This week our members were delayed due to some horrible traffic on the roads. Yet we still kicked off roughly around 7, with some people still eating dinner. We started with testimonies meeting Megan and myself. After that we had a gender split to look at this weeks chapters.
Our guys discussions went along these lines:
- What does the Kingdom of God actually mean and what is the meaning of the parable of the mustard seed: So he (Jesus) said, “What is the kingdom of God like and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and threw into his garden. It grew and became and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
- How much of an understanding would people have had when Jesus says “whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me is not able to be my disciple“?
- What is the meaning of the parable of the fig tree?? “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. Then he said to the gardener, ‘Look, I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree for three years, yet I still find none. Cut it down. Why should it even waste the soil?’. But the gardener answered, ‘Lord, please leave it for one more year, until I can dig around it and fertilize it. It may yet produce fruit; but if it does not, by all means, cut it down.'”
- Jesus seemed to make a lot of people uncomfortable and challenge them in these chapters and the ones from last week… The same held for us as we looked through the following: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, and even his own life, he is not able to be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me is not able to be my disciple.”
- Jesus longs for Israel to return to God. Something that seems like a new idea, or that we don’t generally think of…
- In the parable of the lost son, what is the purpose of the elder brother??
- Something that we can be sorry for is being proud and not humbling ourselves….
- The parable of the lost sheep is such an encouragement
This seemed more difficult to answer than it should have been, we seemed to avoid the actual questions and dug around for a fair while, touching back to the questions at hand. In the end we agreed that the parable meant that the kingdom started out small, and seemingly insignificant, but grows to a great kingdom as people continue to trust in God. The kingdom being the place where God is king, and the citizens are subjected to Him. We learn that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets are in the kingdom and that people from the east and west, north and south will enter, but implies that those from the middle may not.
We know from previous chapters that Jesus speaks it, the disciples proclaim it, that certain people would not die until they saw it, and that it was near when Jesus came.
People of the day were likely to have a better understanding of carrying his own cross better than we do today. It was something that accompanied and led up to crucifixion, a slow, painful, humiliating and public death, often lasting for days on end. People of the day would also have understood discipleship, as it was a common thing for knowledgeable people to have them, much like trainees that we have these days, but on a fulltime basis rather than finishing up at the end of the day to go home. Where the meaning of the phrase may have been lost or mis-interpretted is what the cost of being a disciple of Jesus was. That people have to give up their lives as they know them to follow him. It is such a strange juxtaposition that Christians give up their lives to the point of death to have eternal life with Jesus.
The conclusion that we came up with was that it was talking about repenting and turning back to God, but I don’t think that’s quite correct upon further reflection….
There seems to be plenty of horticultural references used throughout the gospels, the major one we’ve seen so far in Luke is the parable of the sower/seeds. I think that this parable is talking about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of Christians. The imagery here very much mirrors that of the sower/seeds, so this fig tree represents a Christian, yet they are not producing fruit, but they ought to. The gardener helps the tree by digging around in the soil and fertilising it so that it has an opportunity to produce fruit, but if it does not then it is not really of any use and deserves to be cut down…. It doesn’t seem to fit in the context though….
These are hard teachings to follow and to swallow… Sure, we can down-play them as being extreme, but the choice to follow Jesus is an extreme one, a life changing one. We recognised that these verses called us to put Jesus first and the word hate in this sense meant to give ‘priority and preference over’. An important and less thought of point arose from the verses after these, talking about counting the cost of your faith and following Jesus; something that is not often spoken of in evangelistic talks….
Particularly evident in Jesus‘ lament: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her own chicks under her wing, yet you were not willing….”
This was a lengthy conversation…. I think that we get bogged down a little too much in the details of parables, having to assign every little element as something, so the point of the parable is that the lost son (a sinner) returns and this is a great and wonderful event and thus deserves celebration. However, the fact that this parable appears as the 3rd and final in a series, and is slightly different to the previous where that which is found is celebrated, and there is no grumbling. So if we do assign the elder brother a ‘role’ then it is similar to that of a Jew; someone who believes in their relationship with the Father and is jealous of those that take the focus off of them. Perhaps it was aimed at the Pharisees and the scribes.
So often we think that we are important, yet we are called to be humble…. We will be lifted up and honored if we are, but then we also need to have the right motivation…. do we humble ourselves to be lifted up, because that opposes being humble…. We also discussed looking forward to heavenly treasures, and what they might be… It’s funny how we often can think of heavenly treasures in a worldly sense, but perfect relationship and fellowship is treasure enough, is it not??
To think that there is so much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, is that not a call to evangelism or what?!?!
Overall these three chapters continue to look at Jesus as he challenges people about entering the Kingdom of God… they’re not quite as intense and dark as the previous three, but there are still some big challenges…