Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus teaches on a vast array of topics. In fact, by many throughout history (both inside and outside the Church) Jesus is considered the greatest teacher of all time. Jesus does not teach on every topic one could desire, but when He does teach, He does so with great clarity. He teaches about spiritual realities such as God, heaven, hell, sin, repentance, salvation, discipleship, the kingdom of God, faith, the heart, prayer, and fasting. He also teaches about more tangible, practical issues such as money and possessions, marriage and family, worry, anxiety, peace, forgiveness, and judging one another. His teachings affirm and provide deeper meaning to the Law as it was revealed in the Old Testament, demonstrating that the weightiest matters of obedience to the Law were issues of the heart, not merely issues of behavior. He illustrates that our sin is rooted in our heart and has marred not just our actions, but our thoughts and desires, as well. Sin has broken us at a fundamental level, not merely a behavioral level.
One common way Jesus teaches is through parables. In most cases, Jesus uses parables to teach important truths about the kingdom of God. Simply defined, a parable is a short story with a deeper spiritual meaning. Typically, a parable conveys one significant point. Some of Jesus’ most famous teachings come in the form of parables: The Parable of the Soils, The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, to name a few. We have read a number of parables in Luke already, but this week’s reading includes seven of them. Jesus’ parables communicate powerful truth and also provide memorable ways to remember those truths. For some tips on reading and understanding parables, see the chart below.
NEW TESTAMENT VISUALIZED
Simplistically, children see the world as made up of two categories of people: good people and bad people. With this viewpoint, children typically, but not always, place themselves in the “good” category. In today’s reading, both types of people are represented: the “good” Pharisee and the “bad” tax collector. Both go before God to pray. The Pharisee expounds his righteousness. The tax collector, on the other hand, confesses his sinful state and begs God for mercy. Jesus concludes that the tax collector is the one who goes away forgiven. Understanding his sinfulness causes the tax collector to come to the very One who understands and can forgive. The Pharisee, also a sinner as we all are, did not see that need. The family ingredient of Identity points to this truth; we are all sinners in need of God’s grace which is offered to us through Christ’s death on the cross. We, as parents, can present this reality to our children that will lead them to salvation!
- In verse 9, Jesus is telling a parable to a group of people. How does the Bible describe these people? What gave this group confidence in their own goodness?
- Describe the two men who went to the temple to pray? Read aloud their prayers. What is different about their prayers?
- Which man are you most like?
- Who does Jesus say went home justified or forgiven? Why?
Activity 1: Bible Drama
Act out the Bible story. Casting roles: Jesus, Pharisee, tax collector and God the Father. Have Jesus read or tell the story. The tax collector and Pharisee can say their parts or just do actions as Jesus reads story. Have God point to the tax collector as the one forgiven. Discuss and pray.
Activity 2: Puffed-up Balloons
Give each person two balloons. One is blown up and one is not. Stretch, pull on and twist on the deflated balloon. It is pliable and flexible. Tell your kids that a humble man is like the deflated balloon. God can use someone who is humble because he can be drawn to obey His will. However, a prideful man, like the Pharisee -- who was proud of his fasting and tithing -- is like the balloon filled with air. He cannot be used for God's purposes. In fact, if he gets too full of himself, he will pop and be broken and useless. Too much pride is a sin, and we should always be humble before God.
Source: E. Sanders/Demand Media
Small Group Discussion
- Take a look at Luke 15 and read the three parables as one. They were three parables shared at one time to a specific group of people. What can we learn from Luke 15?
- What examples are there to follow? What sins are there to avoid? What principles are there to follow?
- What specific need or issue is being addressed by Jesus?
- What truth do the parables reveal to a believer? What is hidden from an unbeliever?
- What do the parables reveal about Jesus and His Kingdom?