Luke Parables of Jesus: Summary
Gospel of Luke
In the last 15 devotionals I wrote for Heaven on Wheels, I did a deep dive into the 15 parables that are considered unique to the Gospel of Luke (plus a couple of little bonus stories attached to those parables). Jesus knew that most people respond to examples, stories, and anecdotes, and tend to remember them. He is teaching spiritual truths through these parables, about God’s attributes and about human behavior. So what did we learn?
Parable #1: The Unequal Debts (Luke 7:36-50) - This extremely short parable embedded in a section of verses about Jesus and His treatment by the Pharisees points out that every human has sinned and requires forgiveness from God. It compares the self-righteous Pharisee who invites Him to dinner to the prostitute who uses expensive perfume to anoint Jesus because of her gratitude for His forgiveness. Themes: Forgiveness, Pride versus Humility
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Parable #2: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) - This is one of the most famous parables in the Gospels and was told as an example of how you love your neighbor after a lawyer asks Jesus what he can do to gain eternal life. The lawyer correctly identifies love of God and love of neighbor as the top commandments from God. The Good Samaritan story demonstrates that compassion and mercy come from unusual sources and not necessarily from those we consider to be neighbors. My neighbor is the one with a need right in front of me. Theme: Love, Mercy
Parable #3: The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13) - This somewhat humorous story talks about the persistent neighbor who needs three loaves of bread late at night for visitors and pounds on the door until the neighbor responds. Jesus tells this story after teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. God is looking for us to be passionate and persistent when praying; He is always there to answer, unlike the annoyed neighbor. Theme: Persistence in Prayer
Parable #4: The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-33) - This parable describes a Rich Man who looks at the bounty he has and starts making plans for adding to it and storing it. That very night, his soul is required by God (he dies). His accumulation of earthly treasures is for nothing. God wants us to know that everything we have is His and to not save up treasures on Earth. Themes: Greed/Eternal Life
Parable #5: The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9) - This parable describes a fig tree that has been planted and is not bearing fruit. The owner tells his vineyard-keeper to cut the tree down, but the keeper asks the owner to give the tree one more year after he tends to it and fertilizes it. God is infinitely patient with us in our faith journey, but He expects spiritual growth and fruit and not “status quo”. As a bonus with this parable, Jesus tells two more very short parables in Luke 13:18-21 comparing the church to a mustard seed that has grown into a tree with the birds nesting in its branches or to a tiny amount of leaven put into dough that infiltrates the entire batch of dough. These are not positive images of the church, but are cautionary images of how corruption can enter a church. Themes: God’s Patience with His Flock/Church Corruption
Parable #6: The Invited Guests (Luke 14:7-15) - This parable describes the behavior of guests at an event, where people assume they are welcome to sit at the highest place of honor. This leads to an embarrassing situation where you are told by the host to go to a lower position or place. Instead, sit at the lowest place and then you may be honored to move to a better table or position. Themes: Humility/Eternal Life (Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever is humble shall be exalted)
Parable #7: The Great Banquet (Luke 14:16-24) - This parable is concerned with the behavior of people invited to a big banquet. The invitees all come up with lame excuses at the last minute for why they can’t attend. The host sends his servants to find the poor and disabled to fill the spaces, yet there is still room at the Banquet, so the call goes out to anyone else that will come. God calls us and we must follow through, so that we can enjoy the ultimate banquet with Him. People often accept Jesus as their Savior and go on doing the same old sinful things in their lives, so they are not obedient. Themes: God’s Forgiveness and Grace/Our Discipleship
Parable #8: The Cost of Discipleship (Luke 14:25-33) - These short parables immediately follow the parable on the Great Banquet. God’s Grace is free, but the cost of discipleship to believers is enormous. Jesus uses the examples of a person building a tower and a King considering an attack on an enemy as ways in which we can calculate the costs of taking up our Cross and following Him. The reward is immeasurable, but the costs may include our lives. Themes: Our Discipleship/Eternal Life
Parable #9: The Lost Sheep/The Lost Coin (Luke 15:1-10) - These two short parables describe the efforts a Shepherd makes to find one lost sheep out of 100 or the searching a widow does to find one lost silver coin. The recovery of that sheep or that coin lead to much rejoicing. Jesus is telling us how important we are to God as His elect and how hard He will work to find us (my next devotional is a testimony about this persistence of God). Themes: God’s Grace, Persistence and Patience
Parable #10: The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) - Following the two short parables about the lost sheep and coin, Jesus tells His listeners this famous story about the Prodigal Son. The younger son takes his inheritance, spends it and ends up in misery. He abjectly returns to his father, who rushes to greet him with kisses and plans for a big welcome party. The older son sees this going on and is resentful of the fact that the father is so passionate about welcoming his brother home, as he has always been there for his father. His father tells the older brother that everything he has is his. The story is left hanging - will the older brother come in and greet his long-lost sibling, or will he stand in the field stewing in resentment? Themes: God’s Grace, Persistence, and Patience/Our Sinful Nature, Ingratitude, and Resentment
Parable #11: The Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-13) - This intriguing parable is about a manager who is caught embezzling by his employer. He is fired, but he makes amends in some ways by reducing the debts owed by others (gaining influence with them) and also gaining back some of the money for his ex-boss, who is impressed. Jesus wants us to properly steward His resources, both big and small and money is one of those resources. He also cautions us after the parable that we cannot serve wealth and Him; one or the other will take precedence in our lives. We can use the resources He gives us to advance His kingdom. Themes: Stewardship/Eternal Life
Parable #12: The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) - This is another parable that focuses on the “big picture” for believers. The Rich Man focuses on his possessions and ignores the suffering poor man (Lazarus) at his gate. They both die and Lazarus descends into Hades (Hell), while the poor man is lifted by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The Rich Man sees this and asks for a drop of water, but Abraham tells him that the gap cannot be crossed. The Rich Man is concerned for his living brothers and their repentance, but Abraham tells him that even if he rose from the dead to warn them, many would not believe (foreshadowing the death and resurrection of Jesus). Themes: Repentance/Eternal Life
Parable #13: The Master and His Servant (Luke 17:1-10) - This parable is told to the disciples when they ask about how to grow as disciples. Jesus tells them that they can perform wonders and miracles with God’s power, then tells this parable to ensure that they will not become full of spiritual pride. We are servants of God (actually His bondslaves) and we work to fulfill His kingdom here on earth. We should not expect thanks or gratitude, but should just “do more”. We want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant” when we are before our Savior so start storing up those treasures in Heaven. Themes: Humility/Eternal Life
Parable #14: The Persistent Widow and the Unrighteous Judge (Luke 18:1-8) - This parable is told to the disciples to encourage them to be constantly in prayer and not be discouraged. The persistent widow wants justice and keeps bringing her case to an unrighteous judge, who finally gives in to get her out of his courtroom. God is, of course, nothing like this judge but He wants passion and persistence from His believers. Jesus is also concerned in this parable that faith will be gone by the time He comes again. Themes: Persistence in Prayer/Readiness for His Return
Parable #15: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) - Immediately after the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus tells this short story of the prayer styles of an arrogant Pharisee and a Tax Collector. The Pharisee is touting his righteousness while the Tax Collector is beating his breast and bemoaning his sinful nature. Themes: Humility/Repentance
As you look at the themes, Jesus repeats many themes over and over again in His parables, which build templates for how to be sanctified as believers and tells us what God is like.
What He expects from us, besides believing that Jesus is the Son of God, our Saviour and that He died and rose from the dead:
Repentance from our sins
Humility (the last shall be first)
Persistence in Prayer
Obedience and Service
Stewardship of His resources
Gratitude for His blessings
A focus on the “big picture” (Eternal Life)
Readiness for His return
Mercy and love for our neighbors and family
Sacrificial discipleship and spiritual growth
What He wants us to conquer through Him and the Holy Spirit:
Pride and greed
Our sinful natures and disobedience
Casualness in prayer
Half-hearted belief (keeping one eye on “fun” and material belongings)
Resentment and ingratitude
What God showers us with:
God pursues us! We are precious to Him! He also wants us to watch for corruption in His church.
This ends the devotional series about the parables of Luke. My next devotional is a personal story, a testimony about how God really does pursue us. Please return to read My Testimony: The Outback Angel (hopefully that title sounds intriguing). Thanks for reading!
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