Jesus on Judgement: The Very Hardest Parables
Jesus taught primarily in parables. Short pithy stories that surprise us with Jesus unique perspective on life. These parables centre around three main concepts. Kingdom, Grace and, wait for it… Judgement. In this series we intend to face into the hardest parables, those that give us Jesus’ unique perspective on judgement.
As Klyne Snodgrass explains:
Discourse we tolerate; to story we attend. Story entertains, informs, involves, motivates, authenticates, and mirrors existence. By creating a narrative world, stories establish an unreal, controlled universe. The author abducts us and—almost god-like—tells us what reality exists in this narrative World, what happens, and why.
And as we immerse ourselves in Jesus’ narrative world—we hope to be transformed by the experience.
Wicked Tenants: Luke 20:9-19
This is a pretty simply parable. The owner of the vineyard is God. The son whom he sends is Jesus. The messengers sent before are the prophets. So the big idea is that religion has gotten in the way and God intends to reboot the system. Things get interesting though when Jesus closes the parable. I think he is suggesting that this re-boot is going to be ear5h shaking for everyone. We can either have our world broken to pieces and put back together in a new way, or we can hang on to what we know, refuse to change and be crushed by the coming kingdom.
Unprepared Guests: Matthew 22:1-14
There are a number of ways to interpret this parable and they are all helpful. 1. Perhaps the guest refused to accept the robes the King offered him? 2. Perhaps the guests were expected to go home and change and prepare themselves for the party? 3. Perhaps the man’s non-answer shows that he still doesn’t understand that he is there only because of the graciousness of the King.
Bad Servants: Luke 12:35-48
Often we read moralism (doing the right thing leads to God) into the gospels, and it prevents us from living as grace-givers and caretakers of others. The judgement in this parable comes from abusing our personal position over anyone.
Foolish Guests: Matthew 25:1-13
The foolish virgins are actually the ones who seem to plan appropriately. The wise virgins are the ones who plan to not know when the bridegroom will arrive. And yet in the story everyone falls asleep and misses the bridegrooms arrival.
This is the key to Jesus parable. You can’t figure God out. You can’t plan to time his arrival. You can’t prepare appropriately enough for him. All you can do is trust that he is coming and plan for your own inability to understand. Once you do that, it is, somehow, enough.
A Hard Man: Matthew 25:14-30
There are two ways to interpret this parable. If it’s a parable about the kingdom then it is about the responsibility we have to contribute. That lines up with what Jesus says in Luke 12:48.
At the same time however, if you read Luke’s version of the parable in Luke 19 it could also be a very direct challenge to Zaccheaus about what will happen if he follows through on his promise.
Both interpretations may have something important to say to us.