parable of the
prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is perhaps better named the parable of the
lost son, since it
is designed to go with the parables of the lost sheep (verses 3-7) and
(verses 8-10). Some have even called it the parable of the prodigal
father, because of the
father's extravagance. Even today, after centuries of teaching about
God's grace, the
father's willingness to forgive his runaway son is shockingly generous.
Have you ever heard that God is incapable of reaching those who do not become
believers before they die? It’s a cruel and destructive doctrine, and its so-called
“proof” is a single verse in the parable known as Lazarus and the Rich Man. But
like all of Scripture, the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man falls within a particular
context and needs to be understood in that context.
Jesus told the story of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man to illustrate a point about having an authentic relationship with God. Some believe Jesus meant the parable as a satire of the Pharisees’ belief that they were in a privileged position with God. In that context, the parable would be a statement about their love of privilege and wealth.
Let's look at a passage that is often interpreted as proving that all who die without having come to faith are automatically damned. It is the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, in which Abraham tells the rich man there is a great gulf fixed that keeps those in Hades separate from those who are with Abraham. It is found in Luke 16:19-31. Before the story begins, however, we can back up a few verses to get an idea of whom Jesus was talking to when he told this story and what was the subject that prompted him to tell it.
The Good Samaritan is one of
Jesus’ most popular parables. We preachers often use it to encourage
be unselfish and to be proactive in serving others. But there is more to
story than that. Jesus was doing far more than putting hypocritical
leaders in their place. Let’s take a closer look.
"A man was going down
Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They
of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.