The Beauty of the Gospel in the Prodigal Son

November 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

Kenneth Bailey invested his 40+ year New Testament research and teaching career in the Middle East.  Of his many books, three are on the cultural background of Luke 15 and the “Lost and Found” parables, especially the “Prodigal Son,” or as Bailey titles it: “The Compassionate Father and His Two Lost Sons!” (Luke 15:11-32)

You can listen to Bailey explaining some of his findings at this eProdigals website.

Listen to my whole sermon on the parable here at the Christ Church website where you can download, listen, or subscribe to the podcast.

HERE IS A SUMMARY OF THE GOOD NEWS as seen in the parable – the journey of the two lost sons:

1. The father pays the price of reconciliation by continuing to endure the agony of rejected love.

2. The younger son comes to the end of his resources. In a moment of truth, he sees and admits to himself where his pride has brought him.

3. He turns and starts back admitting that he is wrong – and hoping yet to save himself. [“I know what I’ll do…”]

4. The father demonstrates unexpected love in self-emptying humiliation [by running to meet him.]

5. Shattered, the younger son surrenders completely, and offers no alternative for their ongoing relationship.

6. The younger son confesses his personal unworthiness.

7. The father offers reconciliation and sonship.

8. The younger son accepts in genuine humility, knowing that [his sonship] is a gift of pure grace. His repentance and faith come in “allowing himself to be found.”

9. The younger son accepts (we can presume) the responsibility of sonship with a new heart. Now he knows, accepts, and can return his father’s love. Service is not now a means to gain more, but rather an opportunity accepted joyously to express love and thanks.

10. The older son publicly insults his father and poisons the relationship, asserting his prideful self-righteousness.

11. The father, again in self-emptying humiliation searches out the older son and  gently urges him to accept the invitation to join in the celebration as a reconciled brother.

NOTE: The missing conclusion. The question hangs: “Will the elder brother go into the party?”

[Jesus is challenging the religious leaders to join him in the true understanding of God as the one who seeks and saves the lost and to see themselves as in need of a Savior; to recognize that their hearts are far from God even as they outwardly see themselves as ‘religious’ and ‘IN!’]

__ adapted from The Cross and the Prodigal, and Finding the Lost by Kenneth E. Bailey

I’m convinced that we need to master the “Prodigal Son” parable as one of the best ways to both understand AND communicate the life-changing message of the Gospel of Jesus!

Christ calls the irreligious and the religious; the law breakers and law keepers, hot rebels and cold rebels – to come to eat with him at the table he’s prepared by his costly grace.

Jesus demonstrates in these parables, how much “lost” people matter to God.

Q – Am I loving the people in my life in ways that allow them to see Jesus as the compassionate one who seeks and saves the lost?

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