“What’s the big deal about Parables?”

The Parables of Jesus

March 15, 2022

“What’s the big deal about Parables?”

Matthew 13:10-17

Several years ago, I published my first book, Adventures in Youth Ministry. The book could partially be looked at as a memoir. But the real reason I wrote it was to share my experiences in youth ministry with the hope others would gather ideas from it.

One of the critical points that is woven throughout the book is that of storytelling. I emphasized how important it was to incorporate personal stories into Bible studies, devotions, and outreach. In addition, I discussed how “There’s a story to be shared in almost anything.”

Hopefully,  you’ve been following my devotionals over the last several years. In that case, you’d know that I often use a personal story that ties into the devotion’s main points.

People in general, young and old, love to listen to stories. And when we as Christians can tie a story to lessons, devotions, and or conversations, it can better open up the Gospel story to others.

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During this Lenten season, I have been sharing with you a series of devotions titled “The Parables of Jesus.”

Many people believe they know, or do know, what a Parable is. Is it a way of getting the point across using a story? Yes.

According to Merriam Webster, a Parable is:

“a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle, such as the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan”

The word Parable comes from the Latin word parabola, from Greek parabolḗ, meaning “comparison.” 

Jesus’ Parables are considered metaphorical analogies. Although Jesus’ stories are all called Parables, you could get technical and break them into three categories.

  1. Similitudes: In my research, I found that Matthew Henry’s Commentary occasionally uses this word when referencing Christ’s Parables. When Jesus says things such as: “Heaven is like” or “The Kingdom of God is like,” He is telling a story from real life to help the hearers understand.
  2. Parables: are generally longer than similitudes and don’t tell a real story from life, as they are fictitious. When Jesus says, “A farmer went out to seed His field,” or tells the story of “The Prodigal son,” these are examples of Parables.
  3. Exemplary story: where similitudes and Parables are analogies, an exemplary story gives an example in its account. The Good Samaritan story exemplifies how we should love our neighbor.

Don’t be disillusioned; it’s still okay to refer to Jesus’ stories as parables. All I was doing was breaking them down into categories.

So, we come back to the why. Why did Jesus speak in Parables? Part of that answer is pretty evident. By using analogies and stories, He could get His message across easier.

But there’s a little more to it than that.

After Jesus related the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, the following occurs:

“The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have, will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;

though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

 For this people’s heart has become calloused;

they hardly hear with their ears,

and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.’  But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Matthew 13:10-17

For Jesus, speaking in Parables had two reasons. The first was to reveal the Word of God. And the second was to conceal it. That might sound odd, but it’s true. Jesus’s Parables disclosed the truth of God’s Word to believers but withheld it from some unbelievers.

Parables are easy to remember. Jesus’s stories were relatable and spoke to things people knew about farming, families, servants, and perseverance.

Jesus wants everyone to understand God’s Word, to know His love, and be saved. But, unfortunately, to this day, some refuse to listen to the Gospel message. Even though God gives people opportunity after opportunity to listen, God will withdraw His Grace from them if they continue to refuse.

Unfortunately, many people continue to harden their hearts against God’s Word. Yet, it is not up to us to give up these people. As Christians, we continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ wherever and whenever we can. If people refuse to listen, God will make the final decision about their destiny.

At the end of the passage above, Jesus is speaking directly to His disciples when he says,

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Jesus is telling His disciples that they are truly blessed because they not only see Jesus but they take His teaching to heart. He knows they will continue to do so. This praise from Jesus is for you and me too. In the Bible, we can or have learned that Jesus is the promised Savior of the world. We see Jesus in the scripture, and we must continue to spread the Good News to others.

And when you do tell others God’s Promise and Jesus as its fulfillment, don’t be afraid to add a story. Perhaps the story of how you came to be a follower of Jesus.

Dear Jesus. You were and are the master of telling stories that we call Parables. Help us follow in your footsteps and continue to spread the Good News with your stories (Parables) as well as our own. Amen.

“Just watch it grow”

The Parables of Jesus

March 14, 2022

“Just watch it grow.”

Matthew 13:33

Baking homemade bread has become a bit of a lost art. It’s so easy nowadays to just go to the supermarket and pick up a loaf of packaged bread or bread from the bakery department.

My wife Kathy bakes bread at least twice a month. One of her favorites is a honey/oat bread recipe. My favorite is the one you see pictured above that she baked about a week ago. It’s a knock-off recipe of the bread you’re served at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

I’ve helped my wife with the ingredients when she makes bread, but generally, bread is her thing. I bake the cakes, sweets, and cheesecakes😊

What’s especially interesting when watching Kathy bake bread is to see what just a tiny amount of yeast can do. For the Carrabba’s bread recipe, she adds two cups of flour, salt, a little water, and one and a half teaspoons of yeast (there are more ingredients, but for my purpose here, this will do). I’m always amazed to watch after she adds the yeast to the water. Kathy waits for the yeast to begin bubbling slightly before adding the flour.

Without the yeast working in the dough, you’d have what the Bible calls, Unleavened bread. Tortillas are unleavened bread. And because they have no yeast, they do not rise.

Kathy’s bread needs to rise twice in a slightly warm oven. During the summer, we use our laundry room which is unairconditioned and very warm, to allow the bread to rise. Then, it’s in the oven for about 30 minutes, and you have the bread shown at the top of this devotion.

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In today’s Parable, Jesus uses yeast and its effect on flour in baking as an analogy for growing the Kingdom of God.

“He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds (Or about 27 kilograms) of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:33

The above reading is taken from the NIV (New International Version)

Let’s take a look at the ESV (English Stand Version) as well:

“He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:3

The original terminology for yeast was leaven. Three measures were not 3-cups. It is believed that three measures were 40-60 pounds of flour.

Sixty pounds of flour, when baked with yeast and other ingredients, would make approximately five dozen loaves of bread.

The word “yeast” used in this Parable shows us how Jesus works and the power of the Gospel. God has given us one thing to grow and broaden His church here on earth, and that is the Gospel.

Just as in the last three Parables I’ve presented to you discuss spreading the seed of the Gospel; here, Jesus tells us to spread the yeast of the Gospel. Just like someone adds yeast to flour to cause it to rise, our sole job is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world and watch it grow.

You and I are messengers of God’s Word. We are charged to deliver the message of Hope, Love, Forgiveness, and Righteousness found in the Gospel. From there on in, the Holy Spirit will grow and reap the harvest of the seeds and yeast (Gospel) we have sown for God.

I find it exciting to watch people grow in the Faith because we have shared God’s word with them, just like a loaf of bread rises because of the addition of yeast.

Dear Jesus. Help us to continue to spread your Gospel message to the world. We are always filled with joy as we see it grow and change people from the inside out. Amen.

“Not today, not tomorrow, or the day after that”

The Parables of Jesus

(Today’s devotion is from the Gospel for the 2nd Sunday in Lent)

March 13, 2022

“Not today, not tomorrow, or the day after that”

Luke 13:31-35

As I read today’s Gospel lesson from Luke, it brought back memories of something one of my students (youth) said to me many years ago.

In June of 1996, eleven of my high school students, myself, and two other adults left South Florida for a Mission Trip in Saskatchewan, Canada. Our trip was a bit unconventional, as we traveled in a 32-foot motor home.

It took us 4 ½ days of driving each way, and we stayed at a church in La Ronge, Saskatchewan. We didn’t sleep in the motor home. It was used strictly for travel. Instead, we stopped in eight different churches during the trip and stayed in the homes of congregation members.

I could probably write a book of memoirs and devotions about the trip, but this is one moment in particular I remember. As we were leaving La Ronge, one of my students, by the name of Betsy, came up to the front of the motor home. She kneeled down next to the driver’s seat and said to me, “Joe, I was just thinking about something.” I replied, “What’s that, Betsy?” She said, “Even though we’ll be driving all day, we won’t get home today, or tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that.” That statement by Betsy made me realize how long of a drive we had to get home. Not today, and not tomorrow either, but we did get home eventually.

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I chose that true story to lead into today’s lesson because Jesus uses much of the exact words as Betsy’s.

“At that time, some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day, I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ 13:35 Psalm 118:26” Luke 13:31-35

Interestingly, some Pharisees came to warn Jesus. There are two ways to look at their words to Him. First, they may have just wanted Jesus to get out of the area because He was disrupting the power and authority of Herod as well as the Pharisees themselves. Second, perhaps they were discreet followers of Jesus and simply wanted to warn Him. I like to believe the latter is true.

There was no love lost between Jesus and Herod. This is the man who ordered Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist beheaded.

Jesus describes Herod as a fox. The term was used for a crafty, sly, or insignificant person. It seems that Jesus looks at Herod as minor in the big picture of things. It was not Jesus’ time to die.

Jesus says that “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day, I will reach my goal.”

In other words, Jesus has a job to do, and even Herod can’t stop him from completing it. `

The words today and tomorrow are a general way of saying, “I’m going to continue what I’m supposed to be doing for a while.” But, when Jesus says on the third day He will reach His goal, He’s talking about His resurrection, three days after His death. Then and only then God’s plan would be complete.

Finally, once again, Jesus speaks to everyone around Him. He has done all He could to try and bring the Jews (people of Jerusalem) to Himself. But, overall, they rejected His Gospel message.

So, Jesus finishes by saying something I’ve written about before. Because they rejected Him, the temple would be spiritually empty. His words could also be a foretelling of the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman.

We must continue to do Christ’s work of spreading the Gospel message for as long as we are here. Whether it’s only for today, tomorrow, or maybe even many days after that.

Dear Jesus. It’s unfortunate that you had and have so many enemies. Today, there are still many who do not follow and believe what you did for the world. Help us to continue to bring the Gospel message to the world. “If they have ears, then let them hear.” Amen.

‘Great Oaks from little Acorns grow”

The Parables of Jesus

“Great Oaks from little Acorns grow.”

March 12, 2022

Mark 4:30-32

You’ve probably heard the term, “Great oaks from little acorns grow” before. As seen in the photo above, acorns are tiny. But if one is planted and it opens up, inside is the seed necessary for a giant oak to grow.

The phrase or proverb about great oaks is literal because it’s true. It is also an analogy for the idea that great things can come from simple beginnings. In other words, if we begin with taking small steps towards a goal, we can then take larger and larger ones moving forward.

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You might say I used the phrase as an example for today’s Parable. The Parable of the mustard seed.

   “What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like, or what Parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32

In this Parable, Jesus is being quite literal. The mustard seed was literally one of the smallest seeds the people of Israel could plant in their garden. Yet this tiny seed could grow into a tree that stood 8-10 feet with branches strong enough for birds to sit on.

Take a moment and think about what the seed represents.

The mustard seed represents Jesus. He came into this world as a tiny baby. The Bible even says,

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

As Jesus grew, so did His ministry. He touched so many lives in His short three-year ministry. You might even say, Jesus, planted many mustard seeds himself throughout His ministry.

But, the real growth of Jesus, the mustard seed, didn’t come till after His death and resurrection. For instance, we know that on one spectacular day, The Day of Pentecost, 3000 were brought to faith by the Holy Spirit.

Christ’s church and Kingdom have continued to grow for over 2000 years. We can’t determine the final size of Christ’s Kingdom by the initial seed, Christ, that was planted. Nevertheless, the Gospel has remarkable power and strength. It will continue to grow until his return.

Dear Jesus. You have put us here to do your work of spreading the Gospel message. Help us spread the seeds of the Gospel and nurture them in others. We know that the Holy Spirit will bring many of the seeds planted to full growth as the mustard seed grows to a large tree. Thank you for including us in your plan as we spread the Good News to everyone. Amen.

“His Word never returns empty”

The Parables of Jesus

“His Word never returns empty.”

March 11, 2022

Mark 4:26-29; Isaiah 55:11; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

As today’s Parable once again talks about a man scattering seeds, I thought I’d lead off with the verse.

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know-how. All by itself, the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29

What’s Jesus saying in this Parable? When we spread God’s Word, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, it will produce results. Does everyone we share the Gospel with come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Unfortunately, no.

But like the man who scatters the seed, it grows. The same goes for the Gospel. Our job is to spread the Good News. That’s it. We don’t bring people to Christ. That’s the Holy Spirits’ job after we’ve planted the seed of the Gospel.

I love the following verses from Isaiah because they reinforce Jesus’s words in the above Parable. So once again, it’s a case of scripture explaining scripture.

“As the rain and the snow

come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

Isaiah is saying the same thing. The word comes from his mouth, and it won’t return empty. It accomplishes what God wants it to.

Here’s another bible verse from 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 that reinforces how God’s word grows and spreads.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” I Corinthians 3:6-7

In this passage, the Apostle Paul says he has planted the seeds of the Gospel. His own follower Apollos followed up and watered the seeds, but only God can make things grow.

In a nutshell, “We preach and teach the Word; God’s Word does the rest.” (Peoples Bible Commentary, Mark, 1992. Pp.66.)

Dear Lord. We are Your hands and feet in this world. Give us the encouragement to spread Your Word throughout the land. We know we are your tools to preach and teach Your Word. You will make the seeds of the Gospel grow. Amen.

“The Great Impersonator”

The Parables of Jesus

“The Great Impersonator”

March 10, 2022

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

Have you ever heard of L. temulentum? I would venture to guess that you haven’t. It’s the scientific name for a weed called Darnel or Darnel RyeGrass. Unfortunately, Darnel grows among wheat plants, and it is difficult to tell the two apart until maturity. Therefore, it is pretty difficult to “weed” it out until the wheat and Darnel mature.

The similarity between wheat and Lolium temulentum is so great that in some regions, L. temulentum is referred to as true wheat (Triticum species). L. temulentum and wheat look alike until the ear appears and are distinguished as follows:

  • The ears on the real wheat are so heavy that it makes the entire plant droop downward, but L. temulentum, whose ears are light, stands up straight.
  • Wheat ripens to a brown color, whereas L. temulentum turns black.

(https://keys.lucidcentral.org/keys/v3/eafrinet/weeds/key/weeds/Media/Html/Lolium_temulentum_(Darnel_Ryegrass).htm)

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Right about now, you may be asking yourself, why did Joe just give me a Botany lesson on the difference between wheat and darnel ryegrass. I’m so glad you asked that question 😊.

Today’s parable is called “The Parable of the Weeds.” It is believed by many people that the weed or weeds that are discussed in this parable are Darnel.

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time, I will tell the harvesters: First, collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”       Matthew 13:24-30

In this parable, we have another man good seed in what seems to be good soil. But he encounters a different problem than rocks, a path, or a scorching sun. In this story, an enemy comes into the field at night and scatters weed seeds.

The weeds and the good seed are tough to distinguish in their infancy; only when they mature is it safe to pull the weeds without damaging the good crops.

As I said, many believe the weeds would have been what we now call Darnel. In the “New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, 1994 Edition, Pp. 922. Notes 25,

“The weeds are probably Darnel. Which looks very like wheat in the earthy stages of growth and after that is so closely entangled with it that it cannot be removed without damaging the wheat.”

At this point, we know the problem and even Jesus’ parable answer to the problem.

“Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time, I will tell the harvesters: First, collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” 

Once again, Jesus takes the time to explain this parable to His disciples.

“Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”     Matthew 13:36-43

Jesus’ explanation is very self-explanatory. Jesus is the Son of Man, who sows His Word. The believers are the good seeds that stand in this world. The weeds are the ungodly people that Satan plants amongst us. Why? So, we as believers might be pulled into the sinfulness the world has to offer.

One final note. You’ll notice that the parable refers to the “world,” not “the church.” This is because there are processes in place to deal with the unfaithful and sinners within the church.

Don’t ever think that historical events like the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades were righteous in God’s sight. It is not our job to go out and destroy sinners in the world. Jesus will take care of that when He returns when he separates the weeds from the wheat.

We’ll return to some of these thoughts and ideas later this month when we discuss the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.

Dear Jesus. We believe that one day you will return, and everyone will be held accountable for their actions. May your Holy Spirit guide us to walk in Your ways so on that day of your arrival, we will join you in eternity. Amen.

Not all seeds take root

The Parables of Jesus

March 9, 2022

“Not all seeds take root.”

Matthew 13:1-9;18-23

Most people have not heard of John Chapman. He was born in 1774. As an adult, John worked a nurseryman, which simply means he worked with plants, bushes, and trees.

Mr. Chapman especially loved apple trees. As a matter of fact, he planted them all around the town he lived in. Eventually, He started traveling around the country planting apple trees and giving away apple seeds.

Mr. Chapman became well-known for planting apple trees and sharing their seeds. Perhaps you’ve heard his nickname before, Johnny Appleseed.

Not unlike plants, trees, and seeds we plant on our own property, it’s safe to say that every tree plant and seed sowed by Johnny Appleseed did not produce fruit.

And that presumption brings us to today’s Parable.

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The best part of the Parable is that Jesus explains it to His disciples. That’s not something He does very often. Generally, Jesus would tell a Parable and leave it at that. This allowed the listener to either dismiss it or take time to ponder what Jesus said and allow the Spirit to open their hearts and mind to its meaning.

The first section of this Parable is the story itself:

“That same day, Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still, other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:1-9

I want to key in on one point at the end of the above text, as Jesus himself will explain to the Parable to you and me in the rest of the story.

Matthew 13:9 is not just talking about being a good listener. If you can hear God’s word, then “really” listen to it. Take His word to heart, believe it, and obey it. We obey God’s word by not allowing it to lie dormant in our hearts. Instead, we do what it says; we follow God’s instructions.

Over several verses, Jesus discusses how and why He uses Parable, then He explains the Parable we read earlier:

 “Listen then to what the Parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:18-23

Yes, this portion of the scripture is about listening to God’s word and what you do with it. But, it’s also about Faith.

What makes Good soil. You’ll notice Jesus never once says that the good ground doesn’t have rocks, thorns, or weeds on it. That’s because we will all and are tempted, go through problems in our lives, and face uncertain times. Yet, through it all, those in the good soil maintain a strong faith in their Savior and His love for them. They know that’s God’s Holy Spirit will guide them along the proper path and help them in times of need.

John Chapman was enthusiastic about planting apple trees and seeds. God wants you and I to be passionate and excited about planting and sowing the seeds of the Gospel where ever we go.

So, listen, read, understand, believe, and act.

Dear Jesus. It’s not always easy to listen to your word, believe it, and act. Help us to hear and listen to your word. In this way, we may sow the seeds of The Good News to everyone we encounter. Amen

“Are you fruitful or unfruitful?

The Parables of Jesus

March 8, 2022

“Are you fruitful or unfruitful?”

Luke 13:6-9

Do you have a ‘green thumb?” I must confess that I have often failed miserably in my planting endeavors over the years.

My one success story is the four barrels filled with dirt and flowers you see above. My neighbors threw out the barrels a couple of years ago, so I snatched them up. I sanded them down and sealed them outside.

Outside of our front door, we have two stoops. Therefore, they are ideal for planters. I’ve been working on these four barrels of flowers now for almost two years. Although I water everything regularly, turn the soil, add new dirt, and fertilize as needed, occasionally, one or two plants will die. So, I pull the dead ones out and plant new ones when they do.

But not all plants bloom like the ones above. I have a lemon tree that hadn’t given any fruit in almost 10 years. About two years ago, I began watering, feeding, and weeding the area around it regularly. My diligence paid off. This year the lemon tree had two lemons on it. Patience can pay off.

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That brings us to our devotion for today. The Parable of the unfruitful Fig tree.

Then he told this Parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So, he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

Let’s look at this Parable from two perspectives.

In both, God is the man who had the fig tree, and Jesus is the man who takes care of the vineyard.

In the broad sense, this is a story of God being tired of the people of Israel for not coming to repentance. They are using up the very air He provides; they are of no use to Him if they don’t repent, “Why should it use up the soil.”

But, Jesus, the man who takes care of the vineyard, intercedes. He asks the vineyard owner, God, to give it a little more time. Jesus wants time to cultivate the love of God and repentance in the land.

Even though God is very patient, we see that when Jesus dies, the number of people who have come to repentance compared to the size of Israel is minimal.

There is always a price to pay for non-belief and not doing the Lord’s work. But, unfortunately, in 70 A.D., that price comes due with the destruction of Israel.

The second perspective of this Parable brings it a little closer to home. This Parable tells us that God is patient and gives people time to repent, as I said earlier. God doesn’t want any of us to perish. Instead, he wants us to come to repentance.

So, this delay puts the burden on us as believers who have repented and do God’s work He has set before us.

It’s more important than ever that we spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. We do this by sharing God’s Word, our actions, and being servants to all. The delay in judgment for non-repentance will only last so long. If a person dies unrepentant, there is no hope; their opportunity to repent and be righteous in God’s sight is lost.

We must produce fruit and use our God-given gifts to bring everyone to Christ. We must show Christ’s love to everyone, so they too can know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. In this way, all can enjoy the Grace and righteousness offered by God and experience eternity.

“You also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Luke 12:40

Dear Jesus. There is so much to do. As you said in Luke,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Allow us to be your hands and feet as we go into the field and tell the world about your love and the eternity you offer by Grace through Faith. Amen

“Does anybody really know what time it is?”

The Parables of Jesus

March 7, 2022

“Does anybody really know what time it is?”

Mark 13:35-48

Nowadays it’s next to impossible not to know what time it is. Everyone has cell phones, and the time is on the screen for you to see. Years ago, most of us had to rely on wearing a watch to know what time it was, unless there was a wall clock, or you had the luxury of having one on the dashboard of your car.

As a species, the human race has time down to a science. We know when the sun will rise and set, there is a scheduled time to start work and go home, and we turn the timer on our oven to cook and bake. Of course, we all know what time our favorite television shows are on.

We seem to have an excellent handle on time. The baseball season begins in March, football in August, and basketball in October. Dad gets home from work at 6 p.m., mom has dinner on the table at 6:15 😊, the kids go to bed a 9 p.m., and Jesus is coming back ……

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As much as we seem to have a handle on time, people continue to be late. We are late for appointments and meetings, burn our dinner, even though we’ve set a timer, and have every excuse in the world for being late to class or work.

In the 1970s, the group Chicago had a pop song called, “Does anybody really know what time it is.” The following line of the song speaks to many people’s attitudes about time. “Does anybody really care?”

Today’s devotion concerns the second coming of Jesus and how we need to be ready for His arrival. The Bible says that no one knows the date or time of His arrival. Yet, Jesus tells us to be prepared, to be “Watchful,” for His return. Sometimes I wonder, “Does anybody really care?”

Let’s take a look at the passage about watchfulness from the Gospel of Luke.

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet so that when he comes and knocks, they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table, and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us or to everyone?”

The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.

Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men, and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:35-48

In the passage above from Luke, there are three short parables. At first, it may seem that the stories are aimed only at Jesus’ disciples, who were present at the time.

Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us or to everyone?”

To a certain extent, this may be true. But as believers, we are all disciples of Jesus, so this law-oriented passage is meant for all who believe.

It boils down to this.

“You also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Jesus tells us to be watchful. The word watchful can be defined by being alert or attentive, which Jesus tells the disciples they should be. But, it also means to be vigilant. We, as Christ’s disciples, need to make ourselves ready for His coming by “being diligently employed in God’s service Like servants who are always prepared for the master’s return.” (New Bible Commentary, 21st-century edition, pp. 1002).

As I said in a previous devotion, “We must always be about the Master’s work.” That work is spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, serving others, giving to the needy, and being empathetic to the problems of others.

There are times I wonder about myself and my fellow servants around me. Do we care enough? Are we waiting and doing the Lord’s work as he asked us to? Or is today and tomorrow just another day?

1 Thessalonians 5:2 says, “You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

So, the question is, are you and I ready for the day and hour our Savior will return?

“Does anybody know what time it is; does anybody care?”

Lord Jesus. We know You will one day return to judge the living and the dead. Therefore, we ask that your Holy Spirit helps us to be ready at all times, as we remain watchful and vigilant in the work you have put before us. Amen.

“Pass the FoFo Please”

The Parables of Jesus

“Pass the FoFo, please.”

March 6, 2022

Luke 4:1-4; Matthew 4:1-4; Deuteronomy 8:3

When we’re very young, we come up with odd-sounding names for things. When my family gets together, we still laugh about two items in particular that I had odd designations for when I was a toddler.

The first item was my lore-lore. You could probably sit and look at that non-word for ten minutes and not know what I meant when I said, “Lore-lore.” It was my name for a toothbrush. To this day, I have no idea why I called my toothbrush lore-lore, but I did.

The second is even odder than the first. Fo-fo was my word for bread. Again, to this day, I have no idea where the non-word Fo-fo came from, but for me, it meant bread.

I think of my word for bread every once in a while, as I am a bread lover. Sliced bread, bagels, English muffins, biscuits, and especially homemade, I am a lover of bread. (I forgot to mention the bread at Carrabba’s Italian Grill that you dip in oil and spices, OM, to die for 😊.

Of course, we know what Jesus said to Satan while he was in the desert is true in life. Man cannot live by bread alone. Our bodies need vegetables, proteins, fruits, fats, and dairy products to keep going.

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A portion of the Gospel reading for today, Sunday, March 6, is:

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted4:2 The Greek for tempted can also mean tested. by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them, he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.”

Luke4:1-4

Now, let’s compare this passage to a similar one from the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 4:1-4, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

 “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:1-4

It’s the same story, just from a slightly different perspective. Jesus had just been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. As scripture says, “The Holy Spirit came down upon Him like a dove.”

Immediately after this, the Spirit led Him into the desert for 40 days and nights. The passage written by Luke says He ate nothing during those days. Matthew’s passage says, Jesus fasted. So it could be interpreted as the same thing. Either way, Jesus would have been very hungry and very thirsty when Satan started bombarding Him with temptations.

The temptation we’ll talk about today, of course, is, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 

But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

You’ll notice I used the Matthew passage rather than the one from Luke. The reason I did that is that Jesus adds something important to the quote that Luke doesn’t have.

“It is written,

 “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Matthew’s addition is a direct quote from the book of Deuteronomy.

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3

Jesus is in prayer and fasting mode for forty days and nights. Then, when Jesus is tired and weak, the devil attacks. The devil said, Hey Jesus, if you’re really the Son of God, then make these rocks sitting on the ground into loaves of bread. But Jesus doesn’t take the bait; he looks Satan right in the eye and says, “Hey Beelzebub, you need to read your Bible. It says right there in Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Neither Moses, who spoke the words in Deuteronomy, nor Jesus in the Matthew passage, says we don’t need bread (food). Instead, they both said we need more than bread (food); we need to listen to, learn, and hang on to every word that comes from God.

We all need to eat to keep our bodies healthy. We also need to work. We all need time with friends and family. But most of all, we need time to totally immerse ourselves in God’s Word. We need uninterrupted time to sit and the feet of God for prayer, studying His word, conversation, and adoration.

In reality, bread can be anything from eating to work to recreation. It’s everything the world has to offer. But remember this “bread.” Doesn’t last forever, nor does it satisfy us for a long time.

Let me leave you with this question to ponder today. What’s more important to you? The bread the world has to offer, or “The Bread of Life,” we receive from Jesus?

Dear Jesus. Help us not be seduced by the bread the world has to offer. Instead, help us to feed off the “Bread of Life,” God’s Word, Your redemptive act on the cross, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction. Amen.