We do well to remember that the telling of this story begins and ends with feasting. Jesus told this account to those who grumbled that Jesus ate and dined with the “low life,” like tax collectors and sinners. Hey…Jesus was having too good a time with bad people, I guess! And then the older son grumbles that a party is given for this wayward brother. I wonder if we truly appreciate how radical this story sounds even today. We get a glimpse into the heart of God here. Each time we return to God after straying, God not only forgives us, but also celebrates and rejoices. It’s amazing to have Jesus get so excited about us.
Jesus embodies the ever-seeking, never-ending love of God. On the basis of our own experiences of such persistent love from Jesus, we have hope that all of us will be saved, and that all of us will be brought home to be forever in the arms of God.
Therein lies our assurance of forgiveness and lies our promise of release from sin. Jesus moves to Jerusalem for Holy Week, not to punish us but to call us to turn our lives around. He promises us new life. A re-do. A start all over again. One of the most detrimental notions that abounds is that we can’t change. That our past dictates our future. People sometimes say, “once a drunk, always a drunk.” Little wonder that we can give up on ourselves and give up on others.
At this point God differs from us. God keeps on a’ coming. God doesn’t let go. God is possessive, jealous, clutching. To be “in Christ,” says Paul, is to be born again. We’ve had our citizenship in the old world exchanged for a passport to a new world. Sign me up, Lord! Here I come.
Yours in Christ, Pastor Gary