New Testament Survey: Gospels - Lesson 15

Application of Rules

Dr. Stein uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of how to apply the four rules of interpreting parables. He also applies the four rules to interpret the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the ten virgins, the unjust steward and the laborers in the vineyard. 

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Gospels
Lesson 15
Watching Now
Application of Rules

Lesson Fifteen: The Teachings of Jesus

Part 4

I. Application of Rules to the Parable of the Good Samaritan

II. Other Parables

A. The Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

B. The Ten Virgins

C. The Unjust Steward

D. The Laborers in the Vineyard

III. Sub-rules for Arriving at the Main Point of a Parable

A. Who are the two main characters?

B. What occurs at the end? (rule of end stress)

C. What occurs in direct discourse?

D. Who gets the most space/press?

  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record some of the same stories and even use the same wording in sections. They also each have material that is unique, and the chronology is different in some places. Both the purpose of each gospel and the role of oral and written tradition play a role in understanding the similarities and differences.

  • The Gospel of Mark is shorter than the other Gospels and some of the grammar and theology is unique. There are also significant portions of Mark that are contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

  • Discussion of the extensive similarities between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It's possible that Mark was already written and they used that as a source. It's aslo likely that they had in common other oral and written sources of what Jesus did and taught. 

  • Some time passed between the ascension of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels because there was no need for a written account while the eyewitnesses were still alive. In that culture, oral tradition was the primary method of preserving history. Form critics also note that it is likely that it is likely that many of the narratives and sayings of Jesus circulated independently.

  • Form criticism is the method of classifying literature by literary pattern to determine its original form and historical context in order to interpret its meaning accurately. The Gospels were not written to be objective biographies. They omit large portions of the life of Jesus, they include accounts of miraculous events and they have a purpose to demonstrate that Jesus is both God and human.

  • Redaction criticism focuses on evaluating how a writer has seemingly shaped and molded a narrative to express his theological goals. Examining how Matthew and Luke used passages from Mark can give you insight into their theology and their purpose for writing their Gospel.  

  • Studying the background and theological emphases of the Gospel of Mark helps us to understand the central message of his Gospel. The central point of the Gospel of Mark is the death of Jesus when he was crucified. This event happened because it was a divine necessity in God's plan to redeem humanity. It's likely that the Gospel of Mark is a written record of the apostle Peter's account. 

  • The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes how Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfilled prophecies that were made in the Old Testament. Matthew also shows concern for the church and has a strong eschatological emphasis. 

  • Luke emphasizes the great loving concern of God for the oppressed, such as tax collectors, physically impaired, women and Samaritans. He warns of the dangers of riches and emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

  • John's Gospel focuses on Christology and emphasizes dualism and eschatology.  John has long pericopes, clear statements about the identity of Jesus and a number of stories not found in the synoptic Gospels. 

  • By studying the background and comparing the text of the synoptic gospels, we can be confident of their authenticity. Many of the accounts in the Gospels appear in multiple Gospels and are confirmed by separate witnesses. Details in the narratives and parables are consistent with the culture and common practices of the time in that region.  

  • In order to understand Jesus' teaching, it is important to understand how he uses exaggeration and determine when he is using exaggeration to make a point. An exaggeration is something that is literally impossible and sometimes conflicts with teachings of the Old Testament or other teachings of Jesus. They often use idiomatic language that had a specific meaning to the original hearers. 

  • The Gospels record how Jesus used different literary forms to communicate his teachings. He communicated effectively with everyone including children, common people, religious leaders and foreigners. He used a variety of literary devices to communicate in a way that was effective and memorable. (This class was taught by a teaching assistant of Dr. Stein's but his name was not provided.) 

  • It's important to know how to interpret parables to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. At different times in history, people have used different paradigms to interpret parables. Each parable has one main point. To interpret the parable, seek to understand what Jesus meant, what the evangelist meant and what God wants to teach you today.

  • Dr. Stein uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of how to apply the four rules of interpreting parables. He also applies the four rules to interpret the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the ten virgins, the unjust steward and the laborers in the vineyard. 

  • Jesus used different literary forms to communicate with people. It's important to know how to interpret these literary forms, including parables, to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. The rule of end stress is one factor in determining the main teaching of a parable. Dr. Stein describes two parts of a parable as the, "picture part" and the "reality part." 

  • The kingdom of God is God's kingdom invading the earthly kingdom. In the Gospels, there are both "realized" passages and "future" passages. There is a tension between the "now" and "not yet" and it is important to emphasize each aspect equally.

  • Jesus' teaching about the fatherhood of God reveals for us a tension between reverence and intimacy. Jesus shows his reverence for God by not using the name of God even when referring to God. When he refers to God as Father, it is an indication of a personal relationship. 

  • Jesus does not provide an organized ethical system, but his ethical teachings are scattered throughout the Gospels. Sometimes they seem to be contradictory, until you look at them more closely. He emphasized the need for a new heart and the importance of loving God and our "neighbor." Jesus upheld the validity of the Law but was opposed to the oral traditions. 

  • Implicit Christology is what Jesus reveals of himself and his understanding of himself by his actions words and deeds. Jesus demonstrates his authority over the three sacred aspects of Israel which are the temple, the Law and the Sabbath. 

  • Explicit Christology deals with what he reveals concerning his understanding of himself by the use of various titles. Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The titles, Son of God and Son of Man refer both to his human nature and divine nature. 

  • The Chronology of Jesus' life in the Gospels begins with his birth and ends with his resurrection. How you explain the miracles of Jesus depends on your presuppositions. He performed miracles to heal sicknesses and also miracles showing his authority over nature. 

  • The birth of Christ is an historical event. The virgin birth of Jesus is a fundamental aspect of his nature and ministry. The details of the birth narrative in Luke are consistent with historical events. 

  • Except for the accounts of a couple of events in Jesus' childhood, the Gospels are mostly silent about the years before Jesus began his public ministry. Luke records the story of 12 year old Jesus in the temple to show that already, you can see something different about Jesus. Jesus' public ministry began when John the Baptist baptized Jesus publicly in the Jordan River.

  • The three temptations that Satan put to Jesus were significant to him and instructive to us. Jesus had a specific purpose in mind in the way he called his disciples and the fact that he chose 12.

  • After Simon Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus begins teaching about his death and focuses his efforts on teaching the twelve. The Transfiguration was a significant event because the pre-existent glory of Jesus broke through and it was also a preview of future glory.

  • The events surrounding Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem were the beginning of the week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, he was rejecting the sacrificial system, reforming temple worship and performing an act of judgment.

  • At the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated with his disciples by eating the Passover meal. He reinterpreted it to show how it pointed to him as being the perfect Lamb of God, the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all people. When we celebrate the Lord's supper, there is a focus of looking back at the significance of what Jesus did and how the Passover pointed toward him and of looking forward to the future. 

  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus went to Gethsemane with his disciples to pray. Judas betrays Jesus there and Jesus allows himself to be arrested.

  • The trial of Jesus involved a hearing in the Jewish court conducted by the high priest and the Sanhedrin, and a hearing in the Roman court conducted by Pilate. The Jewish leaders brought in false witnesses against Jesus and violated numerous rules from the Mishnah in the way they conducted the trial. 

  • Jesus died by crucifixion. The Romans used it as a deterrent because it was public and a horrible way to die. The account of the crucifixion is brief, likely because the readers knew what was involved and it was painful to retell. Jesus was buried by friends.

  • The historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is compelling. Jesus appeared physically to people, many of whom were still alive when the books in the New Testament were written. Rising from the dead confirmed that Jesus has power over death and gives hope of eternal life to people who put their trust in him. 

  • The Gospels are eyewitness accounts that clearly show that Jesus claimed to be fully human and fully God, and what he did to back up this claim. Some people try to reinterpret the Gospels to make Jesus out to be a moral teacher with good intentions, but not God in the flesh.

This is the first part of an introductory course to the New Testament, covering the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The synopsis Dr. Stein refers to is the Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition, published by the American Bible Society. You can click here to order it from American Bible Society or click here to order it from Amazon

The lecture notes you can download (to the right) are for both NT Survey I and II. In some of the lectures, Dr. Stein does not cover all the points in his outline, but we include the additional outline points for your benefit. 

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes for both sections of Stein's NT Survey class (to the right). Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Recommended Books

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

This participant’s guide is intended to be used with the BiblicalTraining.org class, New Testament Survey - The Gospels with Dr. Robert Stein. This is the first part of an...

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

Dr. Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Gospels
Application of Rules
Lesson Transcript

Well I ask we begin our study of the parables and the interpretation of the parables. We looked at the parable of the good Samaritan and we arrived at four basic rules. Seek the main point of the parable. Seek to understand what Jesus meant in the parable. Seek to understand what the evangelist meant and what the evangelist meant. Seek to understand what God teaching today in the parable. Worded different ways, but essentially what we are dealing with.

I. Application of Rules to the Parable of the Good Samaritan

We looked at the main point of the parable of the good Samaritan and we noted that somehow it has to deal with what it means to be a neighbor. The question preceding it and following it. The context, another words, provides that for us. And when we look at all the various allegories of Augustine and the others, they were so involved in the allegorical process that they lost the point of the parable, which was what it means to be a neighbor.

We also looked at the second point and pointed out that the terms in Jesus, they used in the parable have such different meanings in the way we interpret them, that the parable becomes very, very different.

Now, if we look then at main point of the parable for Jesus, the hero would of been a villain in his day, and the villains would of been heroes. It really turns things up-side-down. Very much unlike the kind of western that Hop Along Casidy and Gene Audrey and Roy Rogers was involved, the villain in this is wearing white and riding a white horse and when he comes up to the bar he ask for milk, not whiskey. Or if he is really risky he says sarsaparilla. Black Bart unshaven, black horse, smoking a cigar and ordering whiskey, he is the hero. Very, very different.

Very different and all the sudden one realizes it's not the kind of parable everybody would of liked. Many would of been very offended by it and some of the parable were the kind of teachings that caused people to plot against him. We will look at a parable after which they leave and say we have to put him to death.

So, it be becomes a very different kind of parable and for me, the parables took on a great excitement when I began to investigate them in the setting of Jesus.

Now if you wanted to know what the evangelist is trying to emphasize by this, we should note that of all the gospels, the gospel that is most concerned with the outcast is the gospel of Luke and who would be more of an outcast as a Samaritan who proves to be the good guy. If we also note it's in the gospel of Luke only that Jesus preaches to Samaritans.

It is later on in the book of Acts we read of the conversion of the Samaritans. If it's the Luke in emphasis, both in his portraying of the spirit of the gospel to the Samaritans but also, God's love for the outcast very well.

Then to understand what the parable is teaching us we would have to try to say, well, how do I fit into this? Maybe the idea of proving to be a good neighbor to others should be not to look at those who I can prove to me not to be a good neighbor, who I like, and I am naturally attracted to. But, maybe it's the outcast on my block. The outcast in my work situation that I especially go on, try to show the love of God too.

The parable has kind of given an implication by the way it's translated and one who has done that real well is Clarence Jordan [phonetic]  and his cotton patch version of Luke and Acts. Here is the way he translates the parable. Imagine for instance reading it and this was written in the 60s, say in 1960 or so. After there has been a civil rights march through your town in Georgia and you are the pastor of the First Baptist Church in that town.

A man was going from Atlanta to Albany and some gangsters held him up, in Atlanta or Albany or cities of course in Georgia. When they have robbed him of his wallet and his brand new suit, they beat him up and drove off in his car, leaving him unconscious on the shoulder of the highway. Now it just so happened that a white preacher was going down the same highway. When he saw the fellow, he steps on the gas and went scooting by.

Shortly after a was a white gospel song leader came down the road and when he saw him and what happened he too stepped on the gas. Then a black man traveling that way came up on the fellow and what he saw moved him to tears. He stopped and bond bound up his wounds as best as he could. Drew some water from his water jug to wipe away the blood and then laid him on his back seat.

He drove on into Albany, took him to the hospital, and said to the nurse. You all take care of this white man I found on the highway. Here is the only two dollars I got, but you all keep account to what he owes and if he can't pay it, I'll settle up with you when I make a payday.

I doubt there would be an awful lot of people shaking hands with you at the door of the church Sunday and loved your parable, just warmed the cockles of my heart. I think that might of been a meeting of the trust, of the deacons and that might of been your last sermon there. I hope not. But it might of been.

My mother and father were born in Germany and immigrated to America in the 20s and meet here in America and married and I often thought, I was much too young, but I often reflected and say how would of acted in Germany during that period of the Nazi regime and in World War II.

Let's think of preaching the parables in the 40s in a German city. Say the city of Colon, Germany. The man was going down from Berlin to Frankfurt to attend a political rally in Colon he was picked up by thieves and he was beaten up by thieve and left dying in the streets. A member of the police saw him and as he passed by and he said, in our prisons we take care of people better than this.

 Later, the pastor of the Lutheran church nearby church saw him. Well, it has to be a Lutheran church, this is Germany, right? If it was taken place in Texas, it would be Baptist and you are either a Baptist or a cow or something like that in Texas. Later, the pastor of the Lutheran church nearby saw him and as he passed by thought, it never ceases to amaze me how depraved and fallen some men really are.

But then also came by a Jew, to when he saw him he had compassion and took him to his ghetto. There he told his friends, I cannot stay here and care for this man, because my family has been sent to Auschwitz and I want to go and be with them. Here is a hundred marks. Take care of the man, and take the money and care for the man and if there is any additional expenses, I promise that somehow I shall get it to you. That is probably your last sermon for sure.

But that's the kind of parable we are talking about. It's a very different kind of parable when you understand it that way. Now, in the parable, who is the neighbor in the parable. the good Samaritans is the neighbor. Is it the man himself that is in need the neighbor? The problem with the parable is that it is introduced with two questions and the answer to them is different.

The man has been told, in the context of the preceding verses, that you shall love your neighbor as yourself. He justifying himself, seem to justify himself. Well, then who is my neighbor? Who do I have to love then? Who qualifies as a neighbor that I should show my love to. A debate among Jews. Generally, most Jews saw a fellow Jew as a neighbor, but not a Gentile. But they were sects like the Commoron community that saw only member of the Commoron community as being a neighbor. They were the sons of light and you loved the sons of light. But everyone else was the sons of darkness. You were supposed to hate those.

So here he asked the question, all right if I have to love my neighbor then who qualifies out there? Now, to that question, that it would be the man who fell among robbers and who is beaten up who is the neighbor. Who you usually express your love to.

But Jesus sees something illegitimate about that question and he ask at the end who proved to be a neighbor. Now you are talking about the Samaritan, because when you hear the command, you shall love your neighbors yourself, the proper response is not who then qualifies, but what must I do to be a good neighbor. And that's the question Jesus twist the parable around. Some have said the parables have been all fowled up in the story telling and so forth and so on. I think they miss the fact that Jesus is a great storyteller, and he sees that and he twists the question around and he deals with what it means to be a good neighbor.

All right now, we have applied the rules and if we had time I would bring my friend up here. He was a man in the 70s and early 80s had a very good job, a wife and children. He began to drink, took drugs and eventually his wife and children left him. He became down and out, wandering the streets of Chicago, one day in January, very cold, snowy. Thought he would freeze to death. So, the only place that would accept him was the Union Gospel Mission in Chicago.

 But, to be put up there you have to go to chapel at night and he went to chapel and the man who preached, preached on the parable of the good Samaritan. And he said to him, you are like that man that come down from Jerusalem to Jericho and you need to be saved you can't do anything, you can't do it by trying to keep the law in the prophets. There is only one person who can save you, that is the good Samaritan, Jesus Christ and like the beast he bore you and your sins on the cross and he died so you could have forgiveness and life everlasting.

He is coming again, like the parable says he is gonna return, and that night I gave my life to Jesus Christ and I know that is what the parable is talking about. Don't listen to the Stein stuff, that's all academic. I know personally that Jesus Christ is the good Samaritan in that parable.

Well if you were here, how would you respond to that? How would you respond to the man who, argued that this parable is an allegory. I know I experienced it for myself, but you agree with him that this parable is talking about Jesus.

You might take a subtle approach, it depends on, yea, how open a person is to discuss If they have a very brittle kind of faith, then you, I think I am just so glad to hear that you came to know Christ that night.

On the other hand if they weren't so brittle you might take a subtle approach let's say...Uh, if you think that is what the parable says, I wonder if you have really been saved? No you wouldn't, you wouldn't do that.

I would say, they were saved because they heard the gospel. And the gospel is true and that is what saved him. Now the gospel was read into that parable. It's not what the parable is really talking about, but heard the gospel read into it and the gospel saves. But, probably the best thing to do is not to read the gospel into a parable where it is not at, but read it where it is found.

But he was save not because of error, but because he heard the truth of the gospel, which was read into the parable. But that's not really what the parable is talking about. Parable begins with who is a neighbor and ends with a question who proved to be a neighbor. The parable deals with what it means to be a neighbor.

Now, there is a sense in which whenever you have someone like a good neighbor described, or a good king in the Old Testament. There is an implication that to the extent that they were good, they are kinda like Jesus who is the goodest and the best of the kings and neighbors. So, there might be a legitimate implication in that sense.

But the parable isn't really about Jesus. It's about what it means to be a neighbor and our friend came to know the Lord, we are thankful for that. But the danger, of course, is if you begin to read the gospel into this parable you begin to read all sorts of things into passages. And you feel free to do so and I think the best thing is to have high respect for the scriptures, like Calvin said in that passage and not transfigure it's sense, but preach the general, the true meaning of that parable that Jesus intended as such.

Now somebody was saying well, maybe person wants to get a deeper meaning into the, in the passage and look for that deeper meaning. When I hear somebody say that, I simply say, a deeper meaning, the Jesus meaning? That's kind of arrogant I think. So if Jesus was content in preaching that point, I am pretty much content with that too.

II. Other Parables

All right well let's look at some parables now. Turn with me too page 120, Matthew 13, verses 44. Verse 44. He has the twin parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl. In verse 44, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and he covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

A. The Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

What you have here is a picture of something that happened on occasion in the ancient world. I mean, if you had something and there was a danger of robbers around, if there was a danger of an invasion coming upon you. What would you do? You do have safety deposit boxes. What you do is you hide it somewhere. So you would hide it and only you knew where it was. So that when thieves came they couldn't find it. And what would often happen is that if it was a nation, they may have taken you into exile or you might of been killed.

Well now when you are taken into exile you can remember where it was and you say to your children, who then say to there children, so that when the grandchildren return out of exile and return, look and come and find the treasure. So they know that the treasure the treasure has been buried five paces to the north of the large oak tree in the orchard.

Well, you go down there now and you want to look for the treasure and you come and there ain't been an orchard there for forty years. I mean they were cut down by the invaders. There is nothing there.

Now, it takes a long time to try to dig up every foot of a farm. You just lost. But somehow later on person came by accident, found the treasure and then he covered it up. I want to buy your field. why do you want to buy this old field. But he wanted to buy it, my father or grandfather used to own it or something like that or whatever it was. He buys the field and then having sold everything in order to buy the field, the treasure is his.

Now let me ask you, what do you think of the man? Would you buy a used car from him? You are not going to use this man as the example of what it means to be a good neighbor and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Right?

But forget about, don't press the detail. What's the point of the parable? The point of the parable is the value of the treasure in field and it's worth everything to get. Make sure the kingdom of God, which is likened to this treasure, you come to get at whatever it might cost. Now you don't buy it, but whatever it might cost, in way of personal repentance and surrender, you should make sure you have.

Now, that's the point of the parable is evident from the next verse. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who in finding one pearl of great price, went and sold all and he went and bought it. Now, here you have another example, but there is nothing disreputable or suspicious about this man's behavior. He saw that the kingdom of God, like this great pearl, he wants everything to have it and he like the other man sold all he had and got it. There is nothing dishonest and there is nothing about the first person we should push that way.

If you are willing to settle for the single point, the main point, the kingdom of God is worth everything to have. Whatever in life it may cost, may cost you a job, if it is a dishonest kind of livelihood, may cost you all sorts of "friends", quote, unquote. But, whatever it is make sure you have the kingdom of God. For that is the greatest of all treasures.

Once you accept that, no problem, fine. Main point, no problem if you are willing to not press the details, but accept the main point of the parable.

B. The Ten Virgins

Page 267, here is the parable of the ten maidens, or ten virgins. Again, if you press the details all sorts of problems develop. Let me read the parable to you. And when I read it I will read it probably differently then you have ever heard it before and that you ever want to hear it read like that before.

But, let me read it to you to emphasize my point. "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took there lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took there lamps, they took no oil with them. But the wise took flask of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed all slumbered and slept.

But at midnight, there was a cry, behold the bridegroom come out to meet him. Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps.

And the foolish said to the wise, give us some of your oil for our lamps are going out. But, the wise implied perhaps there will not be enough for us and you. Go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came and those that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast and the door was shut.

Afterwards, the other maidens came also, saying Lord, Lord open to us. But he replied, truly I say to you, I do not know you. Watch therefore for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Now, needless to say, the way I read the parable is not the way you usually have it read to you. But there is a sense in which I am trying emphasize that these are really not the nicest kind of neighbors and friends you would want to have. They wouldn't share their oil.

I remember hearing this preached once. I was attending my wife's church and the executive secretary of a four state area in her denomination was preaching that Sunday morning and we arrived a little late and the only place that was left that we could go and sit was the front row or the second row, I think it was. But she preached this parable and when he came to the end of the parable he said, "Now Christian friends, don't be like those maidens who refused to share their oil. But share the things that God has blessed you with.

I am sitting in this row and want to jump up on the pew and wave my hands and say, that's crazy, that's crazy, those are the wise ones. And my wife saw my agitated state at the time and she put her hands on mine and she looked at me and she said, Bob this is my home church. Please don't embarrass me, so I didn't do anything. Just ground a couple of my molars to powder in the back of my mouth and said nothing.

But the problem was he was so wrapped up with the details of the parable he lost the whole point of the parable. The point of the parable is we are suppose to be like the wise and they are called wise because they are ready. Now, how are you suppose to be ready? Well, maybe we can get a point from that. It may mean something like this, Christian friends, don't share the things that God has entrusted to you to other people. There may not be enough to go around.

And God's people said amen. I finally got something from the sermon today. Pastor said I really could identify with. What's the main point, be ready, you don't know the day nor the hour. If you are willing to settle for the point and not press the details, you are all right.

Now, needless to say, Matthew had this funny idea that when you read his gospel you read the first twenty-four chapters before you came to this. And having read the first twenty-four chapters you know what it means to be ready. I mean, whoever thought you would take a stroll, let’s turn to the end of the stroll and see what goes on, and you begin chapter 25. of course there were no chapter numbers at that time.

But you have read everything before this. So, you know all the ethical teachings as to what it means to repent and believe the gospel. You have had the whole sermon on the mountain, other kinds of parables and so forth. So by the time you are here, he doesn't have to repeat this, you know it and he assumes in the light of that, he doesn't have to say what it means to be ready, he just to emphasize in the parable like Jesus did. Be ready. You know neither the day nor the hour.

How to be ready? Well, you have read the first twenty-four chapters. What do they have to say? Okay. In the parable of the ten virgins I remember coming to the realization that there was a kind of allegorical significance here that you could understand and that is something like this, that when the Lord returns 50 per cent of the world will be ready and 50 per cent will not be ready. Right? Five virgins, ready five or not, 50 per cent.

Or maybe we should be more specific and say 50 per cent of the virgins in the world will be ready and 50 per cent will not be. Don't press the details. What's the main point? The main points, be ready or you will miss out. Be ready.

As difficult as these two parable we just read are if you press the details, there is a much more difficult parable that if you press the details you would really be in trouble and that's in Luke 16 and that is page 196. The difficulty this parable makes is because of the character of the main hero is evident when you read commentaries on this passage. It's amazing the various ways these are explained.

C. The Unjust Steward

He also said to his disciples, there was a rich man who had a steward and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. And he called him and said to him, what is this I hear about you, turn in the account of your stewardship for you can be no longer steward. And the steward said to himself, what shall I do since my master has taken the stewardship away from me. I am not strong enough to dig, he is not able to do physical labor, and I am ashamed to beg, ah, I have decided what to do so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.

So, summon these master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, how much do you owe my master? He said a hundred measures of oil. He said to him, take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then he said to another, and how much do you owe? He said, a hundred measures of wheat. He said to him, take your bill and write eighty. All right now you are hearing this for the first time, what are you expecting? Oh, boy is he going to get it. But, the art of being a great story teller is you have a surprise ending.

And Jesus goes on, the master, oh now he gets it, no, the master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness. For the sons of the world are more shrewd in dealing and with their own generation then the sons of light and I tell you make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous mammon, so when it, the unrighteous mammon fails, they will receive you into the eternal habitations.

How in the world does the master commend the dishonest steward? That problem is such that you have all sorts of explanations. One that is fairly common is this one, the steward wanted to do one last kind gestures for his owner and he knew that his master was collecting unusual interest amounts and he could get into serious problems because of the high interest which was illegal.

And therefore in his last gesture he lowered the interest rates so that his master would not get into trouble. And his master was very pleased with this, as were the debtors as well.

Well, how would [inaudible] know that? How would anybody reading this parable come to that conclusion? Everything that [inaudible] needs to know about the parable is in these verses. Somehow, you cannot make what this man done good. You cannot make it a kindness, you cannot make anything but cheating. Note, when is he called a dishonest steward? After this act, not before. You say why was he being fired. I don't know why he was being fired, but he was being called dishonest at point. He may of just been inept. After what he does, he is called a dishonest steward, what he has done is dishonest.

Now what is he commended for? Cause he is a good dishonest thief. He is sharp, and if you are going to be a thief be a good one for Jesus sake, right? No, what he is commended for is not his honestly, but his shrewdness. What is he shrewd about? What has he done? He planned for his future. He planned for his future, he saw judgment knocking at his door and he prepares for it and that is the only point of the parable. That is what he is commended for.

You shrewd scoundrel you. You sure know how to take care of yourself. Get out of here, I don't want to see you again, or something like that. In the setting of Jesus, he announces repent the kingdom of God is at hand. Already the ax is laid to the root. The time has come. Can you not, Jesus is telling his audience, learn from a thief, for when he saw what was about to take place, he prepared himself accordingly.

How do you prepare yourself? Luke doesn't worry about that, they read the first fifteen chapters. The readers know that. And the hearers of Jesus parable heard his teachings and they knew Jesus of the [inaudible]. They knew. All the parable is trying to say be ready. Be ready, judgment is coming. Are you ready?

And if you are preaching to a congregation today is your luck. Every one of us, many of us probably can even quote the verse in Hebrews that says, it is called upon us once to die and thereafter the judgment. What are you doing to get ready for that? Can you learn from this thief? And when he realized that he prepared himself for it. How prepared are you?

The term unrighteous mammon is an expression for the money of this world. For instance, we can talk about the filthy [inaudible] we earn by working. Doesn't mean he is saying he is dishonest about it, it just. So, what Luke is doing, now remember Luke's gospel too is emphasizing the importance of using unrighteous mammon that we possess. Doesn't mean money is obtained dishonestly.

So that when it ends, when all of it's gone, we will be received into the eternal habitations. So another words, live a life in accordance to what God teaches you, so that when the moneys you have and all your possessions go away, you will be received into heaven. Not because you earned it or something like that, but because you lived the life you should of lived, a life of obedience and service to Christ.

I remember a story of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. He was probably the richest man in the world. He had given away a lot of money so he only had about a half of billion dollars when he died at the early 1900s. So, when he died the lawyer that was reading the will was asked later on by a reporter, how much did he leave? And he looked at him and said, he left it all.

So when your filthy [inaudible] is no longer there and everything you have is gone, now what. Will you be received in the eternal habitations? Pardon the parable. Still powerful one. Still powerful one.

D. The Laborers in the Vineyard

All right, let's look at one of my favorite ones. Page 220 and this is the parable of the workers in the vineyard. I will share with you for additional rules, but let me read the parable. For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace and to him he said, you go into the vineyard too and whatever right I will give you. So they went. Going out about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and he found others standing and he said to them, why do you stand here idle all day? They said to him, because no one has hired us. He said to them, you go into the vineyard too, and when the evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, call the laborers and pay them their wages beginning with the last up to the first.

And with those hired about the eleventh hour came each one of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought that they would receive more. But, each of them also received the denarius and on receiving it they grumbled at the householder and saying, these lads only worked one hour and you have made them equal to us who have bore the burden of the day in the scorching heat.

But he replied to one of them, friend I am doing you no wrong, did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to the last, as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or, do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last.

Now, as often as I have read this I always side with the first hour workers. They got ripped off. My mother and father would be very upset. They never belonged to a union, they were just hard working people and they would say that is not fair. How many, if you were leading devotions at the annual meeting of the AFLCIO is this the passage of scripture that you would read from? Not likely.

Now, the parable. Early allegorical interpretation, [inaudible] about 180, origin around 200. First hour workers, those saved at the beginning of creation, origin, those say from creation to Noah. Third hour workers, those saved under the old covenant, [inaudible]. Those from Noah to Abraham origin. Six hour workers, those saved at the time of Jesus, those from Abraham to Moses for origin. Ninth hour workers, the contemporaries of [inaudible] that were entering the kingdom. Those from Moses to Joshua according to origin. The eleventh hour workers, those saved in the last days. The days of [inaudible] or after. Those saved from Joshua to Jesus according to origin. The householder is God and the denarious is salvation. That is the allegorical way of interpreting this parable as we have seen others as well.

III. Sub-rules for Arriving at the Main Point of a Parable

Now, in trying to understand a parable and its main point there are some sub-rules that I want us to keep in mind. Now, these are the main rules, the main point when Jesus, what the evangelist meant, what God is teaching us. Now, sub-rules of this first main rule, the main point are as follows...When you look at a parable and there are numerous characters involved, always one of them is more important than the others. There is one who is always more important than the others.  Or two of them, I should say are more important than the others.

A. Who are the two main characters?

Usually if there are a number of characters in the parable, its pretty easy to zero down to three of them. But to ask of these three, which are the two most important is really a good way of focusing on the main point of the parable. For instance, it's evident that the third, the sixth and the ninth hour workers are not important. You say, why do you say that? Well, during the hiring they are mentioned at the end of the parable they are no longer mentioned. So they are trivial. Which makes it very unlikely that interpretation of [inaudible] in origin are right, because they equal, each of them as being of equal importance. First, third, sixth, ninth, eleventh hour. They are all described allegorically.

But, when Jesus tells the parable, at the end the third, sixth, ninth hour people are not mentioned at all. It's just the first and the eleventh hour workers. So, now the question is one of the main characters has to be the owner, but now of these, which is the main character? The first hour workers or the eleventh hour workers?

B. What occurs at the end? (rule of end stress)

Well, some other rules. What occurs at the end? Some has said, the rule of end stress, the rule of end stress. What occurs at the end is more important. If we have time let me read the parable. I am going to read it and make a change at the end. Just before I change it, I'll tell you so you can pluck up your ears here.

For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with laborers for a denarius a day he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace. And he said to them, you go into the vineyard too and whatever is right I will give you. So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing and said why do you stand here idle all day. They said to him, because no one has hired us. And he said to them, you go into the vineyard too and when evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, now the switch, call the laborers and pay their wages beginning with the first up to the last. And when those hired at the first hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now, when the eleventh hour workers came, they thought that they would receive less. But, each of them also received the denarius and on receiving it, they praise the household and saying truly this is a gracious man.

If you reverse the order, the emphasis is different. So those who argue that this is teaching doctrine justification by faith, that my grace we are saved by faith and so forth, emphasize something that doesn't happen. The emphasis is the eleventh hour worker, is not on the eleventh hour worker, but on the first hour worker, the grumblers. And furthermore it is very doubtful that wanna say, well, some people are saved like the first hour workers, by works completely, some like the sixth hour workers, it's kind of half and half. The third and ninth, some more work, some less, and the eleventh hour worker, completely by grace.

 That doesn't make sense at all.

What happens at the end is the focus on the first hour workers. So, it's the first hour worker, not the eleventh hour worker and the owner. First hour worker and of those are two main characters.

C. What occurs in direct discourse?

Another rule. What occurs in direct discourse? When you switch in a parable to direct discourse, you focus on what is being said. Now, if you look at the parable, at the end of the parable, there is no conversation between the owner and the first hour, excuse me, the eleventh hour workers. They just get their denarius. There is an extensive between the owner and the first hour workers.  Here again, focuses your attention, these are the two main characters, the first hour worker, the grumblers and the owner.

D. Who gets the most space/press?

A fourth rule arriving at the main point. whoever gets the most space or press. If you look at the first hour workers, well let's deal with the eleventh hour workers, the eleventh hour workers were referred to in verse nine and that's it in the payoff. But, the first hour workers are focused on in verse ten, eleven, verse twelve, verse thirteen, verse fourteen, verse fifteen. I mean usually you spend the most time on what you want to emphasize. So the most pressed falls upon the first hour workers.

So what we have here then is the emphasis, why do you begrudge my generosity? The main point involves the owner and the first hour workers. Now, when Jesus told the parable, who do you think fits these first hour people. The Pharisees think of themselves, we kept the law all the time, the kingdom belongs to us. Now Jesus offering to the publicans, tax collectors and centers the gospel. And the grumbling fits very nicely that kind of mentality.

I am going to have to end it at point. Tomorrow we will pick it up we will look at some more grumbling types and deal with this, cause they are really kind of twin parables. Thank you for your attention.