Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Luke 15:25-32 The Parable of the Prodigal: The Father and the Older Son

September 9, 2009
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Pompeo Batoni

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

  • Sometimes we can miss the beauty in life because we are so focused on the ugly.  That was the problem with the older son.
  • The story of the older son was Jesus’ response to his critics.  They were so focused on the wickedness of the tax collectors and sinners and the fact that Jesus would eat and associate with them, that they could not see the light of God’s love shining through all of it.
  • The older son fails to refer to the younger son as his brother.  When talking to his father, he refers to the younger son as “this son of yours.”  But the father reminds him that the younger son is indeed his brother by replying, “this brother of yours.”
  • The older brother complains, “I’ve been slaving for you.”  When in fact, him and his father were working partners since the father had already divided up the inheritance.  The older son was really being greedy and selfish because he knew that since the younger brother’s share of the inheritance was already wasted, anything that was spent on his brother now would have to come out of his inheritance.
  • Next the older son boasts, “I’ve never disobeyed a single command of yours.”  “This was the Pharisees boast (compare Philippians 3:6); but the moral superiority which it appears to give melts like snow before the sunshine of God’s love.  Where resurrection is occurring – where new life is bursting out all around – it is only appropriate, it is necessary to celebrate (verse 32).  Not to do so, is to fail to meet generosity with gratitude.  It is to pretend that God has not after all been at work.  It is to look only at the garbage and refuse to smell the flowers.” N.T. Wright
  • The older son was selfish.  He was only focused on himself.  He shows no respect for his father when he lectures him in front of his guests.   And then he refuses his father’s plea to join the party.  Again, as with the younger son, the father is generous and gracious with his older son.  The point is that Jesus was trying to reason with the Pharisees and scribes telling them that yes God’s generosity was reaching the tax collectors and sinners but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any left for them.
  • “If they insist on staying out of the party because it isn’t the sort of thing they like, thats up to them; but it won’t be because God doesn’t love them as well.” N.T. Wright
  • This passage points forward to the eventual challenge that the early church would face when trying to integrate both Jewish and Gentile Christians.
  • How does this story end?  Does the older son join the party and reconcile with his younger brother?  Does the younger son remain faithful to his father?  Jesus doesn’t answer these questions.  He leaves it to us to think it through and see where we fit in the story.  Am I the younger son?  Am I the older son?  Am I the father?  I used to be the younger son, that is for sure.  However, have I slowly become the older son over time?  Am I celebrating with the father?  It is time to celebrate and welcome all into the kingdom of God.  There is no room for greed, selfishness, self-righteousness, or prejudice in this party.  Leave those things at the door and come on in.
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Luke 15:11-24 The Parable of the Prodigal: The Father and the Younger Son

September 7, 2009
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to [1] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [2] 22 But the father said to his servants, [3]‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

  • The main point:  The wonderful love and forgiving grace of God, ready to welcome back sinners at the first sign of repentance.
  • That is the obvious point.  However, there is deeper meaning to this parable.
  • The younger son brought shame and disgrace to the father.  To ask for his inheritance before his father was dead was like saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead.”  Then to sell the his share of the land to some stranger for money was shameful.  Possession of land was extremely important to Jewish families in Jesus’ time.  To just go and sell it for money was unheard of.  Imagine the pain and shame the Father felt.  But he allows this to happen without argument.  He just hands over the son’s portion of the inheritance without question.  No father in Jesus’ day would allow that to happen.
  • And to add insult to injury, the younger son leaves home for the big city abandoning his family.  In our culture it is quite common for children to leave home in the country to make their way in the big city, however in Jesus’ culture sons didn’t leave their families.  This would be viewed as even more shameful.  Again, the Father lets the son go without question.
  • Finally, with all his money wasted the younger son lands a job feeding pigs.  Jewish people and pigs don’t mix.  This would not be viewed as an honorable profession.  To the Jewish son this would be the lowest of all possible lows.
  • But how remarkable is the Father?  Or should we say the Running Father?  He was the father, the head of the family, a distinguished elder in his community.  But he sees his son and runs to greet him.  Jewish elders did not run for anyone.  To run would be considered undignified, an act that was beneath his position in life.  But this Father runs as soon as he says his son far away in the distance and doesn’t stop until he reaches him.
  • “His lavish welcome is of course the point of the story: Jesus is explaining why there is a party, why it’s something to celebrate when people turn from going their own way and begin to go God’s way…..the father’s closing line says it all. ‘This my son was dead and is alive.  He was lost and now is found.’  How could this not be a cause of celebration?” N. T. Wright
  • There is another dimension of this story that exists.  Consider the exodus from Egypt and then the subsequent exile into Babylon many years later.  Although many of the exiles returned, most of Jesus’ contemporaries believed they were still living in virtual exile under pagan rule.  They were all waiting for a new exodus, to be liberated from the pagan powers.  The story of the prodigal son would be seen by many as a reference to the hope of Israel.  The concept of resurrection was used commonly to refer to the true return from exile.  This point would be nailed home when the Father says, “This son was dead and is alive.”
  • Jesus was declaring that the new exodus was happening at that very moment.  When people repent and turn to God they are returning from exile.  God was fulfilling his promise to Israel but not in a way that was expected by the religious leaders.  Wasn’t that a good reason to throw a party?  Jesus thought it was.
  • So back to the main point of this parable, God’s costly love.  There is probably no better illustration in all the Bible of what God’s love is like (aside from the Cross).  It is now up to me to imitate and share this love with all those lost sons in the world.  Will I imitate the father or will I act like the older son?  We will deal with that question in the next post.

Luke 8:40-56 Jairus’ Daughter and the Woman with Chronic Bleeding

April 29, 2009

luke-for-everyone Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter

40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, [1] she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter [2] said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

49 While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51 And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

  • Like Mark, Luke combines the story of the woman and her 12 year ailment and the story of Jairus’ 12 year old daughter.  (Echos of the 12 year old Jesus?)  Connected by Jesus’ command to Jairus to have faith, immediately after he tells the woman her faith had healed her.  Jairus’ faith must have been strengthened by seeing this woman healed and by her only touching Jesus.
  • Touching is very important in both cases.  The woman touches Jesus and Jesus touches the dead girl.  Of course in the Jewish culture there were certain things you did not touch.  Dead people and women with internal bleeding were on that list.
  • Jesus allowed himself to become “unclean”.  In the case of the woman, he couldn’t help it, but in the case of the JAirus’ daughter he deliberately touches her.  Jesus doesn’t allow these taboos to stop him from loving people.
  • Luke again shows that he cares about the stories of women.  Luke has begun to show us who Jesus really is, however he now begins to show us what Jesus has come to achieve.  “Jesus shares the pollution of sickness and death, but the power of his own love- and it is love, above all that shines through these stories- turns that pollution into wholeness and hope.” N.T. Wright  This is a foreshadow of what Jesus will accomplish on the cross.
  • “Don’t be afraid”, Jesus says.  He is with us.  He joins us in our sufferings and sorrows.  He loves us and is willing to get his hands dirty to help us.

Luke 6:27-38 Loving Your Enemies

February 19, 2009

Love Your Enemies

27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic [1] either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Judging Others

37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

  • The Kingdom of God is all about a “glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity.”
  • Jesus’ instructions are all about new life.  Wright describes it like flowers growing through concrete.
  • Are these instructions possible to keep?  Yes and No
  • Jesus is not providing a rule book of dos and don’ts, but is demonstrating an attitude of the heart.
  • Jesus is calling us to be like this because God the Father is like this!!  God is generous, loving, merciful, selfless, etc, etc.
  • Only when we understand who God is and what he really is like can we begin to live like Jesus instructs us to in this passage.
  • Is this the God that I believe in?
  • Imagine a society that lived by these simple rules.  There would be no violence, no crime, no hate, no divisions.  People would take care of one another.
  • Jesus was a living example of this passage.  Throughout his life all the way to the cross and beyond, he loved all and gave all.  He was generous beyond limits.  How generous am I?  How loving am I?  
  • A quote from N.T Wright, “There are two particularly astonishing things about these instructions.  First, their simplicity: they are obvious, clear, direct, and memorable.  Second, their scarcity.  How many people do you know who really live like this?  How many communities do you know where these guidelines are rules of life?  What’s gone wrong?  Has God changed?  Or have we forgotten who He really is?