Over the next few weeks I will be taking a break from this blog to spend time with my family during the holidays. In the meantime, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. - James 4:17
After several months of intensive study, this morning we will finally conclude our sermon series titled “The Parables of Jesus”. Over the course of this journey together (including today’s message) we have examined 40 different parables. These have been categorized by topic into 5 different chapters - His Kingdom (6), His Character (8), His Covenant (5), His Coming (7), and His Children (14). We have carefully broken down each story to discover its meaning so that we might better understand the teachings of Jesus.
As was mentioned earlier in this series, Matthew 13 is known as the “Parabolic Discourse”. In this chapter Jesus tells 8 distinct parables, some to the large crowds gathered by the sea shore and others to His disciples after going back to the house. The first 7 of these parables are the Sower and the Soils, the Tares and the Wheat, the Mustard Seed, the Leaven, the Hidden Treasure, the Costly Pearl, and the Dragnet. After teaching all of these, the Lord shares a final parable that neatly ties them up in a bow. In the same way, this parable provides a fitting
conclusion for this entire series…
THE HEAD OF THE HOUSEHOLD - Matthew 13:51-52
Jesus has just finished sharing several unique parables - some with explanations and others without. Having come to the end of His speech, Jesus asks the disciples if they’ve understood everything He’s said. He is checking to make sure they don’t have any additional questions. The disciples answer “yes”, indicating that they’ve both heard and understood all of the things that Jesus has taught them that day. Their affirmative response prompts Him to tell one final illustration called “The Parable of the Head of the Household”.
Jesus describes a person who is the head of their household. In other words, they are the leader of those who are living in their house - usually their children and/or other family members. As such, they are ultimately responsible for the provision and protection of their dependents. That said, the head of the household should manage their possessions - both old and new - in such as way as to benefit the entire family.
In the same way, Christians are responsible for how they manage the things that they’ve learned. As disciples of the Kingdom, they are privy to stories, lessons, and other revelations from God that together constitute a treasury of truths - both from the Old and New Testaments. These should be applied personally, and should be shared with others, to ensure that the household of God is properly cared for and that it operates effectively. Those who have heard and understood the teachings of Jesus are obligated to implement them in their lives.
My friends, we have meticulously studied and sought to understand many of “The Parables of Jesus”. Now what? Is just knowing them enough? No. We must also incorporate what we’ve learned into our daily lives. It is our responsibility to do this. Therefore, as we draw this series to an end, let’s briefly review the many lessons that we’ve learned…
● Although God is sovereignly and wholly responsible for His Kingdom’s growth, He still calls and uses believers to spread the gospel message to all people knowing that some will receive it and others will not.
● Though it started very small, the Kingdom of God has and will continue to spread and grow into a mighty expanse.
● The Kingdom of God is of such immeasurable worth that people should joyfully be willing to give up any and everything as necessary in order to acquire it personally.
● God actively seeks the lost and takes great delight, along with all of those in Heaven, in the redemption of sinners.
● As a heavenly Father, God lovingly and longingly waits for the return of His wayward children, always ready to forgive and receive those who repent and return to Him.
● God forgives all repentant sinners completely, regardless of the relative magnitude of their sin, often leading those who feel as though they have been forgiven more to openly exhibit a greater love for Him.
● God will not forgive Christians who harbor unforgiveness toward others. Though they are still saved, the closeness of their fellowship with God and effectiveness of their Christian life will be severely hindered.
● Jesus shows neighborly love, compassion, and care for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, status, or any other factor - especially those who are hurting and/or in need - and He commands His followers to do likewise.
● God graciously offers the fullness of salvation equally to all who come to repentance and faith in Christ, regardless of how long they may have been unsaved before making that decision.
● Jesus received the power to cast out demons and perform other miraculous deeds from God Almighty. He is mightier than Satan, has the strength to bind him, to plunder his house, and to deliver that which He desires.
● The New Covenant established by Jesus and based upon God’s grace is incompatible with and can not be contained by the Old Covenant of the law which was based upon works.
● God presented the New Covenant first to His chosen people Israel, but they initially rejected it. Jesus pleaded for the Father’s patience, but warned the Jews of God’s coming judgment if their rejection continued.
● The children of Israel were party to the Old Covenant, but because they repeatedly mistreated God’s prophets and ultimately killed His Son Jesus, the LORD established the New Covenant with the Church instead.
● The invitation of God has been formally extended to the Gentiles. That said, only those who have been covered in the righteousness of Christ under the terms of the New Covenant will be acceptable to God.
● Jesus has identified several observable signs that will precede His second coming and serve as warnings that the end times are near.
● Because the exact timing of Jesus’ second coming is unknown, Christians should always remain alert so that when He arrives they will be found ready as opposed to others who will be caught unaware and unprepared.
● When Jesus returns only true believers will join Him and receive their heavenly reward, while false believers will be shut out from His presence and suffer punishment along with the unrighteous and hypocrites.
● At the final judgment, Jesus will instruct His angels to gather the unbelievers from among the believers and cast them into fiery Hell.
● God expects His children to be good stewards by utilizing the various gifts, talents, riches, and blessings that He has entrusted to them in order to bring Him glory and accomplish His desired purposes.
● Worldly money managers seek to take care of themselves first, often at the expense of others, but godly stewards use their wealth to serve others who will someday gratefully welcome them into Heaven.
● Greedy accumulation of excessive wealth for oneself in this life is foolishness, because it cannot be carried over into eternity after a person dies.
● God desires that His children be obedient to Him, both in word and - more importantly - in deed.
● Born-again believers have been filled with the light of Jesus and should allow it to shine brightly in their lives so that sin will be exposed and others will be able to see Christ through them.
● Jesus taught His children not to exalt themselves, but rather to practice humility by serving God and others unconditionally without any expectation of repayment or gratitude.
● God’s children have been called to build their lives upon the strong foundation of Jesus Christ and His teachings in order to withstand the stormy winds and rain that will come against them.
● Those who desire to follow Jesus should count the cost of discipleship before making the commitment.
● Christians should pray with a humble and repentant attitude, realizing that God will not accept prayers offered in pride and self-righteousness.
● God’s children should persist in prayer even if their petitions seem to go unheard and/or unanswered.
● Those who have heard and understood the teachings of Jesus are responsible for teaching them and applying them to their lives.
May the timeless truths of these parables abide always in our hearts and minds, leading us to walk more closely with Jesus and in sweeter fellowship with God our Father every single day.
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Last week we began studying “The Parables of Jesus” that deal specifically with prayer. We talked about the importance of approaching God with a humble attitude. We learned that the LORD will not justify those who speak to Him with a prideful and self-righteous heart, while those who have a contrite and reverent spirit will be both heard and justified. Staying on the same issue, this morning we will examine 2 additional parables that teach us another important aspect of an effective prayer life.
In his first letter to the Thessalonian church, Paul advises his fellow believers to “pray without ceasing”. Obviously, a person cannot literally pray all the time and never stop. Thus, this verse must have another meaning. The Greek word used in this phrase actually translates incessantly. Someone who is incessant never gives up. They are unrelenting in their pursuit of the goal. Though they may fail time and time again, they continue striving until they get whatever it is that they want. Therefore, perhaps a more understandable interpretation of Paul’s instruction is to “pray persistently”. This is the theme of today’s message.
“The Parable of the Friend at Night” and “The Parable of the Unjust Judge” are both found exclusively in Luke’s gospel. These stories are told on separate occasions, in both instances as part of a broader teaching on the topic of prayer. Over the years these parables have been depicted in various drawings, etchings, and paintings. These 2 stories share a common message, and therefore we will consider them together.
I. LEND ME BREAD - Luke 11:5-8
Jesus tells of a friend who comes to your house at midnight and begins pounding on your door asking to borrow 3 loaves of bread. Your friend explains that one of his friends, who was travelling by night, has arrived unexpectedly at his house and needs something to eat. Unfortunately, your friend has nothing to give him. Already having laid down to sleep with your family, you tell your friend to go home and leave you alone. However, your friend continues to knock until finally you get up and give him all that he needs.
Jesus says this parable to His disciples after He finishes praying at a certain place. Apparently, they were listening and wanted to learn how to pray like Jesus did. Immediately before He tells the parable, Jesus teaches them “The Lord’s Prayer”. As He had done on a few other occasions, Jesus tells this parable from the second-person perspective. This allows the Lord to actually include His listeners as characters in the story. Perhaps the disciples were picturing one of their own friends knocking at their door late at night as they listened to Jesus speak.
After telling “The Parable of the Friend at Night”, Jesus instructs His disciples to ask, seek, and knock. Remember, He is teaching them to pray. But more than that, He is explaining that they must keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. They must be persistent in prayer - not giving up immediately if they don’t receive an answer. One of the ways that God tests the Christian’s faith is by delaying His actions and/or answers. In this manner, the LORD can determine if who believes enough to persist and who doesn’t.
II. GIVE ME PROTECTION - Luke 18:1-8
Jesus describes a widow who approaches a judge in her city hoping to secure legal protection from her opponent. However, this particular judge is corrupt, fearing neither God or man, and initially refuses to help her. Though she continues to come before him and plead her case, he still remains unwilling. The widow doggedly refuses to give up, until finally the unjust judge consents to her request simply because of her constant bothering and pestering.
Jesus tells “The Parable of the Unjust Judge” in order to demonstrate to His listeners that they mustn't lose heart when they pray. While it is unclear who all Jesus is speaking this parable to, clearly the disciples are chief among the audience. The widow in this illustration simply wouldn’t quit badgering the judge, until finally he gave in. In like fashion, they are commanded to persistently pray knowing that the LORD will bring justice to them quickly.
This parable, like most of the others, is told from the third-person point of view. It is followed by “The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican”, the focus of last week’s message. At the end of this story, Jesus asks whether or not He will find faith on the earth when He comes again. When this question is considered in the context of this parable, it seems that the Lord is referring to the type of faith that would be needed to persist in prayer. In other words, by the time Jesus returns will people still being praying adamantly or will they have already lost hope?
III. FRIENDLY AND JUST
The primary meaning of both parables is that the followers of Jesus should persist in prayer. However, there is a secondary observation that is important to point out. It involves the character of God. Notice that in both parables, the person to whom the petition is being made is originally uninclined to help. The sleeping friend is hesitant to get up, fearing that he might wake his family, and the unjust judge isn’t sympathetic enough to assist the widow. Neither one of them are noble or gracious enough to help without some arm-twisting...
But Jesus is not an unwilling friend. On the contrary, He is the Christian’s dearest friend. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus told His disciples that they were no longer to be called slaves, but rather to be called friends. Also, Jesus is not an unjust judge. On the contrary, He is a righteous judge who can be trusted to render judgments fairly and without bias. In other words, the Lord is a better friend and a more just judge than the characters mentioned in these parables. He is a good God. He doesn’t need to be awakened or bugged to death.
This leads to a final thought… if the drowsy friend and the corrupt judge both eventually decided to help - albeit somewhat begrudgingly, how much more so will a Best Friend and a Righteous Judge be willing to help? The LORD eagerly waits to hear His people pray and takes great delight in answering them. He wants to give them the desires of their hearts. That said, when the disciple prays he can take comfort in the character of God knowing that He is both willing and able to respond.
Sometimes it might seem that God is not listening to our prayers. We pray with the right attitude, we pray in accordance to His will, we pray with expectant faith… and yet the answers don’t seem to come. The problems don’t go away, the sickness doesn’t subside, and the cupboards remain bare. Still we must persist in prayer and never lose heart. We must realize that the LORD does hear us. Perhaps we are just one prayer away from receiving His answer.
That said, even if God never gives us what we ask of Him still our persistence reveals the true depth of our faith. Our prayer life says more about us than it does about God. Will we continue to trust in Him and cry out to Him even when He is silent? True faith doesn’t stop believing… ever, no matter what. So keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. Persist in prayer!