In Matthew 20 Jesus tells another parable. It is the story of the landowner and the workers that he hires at different times during the day. In the parable the landowner goes and hires men first thing in the morning and tells them he will pay them the daily wage. They agree and get to work. Then at 9 AM, 3 PM and 5 PM he goes out and finds others promising them a just wage for their work if they start right away. They all go. At the end of the day he pays them all. He starts with those hired at 5 and pays them a full day’s wage. Then he does the same with those he hired at 3 and at 9. Finally when it comes to those he hired first, they think that he will pay them more. But he doesn’t. They complain about the “injustice” because they got paid the same as those who started only a short while ago. The landowner says that it is not unfair. He paid them what they agreed to. He says who are they to challenge what he does with his own money and asks if they are envious of his generosity.
Now people can read this a lot of ways. It’s actually a really tough parable. I think first when we read scripture it’s important to think about what it meant to that group of people at that time. Jesus was in the middle of many confrontations with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. The heat is getting turned up as we are approaching the time when they would look to kill Jesus. One of the things that they are most mad about is that all sorts of “sinners” seem to be allowed into this kingdom that Jesus keeps talking about and they seem to be on the outside and they don’t like it. After all, they’ve followed all the rules. They’ve been in this since the beginning. They should be first, not last.
In Luke 8:4 Jesus shares the parable of the sower. Jesus tells of how a farmer spreads seed. Some falls on beside the road and is trampled or stolen by birds. Some falls on rocky soil and grows quickly, but withers quickly because it has no root. Some falls in the soil where there are thorns and grows well until a certain point and then it is choked out. Other seed fell on good soil and grew and produced much fruit.
Jesus later explains this to the disciples. He says that the sower is God and the seed is the word of God. Those on the side of the road are those who have heard the word but devil comes and steals it from their heart so that they can’t be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who receive the word with joy, but then, because they have no root, when tempted fall away. Those who are among the thorns are those who receive the word and grow but are choked out by the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life and don’t produce fruit. The final group are those who receive the word with an honest and good heart, hold fast and produce much fruit through perseverance.
This is a tough parable for a lot of reasons. First, it appears that only 25% of people end up producing fruit. Although to be fair, it doesn’t say anything about percentages. Heck 90% of the seed could have fallen on any one of the soils. But as someone who has tried to spread the word to people for over two decades, it sure does seem like 25% of people being the good soil seems about right.
This is the final of a five part study on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We started out by looking at the context to the parable and noting that we are not the hero (Samaritan) of the story. We then looked at why it is that we pass by those in need. Next we looked at some of the early Church Father’s take on the parable. Last time we looked at how this parable might impact how we are to “Be Jesus” to others and what it might look like to minister to people as if we are ministering To Jesus.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to face, today I want to talk about what we in the Western Church are probably the worst at. That is letting others “Be Jesus” to us.
I’ve been sharing a series here on the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a well known story that we typically think of as a call to be a good person to others. In the first post I shared that I’m not so sure that is what the parable is actually about. In the second I asked us to think about why we don’t stop – why we pass by someone we should help. Today, I want to look at the whole thing completely differently and most likely in a way you’ve never thought about it before. I certainly had never thought about it this way before in my 30 years of knowing and sharing this story.
Many of the early Church Fathers from the first 300 years or so of Christianity saw this story in a different way. They saw it as having something to say about the story of the gospel and Christ.
I’ve decided to start a weekly look at scripture, or bible study here at the blog. For the next five weeks I’d like to take a look at one of the most recognized parables of Jesus. The parable of the good samaritan.
Jesus tells the parable in Luke 10:25-37. Here is a brief rundown:
A religious lawyer comes to Jesus and asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies by asking the teacher what the scriptures say. He replies that with the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (in other words make God number one) and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus agrees and says go and do this, and you will have eternal life.