Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Parable of the Wedding Feast (Luke 14:1-14 Teaching Outline)

Note: Today I am going to continue the series I have been doing on the parables of Jesus, but since the Parable of the Wedding Feast – in verses 7-11 – occurs in the context of a dinner to which Jesus was invited, and because it is so closely connected to the context before and after, I want to examine the entire passage beginning in verse 1 and continuing to verse 14. This also has the added advantage of preparing us for the next parable – the Parable of the Great Supper – which begins in verse 15 and, Lord willing, we will examine next week.

Introduction: Although we will focus our attention today on seeking to understand Luke 14:1-14, an illustration from an earlier passage in Luke will help to prepare us for it:
NKJ  Luke 6:6-11 Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He [Jesus] entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. 8 But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” 10 And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. 11 But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Here we have a common enough scenario in Jesus' ministry. Jesus would do what is genuinely right and loving in accordance with the true intentions of the Law, and the scribes and Pharisees would become angry about it because they were being confronted for their own unloving and hypocritical hearts. But Jesus would not accept their hypocrisy and hatefulness no matter how much they sought to harm Him, and no matter how angry and frustrated they became, so we can be sure that He won't accept such wickedness in us either. And this sets up the focus of the passage before us this morning, in which we will see that 1) the Lord Jesus will not accept our hypocrisy, 2) the Lord Jesus will not accept our pride, and 3) the Lord Jesus will not accept our selfishness.

I. The Lord Jesus Will Not Accept Our Hypocrisy

This will become clear as we examine the first six verses of this passage.
NKJ  Luke 14:1 Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely.
The key to understanding what is really happening in this passage is found in Luke's statement that “they watched Him closely.” Indeed, this probably explains why Jesus was invited to a Sabbath meal at the house of “one of the rulers of the Pharisees” in the first place!

We have already seen one example from earlier in Jesus' ministry of how the scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus to try to get something on Him in order to accuse Him, but perhaps one more example will help us to see just how common this was. Earlier, in Luke 11, we can read about another occasion in which Jesus was invited to the house of a Pharisee, with other scribes and Pharisees in attendance. There He also ended up confronting their hypocrisy, and Luke describes their response for us:
NKJ  Luke 11:53-54 And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, 54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.
You see, they were constantly looking for a way to trip Jesus up in order to accuse Him. Perhaps this is the true reason that this ruler of the Pharisees invited not only Jesus but also a sick man to his house for a meal, and why he did so on the Sabbath. We are told of the sick man in the next verse.
NKJ  Luke 14:2 And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy [ὑδρωπικός].
Perhaps by now you may share my suspicions that this man was a plant put in place to see what Jesus would do. Notice how Luke tells us that this man was “before Him,” or as the NASB says it, “And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy” (italics mine).

The impression is that the man was seated right in front of Jesus, and it is hard to avoid the thought that this was part of a plan, since we are immediately told that the man had dropsy. The Greek word used by Luke – who, remember, was a physician (Col. 4:14) – is hudrōpikós, a word which may also be translated by our more common medical term edema. This condition involves swelling due to the accumulation of fluid under the skin, most often in the legs, ankles, and feet. There are a number of potential causes, the most serious of which may be heart failure or liver disease. The man must have had enough swelling in his body to have been noticeable to others, and it was likely a pretty serious condition.

So, based upon Jesus' previous track record, the scribes and Pharisees would have expected Him to see it and to want to help the man, especially since the man was put right in front of Him! And, of course, Jesus didn't let them down, but neither did He heal the man without making a point, as the next verse will show.
NKJ  Luke 14:3-4 And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 4 But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go.
Jesus responded to this situation on two levels.

First, He posed the very question that was on the minds of the lawyers and Pharisees, namely, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” As we have already seen from a previous occasion recorded in Luke 6, this was a prominent point of disagreement between Jesus and the Jewish leaders concerning the correct understanding of the Law.

Notice, however, that no one answered Jesus' question. But why not? Why wouldn't they welcome the debate? Perhaps it was because, deep down, they knew He was right and that they really couldn't win the argument. That is possible. But I think it is more likely that they didn't want to hinder Jesus from healing the man, since His ding so this would provide the very pretext they thought they needed to accuse Him of breaking the Law – at least as they interpreted the Law.

Second, Jesus also responded to the situation by showing compassion on the sick man by healing him, after which we are told that Jesus “let him go.” In this way I think that Jesus showed an additional kindness to this man by dismissing him from the gathering. He let the man off the hook and made sure that the attention was no longer focused upon him. Jesus would no longer allow this man to be used by these hypocrites as a pawn in their cruel game. In fact, their use of him in this way actually showed that they viewed him as less important even that a common beast of burden, as Jesus' next statement indicates.
NKJ  Luke 14:5-6 Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey [some mss. read son, as indicated in the ESV or NASB, but the point Jesus is making is the same either way] or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” 6 And they could not answer Him regarding these things.
This situation is somewhat similar to an earlier account, found in chapter 13:
NKJ  Luke 13:10-16 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound-- think of it-- for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
Just as on that earlier occasion, so also here Jesus points out an exception that He knew full well all the scribes and Pharisees would allow for activity on the Sabbath. He knew they would allow someone to untie a donkey or an ox on the Sabbath in order that it may drink, and He knew they would allow someone to pull a donkey or an ox out of a pit on the Sabbath in order to save it's life.

But Jesus makes explicit in the earlier situation what is implicit here, namely a charge of hypocrisy against the scribes and Pharisees, who would bend or break their own legalistic requirements when it suited their own selfish purposes – in this case to avoid the loss or ill health of an expensive animal – but they wouldn't allow any latitude at all when it came to helping a sick human being!

Application: You see, Jesus simply would not accept their hypocrisy, and He won't accept our hypcrisy either! And – to the extent that we all have at least a little hypocrisy dwelling in us – we can be sure that Jesus desires to confront it in us just as He confronted it in them.

I think Steven Cole is helpful in identifying a number of characteristics of the scribes' and Pharisees' hypocrisy evident in this passage, and I think his list will be of help to us in rooting out any hypocrisy in ourselves as well:
(1) Hypocrites study the word for ammunition against others, but they don't apply it to themselves … [These men knew the Word, but didn't want to truly follow it as Jesus did.]
(2) Hypocrites target and try to bring down anyone who confronts their sin with the Word … [These men were out to get Jesus lest they be forced to admit that they were the ones who were wrong. But I think they knew this deep down, as many hypocrites do, which is why they “could not answer Him regarding these things.”]
(3) Hypocrites care more about man-made rules than about people being right in their hearts toward God … [These men didn't care about their own wicked hearts, but focused only on how they were perceived by others.]
(4) Hypocrites bend the rules for their own purposes, by they apply them rigidly to others … [These men could find ways to do things on the Sabbath that suited their own selfish purposes, but wouldn't cut anyone else any slack even if it meant that they had to continue suffering needlessly.]
(5) Hypocrites often ignore overwhelming evidence in order to persist in their sin …. [These men weren't impressed at all that Jesus had just miraculously healed a man right in front of them!] (Online sermon entitled Jesus the Confronter)
I pray that the Lord will continue to deliver all of us from such hypocrisy! But I also pray that He will deliver us from another sin, one that always accompanies hypocrisy, and one concerning which Jesus is equally intolerant. And this leads us to the next point.

II. The Lord Jesus Will Not Accept Our Pride

Now we arrive at the Parable of the Wedding Feast, which doesn't look like a typical parable of Jesus, yet we know it is a parable because Luke says it is. We find Luke's introduction to the parable in verse 7.
NKJ  Luke 14:7 So He told a parable to those who were invited [καλέω], when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: [Notice the repetition of καλέω throughout the passage.]
Stephen Cole is again helpful when he says:
In these verses Jesus turns the tables: instead of the Pharisees observing Jesus, Jesus observes the Pharisees. But His motives were totally different than theirs. He wasn’t watching them in order to trip them up, but to confront them with their sin and hypocrisy so that they could repent and be right before God. (Online sermon entitled Jesus the Confronter)
Notice the reason given for Jesus' communication of this parable. It is because He sees the manner in which the hypocrites jockey for the best places at the supper. As Thomas Constable says:
Customarily people reclined on low couches for important meals, such as this one, resting on their left sides. Where a person lay around the table indicated his status. In the typical U shape arrangement, the closer one was to the host, who reclined at the center or bottom of the U, the higher was his status. Jesus' fellow guests had tried to get the places closest to their host that implied their own importance. (Notes on Luke, e-Sword)
No doubt they all wanted to be seated as near as possible to the unidentified ruler of the Pharisees (vs. 1). Apparently the closer to him that they were seen to be sitting, the greater honor they would have in the eyes of the others present.

But notice also that, since Luke identifies the following teaching of Jesus as a parable, we know that, asis typical in Jesus' other parables, what He is saying has pertinence not just with respect to our relationship to other people, but with respect to our relationship to God. And we know that He is talking about principles that apply to the kingdom of God. With this is mind, let's take a look now at the Parable of the Wedding Feast, in which a focus on the sin of pride and the necessity for humility are obvious.
NKJ  Luke 14:8-10 When you are invited [καλέω] by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited [καλέω] by him; 9 and he who invited [καλέω] you and him come and say to you, “Give place to this man,” and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited [καλέω], go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited [καλέω] you comes he may say to you, “Friend, go up higher.” Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.
The meaning of this parable is easy enough to grasp, even for those as spiritually dense as so many of these scribes and Pharisees were. Jesus took a common situation – one in which they happened to be at the moment – in which one of them might seek to promote himself, and which could easily lead to embarrassment if he wasn't careful, in order to describe a kingdom principle. In the kingdom honor does not come to those who seek it, but to those who humbly see themselves as less deserving of honor than others.

In this way a person trusts the Lord to exalt him if that is His plan, instead of usurping His divine prerogative. This is a principle all of them should have understood, being well acquainted with the Law. For example, Asaph writes:
NKJ  Psalm 75:6-7 “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. 7 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.”
Those men at the dinner were acting as though they had the right to judge, whether it be their judgment of Jesus or of one another, judgment which led them to think they were each more deserving of a better place than those around them.

Application: But aren't we all capable of such prideful and judgmental attitudes? Aren't we capable of treating one another with arrogance and a critical spirit? And shouldn't we expect that our Lord Jesus would be just as intolerant of these attitudes in us as He was in them? Indeed, isn't this why the Apostle Paul also warned us against the same things? For example:
NKJ  Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
In the Church of Jesus Christ, there is no one who has faith in Christ who hasn't been given that faith by God. So there is no one who may look down on anyone else.
NKJ  Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
No believer has any business judging another as though he is somehow better. For, it is not only God who gives each one of us saving faith, but it is also God who enables each one of us to stand firm in the faith.

But we must be quick to recognize that these same principles apply in our relationships to unbelievers as well, for we know that the only reason we believe and they don't is not because we are somehow better that they are or less sinful than they are, but rather because God has shown us His grace. Thus Paul confronts the pride that quickly ensues within us if we forget this important fact, a pride that leads us to be judgmental and hypercritical.

This is the very kind of prideful and judgmental attitude that Jesus is confronting in this parable, for He will not tolerate such pride, especially in those who claim to trust in God as their Savior. Thus He goes on to state the general principle in an even more forceful and all-encompassing way.
NKJ  Luke 14:11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Here Jesus makes use of what Biblical scholars call the “Divine Passive.” He says that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (italics mine), but He doesn't explicitly say who will bring about the humbling or exalting. That God is the one who will do the humbling and exalting is implied and would have been understood by those who heard Him.

But when will this humbling and exalting take place? It is possible that to some degree it may happen in this life – as in the type of situation Jesus has described in the parable – but I think we have to say that it ultimately happens at the future judgment, which becomes clear later when we get to verse 14. And this this leads us to the next point.

III. The Lord Jesus Will Not Accept Our Selfishness

Those who are hypocritical and prideful are also selfish, which has already been evident in the passage, but which I think is brought to the foreground in verses 12-14:
NKJ  Luke 14:12-14 Then He also said to him who invited [καλέω] Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite [ἀντικαλέω] you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite [καλέω] the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Notice the way that Jesus shifts His attention away from those who had been invited to this Sabbath meal and places it upon the ruler of the Pharisees who had invited them. And notice how He confronts the man for having essentially the same prideful attitude as those he had invited. For, whereas they saw the invitation as an opportunity to selfishly promote themselves above others, he also saw his inviting them all as an opportunity to selfishly promote himself. This man was looking to be “repaid” (vs 12). He was in it for what he could get out of it, and this was what motivated him to select the guests that he had invited to come.

But, then, what was the man with the dropsy doing there? Was he an exception? Did this ruler of the Pharisees invite him for a loving and noble purpose? Apparently not! Apparently even the man with the dropsy was invited only because he could serve this ruler's own selfish ends.

I think this is why Jesus admonished him saying, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” In other words, if this ruler of the Pharisees had truly been motivated by a selfless love, then why weren't there more sick or poor people at his dinner? The reason, as we have already concluded, was that the man with dropsy was there simply to serve the ruler's purpose in trying to hurt Jesus. And this was a very selfish purpose indeed!

I think Jesus is making it clear to all that this is a very selfish man, one whose example should not be emulated, even if he was a prominent man among the Pharisees. For, as Jesus makes abundantly clear, it is not necessarily those who are prominent in this life that are great in the kingdom, but those whom the Lord exalts (vs. 11), and this ultimately happens “at the resurrection of the just” (vs. 14).

This man sought an earthly reward rather than a heavenly reward, and Jesus warned Him that he should be doing the opposite. But a heavenly reward comes through selflessness, not through selfishness. But such selflessness itself comes through repenting of our hypocrisy and humbling ourselves before God. For it is only when we are humble that we see our need for His grace and call upon Him to save us.

Conclusion: Wrap-around: I began today's teaching by highlighting the way in which Jesus commonly confronted the scribes and Pharisees and by pointing out how they reacted with anger and frustration. But this morning Jesus has also confronted all of us, hasn't He? Indeed, He has rebuked us for our own hypocrisy, pride, and selfishness. But what will our reaction be? Will it be anger, frustration, irritation, or bitterness, as we have seen in those scribes and Pharisees in our text? Or will we instead humble ourselves before the Lord that He might exalt us in Christ Jesus!? Will we accept the lesson David taught us when he wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). It is only when we humble ourselves that we may experience God's grace, and the Apostle Peter warned us about the tremendous spiritual warfare that we face in battling our pride in this regard, so perhaps his words will provide a fitting conclusion:
NKJ   1 Peter 5:5b-11 “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you . 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Memorial Day Prayer

Holy Father,

As we Christians remember those who have given their lives in defense of our country, let us not fail to remember that ours is ultimately a heavenly country (Heb. 11:8-16) and that our true citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20). And let us not, therefore, fail to remember those who have given their lives for Your glory and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we ever be willing to follow their example, as they themselves have followed the example of our Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf "who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:6-8).

Help us also to remember, Holy Father, those who are currently serving our country in harm's way, especially those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We know that some of them may even now be engaged in battle with the enemy, but we pray that they will remember who their ultimate enemy truly is and that they "do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). Help them, therefore, to remain faithful witnesses for Christ even under such enormous stress in the midst of grave danger. Grant them Your enabling grace, we pray, and impress upon our hearts the need to be as resolute and courageous in our service for you as they are, for we know that You are our only source of strength in our daily battle against sin and the devil.

Help us finally, Holy Father, to remember most of all our Lord Jesus Christ, "the captain of [our] salvation" who was made "perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10). Help us all to look to Him as "the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). "As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Rom 8:36-37).

We thank You, Holy Father, "who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57), and we humbly ask these things in the name of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

See also A Memorial Day Reflection on Christian Patriotism.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Parable of the Barren Fig tree (Luke 13:1-9 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: I remember in the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, how many Christians were speculating about whether or not this was the judgment of God on our country. There were even a number who dared to speak with certainty on the matter, such as when a couple of men thought to be prominent Christian leaders asserted that the attacks were indeed the judgment of God on our country because of the liberals in the ACLU, because of the growing number of gays and lesbians, and because of the many abortionists and people having abortions in our country.

Of course, such things are still being asserted by many, and what bothers me about such surmisings – at least in part – is the smugness of so many who seem to think that such liberals, gays, or abortionists are are all somehow worse sinners than they are themselves. They are thus quick to assume that these more wicked people surely deserve God's judgment in a way that they themselves do not.

But I do not believe that such thinking is pleasing to the Lord. As a matter of fact – as we will see in this passage – when Jesus was presented with or considered similar types of calamities, He took a very different point of view and corrected this very tendency in those around Him. In fact, this is the very kind of situation that led to His sharing the parable before us today. We will see this as we look at 1) the context of the parable, and 2) the communication of the parable.

I. The Context of the Parable

The context of the parable is found in verses 1-5.
NKJ  Luke 13:1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
Here Jesus is informed about an event that must have happened while He was not around. We don't know the details of what took place, except that Pilate apparently killed some Galileans when they were offering their sacrifices in the temple, such that their own blood was mingled with their sacrifices. Perhaps these people were thought by him to be rebels, and he was waiting until they came to Jerusalem to get a chance to be rid of them.

We cannot know precisely what the situation actually entailed. And we don't really need to know the details in order to get the point Jesus wants to make. You see, Jesus knew that those who were telling Him about this matter were assuming that these Galileans had been judged by God for being particularly bad sinners. This was a common assumption among the Jews in those days, and it was an assumption that was shared even by Jesus' disciples, as is evidenced, for example, in the incident concerning a man who was born blind:
NKJ  John 9:1-3 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
Notice the assumption that such a tragic thing as a man being born blind must have been due to some terrible sin having been committed by someone. And, of course, this was taken by many to mean that they themselves must not be such bad sinners as this guy because they weren't born blind like he was. But, again, it is this very type of attitude that Jesus wants to confront in this passage, as we see in the following verses.
NKJ Luke 13:2-3 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent [Present Active Subjunctive > μετανοέω] you will all likewise perish [ἀπόλλυμι].”
Here Jesus responds in two ways.

First, He makes it clear that we cannot assume that some people must be worse sinners than others just because some terrible tragedy has befallen them. In this way Jesus challenges our tendency to compare ourselves to others we think must be worse than us in order to feel superior.

Second, Jesus challenges us to think about our own sin and our own need for repentance, lest we perish ourselves. In this way He challenges the tendency to think we are somehow better than others just because we may have had an easier time in life.

When Jesus says that they will “all likewise perish,” He doesn't specify whether He is thinking of some judgment that God is going to bring on the people of Israel – such as occurred in A.D. 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed – or whether He is thinking of the ultimate judgment. Perhaps He has both ideas in mind, but I think that there is definitely an application to the final judgment. After all, isn't it the final judgment what we must all face if we do not repent?

I think it best to assume that Jesus is thinking of perishing here as opposed to having everlasting life, which is the same way this word is used in other passages as well. For example:
NKJ  John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish [ἀπόλλυμι] but have everlasting life.
NKJ  John 10:27-28 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish [ἀπόλλυμι] ; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.
This must also be the way Jesus intends us to take the same language in what He says next.
NKJ Luke 13:4-5 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent [Present Active Subjunctive > μετανοέω] you will all likewise perish [ἀπόλλυμι].
Here Jesus uses another example in order to make the same point. But in this case He illustrates the principle by using an accident that would have come upon those who perished quite suddenly. This again makes the same point as the previous example, albeit a bit more forcefully. As the New Geneva Study Bible notes put it:
The Galileans [and we would say also those in Siloam upon whom the tower fell] had had no time to repent at the time of their deaths, and Jesus' unrepentant hearers might also face deaths that would give them no time to prepare. (p. 1631)
None of us knows when we might die, so we must always be ready. This is one reason why Jesus wants His disciples – and us – to have humble hearts before the Lord and recognize that we ourselves deserve God's judgment as much as anyone else we may assume must have it coming to them! As a matter of fact, as we have seen, Jesus adds an additional example of tragedy and repeats the same point again: “Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men … I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

I think Jesus is confronting the same kind of self-righteous attitude that He later challenged in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector, which provides a terrific illustration for us:
NKJ  Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
This is this same lesson that Jesus is offering in this passage, and this is what provides the context for the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree. And so, having seen the context of the parable, let's turn our attention now to the parable itself.

II. The Communication of the Parable

The communication of the parable is found in verses 6-9.
NKJ  Luke 13:6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.”
Here we have the setting of the parable, which highlights three things: 1) a fig tree, 2) a vineyard, and 3) the expectation of fruit. All three of these elements would have been easily recognizable from Old Testament passages about Israel. For example:

1) The use of a fig tree as a metaphor for Israel:
NKJ  Micah 7:1 Woe is me! [says Micah] For I am like those who gather summer fruits, like those who glean vintage grapes; there is no cluster to eat of the first-ripe fruit [בִּכּוּרָה, “first ripe fig, early fig (regarded as a delicacy)” (BDB # 1229, BibleWorks)] which my soul desires. [Note: The ESV, NASB, NIV and NET Bible all do a better job of translating this word than does the KJV and NKJV, which gives the impression that Micah is still thinking of grapes here.]
2) The use of a vineyard as a metaphor for Israel:
NKJ  Isaiah 5:1-7 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. 2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. 3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. 4 What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? 5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.” 7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.
3) The expectation of fruit is also present in the use of both of these metaphors in their Old Testament contexts, just as there is the expectation of fruit in Jesus' combined usage of these metaphors.

And, by the way, lest we should think that combining these metaphors – as Micah had done, by referring to a fig tree that is planted in a vineyard – is a strange thing, we need to understand that it was relatively common to plant fig trees alongside grapes in ancient times. In fact, grape vines were often allowed to grow on fig trees to support the vines, and one ancient author even refers to the black fig tree as the “sister of the vine” (Klyne Snodgrass, Stories With Intent, p.260).

So, there is nothing unusual about fig trees growing in vineyards. Indeed, the fact that this was commonplace may be one reason that both fig trees and vineyards were used as metaphors for Israel. At any rate, I seriously doubt that Jesus' audience would have missed the meaning of the metaphors here. He was clearly using the example of a fig tree planted in a vineyard – a fig tree that should have produced fruit but failed to do so – as a metaphorical reference to the Jews of His day, just as the Old Testament prophets had done in the past.
NKJ  Luke 13:7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down [ἐκκόπτω]; why does it use up the ground?” [Note: As the NET Bible notes point out, “such fig trees would deplete the soil, robbing it of nutrients needed by other trees and plants” (BibleWorks).]
Is it possible that Jesus had in mind here the length of His preaching ministry up to this point? Or perhaps the combined ministries of Himself and John the Baptist? We cannot be certain. But what is clear is that three years was plenty of time for a fig tree to produce figs when it should have been producing them. And this is the point being made about Israel. Israel had already had plenty of time to produce the proper fruit and yet for the most part has not done so. And this is why judgment is coming soon, depicted as the cutting down of the fig tree. In fact, this is the same fate the John the Baptist had been warning them about:
NKJ  Luke 3:7-9 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down [ἐκκόπτω] and thrown into the fire.”
But, as we shall see, Jesus has interceded for them that they would be given just a little more time.
NKJ  Luke 13:8-9 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down [ἐκκόπτω].”
I think this must be a reference to the ministry of Jesus, in which God is patiently giving Israel yet one more chance to repent. He is giving them a grace period, but not for long! Sadly, most of the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, even after He rose from the dead and gave the Holy Spirit to the Church. They failed to avail themselves of the kindness God had shown them in being so patient. They didn't understand what His patience meant, even though Jesus made it so clear.

As Paul would later ask the Roman Christians in his profound letter to them, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).

Conclusion: I would like to end where I began today, with a reminder of the way we all too easily see others as worse sinners than we are and thus as more deserving of God's judgment. This is what leads believers to be too quick to assume that some tragedy must be the judgment of God when it happens to others. But Jesus will have none of this prideful attitude, and neither would His disciples who followed His teaching. For example, the Apostle Peter later wrote, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17 ).

Peter is simply echoing Jesus' persistent position, and I am repeating it today. And so the Holy Spirit is reminding us that, when we begin to judge others, smugly thinking they must be worse sinners than we are, we need to be very careful. He is essentially saying to us, “Take a good look at yourselves first!” He is reminding us that we all live in a grace period, in which He patiently gives us time to repent and to trust in Christ. If you have not already done so, I hope you trust Jesus to save you from your sins, for you do not know when you may meet your end.

For those who already know Christ as Lord and Savior, I hope you will remember that Jesus expects us to produce fruit in keeping with repentance just as He expected this of Israel. And this fruit is not something we can produce in our own strength. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23a). It consists of walking in holiness and doing the good works for which God has created us anew in Christ. As the Apostle Paul says:
NKJ  Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nate Schmidt Challenges "Drive-by" Christianity

Nate Schmidt, the worship leader at the Immanuel Baptist Church, where I am privileged to serve as an elder, has written an interesting and penetrating post I wanted to let you all know about. After he saw a sign outside a local church in our area that read, “LOV3: Love God, Love the world, love people,” he was motivated to challenge our tendency to oversimplify and dumb down the Bible's teaching. For example, he concludes:
Somehow, the American church (in particular) seems to excel in finding anything in the Bible that can be billboarded, sentence-sermoned, or bumper-stickered, and telling everybody that this is what they really believe. Here is my ultimate point: God gave us the whole Bible for a reason. The whole, entire thing is His Word, mightier than a two-edged sword and effective for correction, rebuke, and training in righteousness. I do not want to have anything to do with a spirituality that can be summed up in one catchy statement. The Bible is inconvenient for our drive-by culture, and will not stand up to our vicious attempts to manufacture a drive-through Messiah. What’s more, “Love God Love People” isn’t even the commandment.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” But if we write out the whole thing, we won’t be able to fit “Love your neighbor as yourself” on the sign. Now, why might that be? To say “Love God Love People” and repeat it like a mantra is to be repeating the summary of the summary, the simplifying of the central. It’s the dumbed-down version of what Jesus said, and Jesus said a whole lot of other things that might be worth paying attention to. Like, “Truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).
I highly recommend reading the rest of this thought-provoking post entitled All You Need Is Love (Love, Love, Love Is All You Need).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: I remember seeing the musical “The Fiddler on the Roof” some years ago, in which the main character, Tevye, sang a song called “If I Were a Rich Man.” In that song he prayed, “Dear God, you made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor. But it's no great honor either! So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?”

When his friend Perchik reminded him that “Money is the world's curse,” Tevye responded, “May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover.”

I think this is a good illustration of the way in which even a poor man may be seduced by the desire for wealth. Down deep, you and I are no different from this Tevye character, and this means that we need the warning of this parable every bit as much those we consider to be rich. As Bob Deffinbaugh says in a sermon on this passage:
When I read the parable of the rich fool, I cannot help but think of Howard Hughes [Younger people might think of Bill Gates]. I do not know that he was a fool, but I do know that he was rich. I also know, from some of the reports that went out at the time of his death, that while he had accumulated a great deal of wealth, he did not enjoy any of it in his last days, perhaps his last years. In this sense, Howard Hughes is a present day example of that against which Jesus was warning us in our text.
The danger of thinking of a man like Howard Hughes as I read this text is that this implies that the text applies primarily, perhaps exclusively to the rich. To put the matter more pointedly, thinking of the rich fool in this text as Howard Hughes enables me not to think of myself as a “rich fool.” (Greed: The Affliction of the Affluent)
I think he has hit on a problem for all of us here. We probably all have the same tendency to think of this parable as pertaining to someone else when we read it – someone really wealthy, rather than someone like me! But we must remember as we examine this parable that it applies to us as well as to those whom we might regard as wealthy. Besides, by the standards of first century Palestine, most of us – if not all of us – would be regarded as wealthy anyway.

So, without further ado, let's begin our examination of this passage. We will do so under three headings: 1) the context of the parable, 2) the communication of the parable, and 3) the consequences of the parable.

I. The Context of the Parable

As with a number of the parables, a request made of Jesus, or a question posed to Him, provides the context. Here we find that the same is true of this parable as well. In fact, this parable is intended to illustrate and expand upon Jesus' response to a request recorded earlier in this text, both of which are found in verses 13-15. Let's take a look at the previous request and the response by Jesus to better understand what is going on here.

1. The Request

The request is found in verse 13.
NKJ  Luke 12:13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
It is not necessary to get into the Old Testament laws regarding inheritance, since Jesus doesn't bother to do so. The point is that there is an inheritance to be divided and that the man wants Jesus to take his side in the matter. Apparently he saw Jesus as an authority whose word his brother would accept.

The man doesn't seem to be truly interested in justice, though, since he doesn't ask Jesus to listen to both sides of the argument before rendering a verdict. This helps us to understand Jesus' response, to which we will now turn.

2. The Response

The response of Jesus is found in verses 14-15.
NKJ  Luke 12:14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”
Now, we know that Jesus really is ultimately the Judge of everyone, since He Himself said so on another occasion:
NKJ  John 5:22-27 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.
The answer to the question “Who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” is obvious from this passage. It is God the Father who has made Jesus the Judge of all! But does the man realize this? I doubt it. In fact, I think the reason that Jesus answers the man the way that He does is in order to get him to think about it. The man has approached Jesus as though He is a judge, and he needs to stop and think about the implications of this, especially since Jesus is going to address the real issue that needs to be judged, namely the man's motives in seeking His help.
NKJ  Luke 12:15 And He said to them [“the crowd,” vs. 13, thus the man asking the question along with the others present, possibly including the man's brother], “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Here is the real issue with which the man needs help. He needs someone to help him see his own covetousness, which, as Paul clearly teaches in Colossians 3:5, is idolatry.

The man also needs to realize that life is more than money or earthly possessions. As David Guzik observes:
It isn't that Jesus is unconcerned about justice; but that He is all too aware that this man’s covetousness will do him more harm than not having his share of the inheritance.
i. We may fight and fight for what is ours by right; and in the end, having it may do us worse than if we had let it go and let God take care of the situation.
ii. Here is where the deceptive nature of the heart is such a challenge. We often mask our covetousness by claiming we are on a righteous crusade. (Commentary on Luke, e-Sword)
So this is the context of the parable, the exchange between Jesus and a man who is deceived by his own greed – a man who has lost sight of what really matters. This leads us to our second point.

II. The Communication of the Parable

The communication of the parable is found in verses 16-20.

As suggested by Klyne Snodgrass in his book Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, the parable itself may be divided into four movements (p. 394). We will follow his suggested outline.

The First Movement – the Plentiful Yield of a Rich Man's Field

The first movement is about the plentiful yield of a rich man's field, and it is found in verse 16.
NKJ  Luke 12:16 Then He spoke a parable to them [again “the crowd,” vs. 13; an “innumerable multitude,” vs. 1], saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.”
Notice the way Jesus emphasizes the fact that the field itself produced a great yield. He does not credit the rich man with having accomplished anything great himself. I would suggest that in this way Jesus is reflecting the Old Testament teaching about such matters, teaching with which any good Jew should be familiar. For example:
NKJ  Deuteronomy 8:7-17 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. 11 Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest – when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end – 17 then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.”
Notice as we move on that the man's response to the abundant yield of his field is not to thank God as the giver of such a bounty, but rather to focus on what to do with it for his own satisfaction. Thus the man is falling prey to the very issue about which God had warned the Israelites when He brought them into the land in the first place. This will become apparent as we look at the next part of the parable.

The Second Movement – the Problem Presented by the Unexpected Yield

The second movement is about the problem presented by the unexpected yield, and it is found in verse 17.
NKJ  Luke 12:17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?”
The man had clearly not expected nor planned for such a great harvest as he now knew that he could expect. This is why he had no room to store such a yield. But this would also mean that he has ended up with more than he actually needs, doesn't it? So what will he do? We will find out in the next part of the parable.

The Third Movement – the Solution to the Problem

The third movement is about the solution to the problem of the unexpected yield, and it is found in verses 18-19.
NKJ  Luke 12:18-19 So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul [ψυχή], 'Soul [ψυχή], you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.'”
Where is there any expression of thankfulness of God? Where is there any desire to use his unexpected and unneeded gains for God's purposes? Why does he not, for example, think of giving a greater thank offering at the temple, or of giving to the poor?

What we see here is a selfish desire in the rich man to take it easy and use everything for his own satisfaction and comfort. In the process he is looking many years down the road, but he fails to realize that there may be other unexpected events that could take place, other than just this unexpected windfall. And this leads us to the final pat of the part of the parable.

The Fourth Movement – the Unexpected Judgment of God

The fourth movement is about the unexpected judgment of God, and it is found in verse 20.
NKJ  Luke 12:20 But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul [ψυχή, or life, as in the NIV] will be required [ἀπαιτέω] of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”
A key term in this verse is the word translated required in the New King James Version. It is the Greek word apaitéō, which literally means “to ask for something to be returned” (Louw & Nida #33.165, BibleWorks), as when something has been borrowed and is owed back. It is used here “figuratively, of the concept of life as a loan from God” (Friberg #2458 , BibleWorks).

In other Words, even the life or soul the man possesses does not really belong to him! This is why God calls him a fool, because he has thought and acted as though all that he has is his own, including his own soul. But in reality all that he has – including his own life – is from God! And God is demanding back the life He has given this man.

The question God asks the man is, “Then whose will those things be which you have provided?” And the expected answer is that they will all belong to someone else! The man may not have thought one bit about sharing his possessions with anyone else, but in the end this is exactly what will happen. So, by hanging on so tightly to all that he has – including his own life – the man is actually losing it all in the end.

What Jesus is doing in this parable, then, is actually just driving home a point He has made before, when He taught, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Luke 9:24-25).

And so now – after having looked at the context of the parable and the communication of the parable – we are lead, finally, to think about its consequences.

III. The Consequences of the Parable

The consequences of the parable are seen in the application provided by Jesus in verse 21.
NKJ  Luke 12:21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
That is, the one whose life is consumed with covetousness and earthly treasures, rather that seeing all that he has as having come from God and as belonging to God, will end up like this rich fool – with absolutely nothing! Indeed, he will have forfeited even his own soul!

Being “rich toward God” means that we rightly acknowledge God as the source of anything good that we have, including our very lives, and we thank Him for these things and desire to use them for His glory rather than for our own selfish and sinful desires.

Conclusion: I would like to conclude with a reminder from the Apostle Paul, who followed Jesus in teaching about the dangers of storing up earthly riches and about the need to be rich toward God. As we look at a significant portion of his teaching in 1 Timothy 6, we will find helpful advice in this regard:
NKJ  1 Timothy 6:6-12, 17-19 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. [How are we to be rich toward God and fight against the danger of earthly riches? Well, we are to seek in their place the spiritual riches of fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we are to focus on loving relationships with people, whom we are to value more than things. And this all because we value God's will more that our own. But Paul isn't finished, for he goes on to say in verses 17-19 …] 17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. [But how are we to enjoy all the things He has given us? The answer comes in the next verse …] 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul learned very well the lessons of this parable, and the Holy Spirit then inspired him to apply the same principles to us. May we also rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to heed this teaching and to keep God and His glory as the central focus of our lives! May we each come away from this teaching with a deeper reliance upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to “seek the things above, where Christ is,” as Paul said to the Colossian believers, and “to set [our] minds on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: This brief parable is given in the form of a rhetorical question, after which Jesus supplies the obvious answer in order to drive His point home. Then He goes on to offer some application of the parable's teaching. So, we will follow this simple order in our examination of the parable: 1) the question of the parable, 2) the answer of the parable, and 3) the application of the parable.

I. The Question of the Parable

The question itself is quite long and extends from verse 5 through verse 7:
NKJ  Luke 11:5-7 And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves [ἄρτος, bread or loaf of bread]; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 7 and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you '?”
As I have already indicated, this is a pretty long question, but it is pretty easily understood nonetheless. The question demands an answer something like, “Of course my friend would not refuse to help me in such a situation!” Jesus is simply asking us to think about how a friend would indeed get up in the middle of the night in order to help us with a need. And He assumes that we all have friends who would not refuse us but would help us out. After all, isn't this what friends do?

But beyond this simple point, Jesus also ties the question to the preceding context when He describes the man in the story as in need of bread. Notice that Jesus has just taught the disciples how to pray by use of what has come to be known as “The Lord's Prayer.” And in verse 3 He has said that they should pray, “Give us day by day our daily bread [ἄρτος].”

So, in this parable Jesus wants to encourage the disciples not to be afraid to keep asking every day for their daily bread. He wants them to know that they can be confident in seeking God to meet their daily needs. If a friend would get up in the middle of the night to give us bread when we have need, then wouldn't God also give us our daily bread? Especially since He has commanded us to ask Him daily for it? This is the idea Jesus has in mind, which will become apparent when we go on to examine the answer.

II. The Answer of the Parable

The answer is found in verse 8:
NKJ  Luke 11:8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence [ἀναίδεια, literally shamelessness] he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
Perhaps the key term for understanding the meaning of this parable is the word translated persistence in the NKJV. The Greek word is anaídeia, and its meaning is strongly debated by scholars of Biblical Greek. In fact, this debate is reflected in the translation and notes of some of the modern versions.

For example, the NASB translates the Greek term anaídeia as persistence, but then it includes a footnote that reads “Lit shamelessness.” On the other hand, the ESV translates to word as impudence, but then includes a footnote that reads “Or, persistence.” So, which is it? Does the word mean something like shamelessness or impudence? Or does it carry the idea of persistence or perseverance? I think the ESV Study Bible does a pretty good job of laying out the issues in its study notes:
Impudence is Greek anaideia, which occurs only here in the NT. In all of its other known uses in ancient literature, the term means “lack of sensitivity to what is proper,” “impertinence,” “impudence”; it describes being without aidōs (“respect,” “modesty”). “Impudence,” then, would indicate that the friend is shamelessly and boldly awakening his neighbor, and of course the neighbor will give him whatever he needs. On this interpretation, Jesus' point is that if even a human being will respond to his neighbor in that way, then Christians should go boldly before God with any need they face, for God is more gracious and caring than any human neighbor. Some other interpreters believe that anaideia means “persistence” here, even though there are no other known occurrences of that meaning. Such a reading does fit the context, however, for the very next verses emphasize that believers must keep seeking, asking, and knocking (vv. 9–10) …  Both ideas—a kind of shameless persistence—are possibly intended by this unusual term. (BibleWorks)
So, although the Greek word really does literally mean shamelessness or impunity or a lack of sensitivity to what is proper, the idea of persistence is also clearly indicated in the context, as the following explanation by Jesus makes clear. But before we move on to His application of this parable, it is good to consider for a moment what type of parable this is. It is what many would call an implied “how much more parable,” in which an argument is made from the lesser to the greater. For example, one prominent parable scholar observes:
As most interpreters agree, it is an argument from the weaker to the stronger. It is a “how much more” argument, a procedure common in Jewish hermeneutics, but the reader must supply the “stronger” element that makes explicit the intent of the parable. A second “how much more” argument is explicit in 11:13 and shows how the parable in 11:5-8 is to be interpreted … The parable says in effect: “If a human will obviously get up in the middle of the night to grant the request even of a rude friend, will not God much more answer your requests? (Klyne Snodgrass, Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 447)
That Jesus intends such a meaning becomes clear in His application of the parable, to which we will now turn our attention.

III. The Application of the Parable

The application of the parable is found in verses 9-13, and, as we begin to look at Jesus' application of this parable, we will see that He appears to have two main points of application in mind.

1. We must be constant in our praying.

This appears to be a primary focus in verse 9:
NKJ  Luke 11:9 So I say to you, ask [Present Active Imperative > αἰτέω], and it will be given to you; seek [Present Active Imperative > ζητέω], and you will find; knock [Present Active Imperative > κρούω], and it will be opened to you.
That Jesus wants us to be constant in our praying – praying with passion and persistence – can be seen in two ways in this verse:
1) The use of the present imperative in each instance – keep on asking ... keep on seeking ... keep on knocking. 
2) The progression of intensity in describing the actions of first asking, and then seeking, and then knocking.
Upon reflecting on these three verbs, “Richard Glover suggests that a child, if his mother is near and visible, asks; if she is neither, he seeks; while if she is inaccessible in her room, he knocks” (as cited by John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p.184). I think Glover gets the metaphoric language of Jesus just about right.

So, we are to keep on asking. This is what we do when we are certain that the one we are imploring is near and can hear.

And we are to keep on seeking. This expects an action on our part. We have to actively look for the one we are imploring.

And we are to keep on knocking. This expects further action after having located the one we are imploring. It pictures us as persistently banging on the door to get the person's attention.

This progression of intensity in Jesus' use of metaphorical language teaches us just how passionately we should persist in prayer. For example, the more we may feel that God is distant – perhaps because we have already been persistent in asking – the more we are to persist in seeking Him. As the author of Hebrews reminds us:
NKJ Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Application: 1) The main point here is that God wants us to pray this way. He wants us to have to be persistent and to have to wait for answers from Him. Have you ever secretly thought that God must get tired of hearing your prayers? Or that you might annoy Him with bringing the same requests to Him? If so, Jesus wants you to know that God never gets tired of listening to His children! 2) On another note, have you ever thought that what you pray about most may reflect what is most important to you? And that what you persist in praying about demonstrates to God what you care most about? Or, as David Guzik puts it:
God promises an answer to the one who diligently seeks Him. Many of our dispassionate prayers are not answered for good reason, because it is almost as if we ask God to care about something we care little or nothing about. (Commentary on Luke, e-Sword)
When we stop to think about it like that, it can be very revealing and very convicting. On the other hand, perhaps each one of us should further ask of himself, “Do the things I pray most passionately and persistently for reflect what God is most concerned about?” (More on this later!) As Kent Hughes observes:
We naturally persevere in our prayers when someone close to us is sick. If one of our children becomes ill, we pray without ceasing. Likewise, if we are in financial trouble or if we are hoping for a promotion or if we have a frightening or dangerous task ahead of us, we generally find it easy to pray.
But do we persist in prayers for spiritual growth for ourselves or for others? Do we “ask... seek... knock” for a pure mind? Do we keep on knocking for a forgiving spirit or for the removal of an angry or critical spirit? I think that Christians usually do not! Consider what would happen if God's people understood what Christ is saying here and put it to work. (The Sermon on the Mount, p. 235)
But aren't these the very sorts of spiritual things that we ought to pray the most for and that we can be most confident about God's granting us? I say the answer is an emphatic, “Yes”! And this leads us to our next point.

2. We must be confident in our praying.

In verses 9-13 Jesus indicates that we must have confidence first that God will, in fact, answer our prayers, and second that God will always answer our prayers in a manner that is best for us.

First, we must be confident that God will answer our prayers.
NKJ  Luke 11:9-10 So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
There you have it! Jesus has stressed it three different ways … and then repeated all three two times so that we cannot miss it! God will, will, WILL answer our prayers! Of this we can be supremely confident!

Question: But this raises a very important question: Will God answer any and all prayers in the way that we desire? Will He give us anything we ask of Him as long as we just keep on asking?

There are seemingly countless “name it and claim it,” “prosperity gospel” preachers around these days that say “yes” in answer to this question, but we will see that a truly Biblical answer is “no.” We can see this not only from the immediate context of the passage but also from the context of the rest of Scripture.

The Immediate Context:

Remember that in the preceding verses Jesus has just taught the disciples how to pray, and His instruction there is quite informative:
NKJ   Luke 11:2-4 So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. [God's will and glory should be foremost in all our praying.] 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” [Prayer for our own good is focused on our basic physical and spiritual needs.]
So, all prayer is to be focused ultimately upon the glory of God and the accomplishment of His will. And, even when we pray for our own needs, this should be with a view to the glory of God. This is the kind of praying Jesus has in mind when we come to the verses before us this morning.

If we want to be the kind of Christlike people the God has demanded of us, and if we want God to meet our needs – both physical and spiritual – to that end, and if we ask Him for such things, then we can be supremely confident that He will give us all that we ask for!

The Context of the Rest of Scripture:

Consider the teaching of James:
NKJ James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
James clearly teaches that we know we will always receive such things as the wisdom to be more faithful in living for God if we ask. But that isn't all he has to say about prayer. For example:
NKJ James 4:2a-3 Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 
Imagine the audacity and spiritual blindness one must have to ask God to feed their own selfish, sinful desires! How can such people dare to think He will answer their prayers as though He is their great credit card in the sky or the divine government agency that exists to subsidize their sin!

E. Stanley Jones was correct when he wrote:
Prayer is surrender—surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God. (As cited by Kent Hughes in Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, p. 73)
As the Apostle John teaches with great clarity in his first epistle:
NKJ 1 John 5:14-15 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
And if we want to know what His will for our lives is, then we have no better place to look than to Scripture, which, as Paul teaches us, has been “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

When we pray that God will indeed accomplish these redemptive purposes in our lives and provide for us in every way so that these purposes may be accomplished, then we can, indeed, be confident that He will answer our prayers.

Second, we must be confident that God will answer our prayers in a manner that is best for us.

I think this is a primary point of verses 11-13:
NKJ  Luke 11:11-12 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
Here Jesus is using several absurd examples to drive home the point that it is absurd to think that God will not lovingly answer our prayers.  Kent Hughes may be on the right track in capturing the point of these examples:
In the Galilean setting for the giving of the Sermon on the Mount, the people were familiar with the flat stones by the shore that looked exactly like their round, flat cakes of bread, and with fish (more likely eels) that looked very muck like snakes. Can you imagine your son coming to tell you he is hungry and you give him a stone instead of bread? “Here son, enjoy!” you say mockingly as he cracks his teeth. “Oh, you didn't like that? Here, have a fish,” and you give him a harmful snake or eel. No first-century father would be as ignorant or cruel. (The Sermon on the Mount, p. 237)
Nor would any of us be so cruel! It would be absurd to think so. But that is exactly the point Jesus is making. If it would be absurd to think that any one of us would normally do such a thing, then how much more absurd would it be to think so of God!
NKJ  Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
If an evil human being can manage to love their children enough to give them good things rather than things that will harm them, then surely God – in whom there is no evil at all – will give His children only what is best for them! And in this passage Jesus gives a terrific example not only of what is good for us, but of what is the absolute best thing that we could wish for! He promises that our heavenly Father will give us the Holy Spirit when we ask Him! And with the Holy Spirit comes such blessings as a new heart, salvation through union with Christ, and power to overcome sin.

Conclusion: Of course, we who know Christ have already received the Holy Spirit, for without Him we would not be Christians at all! But we can still ask for a greater filling of the Spirit in our lives and for greater power to live for Christ and to overcome sin. And we can learn from Jesus what kind of prayer warriors God wants us to be.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Andrew Murray's book entitled With Christ in the School of Prayer, in which he comments on Luke 11:1, where the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray”:
Yes, let us joyfully say, ignorant and feeble though we be, 'Lord, teach us to pray': 
Blessed Lord! Who ever lives to pray, You can teach me to pray, me to ever live to pray. In this You love to make me share Your glory in heaven, that I should pray without ceasing, and ever stand as a priest in the presence of my God.
Lord Jesus! I ask You this day to enroll my name among those who confess that they do not know how to pray as they ought, and specially ask You for a course in teaching in prayer. Lord! Teach me to wait with You in the school and give You time to train me. May a deep sense of my ignorance, the wonderful privilege and power of prayer, of the need of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer, lead me to cast away my thoughts of what I think I know, and make me kneel before You in true teachableness and poverty of spirit.
And fill me, Lord, with the confidence that with a teacher like You I shall learn to pray. In the assurance that I have as my teacher, Jesus, who is ever praying to the Father, and by His prayer rules the destinies of His Church and the world, I will not be afraid. As much as I need to know of the mysteries of the prayer-world, You will fold for me. And when I may not know, You will teach me to be strong in faith, giving glory to God.
Blessed Lord! You will not put to shame Your student who trusts You, nor, by Your grace, would he put You to shame either. Amen. (As cited by David Guzik, Commentary on Luke, e-Sword)