Friday, November 18, 2016

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes–Parables of Jesus #4

38d2ea28-d0b8-4953-b962-1b9a41648f0b_1.521799f19899b1e8b6f68e4eef180b97This is the final post looking at the book 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. In this post we look at 3 more (kind of) eschatological parables from Luke. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. I have greatly enjoyed going through this book, have learned a lot, and would recommend that you add it to your library.

The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man Luke 16.19-30

According to Bailey this is a "pearly gates story" designed, not so much to teach eschatology, but to teach about social or political justice in this life. The rich man is a self-indulgent, arrogant man who fails to use his wealth to serve God and his fellow man. Lazarus is his opportunity to serve God. The rich man failed to honor God's word by hearing and obeying it and thus, missed out on the kingdom banquet.

The events of our lives have meaning. We access or fail to access that meaning by the way in which we respond to those events. What we do with the good gifts and the pain of life is what matters. The rich man responded to the good things given to him with self-indulgence, indifference to the needs of others, arrogance and class pride. Lazarus responded to his pain with patience, longsuffering, gentleness and implied forgiveness. 394

The formula “Wealth necessarily = God’s blessing,” and the related formula “Suffering always = You must have sinned,” are both totally rejected. The story depicts an arrogant, rich man whom God does not bless, and a humble, sick man whom dogs, humans, angels and Abraham love, serve and honor. Luke 16.19-30, 395

The parable reflects the corrupting, blinding potential of wealth and is critical of the socially irresponsible wealthy. The rich man used his resources for his own self-indulgent living. He cared nothing about his God, his staff or the needy in his community. Even in hell he remained unrepentant and continued to see Lazarus as an inferior who should serve him as a waiter or an errand boy. Mammon had become his master. Luke 16.25, also 16.10-13, 395

The Parable of the Pounds Luke 19.11-27

In this parable the issue is faithfulness, not gain. Jesus, the nobleman, wants his servants use the generous gifts he gives them to represent him and be loyal to him in public. When he returns and sets up his kingdom it is the faithful ones who take the greater responsibility to rule with Him. Even though it may look like the kingdom will never come, we must live as though it could come tomorrow. 

In the parable the master challenges his servants to live boldly and publicly as his servants, using his resources, unafraid of his enemies, confident in the future as his future. Luke 19.11-27, 401

The parable places the blame solely on the servant. The servant’s unfaithfulness produces a twisted vision of the master. Both texts affirm that the way we live influences how we see God, which is the unfaithful servant’s problem. Luke 19.21-22, 406

Jesus, the nobleman, gives gifts to his disciples for them to use in his service. He anticipates returning to God and being enthroned. In God’s good time he will return to his servants to deal with the faithful and the unfaithful. Judgment is pronounced against the master’s determined enemies, but that judgment is not enacted. Luke 19.11-27, 407

The Parable of the Noble Vineyard Owner and His Son Luke 20.9-18

In this parable Bailey focuses on the vulnerability of the noble owner (God the Father) who, rather than destroy the renters of the vineyard as was his right, opts to be vulnerable and sends his son alone in hopes of appealing to the renters to change their ways. The picture is of the incarnation and the cross. The renters rejection typifies that of the Jewish leadership. It is their place that would be taken away in judgment.

The vineyard owner is clearly the hero of the story. He exhibits makrothymia. This rich word refers to a person in a position of power who can exact vengeance on his enemies but chooses not to do so...Patience, longsuffering, risk-taking, compassion and self-emptying together describe the vineyard owner. 410

God sent his beloved son alone into the vineyard where his servants had been beaten, insulted, injured (Mark: killed) and thrown out. The parable exposes God’s willingness to give himself through his son, in total vulnerability, in order to win his people back to himself. The incarnation is affirmed and the cross foreseen. Luke 20.9-18, 425

Followers of Jesus in every age are reminded that they do not own “the inheritance” and that they cannot keep its fruits for their own exclusive use. Any attempt to do so will take them down a path that unites them with the vinedressers. The fruits of the vineyard must be offered to its owner. The renters are challenged to offer obedience to the beloved son. Luke 20.9-18, 425

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