Jesus was fond of speaking in parables. But why did he speak in these short, often confusing, stories? To understand Jesus' parables, we have to look at his first-century context and think of him as the rabbi that he is. We also have to make the commitment that Jesus asks us to make: We have to enter the journey with him; we have to follow Jesus the rabbi like his earliest disciples did.

This lecture is part two of a four-part series on "Studying Jesus' Parables." In this series, I draw on my research for my book, Parables: Portraits of the Kingdom in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Jesus’ parables, we find a rabbi who will turn our world upside down. And that’s a good thing.

This lecture was delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on March 7, 2018. Get more talks like this one by subscribing to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunesSpotify, or SoundCloud.

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Jesus' parables can be perplexing, to say the least. How do we interpret them? Before we can answer that question, we need to have a basic framework for understanding Jesus as a first-century rabbi. We need to understand Jesus as prophet, messiah, and savior. Here's that framework.

This lecture is part one of a four-part series on "Studying Jesus' Parables." In this series, I draw on my research for my book, Parables: Portraits of the Kingdom in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Jesus’ parables, we find a rabbi who will turn our world upside down. And that’s a good thing.

This lecture was delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on February 28, 2018. Get more talks like this one by subscribing to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunesSpotify, or SoundCloud.

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Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." There are many players in the biblical story. In this grand play across time, with God as the great author of history, we are invited to see ourselves in the characters. There is one act in this grand play that stands above the rest: the great moment of the resurrection. But in this story, there are characters who have been neglected, forgotten, overlooked. Yet, they are the greatest source of inspiration. They are the women who stood by Jesus.

In this sermon, I examine Mark 16, suggesting that we should all emulate the women who stood by Jesus. We should be witnesses in God's grand story like the women were.

This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 21, 2019 (Easter Sunday).

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You know the feeling: God has called you to do something for him, but you're unsure if you can. The act of service feels too great. Perhaps all you need to take that step of faith is a little perspective. Let's consider how Jesus' economy works. From that consideration emerges three steps that will help you commit to God's work in your life.

1. Consider the Value of Self-Sacrifice

We can see Jesus' economy, his perspective on our resources, in how his earliest disciples responded to his call:

“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (Mark 1:16–20 ESV).

Jesus’ earliest followers literally dropped their livelihoods to follow him—they completely dedicated themselves to him. Similarly, we are called to make sacrifices for Jesus—to show others love by giving, praying, and investing in them. We're called to embrace Jesus' economy of self-sacrifice.

2. Consider the Value of Acting Now

To a man with a recently lost love one, Jesus said:

“’Follow me.’ But [the man] said [to Jesus], ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59–60 ESV).

For Jesus, it’s all about God’s kingdom. There is no time for hesitancy; after all, Jesus (who is God incarnate) is staring right at this man. What can be more important? For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. Our lives should be all about living God's economy. And that means that our time, as a resource, is of incredible value to God. Hesitancy has a price. Is God calling you to act now or has he has asked you to wait?

3. Consider the Value of Looking Forward

From a different man, Jesus heard this in response:

“‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61–62 ESV).

There are no hesitations in service to God’s kingdom and there is no looking back—it’s all about what God is doing here and now. It’s all about putting our hand to the plow of God’s work. Jesus calls his followers to look forward and move forward.

If you love God, you love God's kingdom and you love people. If you love the kingdom, you’re not going to ask yourself what else is important: you’re going to just live for the kingdom. Look forward to what God is doing and embrace it with your whole life.

Living Jesus' Economy

Jesus has called us to join him in his work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.

God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for him. This is what Jesus’ economy is all about: envisioning what the world could look like and joining God in the process of making that vision a reality.*


Want to go deeper into this subject? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.


*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "God's Economy Part Two: Truly Following Jesus."

When Jesus looks at the world, he sees what can be. Jesus shows us what the kingdom of heaven looks like and asks us to live its principles here on earth. This means turning normal personal economics upside down. This is what Jesus' economy looks like. Here are five ways you can live Jesus' economy.

1. Be Willing to Drop Everything for Jesus

When Jesus first called his disciples, they dropped everything to follow him:

“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (Mark 1:16–20 ESV).

Jesus’ earliest followers literally dropped their livelihoods to follow him—they completely dedicated themselves to him. Similarly, we are called to make sacrifices for Jesus—to show others love by giving, praying, and investing in them. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other. We must be willing to give whatever Jesus asks of us.

2. Rethink How You Use Your Money

To a young rich man, Jesus says:

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV).

When it comes to our time and resources, Jesus has an entirely different economy in mind. Is money standing between you and Jesus? How can you use it to help and empower the impoverished?

3. Recognize Sacrifice and Appreciate It

Regarding a poor widow who put a seemingly insignificant amount of money into the offering box, Jesus says:

“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44; see 12:41–44 ESV).

The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ currency is self-sacrifice and love.

4. Don't Hesitate, Not Even for a Moment

To a man with a recently lost love one, Jesus said:

“’Follow me.’ But [the man] said [to Jesus], ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59–60 ESV).

Jesus was right there, calling him in person. And this meant the man had to act now. We all have these moments in life: When Jesus tells us to act now, and we have to take him seriously when he says so.

For Jesus, it’s all about God’s kingdom. For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. From a different man, Jesus hears:

“‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61–62 ESV).

There are no hesitations in service to God’s kingdom and there is no looking back—it’s all about what God is doing here and now. It’s all about putting our hand to the plow of God’s work. If you love God, you love the kingdom and you love people. If you love the kingdom, you’re not going to ask yourself what else is important: you’re going to just live for the kingdom.

5. Care Deeply about the Impoverished and Unreached

At the end of it all, Jesus notes that he will recognize those who follow him by whether or not they are caring for the impoverished, outsider, and marginalized. This is what the "least of these" passage is about (Matthew 25:31–46).

Jesus has also given us a mandate to bring the gospel to those who are yet to hear his name. Jesus' economy is not just about alleviating physical poverty; it's also about alleviating spiritual poverty. Jesus tells us to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:1920).

God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for him. This is what Jesus’ economy is all about: envisioning what the world could look like and joining God in the process of making that vision a reality.

Jesus has called us to join him in his work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.

 

Get more free articles like this one, our daily devotional, and updates: Subscribe now. This article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.” 

 

This article is adapted in part from two of my earlier articles: "God's Economy: Being What We Believe" and "God's Economy Part Two: Truly Following Jesus."