Spring 2010 - The Parables of Luke
"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Likely we have all heard a statement like this before... "The problem with Christianity is not Jesus, but Christians!" For many faithful Christians who have been challenged with this rebuff, we often find ourselves in agreement. We have all felt the sting of hypocrisy, both from the giving and receiving ends. And though we may wish it weren't true, Christians will always come up short when it comes to lining up what we believe with how we behave. That's why we need the gospel!
But is this statement valid? Can you really like Jesus and not like Christians? While people who make this remark may be very familiar with the "failings" of the "christians" around them, they are often ignorant of the claims that Jesus actually makes, or they simply ignore the challenge they present.
So... this semester we are going to be taking a close look at the parables of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke. In the parables Jesus uses very simple illustrations to issue very complex challenges... challenges that demand a response.
At the climactic point of one of the best-known parables in the Old Testament, Nathan says to David "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:1-13). It was not until David saw himself reflected in the parable that he felt the full weight of its judgment, but once he did, repentance was immediate. Parables are well suited for this purpose. The problem is that often, in the New Testament, those in Jesus' audience either do not see themselves in the story, or if they do, they are infuriated by the fact. Our goal at RUF this semester is to allow the parables of Jesus to speak to us in such a way that we hear "You're the man!" and respond appropriately, in faith and repentance.
Jesus has much to teach in the parables. In them we see many aspects of the Kingdom that he cares deeply about: He cares about God's word and our reception of it. He cares about his own authority and mission. He cares about our view of sin, repentance and forgiveness. He cares about how we think about the lost and our neighbor... about how we pray and how we use the resources God has given us. He cares about what we do before he returns.
And he wants us to care too! So he uses parables to enliven our response.
Our aim this semester is to have the parables challenge us to respond to Jesus in ways that make us more kingdom minded. And as we gradually become more like him, hopefully we can talk less about hypocrisy and a bit more about Jesus. Because ultimately, what he accomplished in his life, death, resurrection and ascension is far more important than the behavior of any other person in human history, Christian or otherwise.
Jesus makes it clear in Luke 24 that the entirety of Scripture is about him... redemptive history finds its climax in him. Paul writes, "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory."
Ignorance of Jesus and his claims is not an option.
Indifference toward Jesus and his claims is impossible.
True knowledge of Jesus and his concern for God's Kingdom is found in his parables. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." And may all who hear respond appropriately in faith.