LUKE 15 – Coming to Our Senses
Our daughter is hearing impaired and, unless you experience what it’s like to hear distorted sound being amplified and pumped indiscriminately into your ear, you’ll never be able to understand what it’s like for her. Now you may want to stop me and say, “Hang on, I didn’t think that amplified sound through a hearing aid was distorted. Don’t they just turn up the volume?”
If you’re lucky enough to have a digital hearing aid, they can program it to amplify certain ranges and tone down other frequencies to match your hearing loss. The result, if we were listening to it, is distorted sound. In addition, there’s no discrimination between random noise (that the rest of us can filter out and ignore) or important sound. Both are amplified at a distorted level and pumped directly into the ear drum. I wonder how many of us would be able to cope a week with that, or cope with the continual concentration headaches this causes. No-one, least of all I (though I’m closest to her than anyone on the planet) will truly understand how she feels.
But why am I telling you this?
Today’s chapter is like trying to explain sound to a hearing impaired person or colours to a blind person. Today’s chapter is about how the Creator God feels about those He created in His own image and there’s not a person alive who truly understands how He truly feels.
All three stories that Jesus tells are in direct response to religious folk who can’t understand why “the rabble” are welcomed in. [v1-2] Firstly, if you had no direct birth connection to Abraham, you were considered to be rabble. If you marry into a foreign family that had no connection with the ancient family, your children were as good as illegitimate, and both you and your children were considered to be part of “the rabble”. If you didn’t wear the robes – the right robes – and didn’t live in the right geographical location; if you didn’t attend the assemblies – all the assemblies – or visit the right religious site; if you didn’t follow the rules – all the rules – in exactly the right way, then you were simple not serious enough to be taken legitimately and therefore second-class citizens and part of the rabble.
In the context of Jesus being condemned by the righteous ones for welcoming in the rabble (the tax collectors and sinners) and eating with them, Jesus tells three stories. In doing so, He doesn’t explain His actions at all. Instead, He points people to the spirit world and what’s going on in heaven (the Kingdom of the Creator God) when Father God sees even one of His image-bearers – His children – returning back to Him. [v7,10] In these stories heaven is rejoicing!
If we can’t relate to a guy losing one of His sheep, or a lady losing one of her valuable coins, then hopefully we may understand Father God from a parent’s point of view. If we aren’t parents ourselves, we’ll often have a nice image in our head of what a good parent is like – what they behave like. So the last story is about a father who produced a replica of himself, watched him grow and lovingly carried him through his childhood. But then, when he was old enough to make his own choices, he rejected life with his father. He turned to his own way in what he thought was total freedom.[a]
In telling this story, Jesus is pointing us back to our Father in Heaven. If we truly understood the first chapter of the Creator’s epic storyline: that our blueprint design conceived in His mind even before we were constructed was that we’d be made in His image. Unlike all other creatures, both male and female human image-bearers were specifically designed with a role and purpose before the Creator brought His plan for us into being. We were to be like Him and we were to rule. [b]
If we could get our head around where the Creator could possibly be coming from and what He could possibly gain from investing His image – His likeness – into human creatures in the first place, we’d be in a good position for understanding in some way, a fraction of how He truly feels about us as we walk around, going about our daily business.
We’re lost to Him. We can’t hear his voice over our lives. We can’t see His involvement in everyday life. The connection is lost and most of us are happy enough to just get on with our agenda without bothering about Him. So the story of the lost son is a story of a lost image-bearer coming to his/her senses and returning back on the road to the One who made them – the One who gave them life.
Unfortunately, most of us have to get to a place where we lose everything – a place where we’re cornered on every side with nowhere to go but to turn to God. I don’t know why this is true but it’s a pattern that I’ve seen the world over. No matter what culture, background or language, it’s an inbuilt desire within our human nature to run in the opposite direction. The desire seems to be that we’ll never have to submit and admit we’re wrong. While everything’s going well, we can avoid the concept of “repentance” [v7,10,18] – not just saying sorry and being remorseful but making a complete “U” turn and 180˚ directional change to our thinking, our behaviour and our worldview.
The story shows a young man coming to his senses and returning to his father. Like Father God, the father runs out with open arms to wash, dress and restore the one who looks like him. But now we’ve got another problem. It’s the story of the angry brother…
Not only do we have an inbuilt desire to “go it alone” as we think best, we also have an inbuilt program of right and wrong. The problem, however, is that we’ve been disconnected from the original Master Planner, so our programming for what’s right has become skewed. If we were in charge, we’d make sure people paid for their mistakes. We’d certainly not rush out and welcome them in without making sure that they first felt the sting of what they’ve done wrong. Unconditional Love is wrong in our eyes. Unless people are made to pay for what they’ve done, they’ll never learn.
But trying to imprint this sort of program onto the Creator God by back-washing our moral standards onto Him is like trying to mix oil and water!
In their worst possible moment in history, the Jewish script writers produced the Book of Lamentations. I wonder if there’s been anyone in history more demoralized and yet even in this odious hour at the bottom of the barrel with no light at all at the end of the tunnel, they described the Creator God with these lyrics:
You can’t make a leopard change its spots and you can’t change the make-up and nature of the Creator God. And so, through Jesus’ stories and analogies, He tries to reason with us as the father did with the oldest son in today’s story. [v28-32]
Those who have done things right all their lives, need to continue to do right without looking to the right or to the left.[c] This is irrespective of what everyone else around us may be doing or NOT doing right. Why? Because we own our Father’s Kingdom.[d] All that the Creator God has, He has given to us to inherit. We’re “kingdom people” – our citizenship is in Heaven[e] – and GRACE is natural to us. It’s what we do.[f] If only we took our eyes off what everyone else is getting away with, we’ll have more time to look at what’s set before us …what’s already ours.[g]
In the meantime, while we wait to inherit what Father God has planned for us in the future, we’ll almost certainly experience what this oldest son in today’s story experienced. As people, who have done the most disgraceful things, come into our Father’s Family, we’re to open the door – just as our Father would. Why? Because we’re designed to be like Him. If He forgives, we forgive. If He embraces, we embrace. If He trusts and gives second chances, then we who are like Him and made in His image should also trust and give second changes.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and – even if we’re crucified for doing so – our steadfast love should also not cease.
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] Isaiah 53:6
[b] Genesis 1:26-28
[c] Deuteronomy 5:32
[d] Revelation 21:7
[e] Philippians 3:20
[f] Revelation 22:11
[g] Revelation 22:12