“For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23 clearly reads. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20); “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Passages of scripture such as these ensure the reader that God doesn’t play. He is serious about maintaining spiritual integrity determining sin to have severe consequences – no exemptions. So it is reasonable to understand the Scribes and Pharisees (seeing themselves as guardians of the law) shaking their heads in disbelief as Jesus’ story of a Father’s rebellious son going without so much as a reprimand unfolds. Jesus had been watching far too many episodes of the Brady Bunch, surely this was a twisted joke, they thought – what’s the punch line?
In Middle Eastern culture, the only ending such a story as this one could have would be a bloody one. If the wayward son had been fortunate enough to escape being stoned to death, in all likelihood he would have been tied to the whipping post and severely beaten with rods before returned to his father’s house as a slave, the absolute lowest man on the totem pole with no possibility of ever rising above the bottom floor, but that wasn’t the way it turned out. In fact, that wasn’t even the punchline. That the father would allow the boy to live was a thought almost laughable to the religious leaders – “you are kidding aren’t you, Jesus?” but to receive him with honor, to celebrate his homecoming as he was a war hero returning from battle – this is insane. Jesus had now upped the ante bringing the father center stage. Bad enough the son dragging the family name through the mud, but now the father doing the same, insulting and bringing disgrace upon his ancestors
As the Scribes and Pharisees saw it, the family name was of greater value than the family itself. For an Israelite to profane the family name was not only to dishonor momma, daddy, granny and pawpaw; but the entire family tree was shaken; a tree with David and Solomon hanging from its ancestral branches, Moses, and the prophets too, and at its root – Abraham; “We have Abraham to our father” was their proud boast.
To the Jew, Abraham, being the recipient of the covenant, is the progenitor of their faith, and the Jewish nation itself. In Judaism, it is Abraham who gives the Jew a unique relationship with God as the chosen people of God. Thus to dishonor the family name would by default dishonor Abraham and in turn dishonor the Jewish people; a reprehensible act akin to high treason – unforgivable.
As written so long ago by the hand of Isaiah the prophet, though, the thoughts of God and his ways are not the ways and thoughts of man (Isaiah 55:8-9). With as much as the Scribes and Pharisees may have known a lot about Abraham, there was so much they didn’t know about God, about his unfathomable love, the value of a soul, and the great lengths he would go to in redeeming it.
It is the sick in need of a physician, Jesus had said, not the whole. He had come to seek and save lost sheep, find missing coins, to restore them to the place of honor he wanted all along . His was a mission of reconciliation, not condemnation. Abdicating the throne, he substituted the crown with a cross, willingly suffering the full measure of humiliation and shame that should have been ours, paying the ransomed price, a father for his child. Today, 2000 years later, nothing has changed. He still looks for the sick, the lost and missing, rejoicing with each find and each return, you are his child too – still. Might right now be a good time for you to head back toward home?
In the third sermon of the “Prized” series taught this week by Pastor David Griffin at c|Life, you will grow in faith discovering the foundational truths giving the parable of the Prodigal Son new and deeper meaning. Watch it now by clicking here then click the play icon.