February 14, 2016 | text: Luke 15:11-32
Last week we examined the heart of man. There are many references and examples from scripture, we read a few and mentioned some others without turning to them. To say “the heart of man is corrupt” is like shooting fish in a barrell. Jesus did not have to ask what is inside of man and neither do we. We each carry such a heart inside of us, and even the Christian believer with the indwelling Holy Spirit has only to look around to see what a world looks like wrought by cold hearts of stone. Regardless of personal religious beliefs, most people realize there is something wrong with the world. Many agree what’s wrong – it’s us.
The heart of God is going to be a little harder to pin down. Such great love may surpass our ability to understand. But we are also a little resistant. Even though we try to comprehend the God that loves us, our natural heart and mind resist believing that such a love can be real. The logic centers of our brain push back. So let’s go to the scriptures and ask God to open our eyes and ears to Spiritual understanding.
The Prodigal Son is a misnomer. We call anyone who goes away and come back a prodigal child. Prodigal actually refers to the way he quickly went through his fortune. Those little subject headings in your Bible are useful but are not scripture. Like chapter and verse numbers they were added later, if your Bible has them at all. Jesus tells three different parables in this chapter and this one is not about either one of the sons. Look back at the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. The common theme is searching for something that was lost. And the most time and attention is given to the story about a father watching and waiting for his son to come home; the son that was dead but is alive again, was lost but is now found.
The parable teaches us about Father God. Jesus told many parables. It was a way of putting complex things into terms that regular people could understand. We do the same thing today. Johannah sometimes forgets to wash her hands (she’s only six). Germs are microscopic but we have her picture tiny little monsters that want to make her sick. She has to wash them down the drain with soap and water in order to stay healthy. We’ve all seen the walking talking blog of mucus in the Mucinex commercials. That’s a parable for getting rid of congestion. Jesus described hearing the Gospel in terms of a farmer sowing seeds on different types of soil. He explained the value of entering God’s kingdom in terms of a man purchasing the pearl of great price. The father of the prodigal son does not respond the way a typical Jewish father listening to this story for the first time would have. The heart of Father God is not like the heart of man, and Jesus used this parable to drive that point home. He couldn’t just say it, he had to illustrate what he meant, like drawing pictures of creepy germ monsters. The father loved the son who came home and the son who stayed and worked, but he rejoiced when the younger son was no longer lost.
God is Jesus. God is manifest, revealed to us, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The best way to understand God is to look and listen carefully to Jesus. He not only tells parables and preaches sermons; he also heals the sick, is moved to tears with compassion, and prays for people that believe in him and those that do not. At the crucifixion Jesus prays for the ones crucifying him, and extends salvation to the thief on the cross. That’s walking the talk if anyone ever did. The idea of Almighty God may seem a little overwhelming but Jesus said if we see him we have seen the Father. In John 13 Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come in the Father’s name, and that through the indwelling Spirit the Father and Son would be with us as well. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him… But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 13:23, 26)
We may not be able to understand how and why. But there is no refuting this fact: God loves you. The Father loved you enough to send his only Son, and the Son loved you enough to hang on the cross and die. He asks in return that we love him, and that we express our love for him by loving others, the other people also made in his image whom he loves. Most people simply will not do that; imagine what that makes God’s heart feel like.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. -Jesus