“A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ And he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, where he squandered his estate with loose living….” (Luke 15:11ff.)
The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is iconic. That means it is typical, well-known, an accurate depiction of a thousand things about this life. Understand that story and you know a great deal about how life works and what God does.
If you knew nothing more about God than how He is depicted in this parable, you would love him with all your heart.
You and I are represented by the foolish, younger son.
That son, the subject of a few million sermons and the inspiration of almost as many conversions, received a lot of surprises in this story…
One. He was surprised that the father granted his selfish request. Some lessons we just have to learn for ourselves, and the Father was a good teacher.
“Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Anyone deciding to start following Jesus should buckle his seat-belt and prepare to be surprised. Nothing is as you expect it to be.
Consider such statements as…
–“Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
–“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
–“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).
When I asked my wife for the scripture that comes to mind on this subject, she said, “When Naomi returned from Moab widowed and childless, she said to Ruth, ‘I went out full but the Lord has brought me back empty.’ (Ruth 1:21.) She had no idea the Lord was about to put her in the lineage of the Messiah, something far better than she could ever have asked or planned or imagined.”
A program on a science channel dealt with “Venus: Earth’s Evil Twin.” The two planets are similar in size, and according to the experts, have the same origin. But Venus is hellish, with acidic atmosphere and temperatures in the monstrous range.
Early in the program, the scientists began telling how Earth’s future is to become as Venus is now. Not next week. But in the distant future.
Now, personally, I have no trouble with anything that occurs on this planet a billion years down the road, which is the time period the experts dealt with. For one thing, I won’t be here, and neither will you. For another, scripture says “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat” (2 Peter 3:12).
Wonder why they feel the need to say such?
Watch enough such science shows, and you come away feeling that their purpose was to unnerve the viewer, to frighten the audience with the awful fate awaiting the planet and possibly to eradicate any primitive thoughts of a God who could be expected to rescue us from such a future.
I suspect their ploy works. If one watches enough of this stuff, it would.
But there is one thing–one word actually–which keeps people of faith grounded, one word which is our answer to those who would frighten us about the future of this universe.
“His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14)
In a Harry Bosch detective story, best-selling author Michael Connelly tells of a murder victim who, while being hanged, had a bucket placed over his head. Connelly explains to the reader that killers who want to dehumanize their victims often hide their faces, perhaps blindfold them or in this case, cover their head with a bucket.
Rapists, says Connelly, will often blindfold their victims or place a pillow over their face. They cannot stand the pain of looking into the eyes of one whom they are destroying.
The eyes tell so much of what the soul experiences.
A reporter was interviewing a medic who had served during the Vietnam war. “How,” he asked, “does a medic handle the constant suffering he has to deal with day after day?” The man answered, “Never look a dying man in the eyes.”
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood….” (Revelation 5:9).
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing….” (Revelation 5:12).
“And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16).
Up in Heaven, they’re singing about Jesus.
And the Father, far from being displeased, threatened, or jealous, loves it.
Jesus Christ was the First. The Most. The Best. The Last. The Everything.
Scripture ransacks the human language looking for superlatives enough to give mankind some kind of idea who this Person was who was born of a virgin, lived without sin, taught us of Heaven, and died in our place. His resurrection and ascension forever secured His place in the history and thought and conversation of this small planet.
Earth has never seen another like Him. He is unique.
Christianity and the Christian life are all about Jesus.
Regardless of what they tell you, the Christian faith is not about love.
It’s not about morals and doing good.
The Christian faith is not about helping one another and be ye kind and see you in church.
“No one is taking my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18)
“Now is the judgement of this world; now is the ruler of this world cast out.” (John 12:31)
It was the moment Jesus had come for.
He was headed to the cross.
For Jesus, going to the cross was not Plan B.
God did not shake His head in disgust at mankind’s messing up His pretty plans and decide He would have to take drastic action. “This is not how I had planned it, but those pesky humans leave me no other choice!”
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thessalonians 4:14).
If Jesus really did rise from the dead as Scripture claims and Christians hold, then nothing is the same and everything has changed forever.
The reason Christians are positively giddy about the Easter Event–the resurrection of Jesus–is that in walking out of that tomb and leaving it forever empty, He broke the stranglehold in which death had held humanity.
We are free. We are free forever. We are free to live forever.
It doesn’t get any better than this.
Everything stands or falls on whether Jesus rose from the dead that first Easter Sunday morning.
Someone told a friend of mine, “You Baptists are so narrow. You think only Baptists are going to heaven.” He replied, “I’m narrower than that. I don’t even think some of them are going!”
In truth, I know of no one who believes only their denomination is going to heaven. (We may be narrow, but we’re not ridiculous.)
How narrow are we? Narrow enough to quote the following Scriptures and then to announce that we believe them and are ordering our lives by them….
“Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is only one name of salvation. Only one: Jesus.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved: (John 10:9). There is only one door to salvation. Only one: Jesus.
“He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).
The Lord is under no illusion about us.
The Creator remembers He made us from the dust of the earth. He knows we are made of humble stuff.
And yet He loves us anyway and wants to do amazing things for us. How terrific is that?
He knows He got no bargain when He saved us.
No doubt He lowered any expectations He had concerning us from the first.
When we sin, the only one surprised is us.