By Pastor Jerry Donovan,
First United Methodist Church, 204 Fourth St,
A parable is a short symbolic story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. This story telling method was one of Jesus Christ’s favorite methods of teaching in his ministry.
This verse, “So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 Common English Bible), comes from one of his most loved parables called The Prodigal Son. It actually is the third and last story about the joy of finding and recovering what was believed lost but instead is now found and recovered.
John Wesley gave his insight to these verses of Luke 15:11-32: The older more experienced son hurtfully and rudely says to his father, “This son of yours”.
The father lovingly corrects him and says, “This brother of yours.” What an amazing suggestion that the most righteous people should consider even the worst sinners still their brothers and sisters, especially when they show any signs of returning to their faith in God. In this parable Jesus shows the illness and behavior of sinners whenever they are blessed by the abundance given to them by our Father, as they ungratefully turn their backs on him and run from him. Trusting only in themselves they pursue all the sensual pleasures this world offers them, until they have wasted away all the worldly blessings God has given them. While all this is going on there is no room in their minds for God. Even when sicknesses overcome them they continue to make hard choices looking for manmade comfort and cures for their suffering and pain. When all else fails and they find themselves feeling empty, lonely and at the end of their rope is when they remember the blessings from God that they have thrown away, and begin to pay attention to the misery they have experienced. This is the point where they will let the grace of God persuade them to even think of returning to Him.
When this happens as in the story of the Prodigal Son, God’s reception is unbelievable, because he shows pity on them, embraces them and interrupts their confessions to Him with his ever loving forgiveness. As in the parable God clothes them with a robe of the Redeemer’s righteousness, along with inward and outward holiness; adorns them with all his sanctifying graces, and honors them with tokens of adopting love. He does this in absolute delight because they who were once lost are now found.
The prodigal son is a long story with a simple message: Forgive those who trespass against you as God has forgiven you for your trespasses against God, clinging to anger and jealousy blocks healing, and only perfect love casts out all fear, “18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment.
The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 Common English Bible (CEB)
As we move ever closer toward the cross with our Lord, may we walk beside him without being consumed by our fear of those who might do us harm. May we walk with courage and conviction, with strength drawn not from our presumed power over others, but with the greater strength of mercy and love. May we pour out grace even upon our enemies.