Dear God, open a door for my message, so that I may proclaim the mystery of Christ. I pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4

R4C

R4C
Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You. ~ Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You. ~ Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You.
Psalm 19:14, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Your brother was lost and is found


If you lost something of great value and importance to you wouldn't your search for it until you found it? The joy of finding a lost loved one, a precious member of your fold, and your hard earned savings to feed your hungry family are vivid illustrations which Jesus uses to describe what God's kingdom is like. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone. He earnestly searches for the lost until they are restored and joyfully united with the whole community of heaven. Jesus told these three parables right after the scribes and Pharisees, expressed dismay with Jesus' close association with people of bad reputation.

Sinners were drawing near to hear Jesus
Luke in his Gospel account tells us that "tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus speak" (Luke 15:1). Wealthy tax collectors were despised by the Jews because they often forced the people to pay much more than was due. And sinners, like prostitutes and adulterers, were a scandal to public decency. The scribes and Pharisees took great offense at Jesus because he went out of his way to meet with tax collectors and public sinners and he treated them like they were his friends. The Pharisees had strict regulations to avoid all contact with them, lest they incur ritual defilement. They were not to entrust money to sinners of bad repute, or have any business dealings with them, or trust them with a secret, or entrust orphans to their care, nor accompany them on a journey, nor give their daughter in marriage to any of their sons, nor invite them as guests or be their guests. They were quite shocked to see Jesus speaking with sinners and even going to their homes to eat with them.

Finding and restoring what has been lost
Why were many tax collectors and sinners drawn to Jesus? Jesus offered them forgiveness, mercy, and healing and the promise of full restoration with God the Father and the whole society of heaven - God's kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. When the Pharisees began to question Jesus' motive and practice of associating with sinners of ill-repute, Jesus responds by giving them a three-fold lesson in the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. 

What is the point of Jesus' story about a lost sheep and a lost coin? In Jesus' time shepherds normally counted their sheep at the end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered and even neurotic, and become easy prey for wolves and lions. The shepherd's grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold. 

The housewife who lost a coin faced something of an economic disaster, since the value of the coin would be equivalent to her husband's daily wage. What would she say to her husband when he returned home from work? They were poor and would suffer greatly because of the loss. Her grief and anxiety turn to joy when she finds the coin that she had misplaced. 

Restoring the lost to the community of faith
Both the shepherd and the housewife "search until what they have lost is found." Their perseverance pays off. They both instinctively share their joy with the whole community. The poor are particularly good at sharing in one anothers' sorrows and joys. What was new in Jesus' teaching was the insistence that lost sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for their separation from God and the community of the just. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to fellowship with God. Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you persistently pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?

A broken family and grieving father
Jesus told another parable about a Father who loses his son. This parable is a story in three parts. The first part of the story focuses on the restless behavior of the younger son who wants to leave home to get away from his father. He offends his father by demanding that his share of the father's inheritance be handed over to him right away, rather than waiting for the time appointed for passing on the inheritance after the the father has either passed away or has retired from the management of the family estate. 

The second part of the story focuses on the extravagant (and magnanimous) character of the father who loves his younger son very dearly and generously gives his undeserving son whatever he asks for. He yields to his son's ill-timed request for his share of the family's wealth. The father must have grieved over his son's decision to leave him and go off to spend his share of the inheritance while he is still young and ill-prepared to manage such a large sum of money without getting into serious trouble and disaster. Instead of resenting his younger son's disrespectful behavior and rejection, he maintains unbroken love for his son and longs and searches for any sign of his son's return. 

The third part of the story focuses on the older son who resents both his younger brother for running off with his portion of the inheritance and resents his father's outrageous generosity and mercy towards the younger son. 

The lost son "came to his senses" 
Why did the younger son decide to return to his father's home? Jesus said "he came to his senses" when disaster followed his reversal of fortune and loose living (Luke 15:17). He had lost all of his inheritance on wasted spending, and was barely surviving on what would have been a most shameful job for Jews - feeding swine which Jewish law regarded as unclean and unfit for eating. And to make matters worse, the younger son was now on the point of starvation since famine had struck the land. He was desperate to stay alive and avoid a painful slow death. His only hope was that his father might take pity on him and let him return home, no longer as a worthy son, but as a hired servant instead. 

The foolish son who had shamefully disinherited his father, knew he no longer deserved to be treated like a son. But he also knew that his father was generous and merciful. The son who was now a poor beggar wanted to return home to beg his father's forgiveness. Before the son could reach home, the father who had been searching daily for him, ran to meet him as soon as he recognized his presence on the road leading to his home. And then the father does the unthinkable - he treats his rebellious son, not with cold reserve, hot anger, or just condemnation, but with warm tender affection and tears of joy - and then restores him beyond his wildest dreams. 

The father's extravagant love and mercy
What is the main point or focus of the parable of the lost (prodigal) son? Is it the contrast between an obedient and a disobedient son? Or is it a contrast between the warm reception given by a generous and forgiving father or the cold and aloof reception given by the eldest son who wanted to have nothing to do with his rebellious brother? Jesus contrasts the father's merciful love with the eldest son's harsh rejection of his errant brother and his refusal to join his father in welcoming his brother back home. 

While the errant son had wasted his father's money, his father, nonetheless, maintained unbroken love for his son. The son, while he was away, learned a lot about himself. And he realized that his father had given him love which he had not returned. He had yet to learn about the depth of his father's love for him. His deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed on the husks of pigs and his reflection on all he had lost, led to his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father. While he hoped for reconciliation with his father, he could not have imagined a full restoration of relationship. The father did not need to speak words of forgiveness to his son; his actions spoke more loudly and clearly! The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet symbolize the new life - pure, worthy, and joyful - of each and every person who returns to their heavenly Father.

The prodigal could not return to the garden of innocence, but he was welcomed and reinstated as a son. The errant son's dramatic change from grief and guilt to forgiveness and restoration express in picture-language the resurrection from the dead, a rebirth to new abundant life from spiritual death and corruption. 

The parable also contrasts mercy and forgiveness with its opposite - an unwillingness to forgive and be reconciled. The father who had been wronged, was forgiving and merciful towards the younger repentant son. But the eldest son, who had not been wronged, was unforgiving and refused to be reconciled with his brother. His refusal to forgive turns into contempt and pride. And his resentment leads to his isolation and estrangement from the community of forgiven sinners. 

In this parable Jesus gives a vivid picture of God and what God is like. God is truly generous, kind, and forgiving towards us. He does not lose hope or give up when we stray from him and his commandments. He searches our hearts to lead us in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:1, 23-24). And he always rejoices in in finding the lost and welcoming them home. Do you know the joy of the heavenly Father who welcomes you home to his kingdom of everlasting righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit? 

"Lord Jesus, may your light dispel the darkness of sin, deception, and ignorance, so that all who are lost or confused may find their way to the Father's home and be united with him in a bond of peace and friendship. Transform my heart with your merciful love that I may point many others to the good news of joy and new life which you offer to all who put their trust in you, the Good Shepherd and Savior of the world." 

source: Kairos-EME, Don's Daily Email

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