HANDBOOK TO THE GOSPELS
JESUS CONTINUES PREACHING
|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.
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
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:
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
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.
PARABLE OF THE STEWARD
With hardly a break, Jesus continues with another
parable, which is known as the parable of the dishonest steward:
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:
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
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:
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:
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
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
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
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.
PARABLE OF LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN
Next Luke (or document P) reports a very well-known parable
called the parable of Lazarus and the rich man:
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.
SEVERAL MORE SAYINGS
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:
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:
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
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
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.
PARABLE OF THE SERVANTS
Another unrelated parable is given next, called the parable of
the servants or the unprofitable servants, or the parable on duty:
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
HEALING OF TEN LEPERS
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.
THE DAY OF THE SON OF MAN
Now Luke reports another dialogue with the Pharisees, this time
over the date of arrival of the kingdom of God, as follows:
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":
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:
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
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.
TWO MORE PARABLES
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.
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
The other parable of this pair is about a publican and a
Pharisee, and how each of them prayed to God:
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
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!