Chapter XIII


Parable or saying
105. Parable of the lost sheep
        Parable of the lost coin
        Parable of the prodigal son
106. Parable of the dishonest steward
107. Several sayings
108. Lazarus and the rich man
109. Several more sayings
110. Parable of the servants
111. Healing of ten lepers
112. The day of the son of man
113. The widow and the judge
114. The publican and the Pharisee





Document P continues with many parables and sayings as shown above; Luke rejoins the narrative of Mark after the parable of the publican and the Pharisee. However, the parable of the talents, which is told much later in Luke, appears to belong to document P, since Matthew reports only selections from this section; Luke, for some unknown reason, placed it after the passage through Jericho. These last several sections are almost entirely discourse, including both parables and sayings. This is the end of document P, none of which is found in Mark.


Document P here collected together three parables which Sharman calls parables on the worth of sinners. They are introduced by the narrator saying that they were spoken to publicans and sinners. They can be somewhat loosely referred to as the parable of the lost sheep, of the lost coin, and of the lost son; the last is generally known as the parable of the prodigal son.
(Luke 15:4-7;Matt.18:12-14)
        What man of you, having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them will not leave the others there in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will put it on his shoulders, and return home, rejoicing; and then he calls together his friends and neighbors, and says, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents, than over 99 righteous persons that need no repentance.

Matthew inserts this parable into an earlier chapter, where he is summarizing rules for greatness and humility, and miscellaneous church procedures which probably didn't arise until long after Jesus (see chapter IX). Jesus then continues, with a similar parable:
(Luke 15:8-10)
        What woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, does not light a lamp and sweep the house, and search diligently until she find it? And when she has found it she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found my piece that was lost. I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents, than over 99 righteous persons that need no repentance.

This parable does not seem to add anything to the parable of the lost sheep, which is probably why Matthew didn't copy it along with the first of the three. Jesus then tells another of the best-known and best-loved religious stories in the history of religion, known as the parable of the prodigal son:
(Luke 15:11-32)
        There was a man who had two sons; and the younger said to his father, Father, give me the portion of your possessions which I will inherit. So the man divided his living among the two sons.
        And not many days after the younger son gathered all his things together, and went on a journey into a far country; and there he wasted his money with riotous living.
        And when he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be hungry and cold. So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out into the fields to feed the pigs. And the son would gladly have eaten even the husks which the pigs ate; and no one gave him anything.
        Finally he came to himself, and he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I am here perishing of hunger! I will return to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I am no more worthy to be called your son; only allow me to be as one of your hired servants.
        So he arose, and came back to his father. But when he was still far off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, and kissed him.
        And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no more worthy to be called your son.
        But the father said to the servants, Bring out the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. So the household began to have a party.
        Now the elder son was in the field; and as he came nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called over one of the servants and asked what the party was for. The servant replied, Your brother has come home; and your father has killed and roasted the fatted calf because he has returned safe and sound.
        But the elder son was angry, and would not go inside; and his father came out, and urged him to go in. But the elder answered, Look, all these years I have obeyed you, and never went against your commandments; yet you never killed a kid for me and my friends to make merry; but when this other son came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf, and all the servants are dancing.
        But the father said, My son, you have always been with me, and everything I have is yours. But it is right for us to make merry and be glad; for your brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is now found.

This is the longest of Jesus' parables. It has everyone in it: the younger son, who strays from his father, standing for the amme ha'aretz; the father, standing for God, who forgives even the most wayward of his children; the return of the younger son, symbolizing the repentance which Jesus as well as John have been urging; and the elder son, standing for the Pharisees themselves, who are commended by the father, but need urging to accept the street people. The story is one that explains itself: one only needs to seek God and righteous living, and God will accept you.


With hardly a break, Jesus continues with another parable, which is known as the parable of the dishonest steward:
(Luke 16:1-8)
        There was a rich man, who had a steward, who was accused to the rich man of stealing his goods. So he called the steward to him, and said, What is this that I am told about you? turn in your books and your gold, for you are fired from being my steward.
        Then the steward said to himself frantically, What shall I do, seeing that my lord takes away my job? I am not strong enough to dig; and I am ashamed to beg. I know what to do, so that when I am put out of the stewardship, there will be those who will receive me into their houses.
        So calling up each one of his lord's debtors he said to the first, How much do you owe to my lord? And the first said, A hundred barrels of oil. And the steward said unto him, Take your contract, and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then he said to the next, And how much do you owe? And the next said, A thousand bushels of wheat. He said to him, Take your contract, and write eight hundred.
        And the lord commended the dishonest steward for his foresight; for worldly persons are better at managing business affairs than spiritual persons.

What is Jesus commending the dishonest steward for? It sounds like the steward has been wasting his goods, and now the lord commends him for wasting his goods even further. Is he commending him for his foresight? Was it better for the steward to have foresight than to be honest? Luke appends some additional remarks:
(Luke 16:9)
        And I say unto you, You should make friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles.

This is even more puzzling; in the next section he tells them that they that they cannot serve both God and mammon; and here he tells them to make friends with mammon. What are the eternal tabernacles? Tents in the sky for worshipping God? Could they be tents under the ground? That's where the Jews located She'ol, the abode of the dead. But this is the only time Jesus uses this phrase; it must have been added by a later editor. But Luke adds more:
(Luke 16:10-12)
        He that is faithful in a little will be faithful also in much; and he that is dishonest in a little will be dishonest in much. If you haven't been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will put you in charge of true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, how can you be trusted with that which is your own?
Some ancient texts read "our own" at the end, but that makes it make even less sense than before. These are probably homilies written by Luke or some of the later followers of Jesus, trying to explain the parable. But it certainly doesn't make any sense for Jesus to be telling people that it's okay to cheat your employer.


Evidence of the fact that document P was simply a collection of sayings without any attempt at a systematic presentation is had in the next several sayings, as follows:
(Luke 16:13-15;Matt.6:24)
JESUS: No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.

PHARISEES: Humph! Money is a gift of God.

JESUS: You are those who justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts; and I tell you truly, that which is exalted before men is an abomination in the eyes of God.

The next saying is among the most confusing in all of the sayings attributed to Jesus. He apparently continues scolding the Pharisees:
(Luke 16:16)
JESUS: The law and the prophets were until John; since him I have been preaching the kingdom of God; but everyone else is trying to bring it about by force and violence.

Luke actually says, Every man enters violently into it; but what can that possibly mean? Matthew is no help; he reports this saying as:
JESUS: The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and men of violence take it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied until John.

The only sensible meaning which can be gotten from this paragraph is that he is talking about the Zealots, that they are the "men of violence" who are trying to bring about the "kingdom of God" by force. Document P (or Luke) continues with two more non sequiturs:
(Luke 16:17-18;Matt.5:18,32)
JESUS: But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one jot or one tittle of the law to fall.....till all things be accomplished (Matt.5:18b)

JESUS: Everyone that puts away his wife, and marries another woman, commits adultery; and he that marries a divorced woman is also committing adultery.

Neither of these connects with the previous sayings or the previous parable, nor even the following parable, though they are probably authentic sayings of Jesus. And in his final discourse, all three of the Synoptic gospels contain a different statement about the durability of the earth, heaven, and his words:
(Mark 13:31;Luke 21:33;Matt.24:35)
JESUS: This generation shall not pass away, till all things be accomplished. Heaven and earth may pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

So his words will last forever? Perhaps he meant that it was the LAW which would not pass away.


Next Luke (or document P) reports a very well-known parable called the parable of Lazarus and the rich man:
(Luke 16:19-31)
        Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, eating feasts every day; and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus lying at his gate, full of sores, and begging only to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table; yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores.
        And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried away into Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died, and was buried. And in Sheol he lifted up his eyes, being in great suffering, and he saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
        And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may comfort me; for I am in great torment; it is like Gehinnom.
        But Abraham said, Between us and you is a great gulf fixed, so that anyone who tries to cross over from here to you will not be able, and no one may cross over from there to here.
        Then the rich man said, I beg you therefore, Father, that you will send Lazarus to my father's house; for I have five brothers; and he may witness to them, so that they may not be sent to this place of torment. But Abraham said, They have Moshe and the prophets; let them hear them.
        But the rich man answered, They will not, Father Abraham; but if one go to them from the dead, they will listen and repent. And Abraham answered back, If they do not hear Moshe and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, even if one rose from the dead.

This is one of Yeshua's most important parables; he has told them over and over that there would be no sign given; he has told them several times that he would be killed; and here he picks the most dramatic sign he can think of, a person rising from the dead, and says that even if that did happen, people would not pay attention if they were not able to pay attention to the teachings embedded in the Hebrew scriptures, the teachings of Moshe, and of Amos and of Hosea, and Micah, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and of Yohanan. But there is no evidence that the disciples got the point of this parable, nor that anyone else has for nearly two thousand years, even though it's stated so explicitly. The parable also makes it clear that Jesus could NEVER have predicted that he would rise from the dead.


Again document P reports several sayings of Jesus which are unconnected to each other or to the parable before or to the parable that comes immediately afterward:

(Luke 17:1-2;Matt.18:7,6)
        It is impossible that occasions of stumbling do not come; but woe unto him through whom they come! it were better for that man, that a millstone were tied around his neck and he were cast into the depths of the sea!

"Stumbling" means giving in to a temptation not to follow the word of God, whatever it is. This is a horrifying image, and it may be questioned whether it's actually from Jesus. The next passage would seem to refute this saying:
(Luke 17:3-4;Matt.18:15,21-22)
        Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times and says, I repent, you shall forgive him.

Matthew elaborates on this short commandment found in Luke, and makes the maximum number of forgivenesses to be seventy times seven, or 490. But no one can doubt that Jesus meant to forgive endlessly, not to specify an exact number of times. And now after talking about stumbling, and forgiveness, he talks about having unlimited faith, as follows:
(Luke 17:5-6;Matt.17:20;21:21;Mark 11:23)
        If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, and you say to a sycamore tree, Root yourself up, and throw yourself in the sea, it will obey you.

Mark also has this saying, but he changes the image to be that of commanding a mountain to dump itself into the sea. Matthew has it twice, both times with "mountain", apparently once copied from Mark and once copied from document P. But such an event is patently impossible; and we may assume that Jesus said something more like: You should have unlimited faith in what you want to achieve, and never let your faith waver; if what you want comes to pass, then your faith will have sustained you; and if it doesn't then you must accept it and keep on working to bring about the kingdom of God.


Another unrelated parable is given next, called the parable of the servants or the unprofitable servants, or the parable on duty:
(Luke 17:7-10)
        But which of you shall have a servant plowing or keeping sheep, and when he has come in from the field, will he say to him, Come and sit down to dinner with me? Will he not rather command him and say, Get my dinner ready, and put on your apron and serve me, and after I have supped, then you may sit down to eat? Will he thank the servant, for doing what he was commanded to do?
        Therefore you also, when you have done all the things that you are commanded to do, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have only done that which it was our duty to do.

This parable seems to teach us, Do not expect thanks for trying to follow the will of God; you may not be appreciated by men, but you are doing what you should be doing and what is good in the eyes of God.

(Luke 17:11-19)
        In the middle of all these sayings and parables there is a report of a healing of ten men called lepers. The narrator has said, somewhat loquaciously, that "as they were journeying to Jerusalem they passed through Samaria and Galilee"; but at this point they have already passed through those places! And then Luke reports that "at a certain village", there were ten lepers which "stood afar off", and begged Jesus to heal them. Jesus told them simply, Go and show yourselves to the priest, the same thing that he said to the first reported case of leprosy in chapter II.
But then the narrator makes a big howdy-do out of it, and tells us how one of them, called a Samaritan, returned to Jesus and gave thanks for his cure. Jesus asks where were the other nine who were also healed, and why only one returned to express thanks. He then tells the man, as he has done so many times before, Go your way; your faith has made you whole.
As with all the healings, we can either believe that this happened or that it didn't; but the important thing is that Jesus attributes it to the man's faith, didn't take any credit for it himself, and did not claim it as a sign.


Now Luke reports another dialogue with the Pharisees, this time over the date of arrival of the kingdom of God, as follows:
(Luke 17:20-21)
PHARISEES: So, when will the kingdom of God come?

JESUS: The kingdom of God doesn't come visibly; neither will any be able to say, Look! here it is, or Look! there it is; for I say unto you The kingdom of God is within you, it is inside of you, in your heart, and in your mind.

If this doesn't disprove the Christian notion that the kingdom of God is a place in the sky, or some other where, then I don't know what can disprove it. Then we are told that he turns to his disciples, and gives a longer description of something called "the day of the son of man":
(Luke 17:22)
JESUS: The days are coming, when you shall long to see one of the days of the son of man, but you will NOT see it.

Earlier he told the crowds (Chapter IX) that some of them would not die before the kingdom of God would come; yet here he tells the disciples that they shall NOT see it, if the coming of the kingdom of God and the day of the son of man mean the same thing. So let us ask, what does he mean by the day of the son of man? He goes on to give some descriptive detail of that day, all of which sound like the coming of the Roman army to destroy Jerusalem, and not the appearance of a God-ruler or God-king:
(Luke 17:23-37;Matt.24:26-27,37-39,40-41;10:39)
JESUS (continuing): And messianic claimants shall say, Lo! here; and lo! there; but don't go after them, I tell you truly. For as the lightning when it flashes across the sky, that is how the day of destruction will be.
        It will be as it was in the days of Noah: they ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, their lives were as lives had always been, until the day when they entered into the ark, and the rain and flood came suddenly, and destroyed everything.
        Likewise in the days of Lot: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from the sky, and destroyed them all; that's the way it will be in the great disaster.
        In that day let him that is on the housetop not go back into the house to get his goods to take with him, nor him that is in the field do so either.
        For whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; but he that loses his life shall preserve it.
        I tell you truly, that in that night there shall be two men in one bed, and one shall be taken and the other shall be left. There shall be two women grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

The statement about losing your life to save it is the other of the only two statements by Jesus which are found in all four gospels. But is this a picture of the coming of the kingdom of God? or is it a picture of the last judgment and the end of the world? It seems to be a sudden event, an indiscriminate event; some will perish and some will survive. Sharman goes to great lengths to prove that these sayings were actually part of the final discourse on the events of the future (which we will read in Chapter XVI) just before he was arrested. It seems more like a picture of the destruction of Jerusalem, which has been predicted by Jesus, than the kingdom of God, which he has just declared is within yourself, or the end of the world, for which there is no evidence that Jesus ever said anything about or tried to describe such a thing. When we come to the final discourse, where he tells them that not one stone in Jerusalem shall be left upon another, we shall see unmistakable evidence that Jesus clearly foresaw that destruction and the end of the Jewish nation in Palestine.


Luke reports a parable known as the parable of the widow and the judge, followed by a parable known as the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, as follows.

(Luke 18:1-8)
        There was in the city a judge, who respected neither God nor man. And there was a widow who came often to him to ask for justice in her case against one of the residents of that city. And many times he ignored her; but finally he said to himself, Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow keeps coming to me I will decide in her favor, lest she wear me out with her continual coming.

The narrator says that this parable was about praying continually to God and not growing faint. However, the narrator also refers to Jesus as "Lord" in the subsequent paragraph and since that appellation did not come into use during Jesus' lifetime but only afterward, that paragraph probably was not in the original. In any case, we can ask, is Jesus really teaching us that we should be bugging God continually with our demands? Or to put it in other words, is he telling us that we should become nuisances toward God? That does not make good sense to me; it seems to be based on a belief that God is like a grandma who will give us lollipops as long as we keep asking for them. If Jesus spoke this parable, he must have meant, If justice is on your side, then keep pressing your case and don't give up.

The other parable of this pair is about a publican and a Pharisee, and how each of them prayed to God:
(Luke 18:9-14)
        Two men went into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and said, God, I thank you that I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or as this publican. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that i get. But the publican, standing far from the altar, would not even raise his face to heaven, but pounded his chest, and said, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
        I tell you all, the latter went down to his house justified before God, rather than the former; for every one that seeks to be exalted shall be humbled; and every one that humbles himself shall be exalted.

We have seen the last sentence before, a paradox that was probably truly a part of Jesus' thinking. But it does not take a deep theologian to see that asking God to be merciful to you is better than bragging about how you are better than other people!