you cannot have 2 masters. If God is God you cannot most want money. What we most want is what we most fantasize about, what we daydream about, what we thing about. So the task becomes very clear: You cannot serve both God and anything else.

Pharisaism

In verses 14-15, we find Jesus addressing the Pharisees directly. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. When it says that they sneered Him, almost certainly, they were sneering at him because they had money and He didn’t. So, among themselves, they were saying something like this: „Well, Jesus, you’re just some poor, itinerant preacher from Galilee. You don’t have money, so you don’t understand. We could be very Godly with our money,” they would say. „We tithe. We give alms for the poor. We can follow God and be rich. Don’t you see, that’s what we are?” They’re sneering at him. But, Jesus doesn’t back down. He says, in verse 15, „You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.

In biblical justification, God justifies the ungodly on the basis of what Christ has done. But, in self justification, we justify ourselves on the basis of what we do. To be quite frank, sometime, when we are formally thanking God for graces that we’ve received, our motivations are so complex that at the same time we are patting ourselves on the back for having them. And, instead of seeing that we should be people that are constantly asking God for His grace, we become people who are quietly self congratulating ourselves. That’s what’s going on in this text.

These Pharisees are justifying themselves in front of others, in the context of talking about money, then they’re saying things like this, „God must like me quite a lot, because he’s blessed me with quite a lot of money.” And so, when they came up to a spotlight in their brand new chariot, and came up to someone who was driving just a broken down donkey, they would not actually say, „I’m better than they are.” But, deep down, when the light changed and they took off in their chariot, they knew that they were better. It’s so easy when you have money to begin to rank yourself, as compared with others, on the basis of how much you’ve got. Now, let me insist again. There are Godly men in scripture with money like Job, for example. So, if you’re a job, you don’t need this comment I’m about to make.

But, if you are not a Job, I warn you that having a lot of money is so easily away of justifying yourself in front of others who have less. You develop a ranking system in the church- not on the basis of Godliness or evangelistic fervor, but, on the basis of money. What does Jesus say about that? Verse 15- „what people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” Now you see, it’s not the money God detests. He detests the money when people value the money so much as to make the money God. When they start to justify themselves on the basis of their money, then God detests it. Once again, we discover that the context is talking quite a lot about money.

The idolatry of possessions

At the end of chapter 15- The Parable of the Prodigal Son- (in which) a prodigal wastes His father’s possessions. Then at the beginning of chapter 16 – a dishonest servant wastes his master’s possession. Now, in the story of ‘the rich man and Lazarus‘, a rich man wastes his own possessions. In fact, we’re in a part of Luke’s Gospel where there’s a lot of emphasis on the idolatry of possessions. But, in principle, once again I must remind you that you could tell a very similar story  if you made sex your god, or if you made power your god, or if you made beauty your god, or if you made being a hunk your god. But here, the focus is on money. (18:30) There are still 40 minutes left of this message, which you can watch below. Uploaded by
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