The Parable of the Prodigal Son



In Luke 15, we find Jesus’ famous Parable of the Prodigal Son.  This story is a favorite among Christians, but as is often the case with favorite Scripture passages, this parable is rarely taught in its original context.  Once we strip away context and start treating portions of Scripture as stand alone thoughts, we often start reading meanings into the text that the original author never meant.  This is certainly the case with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and today you can find Christians squeezing all kinds of absurd lessons and promises out of this parable that aren’t at all valid.  You see, as magnificent as our glorious Lord is, He simply isn’t speaking to any of us in Scriptures. Instead, He’s speaking to folks who lived thousands of years before us—folks whose cultural values, customs, and priorities differed from our own.  Continue reading

Parables of Jesus: The Two Sons & The Evil Tenant Farmers


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We’re coming up on Jesus’ last Passover before He is crucified.  He’s just ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey—a very strategic stunt on His part which was intended to spike false hopes that He was indeed going to be the kind of Messiah the Jews were longing for (see Know Your Bible Lesson 61: The Triumphal Entry).  Now that His theatrical ruse has come off so well, Jewish commoners are worked up into quite the excited lather as they wait for Jesus to make some bold move to seize control over Jerusalem and launch an epic revolt against those nasty Roman pagans.  Meanwhile, Jerusalem is super crowded with religious Jews who have traveled many miles to present sacrifices to Yahweh during this obligatory Old Covenant holiday.  Continue reading

Know Your Bible Lesson 64: Finishing the Olivet Discourse

KYB 64

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In our last lesson, Jesus launched into a very long speech which has been dubbed the Olivet Discourse due to the fact that Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives at the time He’s talking. This is a private meeting between Jesus and four of His disciples: Peter and his brother Andrew, and John and his brother James. These two pairs of brothers were the ones who got up the courage to ask Jesus why He made some upsetting comments about glorious Jerusalem and Yahweh’s magnificent Temple being reduced to rubble. In response to their inquiry, Jesus launched into a long prophetic speech about the end of the world. Talk about a case of TMI. The disciples were looking for some assurance, and what they got was a horror story. Jesus says that the Romans are going to rise up against the Jews, annihilate Jerusalem and the Temple, and drive the Jews into exile. There will be an epic tribulation, during which Jesus’ followers will find themselves having a particularly miserable time. Jesus prophesies that His disciples will be arrested, tortured, betrayed by their own families, and even executed. This is an extremely upsetting information download, and one that would undoubtedly paralyze the disciples with fear if Jesus didn’t give them some reason for hope. So Jesus does. To counterbalance their dread, He says that this terrible period of tribulation won’t last long at all. In fact, before the current generation of folks dies off, Jesus will be making a theatrical return to earth. He’ll come down from the sky just as the great prophet Daniel foresaw, and He’ll whisk His faithful followers off to their eternal reward. So, yes, all hell is about to break loose. But it won’t last long at all. In fact, Yahweh is going to cut it short intentionally for the sake of His faithful ones. Continue reading

Know Your Bible Lesson 60: Greedy Disciples

KYB 60

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Nothing about Jesus’ gory execution on earth was a surprise to Him. None of it was forced upon Him. But He knows it will be quite a shock to His twelve disciples, who are living in a fog of denial and dreaming of all the glory they’ll rake in for being best pals with Yahweh’s promised Messiah. To help His disciples prepare for the great shock of His execution, Jesus tells them about it ahead of time in great detail. Continue reading

The Parable of the Great Feast (Luke 14)


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In Luke 14, we find Jesus reclining at the table in a Pharisee’s home, doing His usual Jesus thing. He’s just embarrassed many of the guests at the dinner by calling attention to the fact that they were trying to exalt themselves by grabbing seats of honor at the table (see Understanding Jesus: All who Exalt Themselves will be Humbled). Now He turns to His host and blasts him with the accusation that he’s not as generous as he seems for having everyone over to dinner. After all, these Jews were living in a tit for tat society. If you invite your buddy over for some lavish meal, it’s understood that he now owes it to you to return the favor. Continue reading

Understanding Jesus: All who Exalt Themselves will be Humbled (Luke 14)


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Dining with Jesus is always an awkward experience. He’s the kind of Guy who sits down at your table and feels free to start sniping at you and all of your guests. You never know when He’s going to launch into some shaming lecture that will draw everyone’s attention to your carnal motivations. Ever go over to someone’s house for dinner and try to snag one of the good chairs? Two thousand years ago, seats around the table in a Jewish home were strongly associated with social rank. Certain spots were considered places of high honor, and to sit there was a way of saying you were big stuff. One day Jesus is kicking back at a certain Pharisee’s table and watching the way the guests are strategically maneuvering for the highest ranking positions. There are no name placards at this table. The host isn’t telling people where to sit. They’re basically going for a status grab by parking themselves at the high ranking spots. Observing this, Jesus suddenly launches into a rather pointed parable. Continue reading

Analogies of Jesus: The Good Shepherd (John 10)


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During His three years of public ministry in Israel, Jesus used a lot of analogies and parables to help people understand how our Gods view us and how we are to relate to Them. In John 10, we find Jesus describing Himself as a good shepherd. Whenever Jesus starts using analogies, His purpose is to communicate important principles that will help souls draw closer to their Makers. Analogies are never perfect and they’re not meant to be overanalyzed. When we start picking apart every single word Jesus used and obsessing over the Greek, we’re overdoing it. Whenever you find yourself feeling confused by a passage in the Bible, it’s better to zoom out, not in. Look at the broader context. Think about who Jesus is talking to and how those people would have interpreted His words. Bear in mind what the Holy Spirit has already taught you about God and listen for Him to build on those ideas. Remember that you can’t get anywhere reading the Bible alone. The Holy Spirit is your Teacher, and He really enjoys teaching you, but you need to be an active listener. Continue reading