With the generous gift of birthday money my parents gave me I bought a fat reference book on Jesus’ parables that has paid dividends in my devotional life. Klyne Snodgrass’s (what a name!) Stories With Intent is a comprehensive 800 page guide to the parables that interacts with the latest scholarship, original context, rabbinical teaching, and early Christian commentary. My devotions have never stuck too close to daily reading schedules or books written for devotional purposes. I have always benefited more from having a fat commentary beside the text I can read along with. The last “big book” I read through for devotional purposes was Paul House’s Old Testament Theology.
Here’s a sample of the goodness of Snodgrass’s comments on the Parable of the Lost Coin:
“If that is the character of God, it should be our character as well. These parables do not tell us how to search for the lost, but they do imply that we should. Unfortunately we have strange ideas of what it means to search for the lost. We more likely have images of accosting people than images of the limitless grace in Jesus’ reception of sinners. Christians worry that sinners do not change fast enough or, even worse, that association with sinners will give Christians a bad reputation or be a bad influence on them. The necessity of separating from sin is a reality, but so is the necessity of being involved in seeking the lost. What wisdom will suffice to guide both necessities? Jesus neither condoned sin, left people in their sin, no communicated any disdain for sinners. He mirrored the image of his Father and invited them to receive God’s forgiveness and participate in God’s kingdom. Whatever else we may say, the initiating grace and acceptance of God displayed by Jesus must be evident in all we do.
“The image of the woman is not the heart of the parable’s message. She is a building block in the analogy, but her appearance reminds us of Jesus’ valuing of women. Even when Christians disagree about gender roles of women, they still must show the same sensitivity Jesus had toward women, their equality, and their ability to function on the same level as men. We live in a world where women are demeaned, denigrated, and abused. Christians should weep for the abuse of women in both the ancient and modern worlds, but we must move past weeping. The way women are treated in our homes, churches, and society and the way we seek justice for women should be an expression of the limitless grace of God’s kingdom, a grace that refuses to accept sinful treatment of others, whether it is Pharisaic disdain or physical abuse. Grace creates room, whether it is God’s creating room for us or our creating room for people who think they do not belong. The kingdom comes with limitless grace–God diligently searching for his people–and limitless demand–the expectation that God’s grace will be replicated in the lives of his people.
“Once again, the note of joy, an essential feature of the kingdom, cannot be neglected. Where joy is absent, the kingdom is absent.”