Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Captured by Grace (Part 3)

Part 2 ended with the realization that although the Prodigal Son was ready to surrender in order to get back to his Father (and get a meal in his famished stomach), he was not yet completely prepared for grace.


Because his words more likely indicated a manipulative mindset rather then a repentant one.

Just like the Prodigal, we ALL need to take one more step towards genuine reconciliation with the Father!

Recall the summary at the end of Part 2:

1. We know that the Father has kept watch with all that was in him, for that is the essence of all three stories Jesus tells in Luke 15 - a relentless pursuit of the lost treasure.

2. The power comes from the Father's grace, not the son's guilt!

3. Hold the thought of the son's carefully prepared, manipulative speech in mind. Then, think of the end of the parable where the Father, consumed by compassion, filled with love, joyful, and estatically runs out to meet the broken, battered, disheveled, smelly, weary, "ready to surrender" son. The Father greets the son with joy, grace, and kisses. By this time, the son's speech is neither rote nor rigid. The Prodigal is a helpless child again, secure in his Father's arms with no need to plan or contrive. Only now is repentence genuine, when it floats upon a sea of...
__________. Fill in the word!!

Grace! Grace is the word!

Even though this parable is describing a human father and the relationship with his prodigal son, the truth is that this story parallels our Father in heaven with each and every one of us. That is why I have capitalized the word, "Father." As you read this account, place yourself in the shoes of the prodigal son and place God, our heavenly Father in the place of the prodigal son's father.

As Christian believers, ALL of us "were once lost, but now am found." ALL of us have gone astray. ALL of us have sinned against God. ALL of us have most likely attempted to manipulate God's hand in our our lives.

I will pick up back at the point where the father sees the son from a distance. Here's the conclusion of chapter three:

The Father, then, sees the shell of his son from a distance, and he is consumed by compassion. He takes in the labored steps, the bent posture, the very picture of weary surrender, and there is no room in the Father's heart for any substance but love. So joyful, so uncontrollable is the emotion within Him that He begins to run toward the figure -- even to "race," we are told. This would be unseemly for a Middle Eastern Man of His estate. Everything was to be done with quiet dignity. To run means exposing his bare legs. All of these things are beneath the pride of a patriarch. But true love is a powerful force. It erupts on occasion. It is totally unself-conscious.

If the sincerity of the son is ambiguous, there can be no mistake about the heart of the Father. And that touches upon the very essence of this parable. The power comes from the Father's grace, not the son's guilt.

There is still, however, the issue of public shame -- for the boy and his clan. The father is more than aware of that. Therefore he humbles himself in running. He meets the boy in stride. He enfolds him in the full acceptance of his embrace, and he takes on his child's humiliation by his very body language. 1

Try to imagine the story otherwise. We might yet have been moved if the son knocked at the door, went down on his knees, and had his apology gruffly accepted by the Father. We might call it justice tempered by mercy. But nothing of the kind happens here. Instead, the Father commits Himself fully before a word can leave the mouth of his son, before the son can come across the property, before the son could even be recognized by anyone other than a parent who brought him into the world. The son's carefully prepared speech will be delivered as planned, but only after he has been showered in joy, grace, and kisses. By this time, the speech is neither rote nor rigid. The Prodigal is a helpless child again, secure in his Father's arms with no need to plan or contrive. Only now is repentance genuine, when it floats upon a sea of grace.

There at the very edge of the village, a supernatural event has taken place. On this spot, grace has overwhelmed guilt. The Prodigal has come to that place as a lost person. He has not found himself any more than the sheep or the coin found themselves. In all cases, it took the obsessive love of the Searcher for the lost thing to be redeemed.

The primary miracle is the insistence of grace. A secondary miracle is the thawing of a frozen heart. Even the selfish, calculating Prodigal cannot withstand the sight of his running, weeping Father surrendering his high position to meet him at the edge of disgrace. In that moment grace takes him captive, and he sees what his rebellious soul has not until now allowed him to see: the beauty of his Father's love, the absolute value of His acceptance, the sweet joys of loyalty and abedience. As far as his conscience goes, no one need tell him the depth of the pain he has brought to his home. He knows it now; not simply with his mind but in the furthest depths of his heart.

That heart is broken, yet his soul is mended. Such is the supernatural event of grace.

Notice, too, that in the parable the father was willing to surrender his high position to meet him (the son) at the edge of disgrace.

This illustrates what Jesus accomplished at the cross.

He was willing to take off the crown of heaven and replace it with the thorny crown of sin.

He was willing to remove the white robe of righteousness and become sin for us, wearing the ragged, mocking robe of an "earthly king" while enduring the shame and guilt that belonged to us.

He was willing to physically die to pay the penalty for sin that we could not pay for ourselves.

And, because He never sinned Himself and was holy and righteous, He resurrected from the dead; giving us all the eternal hope of salvation!

For all that believe in Him and call on His name, the sins of man are buried in the tomb.

When we confess and repent of our sins, believing, with faith, that Jesus is who he says he is, then our sins are forever forgiven.

Our hearts were broken in this process, yet our souls are mended. We have experienced the supernatural event of grace!


1 Kenneth E. Bailey, The Cross and the Prodigal (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005), 67.

1 comment:

Christinewjc said...

The Bible verse from Isaiah came to mind after posting this segment.

Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Without our Savior, Jesus Christ, we would remain as such.

He took our "filthy rags of unrighteousness" upon Himself, to save us from the spiritual death that we would have all deserved.

But because of Him, we can rejoice in these verses:

Psa 21:5 His glory [is] great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him.

Rom 3:25 Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

1Jo 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.

1Jo 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.

Rev 1:17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,* "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

Rev 1:18 "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

In whom shall we place our trust? Ourselves or Jesus?

I know my answer...what's yours?