Thursday, November 03, 2016

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes–Parables of Jesus #2

38d2ea28-d0b8-4953-b962-1b9a41648f0b_1.521799f19899b1e8b6f68e4eef180b97We now continue the discussion on Jesus’ parables in Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, by Kenneth E. Bailey. The main purpose of this book is to take a fresh look at the Gospels in the context of Middle Eastern culture. Here we will look at three more parables from the Gospel of Luke. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. This is a book I would highly recommend that you add to your library.

The Parable of the Great Banquet, Luke 14.15-24

This parable builds on, explains and confirms the great kingdom banquet prophecy of Isaiah 25 that will include the pious Jews, the outcasts and the Gentiles. By the time of Jesus the passage had been reworked into a defense of the law that would bar the second two groups. Jesus warns the Jewish leadership that their rejection of him (the excuses for not attending are bogus and insulting) would not slow down God's intention for the kingdom in any way. The outcasts and Gentiles will be part of it, but those leaders who reject Jesus will be on the outside. God will turn their rejection into grace for the whole world.

Jesus is referring to the outcasts within Israel, the “people of the land,” the common people who heard him gladly. These folk are now welcomed into the banquet even though they are not worthy to be seated with such a noble host and the possibility of their repaying him with a similar banquet is out of the question. 317

Ibn al-Tayyib writes, “Oblige them to come in.” This does not mean compulsion or force or persecution, but refers to the strength of the need for urgent solicitation, because those living outside the town see themselves as unworthy to enter into the places of the rich and eat banquets. Such outsiders need someone to confirm that there is indeed a welcome awaiting them there." Luke 14.23, 318

For Jesus, the messianic banquet has begun and that great banquet is his banquet. The religious leaders listening to him are welcome, but if they refuse to attend, the banquet will proceed with the “people of the land,” the outcasts of Israel and will eventually be extended to the Gentiles. Luke 14.15-24, 318

The Parable of the Two Builders Luke 6.46-49

Bailey sees this short parable as being based on the parables in Isaiah 28.14-18 and Ezekiel 33.29-33. Both of these parables were originally preached in a crisis situation in which the people of Jerusalem were relying on the Jewish temple as their protection from destruction rather than God's covenant. Jesus' situation is the same. He warns the people that the only reliable protection in the coming crisis is his own person rather than the temple or the city. Sadly they did not respond and the temple and city were destroyed by the Romans.

Jesus was saying, “I am the foundation stone, I am the Sheteyah. Build on me and my words and you will not be shaken. Isaiah’s parable of the destroyed building and the promised new foundation is not fulfilled in Qumran or the second temple, but in me and my words.” Luke 6.46-49, 327

The parables which deal with the impending crises were each uttered in a particular concrete situation, a fact which is essential for their understanding. It is not their purpose to propound moral precepts, but to shock into realization of its danger a nation rushing upon its own destruction, and more especially its leaders, the theologians and priests. But above all they are a call to repentance. Luke 6.46-49, 328

Throughout the New Testament there is witness to the astounding fact that a person had replaced a building. In faith and baptism believers in Jesus Christ become part of that temple. Luke 6.46-49, 328–329

The Parable of the Unjust Steward Luke 16.1-8

Bailey thinks that this parable must be understood together with the parable of the prodigal son. In both stories the generous master is treated badly by the son/servant and in both stories the evil of the son/servant is exposed but the master chooses to absorb the cost of their sin. The servant takes advantage of the master's generosity, in order to make himself popular. Jesus condemns the wrong in this, yet recognizes the cleverness.

In this story silence is a confession of guilt. It is also a confession regarding the nature of the master, who cannot be manipulated or pressured...From Adam onward, sinners, when confronted by God, never successfully offer excuses for the evil they have done, but like Adam they often try. Luke 16.1-8, 336

At the end of the story, Jesus calls him “a son of this age/world.” He is smart enough to know that his only hope is to put his entire trust in the unqualified mercy of his generous master. His morals are deplorable. Nonetheless, Jesus wants “the sons of light” to use their intelligence, like the dishonest steward, and to trust completely in the mercy of God for their salvation. The prodigal son made a similar decision. Luke 16.1-8, 341

God is a God of justice, mercy and great personal integrity (honor). His sense of justice leads him to dismiss the rascal. His mercy is demonstrated in the decision to dismiss the servant rather than sell or imprison him for his thefts. It also shows in agreeing to pay the price for the servant’s salvation. Luke 16.1-8, 341

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