A Prayer for the End Time: Luke 18:1-8

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As we continue moving through Luke’s gospel, we come to a parable Jesus shared that is very challenging to reconcile if we take this parable out of its context, and especially if we leave off the opening verse of this event.

In this passage, Jesus shares exactly what He wants His followers to learn from the illustration He shares, and the only way this parable makes sense is if we look through the lens that Jesus gives us to help us understand it.

With that said, let’s read this parable and discover what Jesus wants to teach us through it. Our parable and passage are found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 18, and we will read from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, Luke tells us that:

Then Jesus used this story to teach his followers that they should always pray and never lose hope.

I want to stop briefly and draw our attention onto this significant verse. Jesus is about to share an illustration meant for all of His followers that we should always pray and never lose hope. This is the lens we must look through when seeking to understand the parable Jesus is about to share, and this lens may be even more important for us living today than it was for Jesus’ disciples living in the first century.

Continuing in verse 2, Jesus continued saying:

“In a certain town there was a judge who did not respect God or care about people. In that same town there was a widow who kept coming to this judge, saying, ‘Give me my rights against my enemy.’ For a while the judge refused to help her. But afterwards, he thought to himself, ‘Even though I don’t respect God or care about people, I will see that she gets her rights. Otherwise she will continue to bother me until I am worn out.’”

The Lord said, “Listen to what the unfair judge said. God will always give what is right to his people who cry to him night and day, and he will not be slow to answer them. I tell you, God will help his people quickly. But when the Son of Man comes again, will he find those on earth who believe in him?”

In this parable and the follow-up verses that Jesus shares about it, we discover that we are never to give up on praying and we are to never lose hope. This tells us that we should be like the widow in this parable.

Does this mean that God is then represented as an unfair judge who doesn’t care about anyone but himself? On the surface, it may appear so, but Jesus counters this idea in His follow-up statement in verse 7, “God will always give what is right to his people who cry to him night and day, and he will not be slow to answer them.

In this parable, we are challenged to continue bringing our requests to God day and night, God will always give His people what is right, and God will not be slow to answer them.

This brings up an interesting dilemma. When God gives us the answer of wait, or an answer that the time isn’t right yet, does this mean that He is slow to answer, or that we are being impatient?

When it seems as though God is silent, does that mean that God is really being silent or that the timing isn’t right?

In my own mind, I have to conclude that if I don’t clearly see an answer to prayer, then the actual answer is to wait and be patient, because God gives us answers quickly, and He will always give what is right to His people. God has a much bigger perspective than I can even imagine, and it is helpful to understand that God will answer our prayers most often from His perspective and not from ours.

However, if God appears silent and unresponsive to our cries for justice, does that then mean that He is like this unfair judge. Again, this might appear to be the case, however, I don’t think that the quantity of our prayers are enough to change God’s mind or God’s timing. I don’t believe that more prayers to God will wear Him down like these requests to the judge.

What if instead of the focus being on the judge, it is on the widow. What if the widow’s persistent requests actually drew her to the judge. While this sounds crazy in the context of this parable, the more we pray and the more earnestly we pray, the more we are drawn to God and the more we realize our ultimate dependence on Him.

I wholeheartedly believe that God does not withhold answers to prayers because He wants us to pray more. A good God who always gives what is right to His people would not display that type of attitude. However, God has a bigger perspective than we do and His perspective wants us with Him in heaven and sin to never return into a perfectly recreated universe.

This means that this parable, and the big message that Jesus shares in it, is applicable for everyone at every point in history, and especially for those living in the time of the end. This parable, and the challenge to continually persist in prayer never giving up hope, is Jesus’ challenge to us living near the end.

The prayer of God’s people when the world is wholeheartedly, unjustly, against them is the prayer of this widow. This widow’s prayer in verse 3 is simple: “Give me my rights against my enemy.

This prayer is the prayer for God’s people living in the end times. When it appears as though God is silent and an unjust world has turned against us, never give up hope, never stop praying, and continually trust that God has a bigger perspective than we do and His perspective extends infinitely farther into the future than sin lasts, because God’s perspective extends into eternity!

Faith, hope, trust, and prayer draw our hearts to God, and even when times are bad, we can know and trust that God will always give what is right to His people, and that He will ultimately judge fairly all the unjustness we experienced in our lives in a sin-filled world.

As we come the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, continue to seek God first in your life and intentionally put your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus. Never give up hope and take everything to God in prayer because prayer opens our hearts, minds, and lives up to God and prayer lets the Holy Spirit into our lives!

Also, as you continue persisting in prayer, keep studying the Bible for yourself as well. Through prayer and Bible study, discover how to open your life to God, discover how His words and His promises never fail, and ultimately learn to see your life in the big picture of His story known as history. Our lives are best looked at through the lens of what Jesus did for us, and this lens is found in the Bible, specifically in the gospels we focus this podcast on!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Luke – Episode 37: In a challenging parable Jesus shares about a judge who doesn’t care about anyone but himself, discover how a widow’s prayer reflects the prayer of a certain group of people living at a certain time in history, and what that means for us living today!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Coming as a King: Matthew 21:1-11

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In our journey through Matthew’s gospel, we have come all the way through Jesus’ life and up to the event that marks the start of Jesus’ crucifixion week. At the beginning of this week, Jesus arrives near Jerusalem, and we discover He has a special plan for entering Jerusalem.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 21, and we will read it from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

As Jesus and his followers were coming closer to Jerusalem, they stopped at Bethphage at the hill called the Mount of Olives. From there Jesus sent two of his followers and said to them, “Go to the town you can see there. When you enter it, you will quickly find a donkey tied there with its colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, say that the Master needs them, and he will send them at once.”

This was to bring about what the prophet had said:

“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
    ‘Your king is coming to you.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey,
    on the colt of a donkey.’”

The followers went and did what Jesus told them to do. They brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus and laid their coats on them, and Jesus sat on them.

Many people spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people were walking ahead of Jesus and behind him, shouting,

“Praise to the Son of David!
God bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Praise to God in heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, all the city was filled with excitement. The people asked, “Who is this man?”

11 The crowd said, “This man is Jesus, the prophet from the town of Nazareth in Galilee.”

We’ll stop reading here, because I want to draw our attention onto an interesting parallel that not many people might have noticed. In this passage, we see a potential fulfillment of one of Jesus’ earlier prophecies. While I don’t know if this is the exactly intended understanding for this earlier verse, one understanding of this verse does fit with what we just finished reading.

Earlier this year, a few months ago, we focused on a passage that ended with Matthew 16:28. For that episode, we read the passage from the Good News Translation, and this verse said: “I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.

In the passage we finished reading, Matthew draws out the point that Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was prophesied in Isaiah as the way He would enter the city as a king. While most translations frame Matthew 16:28 as Jesus saying, “Son of Man coming in his kingdom”, I wonder if this entrance into Jerusalem partially fulfills this.

There are two big challenges I see to this understanding. The first is whether Jerusalem would be considered as Jesus’ kingdom. For the majority of the Old Testament, Jerusalem is used as a metaphor for God’s city and for God’s people. While I don’t know if this event signifies a symbolic blend of these two ways of understanding the city, it is significant to note that Jesus is rejected by the people in Jerusalem most significantly after He enters it as a king. On the Sunday before the Passover, Jesus enters the city as a king, and the following Friday, He is hoisted up on a cross to die.

Jerusalem as Jesus’ symbolic kingdom is a fascinating idea, but Jesus was to become king of more than just one city or one people.

The other big challenge I see in this understanding is when Jesus says that some of the disciples wouldn’t face death before seeing this. I see no reason to doubt that all 12 disciples were present for this event. Even if Judas Iscariot was plotting a way to go see the religious leaders to plan for a betrayal during this entrance into the city, Judas would still need to enter the city. This would mean that all 12 disciples were present for this grand entrance into Jerusalem, and the way Jesus’ earlier prediction is framed, only some of the disciples would witness it.

When we look at the context of Jesus’ prediction, we find that just one verse earlier, Jesus describes returning from heaven with God’s glory and a host of angels with the purpose of repaying everyone for what they have done. The simplest understanding of Jesus’ prediction in the next verse is that Jesus is still referring to His second coming.

However, if it refers to the second coming, all the disciples have died, and they have been dead for close to 2,000 years. This makes the simple understanding of Jesus’ prediction challenging as well.

As we talk about this, I wonder if Jesus coming as a King, or coming into His kingdom is a multiple step process. As I connect the dots in my mind, I see the fulfillment of Jesus’ words beginning the moment He rode into Jerusalem as a king. The next dot that is connected is Jesus hanging on the cross. Jesus came as a king and was rejected by the people. Jesus died a death He didn’t deserve. The next dot is Jesus’ resurrection, where He returns to life which marks another step Jesus takes in the progression into His kingdom. After the resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven with the remaining disciples watching, and this was a visible sign for all present that Jesus was leaving to return to God. The final dot is marked by Jesus’ return that is promised throughout the gospels and the rest of the New Testament.

Jesus’ entrance into His kingdom is bigger than one event can hold. All 12 disciples were there witnessing the beginning step of this process, only some of them were there to witness the next few steps, but all God’s people will be present or resurrected for the last great finale when Jesus returns as King!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, seek God first in your life. Be sure to place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus so that when Jesus returns, you will be excited and happy to meet Him rather than fearful and afraid. God wants you in heaven, and Jesus came to make the way possible for you to be forgiven!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself. If you disagree with anything that I shared in this or any other episode, that doesn’t bother me. Instead, my challenge for you is to use the Bible to put together and develop your own beliefs. I would rather see you pick your own beliefs based on what you read and study personally from the Bible than to take anyone’s interpretation at face value!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 37: When Jesus entered Jerusalem, this event fulfilled at least two Old Testament prophecies. But did this also begin the fulfillment of one of Jesus’ earlier prophecies about His coming as a King? Discover how this event might be more significant than we first realize, and how this event foreshadows Jesus’ return!

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

When God’s Kingdom Comes: Luke 17:20-37

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While Matthew’s gospel shares a lot more details surrounding Jesus describing what the world would be like leading up to His return, Luke includes some interesting pieces of Jesus’ teaching on this. However, unlike Matthew’s gospel, which frames Jesus teaching about the end after the disciples ask a question, Luke’s gospel seems to frame this around the Pharisees asking Jesus a question, and putting a thought into His mind.

Let’s read what Luke tells us Jesus shared about the coming of God’s kingdom and what Jesus’ followers should expect regarding His return.

Our passage for this episode is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 17, and we will read from the New International Reader’s Version. Starting in verse 20, Luke tells us that:

20 Once the Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. He replied, “The coming of God’s kingdom is not something you can see. 21 People will not say, ‘Here it is.’ Or, ‘There it is.’ That’s because God’s kingdom is among you.”

Let’s pause briefly here because in the next verse, Luke shifts directions slightly and I don’t want us to miss the big idea Jesus shares in this opening.

There are actually two big ideas in these first two verses. The first big idea is one that I find amazing, especially when I look at the majority of the gospels. This first idea is that this group of Pharisees seems to ask Jesus a genuine question. More often than not, the Pharisees were leading the broader group of religious leaders in planting traps and challenges for Jesus. However, that is not what we discover here.

In the opening verses of our passage, we discover how the Pharisees ask a genuine question and receive a genuine response. This tells me that Jesus treated every situation independently, and Jesus didn’t hold grudges against those who seemed to most openly oppose Him. This also challenges me to be like Jesus and treat every situation independently and to not hold grudges against those who most openly oppose me.

The second big idea is in Jesus’ response. While the kingdom that all those in the first century were looking for was a military kingdom to arise and challenge Rome, Jesus describes the arrival God’s kingdom as not something easily seen. The arrival of God’s kingdom is invisible, and one reason for this is because God’s kingdom is a kingdom unlike what we would often think of as a kingdom.

Jesus finishes off this second idea by saying that God’s kingdom was already among them. This is powerful because when these religious leaders were looking for a kingdom to arrive, Jesus tells them they missed the kingdom’s arrival and that it was already here. This tells me that God’s kingdom is anywhere that God is present. This means that when Jesus walked the earth, God’s kingdom was present. This also means that anywhere the Holy Spirit is present, God’s kingdom is also present.

When we let the Holy Spirit into our lives, we enter God’s kingdom, and we ally ourselves with it! God gave Jesus’ followers the Holy Spirit, and while the Holy Spirit works in different ways through God’s people at different points in time, allowing the Holy Spirit into our lives is never the wrong choice.

However, our passage isn’t finished yet. With the question of the coming of God’s kingdom on Jesus’ mind, we continue reading in verse 22:

22 Then Jesus spoke to his disciples. “The time is coming,” he said, “when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man. But you won’t see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ Or, ‘Here he is!’ Don’t go running off after them. 24 When the Son of Man comes, he will be like the lightning. It flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first the Son of Man must suffer many things. He will not be accepted by the people of today.

26 “Remember how it was in the days of Noah. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes. 27 People were eating and drinking. They were getting married. They were giving their daughters to be married. They did all those things right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking. They were buying and selling. They were planting and building. 29 But on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven. And all the people were destroyed.

30 “It will be just like that on the day the Son of Man is shown to the world. 31 Suppose someone is on the housetop on that day. And suppose what they own is inside the house. They should not go down to get what they own. No one in the field should go back for anything either. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it. Whoever loses their life will keep it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed. One person will be taken and the other left. 35-36 Two women will be grinding grain together. One will be taken and the other left.”

37 “Where, Lord?” his disciples asked.

He replied, “The vultures will gather where there is a dead body.”

In Jesus’ big message to the disciples about His return, we see a huge theme present. When Jesus returns, it will be sudden and visible to everyone like the lightning. Jesus’ return will be quick, because those who woke up that morning thinking they were going to experience a normal day discover this day would be anything but normal. And Jesus’ return should prompt us to leave anything and everything of this world behind.

Anything less global than a world-shattering event is likely not Jesus’ second coming.

While the disciples want to know where Jesus’ return will take place, the only answer Jesus gives them is that His return will be wherever vultures gather when there is a dead body. While many people could understand this response in different ways, I understand Jesus’ words to basically mean that this will be world-wide, or specifically wherever there are people living in the world.

Right now, there are people living in almost every place on the planet. Some places are more crowded than others, but every continent has people living on it, including Antarctica which is home to various groups of scientists and researchers.

While vultures don’t live in all parts of the world, I don’t think that the idea of vultures is as significant as we might think at first. While vultures were the primary predatory bird in that culture and region, I suspect Jesus would have used any predatory bird or animal if He’d been sharing in a different part of the planet.

The last big idea I want to share from Jesus’ message isn’t a very positive one, but it is significant. Jesus’ return will mark the point when God’s people are taken while others are left. Jesus’ last words indicate that what is left following His return will be dead bodies, indicating that this world wide conclusion likely won’t leave anyone alive left on this planet. Those taken with Jesus will be taken to heaven, and those left will be vulture food.

While this sounds bleak, it is significant for us to pay attention to because any return that is any less earth-shattering than what Jesus describes here is more likely an impostor than Jesus. If we see, hear, or believe anyone’s claim that Jesus has shown up and His return doesn’t end the world, then whoever showed up wasn’t the Jesus of the gospels.

Jesus came to bring glory to God the first time He came, and the second time Jesus comes it will be to gather God’s people to come home with Him to heaven. Jesus’ second coming will be a much shorter visit than His first, because as He tells His disciples in John’s gospel as they are traveling to the garden on the night of His arrest, Jesus is making homes, rooms, or mansions for us in heaven. Our ultimate home is going to be with God, and we get to experience the home He has prepared for us when He returns to bring us home!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, continue seeking God first in your life and choose to ally your life with Him and His kingdom. Accept Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for your sins and accept the Holy Spirit into your heart, your mind, and your life. Also, continue looking forward to the day Jesus returns and takes us home to be with Him!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and personal study, discover a God who loves you with all of His heart and a God who is willing to cross the universe to redeem you!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Luke – Episode 36: When some Pharisees ask Jesus about the coming of God’s kingdom, discover what we can learn about when God’s kingdom arrives, and about Jesus’ second coming as well!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Receiving Jesus’ Reward: Matthew 20:1-16

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As we come closer to the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion in Matthew’s gospel, we come to a parable Jesus shares about a landowner hiring workers for his vineyard. Like many of Jesus’ other parables, this one is attributed to the kingdom of heaven.

However, as I have read this parable, I have always been amazed at the implications and things I learn from the details in this parable, and I’m sure that this time will be no exception. Let’s read what Jesus shared and then unpack some things we can learn from this teaching. Our parable and passage are found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 20, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, Jesus tells those present:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Whenever I read this parable, one portion of the parable bothers me when we compare it with how this parable is framed. At the start of this parable, Jesus frames this parable as being about the kingdom of heaven, and at the end of the parable, we find people who are being rewarded by this landowner who are grumbling against the landowner because they don’t feel they have been treated fairly.

This detail comparison strikes me as odd because regardless of what represents the kingdom of heaven in this parable, I find it challenging to picture people complaining about the unfairness this parable presents.

Don’t misunderstand me though. Looking around at people here on earth, including those in the church and those out of the church, I can easily picture a group of people accusing God of being unfair. However, it is harder for me to picture this happening in heaven.

However, while God, who I believe is represented by this landowner, is being accused of being unfair, is there anything actually unfair happening in this parable?

If we judge this parable through our human standards, we might be able to make a case that what the landowner does is unfair. After all, those who worked for fewer hours should receive less than those who worked for more hours, especially with all other variables being the same. If someone who came later in the day worked harder and produced more than someone who was present but not all that diligent, then a case could be made for paying the one who performed better for a shorter period of time the same, or worse for that matter, as someone who worked longer but who wasn’t as productive.

However, the details of this parable remove the accusation of the landowner being unfair. Those who began first thing in the morning agreed to being paid a fair day’s wage. After the day’s worth of work, they seem to have forgotten what they had agreed to. However, forgetting the details of an agreement doesn’t make the agreement any less binding and it doesn’t make what was agreed upon any less fair.

Those who worked a full day were paid what was fair for a full day’s worth of work. In contrast, those who started later get more than they deserved for their work. Those who started later get to experience generosity because they receive more than they would have normally earned for the time they spent working.

It is interesting when we take this idea and extend it into the spiritual realm. If we ignore for a moment that those who worked the longest complained, we can see an amazing spiritual parallel in what Jesus did for us.

Let’s take the day of work in the vineyard in this parable and translate it into a lifetime of service. When we look at our lifetime service record, the only one in history with a spotless record is Jesus. Jesus began way before we even knew anything about God and Jesus will continue long after memory of us has faded from those alive on this planet.

If anyone has served for a long time, it is Jesus. Anyone and everyone who serves God is someone who started after the start of the workday because when we were born, regardless of how smart we were or what family we were born into, we had no understanding of serving God.

This also means that when God pays us for our lifetime of service, He gives us more than we deserve. Instead of limiting the reward He has planned to give us and basing it on how well we served, God decides to reward us as though we served Him like Jesus served. We are given the rewards of perfect service when our service record is anything but perfect.

And the amazing thing about this understanding of this parable is in the last phrase Jesus shared in this parable. In verse 16, Jesus tells those present, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

Jesus deserved to be rewarded for His life of service, but Jesus chose to be last and to place us first. Jesus is the only one with a spotless record of service, but instead of leaning on His perfect record, He decides to trade it with our imperfect record and take the punishment for our sins. I can understand those who are skeptical of a selfless God like this, but would a God of love act any other way?

Looking at the details of this parable, and how the landowner continues to seek out people to help in his vineyard, we can conclude that God is always looking for more people to help in His vineyard. While the workday is still in progress, it is never too late to accept God’s invitation to work with and for Him.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always open the challenges by saying, intentionally seek God first and place Him first in your life. Choose to accept Jesus’ gift of His service record in place of your own. Choose to accept God’s invitation to serve in His vineyard and discover what life is like with God.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to intentionally grow closer to God each day. Through prayer and Bible study, we are able to open our hearts to God and we are able to let Him enter our lives. Prayer and Bible study help us serve others better and these habits help us live the life God has called us to live.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 36: In the parable of the vineyard workers, discover how God is extraordinarily generous with us and how we ultimately are rewarded with more than we deserve.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.