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The Lost Parable, 2000
Oil on canvas, 56 x 44
Collection of Susan and Eugene O’Brien

This work was commissioned for the cover of a book entitled The Lost Parable: Six Keys to Unlocking the 2000 year-old Mystery of the Unjust Steward. It depicts Jesus Christ, clothed in a mantle of white, offering to the reader six keys which unlock the mystery of His parable of the Unjust Steward. For over fifteen hundred years scholars have agreed that this parable of Jesus is one of the most difficult to interpret.

The letters at the end of each key correspond to the appropriate Greek letter that begins the word with which the key in the book is most closely associated. These are: 1. Ø pharisaios (Pharisees); 2. A anthropos (man); 3. A adikos (unrighteous); 4. Ω omega (symbolic of end); 5. A alpha (symbolic of beginning); 6. ∑ skéné (tents). In His left hand Christ holds the gospels, which bear witness to Him. The bookmark is set to Luke 16, within which is the discourse containing the parable of the Unjust Steward. The cover of the gospels is decorated with golden carvings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In the center, Christ rises triumphantly from the grave. The cover’s elaborate and beautiful workmanship conveys the immeasurable value of God’s Word. Christ’s undergarment matches the colors on the cover, indicating that He is the logos, the Word of God, sent to reveal His Father and to do His will. Without His enlightenment, spiritual understanding is impossible.

Behind the Savior, the unjust steward invites a debtor to reduce the amount which he owes to the master. He stares at workmen repairing a breach in the master’s wall, hoping that his actions will keep him from doing such menial labor. Surrounding the feet of Jesus are the worldly treasures represented in the parable: bushels of wheat, jars of oil and a bag of coins. These are blessings from God, but are of no worth when sought to the exclusion of the kingdom of God and His righteousness in Christ. They are temporal and quickly perish. Moths, symbols of darkness and corruption, circle about. Coins spill out of the bag and grain leaks out of the bushels. Earthen vessels are easily broken, a picture of the brokenness required for fruitful work in the kingdom of God, a brokenness lacking in the steward.

To the right is a Purple Emperor butterfly, symbol of the resurrection of Christ, the new birth, and that which is eternal. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. The kingdom of God is a matter of the heart, a heart set on things above and not on things of earth. By faith, we must receive from Christ a new heart and faithfully love and serve Him, not money.

The Lost Parable, color study, 2000
Oil on board, 26 1/2 x 21
Collection of Ed and Connie Smith

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