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Lesson 6: Parables

Or again, the kindom of heaven is like a merchant’s search for fine pearls. When one pearl of great value was found, the merchant went back and sold everything else and bought it.

– Matthew 13:45-46

Devotion: Read Matthew 21:28-46. The tension between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day grows near the end of his ministry into outright confrontation. Jesus does not back away from the controversy; he escalates it through parables. The chief priests and Pharisees know they are being condemned through the stories. In the parable of the two sons, the act of following the father’s will is more important than the vows we take. Which son are you more like? Which son would you rather have as a leader? What is Jesus saying about the Jewish religious leaders that makes them so angry? Jesus implies that if they had repented of their initial impression of John and believed him, things would be different. What makes repentance so hard for people in positions of authority?

Does the parable of the wicked tenets make the same point as the first story? What is the expectation of the vineyard owner? What is the motivation of the tenants? What is the difference between owning the land and using the land for a period of time? What do you think Jesus wants those of us who are “tenets” in the world to learn?

If, as most people assume, the “son” in the parable (21:37) is pointing to Jesus, what is he saying about himself in the parable? What is he saying about the religious leaders? Jesus states the reign of God is for those who produce fruit of the kingdom, picking up an image he used earlier (7:17-20; 13:18-23). What kind of “fruit” should a follower of Jesus produce (Jn 15:1-17; Gal 5:22-23)?

Personal Worship Option: Read Romans 13:1. Spend time today praying for the leaders in your life. Government leaders, church leaders, supervisors, teachers, etc.

Dig A Little Deeper:

Read Matthew 21:23-27. Does the context provided by this passage leading into the parables change how you hear them? What is the connection for the religious leaders between doing the father’s will in the parable (Mt 21:31) and the religious leaders believing John (Mt 21:32)?

What is the implication of Jesus’ statement “and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him” (Mt 21:32)? Which is harder for you: to be open to new things God is doing or to admit you have been wrong about something once the evidence is in?

Compare Matthew 21:33 to Isaiah 5:1-7. Isaiah is written to a disobedient Jewish leadership. The leaders in Jesus’ day know he is using a symbol of disobedience. Jesus also quotes Psalm 118:22 to them, suggesting they are the builders rejecting God’s cornerstone. Should Jesus forgive them and give them another chance? What criteria should the church use when deciding whether or not to remove fallen leaders from office? Should leaders be held to higher standards or the same standards as others?

The chief priests and Pharisees are reluctant to arrest Jesus because of how the crowd might respond. How does their reluctance hint at their sin? Should leaders always do what is right no matter the consequences or should they take public opinion into consideration?

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